Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Our Fourth Northeast Unschooling Conference : Happy Not Back To School

We've only just returned from four days spent with other unschoolers, at our fourth Northeast Unschooling Conference. In many ways, this was the best year, yet, for us, as three of us were presenters. I think it gave us more to do and it gave us more opportunities to connect and engage with people. I admit, that in many most ways, we were regretting having ever signed up for this conference, having the extra work of presenting, with all that we have on our plates at the moment. We only just got the wood in at the homestead, for instance, and there are many more projects that await. However, as I said, I'm so glad we saw our commitments through.


We packed the car in good time and got on the road and were at the hotel by noon. We felt horrible leaving the pets again so soon for a long stretch, but we knew they were being cared for by our sweet neighbors, so that was a relief. (We are so grateful to Alex's sister and our neighbors for helping us these past nine months with guinea pig and cat care!)

On our way to the Northeast Unschooling Conference for four days! #unschooling #notbacktoschool #teens #sixteenyearsschoolfree

We checked in, went and got some lunch and then attended the first presentations before dinner, and then settled in for a night of movies and gaming. Thursday always feels a bit like the shoe on the wrong foot, as it takes a bit to settle in and find your social groove. Adam and Alex decided to get immersed in the world's longest and most boring session of Carcassonne, but they were hanging with a good group, so that's what mattered.

A very slow game of Carcassonne. #neuc #unschooling

Olivia chose to dress for the midnight showing of Rocky Horror, and Adam, who could not be persuaded to do the same, was entrusted with her camera, instead, and he and Cameron talked monster movies.

dressing up

Adam opts to take photos of the Rocky Horror crew and talk superhero movies with Cameron. #neuc #unschooling

Rocky Horror cosplay

I think most of us were in bed by 3am.


Friday is best described as The Day Amy Cried Through Every Presentation. Conferences can be like that. The connections, the insights, the support given, can be just that moving and honest and forthcoming and overwhelming. It's a good thing (well, mostly good), truly, and after a few good cries, I felt much better after lunch. None of us presented on Friday, which made us available to support friends during their presentations.

A few revelations from Friday: that there's a large group of young adults and teens that completely extract themselves from the doings of the conference, which is unfortunate, because everyone needs to be hearing from them; that some groups that attend the conference are not nearly as supportive or informed about issues as they fancy themselves; and that adults, too, were not attending presentations in as large numbers as they once did, again unfortunate.

Friday night, we watched the talent show and played (or watched) more board games and generally just connected with others.

Erika is cracking Olivia up. #neuc #unschooling

Star Trek Catan #neuc #unschooling

Everyone was in bed by 230am.


Saturday was by far our busiest and most fulfilling day. We were up early because Olivia was giving her presentation at 10am, called Feminist Harry Potter:
Explaining intersectionalism, feminism and the patriarchy through Harry Potter. He who must not be named (i.e. the patriarchy) is alive and well, and you Hogwarts student (unschooler), with your unique perspective and abilities can help dismantle it! I'll explain how being a feminist/humanist/social justice warrior is a lot like being part of Dumbledore's Army. We'll explore "What's solidarity?", how you can learn through Hermione's triumphs and mistakes with S.P.E.W.? and Even Your Friends Can Be Prejudiced, understanding micro aggressions with Ron. Presenter, Olivia Bradstreet

Olivia's presentation on the patriarchy
Feminist Harry Potter

Her presentation was awesome. I don't think it's what some of the younger kids expected (Harry Potter!), but she got a lot of interesting questions at the end. Again, I only wish more had made the effort to show support. It's tough putting yourself out there to have everyone sleep through everything. It kind of sucks, actually.

Alex and I also managed to catch some of Vickie's presentation (it was at the same time as Olivia's), called Mind the Gaps, which was excellent. Vickie is the author of the blog, Demand EUPHORIA.

"Mind The Gaps" with Vickie @demand_euphoria at Northeast Unschooling Conference #neuc

At 11am, I presented my talk called Making Space (The Creative, Joyful Home):
Unschoolers live intensively in their homes. Learning how to organize, care for, and cooperate together in the home can be challenging. How do we meet the needs for comfort, creativity, and purpose in the home while respecting the individual? How do we make space for each other, and how do we use the space we have, so that it works better for us? Presenter, Amy Bradstreet

I was a touch nervous, but I think it went well, overall and it seems it was well-received. My favorite part was answering questions following my presentation.

After lunch, Alex was on the Dad's Panel (and Olivia, in the audience, offered her perspective on a range of unschooling issues, which was really great) and then we both hosted a funshop on the Birds and the Bees. After that, I was invited to be on the the Unschooler's Q and A panel, which was very interesting and it was an honor to be on a panel with three other amazing women. That took us to dinner break, and we gathered a group together and went out to one of our favorite spots in the area on a very busy Saturday night (oops), but we had a blast. That dinner was like a big, much needed, hug. Thank you, friends.

These two have such a great friendship. #neuc #unschooling
It was a good evening among friends. #neuc #unschooling
I adore Joy's gorgeous dark gray hair. #neuc #unschooling

One of the best things about Saturday, connecting with Pam Soorhosian. I've known her on-line through the years, and of her work, but I had never had an opportunity to meet her. She went to dinner with us and she had long discussions with Olivia, and it was just really great in every way.

We were late returning for dinner, and as soon as we got back to the hotel, we all changed or freshened up for a night of dancing, oh wait, gaming. What else?

It's like she walked off the MGM set circa 1943. #neuc #unschooling

Playing Talisman #neuc #unschooling

We were in bed by 1am, though Olivia didn't make it until 330am.


We were up early again Alex's presentation, Unschooling Through Homesteading:
As a family, we have been on a journey of discovery about what we want, who we want to be when we grow up, and how we can achieve our life goals. Everything changed for us this past October when the family farm dream became a reality and the last year has been full of challenges and changes. I will discuss our urban homesteading history and our rural homesteading activities to date and how this relates to what one does with one's life "after unschooling."

Alex's presentation - Homesteading and Unschooling: Our Family Journey

Alex discussed our own journey, as well as our own questioning of college as the only path for people to take in their late teens and early twenties. It was a really well-produced presentation and he had a lot of interested folks asking questions after. More surprisingly, we had many people asking if there were ways in which they could assist us in reaching goals on the homestead. We were reminded that unschoolers can be flexible travelers and are passionate regarding community.

In the early afternoon, the presentations and talks wrapped up and we said our goodbyes. We made plans to gather again, soon, offered last words of comfort and advice and hit the road home. Some friends we'll see next month, some we hope will visit us at the homestead and at the Common Ground Country Fair or in November at the Maine Unschooling Mini Conference. Some I haven't mentioned, but should - thank you, Kathryn and Beth, for doing all the work of hosting NEUC and for including my family. Erika, thank you for being there for me and for being such an awesome friend to Adam. Jean, thank you for the shoulder. Sylvia, thank you for the laughs and for the chance to get to know you better. Joy and Pam, I wish we had had more time, together. Until next time, friends! Happy NOT Back to School!


  1. It sounds very, very Full.
    Emotions, flavors, insights, conversations, support, and questions. Like there is much to be processed!
    It also sounds like your presentations went very well--hooray for that!
    And hooray for friends. :)

  2. Amy, thanks for the run down on the conference. I know it can be disheartening to have people NOT participate fully in a conference. We are doing some preliminary learning/investigating of unschooling now before we have children. Do you think it would be appropriate to attend a conference even if we aren't unschoolers *yet*? Do you have recommendations? We live in NJ>



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