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Andi Brown
Andi Brown

Parenting by heart, not by expert. . “Mad Question-Asker” speaking freedom and power to children, families, and communities through unschooling.

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#notbacktoschool We’re minus one in this photo since Bam Bam fell asleep on Nana’s lap. These are some amazingly brilliant, bright, and free-spirited children. They are the absolute joy of my life. I cannot wait to see how they flourish this year. It is my honor to be with them providing them with the resources and support they need as they figure out who they want to be.

Because I love being with my kids all day, every day. I get tired and need breaks, but this is my greatest fucking joy. Because I value my freedom and that of my children. Because the school system is not in the business of educating people and is broken beyond reform. Because the school system effectively destabilizes family life. Because I want my children to learn and grow in nature and in congruence with their natures. Because school is just another system where people of color are devalued. Because I cannot fathom a system and a staff within that system having unchecked authority over my children. Because my children do not belong to the State; therefore, the State does not get to decide. Because the things that are immeasurable are not only ignored in school, they are undermined. Because I respect my children’s “yes”, “no”, “I don’t know”, and “not right now”. Because learning need not be compartmentalized and set aside from real life. Because it’s a great fuckin’ life.

This man. I chose to love him and every day I choose to love him. There have been days when I have missed the mark, days when letting go seemed to be the best and certainly the easiest choice, but… . But I love him and he loves me. . I have not always been the greatest. I have been angry, scared, lonely, sad, frustrated, disillusioned, and heartbroken, and he has been the recipient of all of that. Mental illness is a great big ol’ bitch, and that bitch will rock you to your core. . I have also been happy, delighted, grateful, joyful, excited, patient, and stronger than I ever thought I could be, and he has also been the recipient of that. This life has ushered in major questions and has encouraged us to live outside the lines. It is the flow with this unconventional life compelling us to ask unconventional questions. . Everyday he chooses me. He is strong beyond anything anyone can imagine. He fights through soul-crushing, heart-wrenching pain to be my husband, to be a father, to stay alive. He is the strongest person I know. . . . ***Questioning the rules of the culture because the box it would have us live in is ill-fitting and outdated. Unschooling because it stabilizes and strengthens my family.***

Passion compels us to engage in deep work. When we are allowed to mine our interests and carry them as far as we’d like, our command of whatever subject or project of interest can become expert level. . The joy of being at play or wading chest deep in our passions feeds our souls. What would our children’s lives look like if, from a young age, they learned the value of deep work? If they were given the gift of time and space to pursue their passions? If they could try and test and test and try, and follow their genius all the way to mastery? . 👆🏽That is real, organic education. . . . ***Questioning the rules of the culture because the box it would have us live in is ill-fitting and outdated. Unschooling because it stabilizes and strengthens my family.***

One of my favorite benefits of our #unschoolinglife is my children’s comfort and competence with all age groups. They spend a great deal of time navigating these intergenerational relationships, moving seamlessly between leader and follower, teacher and student. The compassion and empathy they exude inspires my growth. I am honored to bear witness to their growth and development. We cannot expect to raise confident people comfortable in the world if we continue to remove them from the world and place them in age-segregated silos. . . . ***Questioning the rules of the culture because the box it would have us live in is ill-fitting and outdated. Unschooling because it stabilizes and strengthens my family.***

Mental illness is an illness just like any other, and it is the most misunderstood. There is no snapping out of it, no mind-over-matter, like so many often believe. When you love someone struggling under the weight of their own mind, who, on some days, can barely find the will to live let alone partner and parent, it can crush you just as sure as it does them. . To those of us loving someone suffering from mental illness: -Have a solid support system. -Educate yourself so you know how to advocate for and support your loved one. -Don’t be afraid to question everything in order to find what works for you and your family. -Have your own therapist or counselor because you need to be able to unload your burdens. -Engage in whatever activities bring you relief and joy. These are all ways to show love and care for yourself, to fill your cup so you can continue pouring into your loved one. . I believe in and anticipate my husband’s healing. Being in partnership with him has taught me more about love as a choice than anything else ever could or ever will. He is the funniest person in my world, always ready to grow and evolve. I am in awe of his strength and fortitude. His fight is inspirational, and I am honored to walk this road with him. . . . ***Questioning the rules of the culture because the box it would have us live in is ill-fitting and outdated. Unschooling because it stabilizes and strengthens my family.***

What if children could devote hours everyday to their own interests? What if we let them think about them, dream about them, watch them, read about them, follow them, question them, do them? Random timetables and classroom walls do not allow for this kind of single-minded pursuit. So dry, so sanitized, so closed off from the world, schooling sets them down on a set of tracks barring them from that aha! moment, that tangent that would soon usher them into that life-changing bit of revelation. That door is cruelly slammed in their faces for the sake of the curriculum, in the name of the test. Our children are herded from class to class, subject to subject, their minds intruded upon by bells and buzzers, never given the chance to see a body of knowledge through to understanding. How frustrating! . But what if we give them the opportunity to dive deep, to mine, to seek out wisdom and knowledge? They would surely strike gold. For, the human spirit cannot be kept back from learning and discovery. It is our nature. If fed upon a rich diet of ideas and given appropriate resources, with passion as their fuel, our children can teach themselves anything and defy all previously held notions of what is possible. They take flight. Having loved shapes, they found geometry, which led them to carpentry, and now they have built a house founded on their passion, constructed from freedom, and held together through their own understanding. How powerful! . . . ***Questioning ill-fitting and outdated cultural practices. Unschooling because it restores power to children, families, and communities.***

“And at the end of the day, your feet should be dirty, your hair messy, and your eyes sparkling.” - Shanti

. Heart shivering in my chest, my lips an icy blue. These walls consuming my fire, frozen hearts around me, too. Be quiet! Sit over there! Learn this! They command. Bathroom break? Please…! They make me raise my hand. When did I become so stupid? So foolish, to say the least, That I can’t decide of my own accord when it’s appropriate for me to pee? I’m here to do what I’m told, so I can grow and make a living. Disjointed and disconnected. This path is unforgiving. Drowning in my boredom,  decay up to my eyes.  Apathy like a tidal wave, wonder and hunger have died. Does my rebellion anger you? The truth is going to sting. You sentenced me behind these walls, then lament that I don’t sing. Be grateful! You admonish. Your education here is free! But there is a price attached to this. And the price, you see, is me. . . . ***Questioning ill-fitting and outdated cultural practices. Unschooling because it restores power to children, families, and communities.***

“To be in your child’s memories tomorrow, you need to be in their lives today.” - Unknown . . . ***Questioning ill-fitting and outdated cultural practices. Unschooling because it restores power to children, families, and communities.***

This is what I said to my eldest son last night just before leaving my parents’ house after dinner, and now the words reverberate in my head like a bad note. Upon asking to spend the night, I said, “I don’t care.” You know, with that signature shoulder shrug and everything. He wanted to have a movie night with his aunt and grandparents, so what was wrong with a simple YES? ‘I don’t care’ indicates that the speaker has no interest or investment in the topic at hand. . Is that true? Did I really not care? What did I mean? I meant YES, and he took it that way, as he let out his own excited YES and plopped down on his Nana and Papa’s sofa. We both understood what I meant, but this morning it repeated like a bad taste in my mouth. This wasn’t the first time these words have come to confront me. My middle son reflected it back twice in his own play when he was pretending to be me. I cringed when I heard it then, but I did not get the message. So, when it presented itself this morning, I was ready to listen. . What am I communicating when I say ‘I don’t care’? My children may hear it as YES, but what else are they hearing? Could they be hearing that I truly don’t care? Could they be hearing that I’m not really on board with their request and just ending the conversation? Could they be hearing resignation? Uncertainty? A lack of confidence? What exactly are they hearing? Do I even MEAN yes? Because I am detecting something altogether different than a solid, self-assured YES. And if that’s the case, what else am I giving them besides my words? What feelings am I kindling? What is the lesson I am teaching? These questions are not born out of a desire for perfection, but rather intention and accuracy. . I would like to have hugged him and kissed him, smiled, and said YES. I would like to have communicated to him that I am on board with him having a fun movie night with his aunt and grandparents. I would like for him to have felt the confidence and assurance that this was a good thing for him. I would like to have left there feeling wholly connected to and supportive of my child, but I didn’t. . The good news is I can respond differently next time.😊

“The library is the temple of learning, and learning has liberated more people than all the wars in history.” - Carl T. Rowan When your freedom is stolen, When your learning and labor are forced, When you feel like you have no choice, When your back is against the wall…And then you are filed away with others of the same fate, war is inevitable. . The constant striving and stress pitted against the desire to just BE roil inside in civil war. It bubbles and boils and spills into the world, destroying trust, blinding us to compassion, chaining up love and connection. We live in a nightmarish exchange of stress, competition, and scarcity and the resultant anger, fear, and decay is laying waste to life’s most precious gifts. As a restricted and coercive learning space, school stands as an effective model of this kind of world. . Schooling steals the freedom of the child, the family, and the community. Schooling forces our learning and instructs us in the acceptance of forced labor. Schooling leaves us no choice. Schooling puts our backs against the wall and pits us against each other. And in a society where that is the norm, war is inevitable. But the library… The library is a beacon of liberty, rich with resources, bursting at the seams with choice. As a free and open learning space, it gifts children, families, and communities with equal and abundant opportunities. The library allows us to decide when and how we will learn. It fosters curiosity and wonder, and stokes hunger in the seeker. Its doors stand open as a gathering place, allowing us all to come as we are and to leave as we wish. Free and open learning spaces cultivate a dream-like exchange of ideas, autonomy, and responsibility, and the resultant peace, courage, and connection creates a life teeming with meaning and possibility. . When freedom is ours, When our labor and learning is voluntary, When we have a choice, When our hearts, minds, and bodies are open…And when we are in collaboration with others of the same experience, peace and liberty are inevitable. . #librariesoverschools all day, everyday.

What if we could decide? What if we were under no threat of law, no fear of retribution? What if we gathered our courage to sit and think…to dream…to ask? What would we dream for our children? . Fear, anxiety, depression, exhaustion, resignation. These have become the hallmarks of childhood. What if we could stop for a moment and stare into their eyes? What would we see? There is better than the educational models we have been forced into. What if we could set them free? What would it look like for our families? Our communities? For the world? . We live in a culture set on its own demise. Having been children who were ignored and untrusted, we go on to ignore and distrust our own. Instead of asking hard questions so that we might receive our healing and reclaim our freedom, we’ve become conduits of trauma. We don this trauma as one would a robe and then ignorantly untie that bitch from our own shoulders and drape it over our children like some kind of family mantel. . What are we teaching our children and reinforcing in ourselves when we shut out their cries and trample their feelings? We’re told it makes them strong. We’re told they’ll get over it and they’ll adjust, but will they? Do they? For some, yes, but for others, no. And for those who do, at what cost? What have they been forced to shut down in themselves to ease the sting of their pain? For those who don’t, we see bullying, rebellion, and all manner of mental and physical illness. We are not making them strong. . Our children are not learning, and they are terrified—terrified of failing and terrified of dying. But, preferring our known hell to an unknown heaven, we keep funneling them through a fucked up system because we’re afraid to ask the questions, because somehow academic achievement has become more important than the people it was supposed to serve. . What if we could listen…I mean, truly hear their hearts? What would we hear? What if we weren’t afraid to listen to our own hearts? What if we could decide? What if THEY could decide? To unschool is to live in concert with one another, and in congruence with nature. . . . Speaking power to children, families, and communities through unschooling.

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” - Fred Rogers . . . To unschool is to live in concert with one another, and in congruence with nature.

“Obey or we take your children from you!” . This is the surest way to keep parents in line. There’s nothing like the violent threat of losing one’s child to make a parent back down from a fight. Everyday we awaken in the middle of a custody battle. Having judged us unfit and lacking in the best interest of our children, we must seek permission to guide them. And here’s the fucked up part: we were born into this mess. We are inheriting destinies instead of creating them. Where, previously, education choice was considered to be every person’s right, we now consider compulsory schooling to be the prize in a package of bullshit lies on freedom and liberty. . Children are not property and certainly not that of the government. How can we claim freedom as a core value when we are set upon controlling the minds and futures of our people? Our children are kept in infancy and we are made blind. We so readily and excitedly cede our power without pause. We have been so coerced by the law and conditioned by the media and for-profit enterprises that this surrender is not only necessary, but we cool the burn by celebrating Back-to-School time like a national holiday, complete with the fucking shopping spree and everything. “There! That should hold them for a while!” . Instead of questioning the ugly, broken down system, we’re putting makeup on the pig and marching in the parade. What would happen if we just asked one question? What if we addressed that niggling feeling that won’t let us have our full share of peace? Somebody wake us up! For, why should we fear a child’s freedom and the power of a parent? A parent wielding their power to gift their child their freedom cannot be herded like cattle, but instead, helps create a nation brimming with self-possessed people capable of compassion and original thought, and equipped to heal the world . The need to put away the idea of children as property is long overdue. Only when we do this can our children truly live and can we all thrive instead of survive. We only get one shot at this. It’s worth asking the question. . . . To unschool is to live in concert with one another, and in congruence with nature.

“Since we can’t know what knowledge will be most needed in the future, it is senseless to try to teach it in advance. Instead, we should try to turn out people who love learning so much and learn so well that they will be able to learn whatever needs to be learned.” - John Holt . . . To unschool is to live in concert with one another and in congruence with nature.

The more I heal, the more freedom-energy I can gather. The more energy I gather, the more I can release into their lives. I am the harvester, protector and nurturer of their freedom. . . . To unschool is to live in concert with one another and in congruence with nature.

In a world where parents need to know the latest AAP and APA recommendations to inform decisions about their child, I choose to parent by heart. . I worry about my children just like any other parent. This is an exhausting stage of life, and because it is so, I #optout from the need to conduct research to make sure I’m doing it right, to make sure I’m creating a culturally-acceptable person. . And here’s some subversive shit: The smile in my children’s hearts, and the joy in mine is all the research I need.😳😊 . . . Parenting by heart, not by expert. To unschool is to live in connection with one another and in congruence with nature.

Love this post today by @eclecticlearningnetwork . As unconventional learners we get this question, or some version of it, all the time. We all know how frustrating it can be to hear this so often, but maybe the next time you’re asked you can use it as an opportunity to shed some light and spark a bit of imagination in the asker. Head on over to her page and join in the conversation!💞

We control our children’s lives from birth to 18, and that is being generous. They have no choice in what they learn, how they learn, and from whom or from what they learn it. We send them off to school to be contained in age-segregated classrooms from five to 18 (compulsory school age for most), where they are not taught how to think, but told what to think. Their rights to play, exploration, and growth in congruence with nature are traded for obedience, submission, rote-memorization, and constant judgment based on asinine ideas about learning and education. They lose their ability to learn for the joy of learning and become conditioned to punishment and reward systems to keep them moving forward on the school-to-job conveyor belt. . And then, one day, all too abruptly, we tell them we’re done deciding for them, and that now they get to go out and decide for themselves. We expect them to be good at this with no prior training. Spending their lives in classrooms, wholly removed from the real world, and compelled to sit still and obey, now they’re 18 and out of the house and we’re sitting, biting our nails, hoping we’ve instilled enough of the good things, but also enough fear of disappointment, and fear of failure to keep them on the straight and narrow. . Fear. Parenting is plagued by this insidious undercurrent of fear. We package it up in pretty enough wrapping called “protection” and “success”, that no one ever stops to question it. We must question it. When our children should be learning how to navigate life on their own terms, following their own sense of meaning and purpose within their communities, they are learning that meaning and purpose are assigned to them and they would do well to just accept it. And then we wonder why it takes them so long to “get it together”. “Why don’t you know what you want to do?” Why can’t you make better choices?” We didn’t raise you this way!” We ache at their rebellion. Maybe by choosing to flow with nature instead of fighting it, we can remove the need to rebel and live in trust and partnership with our children. . Continued in comments…

Spontaneous hiking trip! Love taking them out on the trails.❤️

“Any wildlife biologist knows that an animal in a zoo will not develop normally if the environment is incompatible with the evolved social needs of its species. But we no longer know this about ourselves. We have radically altered our own evolved species behavior by segregating children artificially in same-age peer groups instead of mixed-age communities, by compelling them to be indoors and sedentary for most of the day, by asking them to learn from text-based artificial materials instead of contextualized real-world activities, by dictating arbitrary timetables for learning rather than following the unfolding of a child’s developmental readiness.” –Carol Black … Checkout “A Thousand Rivers” by Carol Black @ carolblack.org

Why is it more celebrated to devote years of single-minded pursuit to a career and demote parenting to a side-gig? I believe we can have it all, but I do not think it is realistic or healthy to strive for having it all at the same time. Something’s gotta give and it’s usually our children. . The world is speeding up and we are progressing, but if that means our parenting is relegated to side-gig status, I think it’s important that we’re honest with ourselves: we’re just the babysitter. . Let’s elevate parenting. Everything else is a side-gig.

We did not see the career-ending, life-altering brain injury coming down the line. It is taking us through unspeakable mental health struggles. Struggles that require us to armor-up and do battle. Struggles that invite us to get muddied and bloodied fighting for each other, fighting for our family, fighting for life. . The beginning of a relationship is art: driven by passion and fueled by inspiration. Maintaining the relationship is where craft comes in, and craft takes work and effort. Craft is uncomfortable. I have known since I was a little girl that caring for my family is the work I was born to do. I always thought it was going to be easy. Your destiny is supposed to come easy, right? I always thought so, but it’s not. What if love being hard has been my greatest gift? Perhaps it being easy would have robbed me of everything I am supposed to be and do. . There have been a few times when I have wanted to quit; when I bought into the tempting idea that leaving my marriage just means taking care of myself. In a time where it seems so popular to abandon people in the name of self-care, I fear we are actually promoting a lie that relationships should be easy and comfortable. But love is not easy. Nothing worth having or doing ever is. Perhaps there is a ton of blessing in the hard. The hard has been my invitation to grow up and get strong. . This is not about being chained to the unrealistic promises we made at the altar, or in our case, on the golf course. It is about making a daily choice to love and support my husband in all that he is, honoring where he’s been and looking forward to where he’s going. . There simply is nothing else for which I am willing to die, give it all, fight for, cry for than for my family and the opportunity to raise my children. It is hard, back-breaking work—bone-crushing work at times—but it is a work that has molded, twisted, bent, and cracked my heart wide open. It is the work that has given me my deepest and most profound joy. I am after a masterpiece, and I know that masterful work requires a different mindset, and a persevering heart. I am a craftsman.

“See mom, if I was in school, I couldn’t just go to Hawaii with Nana and Papa on a whim!” 😂 . Izzy got to spend a blissful week in Hawaii with his Nana and Papa. Seeing his happiness and freedom makes this mama so happy. . Unschooling and minimalism gives us time, space, and the financial freedom to do the things we value most.

What do you do when you’re under the weight of it all? When you’re dying for want of understanding…knowing…caring…SLEEP? What is strength? 💪🏾 I cannot say what it is for you, but for me strength is getting up every day under bone-crushing exhaustion and loneliness. It is saying to myself one more time: I. Can. Do. This. 👍🏾 Strength is knowing that even when I am at my lowest point, I will get back up again. It is getting up despite the protests of my own body and mind and caring for four young people whose intense love for me sometimes feels like intense hatred—if you loved me, you’d let me sleep…eat…shower. Anything goes here, really. 🌮 For me, strength is loving four little ones, giving them the benefit of my time, wisdom, laughter, and tears. When my body is racked with frustration, shaking like a two-year old in the throes of a tantrum—strength is raising my hand and admitting I need a break. 🙋🏾‍♀️ Strength is still saying YES to my desire to do life with them even in the midst of uncertainty, confusion, and fear. Still saying YES when it would be easier to put them in school and day care and go running back to an office 9-5. 🤹🏾‍♀️ Strength is sleeping when my parents and sister take them for the weekend. 😴 Strength is writing myself out of my pain. ✏️ Strength is writing myself back into my vision.

If learning took flight… It could restore joy, exuberance, and freedom. It could return genius to the many. • Genius: this far-off, esoteric quality reserved only for the few. No. Genius is every person’s gift. • How would our children envision and embrace education if they were set free from time and liberated from the walls of classrooms? If they didn’t have to bear the burden of ill-fitting methods two sizes too small? • Weighed down like pack animals, they often stumble and fall under the weight of competition and impossible standards. Compete. Prove yourself. The lesson here? Instead of being and doing your best, be overcome with outdoing the person next to you. Dangerous for developing minds…or any mind, for that matter. • Learning should not be so treacherous. Boredom, fight, and pain brought on by the disjointed and impersonal standards of schooling have no place in the magic of learning. • What if we removed these obstacles? It is one thing to fight and learn through pain when you’ve chosen the course. It’s another thing entirely when your freedom to choose has been stolen from you. Imagine being held captive 12 arduous years. You don’t have to imagine…you’ve been there. • Imagine, instead, time spent mining your passions like gold, ferreting out your big questions as if on a treasure hunt, wading chest-deep in curiosity and wonder… What if our children were gifted this privilege early on and didn’t have to unlearn their slave mentalities in order to have happiness, success, and freedom as adults? • Could we then raise confident, kind, compassionate, masterful human beings? Human beings who know their worth because they’ve been wisely invested from the beginning in the things that truly matter—the things that could set the world on fire. • If we understand a system to be feeble and broken, why should we participate in it? • What if there is more than what our current educational models are offering? What if we could dream bigger?

• Slow down. • Take your time. • Highlight. Underline. • Write notes in the margins. • Let your books become your journals—documentation of your growth. • As you read your book, invite your book to read you.

I love their freedom. Freedom from the rat race. • I fight for their freedom. I work for their freedom. • We spend so much time on the flywheel of external expectations, values, and goals that it seems nearly impossible to imagine a life in congruence with our own. • I value my freedom, but it has taken me years to unravel a package of lies, years of working to grant myself permission to live in accordance with who I truly am. Groomed to buy into the lie that it is impractical for children to have freedom. Conditioned to believe that it is safer—preferable—to live as a slave than fighting for full agency of my being. • And isn’t that absurd? Isn’t it absurd that I would be content to live in slavery? Isn’t it absurd that I have had to spend years of my adult life unlearning and seeking permission to act in my own best interest? • We lament this slavery and yearn for more, yet unthinkingly tether our children to the same fate. If we teach our children to obey as slaves, they will most likely become obedient slaves. Slaves to culture. Slaves to the dreams of others. My mission: spare my children from that all-too-common fate. • We’re after a life free from other people’s schedules and timetables, and one committed to our own. Freedom to explore, grow, and learn while attached to life. Freedom from a disjointed, compartmentalized existence. We are on a mission to live a fully-integrated life. • “People hate seeing the freedom children have, because someone, somewhere along the way told them they could not be free, that it wasn’t practical in this world. It triggers the feeling of not being good enough. Lack. We are still limitless, you just forgot.” – Amethyst Joy

. There must be more than this… . A work on freedom in learning and living.

• I tried to teach my child with books, He gave me only puzzled looks. I tried to teach my child with words, They passed him often unheard. Despairingly, I turned aside, “How shall I teach this child?” I cried. Into my hand he put the key, “Come,” he said, “play with me.” –Unknown

. And thank god for this. We want compassion. We want love. We want wholeness. We want freedom. . We are creating a simple life. No hurry. No rush. Built on our own ideas, desires, and individual needs. . We’re after an aligned life—one where we can follow our bliss.

. Four years ago I woke up in tears. I hated starting my mornings harried and hurried. I hated that I wasn’t in charge of my time. I hated my job and hated leaving my children in the care of others. It’s not anyone else’s responsibility to raise them, but mine and my husband’s. There was no one who would view caring for them as the privilege I believe it to be. That morning was the catalyst for major change in our lives. . Over the course of 30 days, I quit my job and we moved. We only had Iz and Pink at the time. Our mornings slowed down, our lives slowed down. We are still making adjustments so that we can make room, time, and money in order to be aligned with who we are and how we want to express that in the world. Incidentally, we ended up making room for Tris and Bam.❤️ . I wouldn’t trade this life for anything. . Also, I love the different shades of brown that color my home. 👦🏾👧🏼👦🏽👶🏾