The first ever Australian Unschooling Retreat/ Conference wound up a couple of weeks ago and it was a huge success! With over 100 families attending it far exceeded expectations (i admit it… especially mine!) and involved 4 days of discussion, swimming, clay play, inspiration and more.
Our family enjoyed making new friends, connecting with old ones, and i cant remember ever feeling so validated or aligned about our parenting choices. There were so many people exploring unschooling and connected parenting — it was just a wonderful environment to be in.
I finally got to meet people like Bob Collier & Dayna Martin which was great, and the talks / discussions all helped challenge various ruts and modes of behaviours id gotten into. Ive noticed changes since returning— including going back to my favourite egroups to try to maintain the feeling of support that we got for those few days. Ive also been approaching sibling conflicts with more compassion, that i had trouble mustering before the conference.
Im bias but one of the highlights for me was Anne (my partner) speaking on Highly Sensitivities & Unschooling. It took a lot for her to present it but from feedback ive had there were quite a few lightbulb moments of parents realising and becoming compassionate to their own sensitivities, that of their partners or children.
I also loved the informal stuff — hanging out by the pool and hearing adults treating children respectfully; the talent show which was loads of fun; and so much more.
Unschooling/ natural learning has been in this country for decades, but gathering so many interested families for this event really felt like the beginning of something big. I believe Kelly Lovejoy started the first unschooling conf in the US years ago, and now they’ve sprouted into so many regional events. Similarly the conference here seemed to mark the beginning of Australia’s unschooling movement really going to the next level.
I’m truly in awe of the organisers Erica Perry & Maree Riedel, whose vision and tireless hard work made it happen. There was so much attention to detail — from the kids play tent for ever being stocked with new activities; unschooling tshirts & showbags; the organic and healthy meal options; a bush dance; right down to the little flags with unschooling quotes that decorated the space.
Even more inspiring was my chat with them the day after… while still celebrating their success Maree & Erica were already planning bigger and better things for next year. You’ll hear more about this but for now, no matter where you are, keep early September 2011 free for a holiday to Australia… and hopefully ill see you at the second Australian Unschooling Retreat!