A bit about you …
What’s your name?
My name is Sandy Kappa.
Where do you live?
I live in Toronto.
What does your family look like?
Our family includes my partner Joe, our children Lily (7) and Luca (13) and my 87 year old mother. Lily and Luca have always been unschooled.
The departure phase of your journey …
We discover and explore unschooling, and choose to begin.
How to did you come to unschooling?
When Luca was an infant, I found Jan Hunt’s book, The Natural Child through a friend. That was the beginning for me. I did lots of reading. When Luca was two, I met someone in our neighbourhood who parented their child with great compassion, understanding and respect. That was a new model of parenting for me. Up to that point I didn’t know anyone who was actually living those ideas. We became very good friends, spent a lot of time together with our children and are still close friends today.
Along the way I found Life Learning Magazine and through it found the Toronto Unschooling Conference. We attended the very first conference. I was so moved when I heard Anne Ohman speak about her family, their experience, I felt like I had come home. Tears flowed. At that same conference Luca went and sat with Anne and her family. He was four. He’d led us there. We were in.
When you first started out,what were some of the things you were hoping to address by moving to unschooling?
When Luca was three, we attended a gymnastics class. Although he loved the class, he wasn’t interested in sitting in a circle and following someone else’s agenda. He wanted to explore things in his own way, on his own terms, with great enthusiasm and joy. I wanted to find a way to continue to support his love of learning. I felt pretty certain that attending school wasn’t going to be that way.
Were there any fears you needed to overcome initially?
Unschooling has always been about trust for me. Trusting Luca. Trusting that through following his own interests, desires and ideas—his own knowing and Joy—he would get everything he needed. When I’m not trusting the path, it’s almost always my own feelings, fears, ideas and beliefs that are calling to be explored.
The initiation phase of the journey …
We dive deeply into deschooling and our spiritual growth takes root.
What were some of your favourite ways to learn more about unschooling?
My favourite way to learn more about unschooling has always been through meeting other unschooling families. I loved attending the Toronto Unschooling Conference and still love attending the We Shine Conference. I am inspired by the conference speakers and by being with other unschooling families. I also love reading about other unschooling families experience on the Shine with Unschooling email list. I love all of Pam’s posts too. Her books are my favourites.
How did you choose to move to unschooling with your family? Was it a gradual process of exploring/implementing one aspect at a time, or did you make bigger leaps at once?
We embraced unschooling from the beginning as a natural extension of our lives up to that point. Luca was four at that time. We did however restrict how much television Luca watched. (He wasn’t into gaming yet.) I had a harder time embracing that. I listened to people at TUC talking about unlimited, unrestricted viewing and playing, but I didn’t agree. I didn’t get that piece. I secretly thought they were wrong!
That all changed for me in one moment at the first We Shine conference in Niagara Falls in 2009 (Luca was seven and Lily was two). One of the offerings of the conference was a movie night. I watched Karen Lindberg lovingly set up her boys Oscar and Clyde for the movie. In my mind, not only was she “letting” them watch the movie, she had pillows for them, drinks, snacks—she was helping to make this the best experience it could be—she was supporting them, loving them up in this experience. The complete opposite of controlling and restricting. In that moment everything changed for me. I got it. Life got so much better, so much easier when I let go of the judgement, fear and controlling and embraced loving and trusting at a deeper level.
The return phase of the journey …
Having fully embraced the unschooling lifestyle, we re-integrate with the conventional world.
With a well-developed sense of self, unschooling children are able to pursue learning in more formal settings without getting caught up in the trappings of the conventional system. Have your children chosen to attend group classes or structured courses? What was their experience?
Over the years Luca explored many different interests through classes. We’ve had so many great experiences, in part because these classes were chosen by him. When he was five he played soccer in an indoor gym. After his class there was seniors indoor lawn bowling—ages 65 – 95. He loved helping them set up and assisting during the games. He was in charge of giving out candies. He loved being there and they loved having him there. Beautiful and joyful relationships were formed.
At age six, he took an after school karate class. He really wanted to learn how to do karate. He had no frame of reference for kids goofing around and not paying attention. He couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t want to give their full attention. Of course instructors always adored him, because he was enthusiastic and happy to be there.
Lily has recently become interested in exploring gymnastics. She just knew she really wanted to do this. I couldn’t find a class, so I created a “homeschool” class at a local gymnastics club with the minimum number of students required. This is the first class where she is required to be separated from us. We can only watch her through glass windows. As long as she knew we were watching, she felt fine to do it. She loves it and we are in the process of creating a second class!
What, for you, is the most valuable thing to come from your journey to unschooling?
There are so many valuable things to come from this journey. Most recently I’ve been thinking about what I desire most in my relationships with my children. I want my children to be able to come to me with anything, feel safe to trust me with anything—for their entire lives. I want them to know I can hold their joys, fears and sorrows—be their soft place—their home. Unschooling has led me there.
Thanks so much, Sandy, for taking the time to share some beautiful moments from your unschooling journey!
I met Sandy when they came to the Toronto Unschooling Conference and it’s been a joy to keep in touch over the years. I also have fond memories of playing Animal Crossing with Luca, and others that chose to join us, on our lodge porch at We Shine. Such great fun!
The road so far …
Departure phase of the journey
Call to adventure: We discover unschooling and excitedly imagine the possibilities.
Refusal of the call: The many implications of choosing unschooling hit. Do we commit?
Supernatural aid: Our children guide us on our unschooling journey.
Crossing of the first threshold: Confronting the guardians who claim to protect us.
The belly of the whale: Transitioning to a learning mindset.
Initiation phase of the journey
The road of trials: The heart of deschooling.
The meeting with the goddess: Seeing the value in all experiences.
Woman as the temptress: Accepting our nature.
Atonement with the father: Accepting others where they are.
Apotheosis: Moving to compassion.
The ultimate boon: Unschooling with confidence and grace.
Return phase of the journey
Refusal of the return: Will we choose to step back out of our unschooling bubble?