I imagine that it’s really about drawing out a teenager, helping the teenager to articulate some goals and visions and then to find ways to support that person in growing in those ways. And for some kids that means letting them go away to do something for a while. And that can be scary for some parents- it doesn’t have to mean that. But it definitely is a transition time; and families that try to keep doing it the way they did when the kids were younger often run into resistance because it’s such a time of transformation.
And my second book Real Lives has also been pretty impactful. It hasn’t sold nearly as much copies- 10% maybe. But I didn’t actually write it. It’s a collection of essays by teenagers who are homeschooling. I think it’s really important because these kids telling their own stories in some depth and I think it helps to demystify for people who aren’t familiar with what can go on. It helps give a really rich sense of some of the different possibilities. So I would like more people to get their hands on that book.
So would you call your approach to living and learning, if you had to define it, anarchistic?
Anarchistic? Ten years ago I probably would have but no. I don’t think I would use that term now. I’m not sure what term I would use. I would call it natural. Like looking for what is natural in a human being and even in creating a healthy society I would call it creative in the sense that - like I don’t know if you are familiar with a book called Cultural Creative it’s kind of a hot book in this country in the last few years and it makes a point that we often tend to think in terms of classes. There’s the professional class, there’s the working class but that there is sort of a separate class- the creative class that’s shaping some new directions, that really doesn’t thinking terms of conforming or fitting into society as it’s already established but rather thinks in terms of ‘how can I live my life?’ or ‘how can I learn in such a way that maybe I’m pioneering new ground, and creating a new society.’ So in that sense I would call it creative, natural- wanting to support a really natural way of learning and developing. I mean I could use the term anarchistic in the sense that it’s so much about leadership from the ground up. You know, individual people discovering what’s right for them and following their own path rather than top down, rather than following a system dictating how we should live our lives and how we should learn.
And that had its ups and downs. It never really got off the ground. Another thing was that I was travelling a bunch of the time and speaking at different homeschooling conferences and I would meet these groups of kids like a group in Minnesota and talk about taking a bicycle trip across several different states. And then I would be in California and I’d meet a girl who just built her own bike and I would think, ‘oh! I wish those two kids could meet each other.’ So it was a combination for me personally, wanting to have more contact with these kids and to not get too abstract in my head about what was true. I wanted to have flesh and blood contact with these kids. And then I thought it would be great for them to meet each other more. And it’s been really fun, I love doing it. It’s a lot of work, kinda crazy but it’s really rewarding for me and inspiring for the kids particularly to meet each other.
So what are some of the things that kids get to do?
It’s very much a co-created week. So we invite any one who comes to teach a workshop on something that they love. That’s probably about 60% of the participants will teach a workshop during the day time. We have workshop slots, and at any particular time you can choose between four or five workshop that could range from identifying wild edible plants to math games, to beginning Japanese to making jewelry. It really depends on what people are interested in. And then we have talent shows in the evenings where kids get up and perform. And it ranges from professional musicians who have been touring for 3 years by the time they are 17, to kids who have just never- maybe they took their first tap dancing lesson 3 weeks ago. So they are complete beginners. But everyone is received with great appreciation and it’s a very encouraging time for kids. They get affirmed. It’s extremely supportive and I love that about homeschoolers, they tend to be very warm. They’re not spending their time in an institution where they are competing with each other for grades or for popularity so they tend to be much more relaxes socially then school kids so it’s really a pleasure to see them support each other, welcome each other. New campers get mobbed with hugs and welcomes when they first arrive. Normally people are 13, sometimes we take them younger when we know they and their parents understand what it’s all about.
Well I’m working on a book now, that feels pretty important to me and it may be that when I finish it I think okay. That’s the end of a chapter in my life. This book is kind of a parallel to my first book. It’s a book for teenagers. For kids who are in the school system and for what ever reason, are going to stay there. I feel that it’s important to show them okay- there you are. What are your choices right there? I’m working on that for a while and it’s a pretty interesting process and I think it will take me a year. And then, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I know I’ll keep running my camp but other then that I may take off in a whole new direction. I’ve been interested in counseling and learning about psychology. Maybe go to India!