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In this section, Erika Davis-Pitre fields your unschooling questions, along with responses from you, our readers. To ask a question or respond with an answer,

E-mail Erika Davis-Pitre

Questions for the next issue:
1.Several national African-American Unschooler and Homeschooler events are scheduled for this year. Do you and your family plan on attending any of the events?

2. Do you plan on attending any Unschooling or Homeschooling Conferences this year? Have you in the past?

1. What do you do when you need to find support as an unschooler of color?

Tanikka Henriquez's reply: Honestly I don't have much support. There is a center here where the kids get extracurricular and fellowship with other homeschoolers but for the most part I've been on my own.

Maisha Khalfani's reply: I don't look for support as an "unschooler." I just look for other homeschoolers.

Erika Davis-Pitre's reply: I have been very blessed recently in that I have several unschooling friends of color that live close by. We visit with each other, talk on the phone and offer one another support. But this has not always been the case. When I joined several online groups for African-American homeschoolers a few years ago, I knew of no other unschoolers of color in real life. And there were issues that I had with always being the only one of color in my local group that I wanted to be able to talk about. So at first, it was a great feeling to be able to talk with folks online that were dealing with similar situations. But then, after about a year, I felt welcome and isolated in the same month. Welcomed by those who were also unschooling and isolated by those who think that there is only one right way to home educate. I knew that there had to be others who needed what I needed, a place online where we could talk about unschooling and find support. So when Courtney started the African-American Unschoolers group on Yahoo! last summer, I was one of it's first members. Later, when she decided to start an e-zine for unschoolers of color, I asked her if I could be involved. So here I am. How I found support is by giving support to other unschoolers of color. And by finding and giving support online, it encouraged me to look for others in my local homeschool community for that same kind of support in real life.

2. How did you discover unschooling?
Tanikka Henriquez's reply: My second child was obviously gifted but her white teacher at Montessori felt three was too young to learn to read. Consequently, I had to take it upon myself to educate her (which I should have done in the beginning). Then, my older daughter was jealous because we were having so much fun everyday so I had to take her out of public school and homeschool her too. Now, three years later, my daughter is six in the first grade and her older sister (who also tested for gifted) is in the second and third grade. Had it not been for my frustration, rather my daughter's frustration --she came home and said, "Mom, I want to learn to read and they keep telling me to go play"-- I would have had two gifted children go through the school system without being identified as gifted. They would have been bored and probably would have ended up underachieving, as did my husband and I.

Maisha Khalfani's reply: I didn't discover it. It was just the way we naturally did things.

Erika Davis-Pitre's reply: For me, I came to unschooling in a rather unorthodox way. I ran a small private school for many years and it was truly a calling. When I started out, the kids were attending two to four mornings a week. It was great, we were able to do some really fun things and the parents, many of whom were self-employed, got to have support in living a family-led life. But, as the years passed, the parents needed the kids to come more often and to stay longer. It was then that I threw out the curriculum that I had followed and decided that we all needed to live much less structured lives. And that's when an amazing thing happened. Kids started teaching kids, the adults started learning from those interactions, and we all began to experience the joys of natural learning. It was a great place to be. This went on for several years. Then, when the kids who attended our school started to get into some of the best schools in the city, the pressure was on to make it happen for more and more children. I agreed to mentor several other small school operators in my area. But in time I realized that there wasn't a formula for joy that any school that has to be led by curriculum can follow, so I started to consider quitting altogether. But I didn't want to let my families or my staff down. So I stopped mentoring and I was able to enjoy running the school for a couple of more years. It truly was a joyful time. But when all the requirements started to change at the state level --they wanted kids in school younger and longer, the state wanted people who taught to be more and more removed (i.e. professional), and family time was being valued less and less by the new parents I was to be working with -- I decided it was time to move on. It was truly a very sad time for me. So much of who I was, I got from my school and the children who came there (including my own). I knew I needed a change. So I went on a 3 month train trip in Europe with my then 12yr old son (I had always wanted to go, but there was never enough time or money). It was just the thing I needed. Thanks to my very understanding family, especially my husband, I got to have some one on one time with my third child. I learned more from him in those three months than I had ever learned in school. We got to know each other really well, and he learned that I was someone he could trust with his dreams. By the time I got back to my "real life," I was completely transformed into an Unschooler. I completely gutted my kitchen. I replaced the floor including the subfloor, stripped most of the walls to the studs, hung new drywall and all the cabinets and replaced most of the lighting -- all by myself! And I did all of this while learning most of the skills I needed along the way. It came out beautifully. I was so proud of myself. I decided right then that that's how I wanted it to be for my children. To let them experience life in real settings with real goals, and have the goals be what ever they decided they were going to be. It hasn't always been easy, sometimes I can be very persistent when I think there is a right way of doing things, but they always remind me of what a good job I have done so far in trusting them. And if that doesn't work, then I remind myself who I want to be to them, someone with whom they can trust with their dreams.

Erika Davis-Pitre,
Always learning and growing wife to my wonderful husband.
Sixth year unschooling mother of one great and curious 11 year old,
a highschooled smart and athletic 18 year old senior,
a creative and insightful 21 year old junior in college
and a talented and thoughtful all grown up and always schooled 24 year old.