I’ve been a passionate advocate for homeschooling for a number of years – mainly because of my personal experience, being homeschooled (supplemental), but also because of some wonderful homeschooling families that I’ve met in various countries. In recent years, the practice of giving children residential education has faced both assault (in the case of former PM Andrew Holness) and accolades (in the case of Tchakamau Ra). But, most people in Jamaica don’t really know what homeschooling involves, and many persons still think the practice is reserved for the wealthy or reclusive. However, I think it is very important for Jamaicans to see real people, who look and live just like them, that are choosing to homeschool. Therefore, I’m happy to introduce you to another Jamaican Homeschooler!
Introduce yourself to my friends.
Greetings! I am Akilah S. Richards, a full-time author, lifestyle coach, and wellness speaker. My husband, Kris, and I are digital nomads, meaning we live and work in various places, with no one place that we call “home”. We are also an unschooling family, and we spend 4-6 months per year in Jamaica, where Kris and I are from.
Tell us how many children you have.
Two daughters. Marley is 10, and Sage-Niambi is 8.
Which of them is being unschooled?
Both of our daughters are unschooled.
So, when did this journey start, and why did you choose to unschool?
We began unschooling in mid 2012.
We unschool because we recognize that our daughters do not need a structured, pre-designed set of books and papers in order to learn and thrive. When our daughters were in grade school, they both excelled academically. So much so, that we recognized that school was not the conduit for learning, but instead a lid on their capacity to learn. They were constantly complaining about either being bored in school, or wanting to spend more time on their own interests. Also, as we began to travel more, the girls became more interested in places and people, than books and classrooms. We honored that observation with our transition to unschooling.
Please try to describe what a regular unschooling day looks like for you.
There is no “regular” day for us. It varies significantly, because we promote a curiosity-led environment. Some of our staple activities, however, include visiting libraries, parks, and any other public spaces, drawing, painting, singing, dancing, reading, writing, performing impromptu plays, watching interesting movies, documentaries, and fun YouTube videos, and researching cool places to visit.
So are you following a curriculum or using any special learning resources?
We don’t use a curriculum, and our learning resources show up the minute we open our eyes each morning. We would need to make a concerted effort NOT to learn something everyday, because learning is a natural by-product of engaged living and playing.
What’s the most difficult thing about unschooling your girls?
The most difficult thing is to remember to back up and let our children guide us. I sometimes panic about the girls not “learning” enough. I spend time with them, and I quickly recognize that they cannot NOT learn, and that learning isn’t about memorization and grading. Instead, learning is about being present, exploring your environment, creating community wherever you go, and immersing yourself in your interests.
What’s the most liberating thing about being an unschooler?
There are so many great aspects of our unschooling journey, but perhaps the most liberating of them all is knowing that our daughters will not have to “undo” the learning of things like external validation and tying success to a number (grades or scores) or a person (teacher or parent’s approval). I coach women who are experiencing emotional turmoil because of their lifestyles. Many of them are very successful in terms of money and status, but find themselves either unhappy or worse, unfamiliar, with who they really are. They went for the goals and dreams, but like me in my past, didn’t really consider whether those goals were in alignment with who I am.
I love knowing that Kris and I are mindful of that, and that we help the girls explore themselves, instead of showing them that they have to fit into the school culture to be success. We’re helping them to become people who can seek and find what they need to be happy and successful. Liberation for me, is about the freedom to explore, express, and thrive. Our daughters are confident, willing to make mistakes, very self-aware, and community oriented. Those traits create fertile soil for a liberation mindset; and we’re doing our best to nurture that soil, and help our daughters nurture it as well.
Do you have any tips for other parents who might want to unschool?
I have an online course called “The Unschooling Entrepreneur’s Guide to Life & Learning”. If anyone from this community wants to take the course, I’ll gladly offer a 50% discount! I believe that if more of us understood HOW learning happens, we’d be less anxious about creating environments in which our children can learn, explore, and thrive. Learn more about the course here: https://www.udemy.com/unschooling/
For more info. check out: