Rethinking Everything – A Conference That Changed My Life!

This past weekend I was introduced to the most joyful, free-living and centered people I have ever met.  In fact, I am still coming down from the high I felt at the Rethinking Everything Conference in Irving, Texas.  This event took place for the 17th time and brought together entire families dedicated to raising free, creative, and curious children.Some of the adult attendees have come every year since early childhood and now attend with their parents and their own children! The history and community ran deep with these people, and I couldn’t help but simply sit back and watch in awe as they introduced me to revolutionary ideas about raising children and becoming better people.

I have worked the libertarian/liberty speaking circuits for years, while that movement seemed huge to me once I found myself emmersed, I have now been made aware of another movement of like-minded people who are kinder, gentler, and more happy than most of the people I meet at liberty events.

Our family was invited to speak on anarchy and unschooling, entrepreneurship and alternative currencies, and Sovereign Living, our efforts to get off centralized institutions such as government and corporate food chains. We were also able to screen the first three episodes of the reality show about our efforts, also called Sovereign Living (

Our talks were well attended with about 40 people in each session.  The conversations we had after each speech were powerful and dynamic and full of curiosity.  Not everyone agreed with our philosophy, especially on self defense/gun ownership, but the conversations were incredibly positive despite the differing views.

I have jumped across the country to camping festivals, hotel conferences,  and rallies to talk about the philosophy of freedom.  This was the first time I truly felt I was surrounded by people LIVING this philosophy. Watching hundreds of children interact with each other through their various interests was absolutely fascinating to me.At most liberty events, children are few and far between.   Its very hard on me as a new mother practicing attachment parenting because events are held at non-child friendly places and I have to exert massive amount of energy to ensure the safety of my kids while still participating in the meeting while not disturbing those also attending.This event was designed around entire families.  No one even noticed kids interrupting lectures or discussions or workshops, they were simply part of the event and something everyone seemed to expect and enjoy.  The event was designed around fun and learning for EVERYONE, not just the kids.

There were yoga classes, belly dancing, nerf gun wars, a room full of legos, a room full of dress up clothes, gaming rooms, a visit from the zoo, a talent show, a hypnotist, q&as daily about unschooling and more. I know my attendance at this event is just the tip of the iceberg and I am so excited to create my life around unshooling.
The most powerful lesson I learned was letting kids work out conflict on their own.  The first few days I was there I would get in the middle of my daughter and other kids interacting, especially if someone was toy hogging or being a bully.  After watching the other attendees’ let the children work it out and look on at me with a knowing smile, I decided to back off.
It was AMAZING watching my daughter remove herself from situations that weren’t going well, or seeing other kids decide to play with something else after Aliana took their toy.  No parental intervention, no tears.  They may only be a few years old, but they are capable of working out these situations on their own.  How empowering!!!!  It took only a few days and Aliana quit turning to me for help, and simply interacted at her own pace with the other kids.  This simple idea has profoundly changed the way I see my role as a parent.
Are you an unschooling family?    I have questions as a mother of young children I’d like to get answered as I walk further down this path:
Is alone time a possibility for mothers who unschool?
Do most unschooled toddlers go through the “terrible twos” or extreme mood swings that you traditionally hear about?
How do radical unschool families deal with food freedom?  I am a strong believer in eating fabulous food (organic, nongmo, etc….) and right now I have toddler who only has access to the food I provide.  Soon enough she may go to a friends, or another place that has food I don’t “approve” of, how do I deal with this?Thanks for reading!

7 Replies to “Rethinking Everything – A Conference That Changed My Life!”

  1. Hi Catherine,
    Welcome to the unschooling crew!!! We just got back from RE too, and had a great time with our little ones. Looking forward to meeting up with you and yours at more local gatherings here in Austin!

    I’m not an expert (who is?), but have been hanging around unschoolers virtually and in real life for a few years now, so I’ve collected some resources/responses for when these kinds of questions come up for me.

    Re: mom alone time: for us, unschooling is a natural extension of attachment parenting. So in the same way you need to draw your own healthy boundaries around “me time” when they’re little, you need to maintain those channels as they get older. Luckily, this seems to become easier the bigger they get. I find it works best to just carve out what I need and tell my husband what’s up – mom’s going dancing, or catching up on Mad Men, or sitting in a silent dark room, at this time on this day, and dad’s on duty. He does the same from his end.

    Little ones have big emotions no matter what – it’s so hard to learn at that pace! I think the difference is in how to choose your “battles.” Most unschoolers I know are good at imagining the situation from the child’s perspective and finding solutions that work for everybody, and letting go of things that don’t actually matter (you don’t want to wear shoes? ok, I’ll bring them along in case you feel like you need them later) so the unnecessary tantrums are bypassed. The tantrums that are left are necessary, in my opinion, as a sort of release valve for the tension of life. For those we just try to be present and let em pass like storms. For what it’s worth, I think 3 and 4 were harder in this respect than 2!

    For your food freedom question, I think the idea of “rules vs. principles” is a good one to explore. Pam Laricchia has a good post about that would be a good intro to this concept, and most new whole life unschoolers find food (and/or media use) to be one of the first big challenges, so there’s tons written about it here and there. Sandra Dodd has a of stuff on it. Pam also has an “exploring unschooling” intro email series you might like, starting out.

    Hannah (Sylvan, 5, and Cozy, 2)

  2. Hi Cat, I was also at RE but I don’t think I met you (although I did go to one of your talks and meant to introduce myself later). My husband, Eric, did talk with you, or at least with John.
    So wonderful to hear about your experience and I am so glad you had such a wonderful time! I encourage you to join our Texas Unschoolers Facebook group (you are in Texas, right?) to ask your questions and learn more about unschooling.

    Also, the Exploring Unschooling Email Series is my favorite resource to learn and think about unschooling: I HIGHLY recommend it.

    Also, the Atheist Anarchist Peaceful Parents group is pretty new on Facebook but might be a nice community for you: I find that not everyone there is using the same learning paradigm as I am (which is consistent with unschooling), but it is nice to have another somewhat likeminded group since many unschooler/peaceful parents are not anarchists.

    I’ll also find you on Facebook.
    Thanks again for sharing!

    Amy Smith

  3. Hello, I attended RE and really enjoyed the classes that you guys hosted. I was wondering if you could add me to your email list and if you have a Facebook page I could follow and send my friends to?

    Thanks, Karen

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *