I launched a podcast for Black and Brown parents who practice alternative parenting options to the traditional education model; you know, school. Options like unschooling, worldschooling, roadschooling, slowschooling, eclectic homeschooling, and the myriad other ways that we and our children embrace curiosity-driven, lifelong learning.
The podcast is called Fare of the Free Child, and its purpose is to help me amplify the underrepresented voices and unique concerns of people of color looking for real viable options to the oppressive systems that our children are expected to live and learn within.
Since I started sharing my experiences as an unschooling parent, online and on radio, and then eventually on TV on The Steve Harvey Show, I’ve gotten dozens of emails from frustrated mothers who know that school isn’t working for their child, and that it isn’t their child that needs to be fixed, it’s school.
More specifically, it’s how our children are being forced to memorize information, be victimized by a system that routinely over-polices and unfairly punishes black children, as well as omit aspects of world history that show black and brown people’s contributions to the world’s progress.
And when you know those things, and you see your child losing their interest in learning, it can be scary—we can feel stuck. So on Fare of the Free Child, I’ll talk about ways to make self-directed education more accessible for black and brown people—I want to solve that problem through this network I’m building with this podcast.
So of course, I need help. I want to hear from and get introduced to, and get book and blog recommendations about what I know has got to be thousands on thousands of black and brown people across the world in the Self-Directed Education movement—the unschoolers, the eclectic homeschoolers, the unstructured, school-free or occasional school families.
Message me through the contact form on akilahsrichards/podcast. Let’s talk about where you are, what challenges and successes you’ve had, ideas you want to share, all of that. And as we communicate, let’s see how we can create more accessible communities and expand our network. So our children can collaborate and we can increase the diversity, culturally for sure, in this alternative learning space.
So that more single black parents and brown parents can co-create spaces where they can hire adults they trust to observe their children, and be there for their children, as they play and learn together in shared learning-centered spaces right in their communities. That’s how I think we can actually help the next generation of black and brown children actually be free.
Of course, all children deserve to be free, and certainly there are parents of all races and backgrounds who are already doing radical and necessary work to promote and protect the rights of children through the self-directed education movement. I’m here for all of that and I’ve benefited from much of what they, have done and are doing—Carol Black, Peter Gray, John Holt, Charles Eisenstein, Pat Farenga, and more recently, Anna Brix Thomsen and those amazing folks.
This podcast though, will center black and brown voices because in this self-directed education movement, when you search it online or see it in media, or go to an event, is a blatant absence of diversity, of black and brown faces and voices and concerns. Because our ability to take our children out of school or keep them out of school, has other factors to it than just willingness and money.
As a member of the black diaspora, I see and know the reality that people who look like me are being dehumanized, oppressed, silenced, and overtly exploited by white supremacy, by capitalism, by the effects of colonialism, on a globally and consistent scale. While white parents are focused on the rights their children should have, black and brown people are worried about the safety of our children.
It is those voices, the ones who are both afraid and brave, and the ones who have ideas on how to live and thrive despite these legitimate fears, that Fare of the Free Child aims to amplify. Because as writer and organizer Malkia Cyril so beautifully put it, “there are no voiceless people, only those that haven’t yet been heard.”
I want to use this space to create community for adults engaged in unconventional black and brown parenting and caregiving to be heard, and to find and support each other. And since I’m an unschooling, location independent, non-christian, Caribbean, intersectional feminist, mermaid identifying, radical self-expression practicing, blackity-black woman and mother, raising two super-dope black girls with my Kingman—I am just the one to invite you into this conversation.
I also want to address the myth that if we give our children freedom, they’re gonna lose their minds and slap us in the face like that kid on Dr. Phil, or call us bitches in the supermarket when we don’t buy them the cereal they want. A lot of us really see it that way, so we hold on to old thinking, out of reverence for our culture, to the detriment of our children.
And then there are some of us who have figured out what to leave behind and what to build upon, but we struggle with the effects of the limited understanding of family members and friends in our communities who see our unconventional parenting style as a threat to our children, or to our culture.
The reality is that treating children with more dignity and making more space for them to learn how to lead themselves and make real decisions about their own lives in childhood does not automatically increase your chances of having a child who is gonna disrespect you, or themselves, or see you as anything less than you are.
The reality is that each of us can decide exactly what we will hold on to in our culture and our history. And we can also decide that the parts of our tradition and our culture that do not resonate with who we are as individuals, and how we want to connect as parents, can be shed, without shame, and with support and understanding. This is a space for people of color to figure out how we and our children can live and thrive alongside a system that makes it clear that if you are not white, you are subject to terrorism at the hands of the same government to whom you pay taxes and to whom your children pledge their allegiance in their classrooms.
And to be clear, I have an agenda. I want us to start treating our children with more dignity and giving them more autonomy over their own futures. And I want us to shift out of the thinking that this work of freeing children from oppressive structures, is a white thing (#wypipo), as many black folks keep telling me about unschooling in particular.
There’s an entire spectrum in between free child and troubled child, so I know we see these kids on talk shows and in stores disrespecting their mamas and acting crazy, and think not my child. And I know we recognize that our children aren’t privileged enough to act crazy in public and survive it. So we are fearful about our children’s freedom, in large part because of the social, historical, and political contexts that show the lack of value on black and brown lives.
Still, we can’t keep perpetuating this stifled, molded, narrow mindset when it comes to raising our children. They won’t be prepared to own themselves and to thrive in a time where information is abundant and networking skills, language acquisition, and confident assertion will be critical to their survival. We have to figure this out together, without judging or bashing each other. So, every other week, we’re gonna talk about all of that: the fears, the myths, the history, our history, the present, the future, and our communities. And we’re talking about the things we can do, the action we can take, to start living in a more harmonious, more loving, more mindful, liberation-centered space with our young people today.
The format of the podcast is simple: every week, I—sometimes accompanied by a guest co-host—will talk about the layers of unconventional black parenthood, and how we can use that mindset as a way to get free. We’re aiming to solve things together, not just talk about them.
Fare of the Free Child will not just be for folks already immersed in Self-Directed Education, it will also be accessible and relatable to newbie unschoolers, undecided but curious parents, and eventual parents who want to start exploring ways to live and learn with their children now.