“ We cannot keep using tools of oppression and expect to raise free people.”

AKILAH S. RICHARDS

is an unschooling podcaster, writer, and founding board member of The Alliance for Self-Directed Education. Her work both challenges and encourages social justice minded people to explore privilege and power in their relationships with children. In her own family, Akilah, her partner, and their two daughters, use unschooling as a tool for decolonizing education and liberating themselves from oppressive, exclusive systems. Find her conversations and commentary at Fare of the Free Child Podcast where Akilah supports, connects, and highlights people of color designing their own liberation through Self-Directed Education and love-centered community building.

The Big Picture

I started out as an independent author; hired an indie publishing company to help produce my first print book in 2007. It was my first public stance on integrating authentic living with mindful parenting. Like all my books, (I’ve written seven more since then) it was a result of me questioning my current situation, wanting something different, and wondering how the hell I could get from my then-current circumstance to the space I wanted to be in.

I started blogging about the same topic I wrote about in the book, and in a couple years, I was featured in a major magazine. I started working with a few brands, wrote a couple more books, started doing public speaking at small events, and eventually went into life coaching, working with women looking to make shift from day jobs they hated to entrepreneurship doing work they loved, living lives that matched up with how they wanted to see themselves.

As a life coach, I was in the Emotional Wellness business, and that work was fulfilling. It taught me a lot about how our unresolved feelings, our backstories, and in many cases, our childhood experiences could serve as tools to power us up in adulthood, or hold us back from really owning ourselves and taking charge of our own lives. The work transitioned from a focus on managing and naming emotions, to exploring and expressing the things that define us, and the things that have the most powerful influence over our choices. I took to calling that work/practice Radical Self-Expression.

Through the practice, I worked with hundreds of women—in person, through books, online courses, and virtual coaching—to make space for deep self-study, including recognizing our natural patterns and core values, and getting comfortable with expressing and protecting our needs inside our relationships. For me, radical self-expression work over the past six years led me to participate in my own liberation, and that of my children, with their father, my partner, by embracing self-directed education in the form of Unschooling.

Unschooling isn’t just about education and children, it’s about how adults and children live together, and how adults and children get to be themselves while they learn, grow, and define themselves. My partner and I are entrepreneurs who see the importance of being producers, not just consumers. As people of color, we see the urgency in learning how to prioritize an understanding of how to provide for ourselves and contribute to our communities without relying on someone to employ us, or to fund our school district, or to see value in our lives. For my family, unschooling is a tool for decolonizing education and liberating ourselves from oppressive, exclusive systems.

About the Work

This work is based on a particular core belief: We cannot keep using tools of oppression and expect to raise free people. Disrupting and deschooling from the practices that keep tools of oppression in place, is precisely the work done here. If you’re doing this work, too, there’s space for you here.

RFP work examines the ways that we’ve accepted coercive, emotionally and physically damaging habits as a normal part of adult-child relationships. With a focus on deschooling one’s self, decolonizing education, and exploring radical self-expression, RFP both challenges and informs us to push past coercion and fear, and walk toward a model for living with children that centers community, addresses social justice issues, and believes in trusting and respecting children.

Raising Free People™ taps into personal narratives and critical analysis to connect communities and open communication among families and intentional learning spaces that practice Self-Directed Education. Through storytelling, honest dialogue, and mad-question-asking, we share the vast and varied ways culture, race, and abilities are celebrated through liberation-minded living.

RFP is actively helping People of Color in Self-Directed Education (#POCinSDE) find and support each other, and the public sharing of these narratives support edupreneurs of SDE learning spaces in understanding some of the specific needs and challenges of the families of color in their communities. This work utilizes technology (podcasting, digital content writing, webinars) to have and to amplify the conversations and questions that create more anti-racism and anti-oppression learning cultures and living spaces.

A big part of Raising Free People work is showing up, in person. I want to show up and do the work. If you need me in your community, just ask. I will always ask for compensation, and I’m always open and flexible about what that might look like based on your needs and mine.

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