Jan 12, 2022
Sophie is the CEO for a charity called Phoenix Education. An organization that is working to change the education system so that schools are more collaborative and offer rights respecting spaces. She is also co-founder of ‘the Cabin’, the first consent-based education setting in the U.K. - a self-directed learning community for children aged 5-11. She runs courses on consent based education and works with people of all ages on changemaking/education activism and paradigm shifting. All this is a move forward toward a new paradigm in which children are respected, listened to and treated as whole people, where adultism is managed and de-escalated as much as possible, as a route to social justice. Sophie is an unschooling parent to two children who are 7 and 10.
Jenna welcomes everyone back to the podcast after a break in which she and her family moved back to the US from Europe. She catches us up on her own family’s unschooling adventures and her future plans. These include plans to combine her love of documentary style family photography and unschooling. For more information check out Jenna’s Instagram and click on ‘Join my Audience.’
Introducing Sophie Christophy:
Sophie was referred to the podcast by Dr. Nickee Stopler in episode 9 of The Rogue Learner Podcast.
Sophie tells us that she became interested in unschooling after the birth of her daughter ten years ago. Always a curious child and life-long learner she credits the many educators in her family for her ability to trust her own instincts and problem solving skills.
She explains how having her daughter was a huge life shift. She found that she was extremely tuned in to her daughter’s anxieties which brought her to a better understanding of just how differently we all see and experience the world around us. Knowing that she needed to be an advocate for her daughter as she felt that the social constructs of our society may not be the best for the mental and physical well being of people in general, especially a child.
One event that shaped her thinking about life and learning was when one of her parents came out as Trans. This opened her mind to better understanding the need for love and acceptance over prejudice and also that just as being a part of any marginalized group can leave one feeling vulnerable, the same can be said for unschoolers. A certain amount of bravery is called for.
Moving to the topic of deschooling. - Sophie says to begin with giving yourself permission to control your own situation. Recognize your fears. Ask yourself what is holding you back. Treat deschooling like a practice (she gives the example of yoga.) Do it daily to make it a practice. Be a conscious creator of your environment. Pay attention to what you surround yourself with. Question your motives. Make a commitment. Create an environment that will lead to success. Outcomes and variables are set.
Sophie and Jenna discuss these thoughts.
Sophie discusses a new course that she offers in Deschooling the Body. In this class she teaches her students to bring their physical bodies into the decision making process by paying attention to the body’s cues, responses and intuitions. Do you react to a statement physically? She goes on to say that if you feel your body react to a statement in an uncomfortable way, it may not be true for you. Feel it, breathe into it and find a way to loosen that energy, through movement etc.
Jenna asks Sophie to explain more about the Cabin.
Sophie created the Cabin with her partner Sarah Stollery in a local village hall. What started off as two days a week for twelve 5-11 year olds has grown since then adding more time and soon serving children through age sixteen. Some of the children come for one day or a few hours, some come every day that is available. Everything is consent based. Everyone self-directs and they use a democratic system of decision making. Rights and opinions are respected. Each day begins with an open Circle time led by a ‘trained chair’ (someone who has been trained to facilitate.) All ages are represented. During this fifteen minute session, plans are discussed and problems are solved.
A variety of resources are available to the children / families participating. These are based on the requests of all involved. Some of the items might include: art and craft supplies, a library of books, games, den building materials, ropes and swings outside, gardening equipment and more. A list may be written on the board of things being offered that day such as field trips, musical events, plays, dances and/or classes offered by either children or adults. Classes are often offered as a result of a need. For example a class on Conflict was offered after an incident arose that exposed a need for that class. Facilitators often offer a class on something that they have experience with. No one is obligated to attend any class. The rest of the day includes lunch, more self-directed learning and a final closing meeting.
Sophie emphasizes that it is important that others build deschooling platforms even though it takes perseverance and trusting in your own self directed learning. She reminds us that it takes a deep commitment and confidence to invest in your own unschooling.
Phoenix Education: From their website: “Founded in 2000, Phoenix Education is committed to education transformation. We promote democratic, human-centred and rights-respecting practices and structures, where student voice matters, and young people influence their experience of education. We work with mainstream schools, as well as with progressive alternative settings and innovators, challenging and expanding norms of what school and education can be.”
Sophie describes her educational platform Phoenix Education as a place to help teachers and students create and collaborate. Drawing from such predecessors as the Sand School and Dartington Hall she has formed a network to connect mainstream schools with the concepts of self directed education. The mission is called Freedom To Learn UK. They have two main projects. For the adults, they help them to be education advocates and to be more socially responsible. Through workshops, talks and hands-on learning together. For students they have a Change-makers program which teaches children to be activists for themselves, their own education and acceptance of others regardless of differences.
Jenna ends the podcast by asking the four questions that she asks each of her guests.
Dr. Nickee Stopler in episode 9 of The Rogue Learner Podcast.
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