In early 2010, Deena and her family attended Unschoolers Winter Waterpark Gathering (UWWG) and learned that what she had been doing for the previous five years had a name. She wasn't "homeschooling wrong" as she had labeled it, she was "unschooling". She was inspired by what she heard and saw, her children were thrilled to be in a place where they weren't being questioned about schoolish things, and their father was settling in to the idea that maybe she hadn't completely lost her mind. The family left that event craving more!
A couple months later, Cameron Lovejoy organized and hosted The Autodidact Symposium in South Carolina. Again, the family attended and saw that this model they were using was actually successful for others and these wonderful, vibrant, young people were talking and mentoring and planning and were outright joyful with their never-ending search for happiness and knowledge. She left that weekend with the intention of creating a melding of these two wonderful experiences.
Two more months passed and Deena took her children out to the Life is Good Conference in Vancouver, Washington where her oldest met the girl who instantly became her best friend and the four of them left feeling peaceful and inspired!
Life threw in some bumps and the family withdrew unto themselves for a bit, but that intention was ever-present and after finally getting back to the conference circuit by attending UWG in 2013, Deena wondered if it was possible to gather some of her personal heroes and move forward with creating, organizing, and hosting an unschool conference in the southeast.
No sooner did she return home from UWG (literally midnight; four hours after they returned) then she sent her first line into the water and got a bite. Yes, Wes Beach was curious and wanted to know more! Hmm, try the next one. Yes, Laura Flynn Endres was also interested! Then she took a deep breath and dove in. YES! Her hero of heroes, James Marcus Bach, wasn't only interested, but encouraging! In under 24 hours, she had gone from dreaming to planning. Erika Davis-Pitre jumped in the water, Cameron Lovejoy (the catalyst) said he might be available, Blake Boles (the little brother she would've loved to have) responded positively and offered up some initial advice, Brenna McBroom (who doesn't love her???) asked more about the conference plans, and the conference began taking on its own life! The ideas and support continue to grow and the panels are practically creating themselves. It's a beautiful thing and clearly meant to be!
We have been creating this dream for three years in our minds and our conversations, but it has only been spoken of and acted upon for TWELVE days!
So, who is Deena? Well, she's a mom who loves her children more than life itself and who has seen first hand the difference between traditional parenting and relationship parenting and who remembers thinking she was "homeschooling wrong" then discovering this whole world of unschoolers and who sees her children become passionate about learning more in areas she herself isn't knowledgeable and who is trying to help her oldest decide what the right Next Step for her will be and who wants to share that journey, fulfill her intention, grow her tribe, make new friends, and inspire other families!
Who she isn't.... She isn't an "expert" and doesn't claim to be "doing it right". She doesn't really blog about or even talk much about unschooling. She hasn't written any books or articles. She doesn't host any groups. Conference goers who have seen her may not remember her because she watches, she listens, she learns, and above all she loves. She takes in as much of the wisdom and love that is offered and tries to find ways to use it to help her be a better partner with her children and provide them an even richer experience in their lives.
If you want to know more about Deena on a personal level, look for her at Next Step and she will be happy to chat anytime, especially over a cup of tea or a game of Bananagrams!