Raising free people

Raising free people
Unschooling as Liberation and Healing Work

Written by Akilah S. Richards • Foreword: Bayo Akomolafe. PM Press 2020

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No one is immune to the by-products of compulsory schooling and standardized testing. And while reform may be a worthy cause for some, it is not enough for countless others still trying to navigate the tyranny of what schooling has always been. Raising Free People argues that we need to build and work within systems truly designed for any human to learn, grow, socialize, and thrive, regardless of age, ability, background, or access to money.

Families and conscious organizations across the world are healing generations of school wounds by pivoting into self-directed, intentional community-building, and Raising Free People shows you exactly how unschooling can help facilitate this process.

Individual experiences influence our approach to parenting and education, so we need more than the rules, tools, and “bad adult” guilt trips found in so many parenting and education books. We need to reach behind our behaviours to seek and find our triggers; to examine and interrupt the ways that social issues such as colonization still wreak havoc on our ability to trust ourselves, let alone children. Raising Free People explores examples of the transition from school or home-schooling to unschooling, how single parents and people facing financial challenges unschool successfully, and the ways unschooling allows us to address generational trauma and unlearn the habits we mindlessly pass on to children.

In these detailed and unabashed stories and insights, Richards examines the ways that her relationships to blackness, decolonization, and healing work all combine to form relationships and enable community-healing strategies rooted in an unschooling practice. This is how millions of families center human connection, practice clear and honest communication, and raise children who do not grow up to feel that they narrowly survived their childhoods.


“This is an insightful, brilliant book by one of today’s most inspiring leaders in the realm of Self-Directed Education. We see here how respecting children, listening to them, and learning from them can revolutionize our manner of parenting and remove the blinders imposed by the forced schooling that we nearly all experienced. I recommend it to everyone who cares about children, freedom, and the future of humanity.”    —Peter Gray, research professor of psychology at Boston College, author of Free to Learn

“Akilah’s voice is so warm and personal that sometimes I don’t notice how seriously radical and impactful her words are—that is, until I catch myself speaking and listening to my own child with noticeably more humility, curiosity, and respect. Raising Free People pulls off that rare miracle: it’s a book for everyone, offering fresh and significant insights to people like me who’ve spent decades learning about unschooling, while simultaneously welcoming and engaging the parent who has never previously stopped to question the validity or importance of school. And, Akilah’s vision is unsurpassed when it comes to drawing the connections between collective liberation and personal freedom. Her clarity on this and similar issues has already deepened the communal wisdom of the Self-Directed Education movement, and I hope that her book reaches millions of parents, so that millions of children may grow up knowing, trusting, and fully inhabiting their own unique gifts.”    —Grace Llewellyn, author of The Teenage Liberation Handbook and founder of Not Back to School Camp

“It is uplifting to experience this message delivered with such clarity and such a practical and inviting manner that would naturally encourage and draw families to want to take this first step toward living this. I want to thank Akilah for this and encourage any families that are thinking more about learning to raise free adults, to jump right in and take this journey of learning with Akilah. Her care, empathy, presence, and insight are at the very forefront of how families can experience living together in a healthy, integrated and harmonious manner where learning is an ongoing journey to deepening their connections.”    —George Kaponay, world traveller, storyteller, writer, social entrepreneur, and cofounder of the Family Adventure Academy

“It’s becoming more common for parents to recognize the inefficiencies and irrelevance of conventional schooling and to desire something better for their children. Yet, few have had the courage and the commitment to forge a new path for their family based on freedom, liberation, autonomy, and love like Akilah S. Richards. Even fewer have been able to share such deep insights and empowering narratives about reclaiming our lives and trusting our children to create their own.”    —Tomis Parker, Agile Learning Facilitator at ALC Mosaic and board member of The Alliance for Self-Directed Education

Raising Free People is the book that those of us navigating unschooling through a decolonisation and social justice lens have been waiting for. Akilah’s straight up rich and honest descriptions and insights on the many highs and lows of living with authenticity and in raising free people resonate completely. There are so many ‘What? How did I not notice that before?’ moments. It is priceless that we get to journey with the Richards as they navigate overcoming their schoolishness and fears towards liberation and community accompanied by the insight, guidance, and encouragement in constantly checking our mind-sets to do the inner liberation work to make the outer liberation a reality.”    —Zakiyya Ismail, convener of the Learning Reimagined Unschooling Conference, Johannesburg, South Africa

About the Contributors:

  • Akilah S. Richards is a public speaker and the founder of Raising Free People Network, a social enterprise focused on resolving the ways that unexamined experiences with bias and oppression disrupt families’ and organizations’ capacity to sustain cultures of belonging.
  • Bayo Akomolafe is executive director and chief curator for the Emergence Network and is the author of We Will Tell Our Own Story and These Wilds Beyond Our Fences: Letters to My Daughter on Humanity’s Search for Home.


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