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5 Years of Worldschooling, Roadschooling & Unschooling with Mama Cara

Updated: 23 hours ago

Our journey began here, at the Cross Border Express & International Airport in Tijuana, Mexico, on June 25th 2019, when we were a family of three.

Back then, our southern California life had been downsized and packed up. We had celebrated with our closest loved ones and friends via a going away party in our southern California backyard before we boarded a plane headed towards the stultifying heat of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.

We spent the month of July living at Anahata Worldschool - a village-like environment surrounded by other worldschooling families. However, we enjoyed a few days in Cancun and the Tulum area reveling in the new found lease on life that our family had been granted. The stifling humidity worked wonders for Papa Burt who was still suffering with some after effects of chemotherapy, namely neuropathy - a painful condition in which a person experiences numbness in their hands and feet. The year prior, we had barely survived a cancer battle during which Papa Burt suffered with acute, chronic head pain from an aggressively growing tumor in his right sinus cavity, (which people of south East Asian descent have a genetic marker for.) Nasopharyngeal cancer it is called, and it was 4th stage, having reached Burt's lymph nodes and liver, by the time he began conventional treatment in November 2018.

At the start of six rounds of chemotherapy and 48 sessions of upper head and neck radiation treatments, Burt & I agreed that radical change was required in our life - even though we were surrounded by an amazing community there in the Encinitas area, where our large, suburban home, was often the gathering place for shared, holiday meals.

As well, our home was the backyard location for a pre-school learning garden where I had created a cooperative of local families. The intention for our co-op was for Mamas to have a 'one-stop village shop' for getting their self care needs met - such as for massage, co-working, acupuncture & educational support - along with childcare.

At our co-op, we aimed to foster a 'real' sense of village by calling each other, "Mama" and "Papa," followed by our first names. Hence, 'Mama Cara' was born. Along with 'Papa Burt,' 'Mama Erika,' 'Papa Judd,' and so on. Our goal was to subconsciously re-enforce our commitment to caring for one another as though we are a family and here to do exactly this. (Because we are!) We also hosted ceremonies, meetings and other events, that brought people together to connect, relate and plan.

Our community was essential in Burt's healing journey. We would not have survived that time period, which included a GI-tube being placed directly into Burt's stomach as the radiation had burned his outer and inner throat to a crisp rendering him unable to swallow, without their physical, material and emotional support. Still, cancer has a way of illuminating what isn't working in one's life and we sensed that downshifting our life by heading into Mexico first would support Burt's continued healing as he began a life of remission from cancer was our wisest, next move.

Writing this now, almost five years to the date later, we couldn't have known then what life had in store for, not just our little family, but our whole planet.

As for me - Mama Cara - I had been a proponent for unschooling over a decade before I became a mother. In the early 2000s, I had been exposed to John Holt, considered the father of the modern unschooling movement, through his book, ""Learning All the Time," I also innately understood how the shame of failure, due to neurodivergence along with an embodiment of one of the eight other intelligences that modern education does not celebrate or embrace, could sink a person's passion for learning. In contrast, I have retained my zest for life by continually following my heart - often into the arts and humanities. A life long learner, I am a passionate writer, reader, dancer and avid philosopher, who enjoys espousing upon the metaphor of movement. In later years, my teaching and writing had come to be about how the language of dance could be applied to our everyday lives in order for any person to experience greater ease and grace in their day to day. I have also long believed that we are each born creative geniuses however this innate trait is bred out of us via our conditioning. Being forced into standardized ways of living & learning is good for business but bad for building a society of free, constructive thinkers. I knew that, one day, when I had the chance to be a parent - because I always wanted to be a Mama - I would do it on my terms. Burt was the man who gave me both the gift of motherhood and the opportunity to embody this.

My terms also included travel.

In 1986, I was 9-years-old when my parents first put me on a plane by myself - without having told any one that I was alone! I was flying across the country, from my parent's home in northern San Diego County to my grandparents house in New Jersey, when the plane landed at Chicago's international O'Hare airprot. Tentatively, I stepped off the plane and into a bustling airport. I had no clue what to do so I hightailed it back onto the plane where I finally told a stewardess that I was alone and needed help. At an impressionable age, I was forced to navigate my way forward - a valuable life skill that has made me who I am today.

In 2001, I flew to Johannesburg, South Africa to make my way - alone (again) and in an era before cell phones -to Harare, Zimababwe, where one of my best girlfriends from college (Becca) was then studying abroad. As a young, 24-year old, my ideas about parenthood were greatly expanded by what I witnessed in southern Africa - namely, women carrying babies on their backs throughout their day-to-day, and very few tantrums of unhappy children giving voice to unmet needs.

I didn't know then what my life would one day look like but I did know that I wanted to use the world as a classroom with my future child/ren. What a privilege it is (& had been) that I get to do exactly this! Here is an image of my son and I in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, where we lived for two years and when his futbol team had won the 2022 spring tournament.

Do I ever wonder if our choosing to travel so quickly after Burt received remission only sped up his ultimate demise? Of course I have. (Burt's brother died of the same cancer fourteen years before him. Unlike Burt however, he had lived in remission for eighteen months before succumbing.) However... what I know in my heart to be true is that, during those seven months of our first worldschooling adventure, our little family made life changing memories that will last Cee and I the rest of our lives. Stories that we have repeatedly told since then, photographs of what were once far off places and new friendships seeded that we have continued to sow in the following years.

What came next after Burt's death was shocking to all of us. We had returned to southern California to both mourn and celebrate Burt's life with a full weekend of in-person events, including a women's circle for me and a small gathering of men committed to playing the role of Uncle to Cee, a beach bonfire for others to share their important memories of Burt, our official memorial of Burt's life, and a Sunday dance session at Dance Church where Burt DJ'd from the other side.

This drum circle at Swami's Roadside Park in Encinitas captures the elation of celebration that we all felt for Burt's impact on our lives at the end of that weekend. It was only two days later when California mandated shelter in place orders. I had no home or car but what we did have was community - in spades. They provided us with hand-me-down clothing for the winter months (due to a previous loss, which is another story for another time), shelter, a vehicle, money and more. For two and a half months, Cee and I were able to quarantine with relative ease. We had art supplies, a Golden Retriever to walk, a spring time pool in the back yard and dear friends to enjoy home made bread, an excess of toilet paper and games of Carcassone with. Eventually though, my shock about finding myself a lone mother when the global $hit did indeed hit the fan was beginning to rear its head. My inability to feel my grief - an iceberg which Burt's death was just the tip of - was rendering me frustrated and impatient with Cee, especially at bedtime when he wanted to wrestle and I just wanted to roll over and fall asleep.

I realized that I had to make a choice to move us forward - either rent a room locally and continue to quarantine there, or do something with the RV that Burt and I had purchased before we left the States. Setting it up as a nurturing nest, we planned on returning home to it and roadschooling Cee across the USA. Unfortunately, all of our beautiful belongings had been liquidated without our consent prior to Burt's death and entering the RV only compounded my sense of loss. So I sold it and bought a van instead. In the process, I had a conversation with three other Mamas who also knew that for the emotional and mental sanity of our selves and our children, we had to do more than hide indoors. Thus, The Mama Caravan was born. Here is Cee and I are enjoying a meal around a campfire at the Prancing Unicorn Retreat and Recreation Center outside of Olympia, Washington.

Our first Mama Caravan meetup took place in Marin County, California, on the summer solstice, 2020. Since then, I have driven Cee across 11,000 more miles of the USA during which I met up with many more Mamas (& Papas) in their homes across the nation. While most people were at home, Cee & I then returned to southern Ecuador, where Burt had taken his final breaths, to commemorate the one-year anniversary of his death. Along the way, I was embodying the movement philosophy that Burt had passionately talked about in the years before his death. Emotional Fitness is Burt's legacy. Burt believed that if each person had the ability to identify what they are feeling in real time, talk about their feelings and ask for any help they need, then our planet would be a much saner place. His death was my greatest invitation to go deeply into my e~motions, specifically my grief, rage and fear. To give them expression so that they could move and be released and I could be more present and emotionally available to our young child. Emotional Fitness Dojo is now the place where you can go to learn how to do the same.

In celebration of the last five years of unschooling, worldschooling and roadschooling, after the death of Papa Burt and through a global pandemic, I am sharing the following blog posts about our journeys, including some how to's and highlights. It is my hope that you will find both inspiration or perhaps have some of your own questions answered through them.

I would love to hear about your experiences as well. Or, if you need support in preparing and planning for your life outside of the classroom - in our world and on the road - then please feel free to reach out

All the best on your alternative parenting journey. We hope to meet up with you on the road of Life,

Cara & Cee

On one of those famous, brightly painted, local buses in Guatemala! Spring Break 2023

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