Conventional practices that are rooted in binaries, and generally accepted by adults, but rejected by children and teenagers, either overtly or covertly. A living out someone else’s goals or narrative of how and what we should be. Schoolishness models an authoritarian approach to adult-child interaction as well as respectability ideas rooted in adults’ innate superiority in knowledge.

What is the opposite of schoolishness?


Let’s start with an example of each:


Alex, show me what you’ve done today.


Alex, how did your day go?

Anything in particular you want to discuss or get my feedback on?

The difference between schoolishness and supportiveness is often a matter of reaction.

This means that sometimes, being schoolish is less about what you do, and more about how you react to a child’s choice.  A support-driven approach respects a young learner’s right to invite you into their learning, whereas a schoolish-driven approach is rooted in the idea that young learners need adult input in order for learning to be effective.


Let me see if I can help this kid really learn what they need to learn



Let me make sure this kid knows that I am available if they need me


This kid won’t always know when they need adult support, so let me step in



People don’t always know when they need support, so let me pay attention to the ways this kid invites my support, and continue to respect their process of learning to discern when they need support.

One reason people don’t always know when they actually need support is because we’re all socialized to see needing support as a bad thing. We adults were conditioned as young learners to show up as people who have the right answers, or know how to get the answers without being inconvenient to adults.  So, we are still learning to discern, but children don’t have to go that same route. Instead, we can pivot away from the practices that interrupt discernment skill-building by knowing the difference between being supportive and being schoolish.


Sovereignty is about understanding and making choices outside of the misaligned information that you’ve been taught to see, believe, and follow. A true sincere peace, understanding and wisdom of how you came to your choices and decisions, with no decision-altering guilt or fear-based regard to possibilities of boat-rocking and upheaval of what used to be one’s “norm”. Essentially, sovereignty is a consistent act of self-ownership and healthy self-governance, often carried out in spite of external factors like family and friend’s contrary opinions about one’s lifestyle choices.


The ability to assess your own thoughts and feelings, and to recognize what feels truest for you. Self-awareness also includes the ability to see how your particular needs and way of being/thinking can fit into the world around you. 

Self-awareness has two main parts: an internal aspect (examining your own thoughts and needs), and an external aspect (seeing how you, and those unique thoughts and needs, can function and feel well in the world around you).


Shedding the programming and habits that resulted from other people’s agency over your time, body, thoughts, or actions. Designing and practicing beliefs that align with your desire to thrive, be happy, and succeed.

Confident Autonomy

Experiencing a strong sense of self-trust in making lifestyle choices in accordance with one’s own desires and need to self-actualize.

Mad Question-askin’ (MQAs)

The journey to leaving schoolishness behind necessitates a stream of questions. Question everything. Meet your questions with research, and a keen awareness that you are deschooling. Don’t act on the fear you discover. Instead, explore it, ideally without your child. For example, concerned that your child isn’t reading?

MQA: If they’re not reading, are they still learning? 

If so, how? Can you observe how? 


It’s the game of “I Spy” for grown-ups! 


I spy, with my schoolish eye, ________________. 


What might that mean?

What am I learning through my observations?

Want to learn (and unlearn) more?

Book Akilah to Facilitate Your Shift

Raising Free People

A Mad-Question’ Askin’ Cypher

A 90-minute live version of a 9-week workshop. We are challenging the things we held in our minds as true, getting to know the world through our own lenses, and seeing how we were participating in the oppression of our own people through our parenting, caregiving, and overall relationships with children. Raising Free People workshop is the space for us to apply what we’re learning* into the way we raise and relate to children. And into the way we support children in owning themselves. Key Question: How do I want to feel in my relationships with children, and what am I doing to stay aligned with my desired feeling? This talk can be customized and expanded to a half-day or full-day format for organizations and corporations.

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Personal Manifesto Creation Workshop

A Contemplative Practice Session for Deschooling Support

The evolution of the vision board.

Without clarity and confidence, vision boards and affirmations are merely busywork. Manifesto creation is meant to keep you aligned with the actions and choices that help you clarify and realize that vision from a deeply authentic space. Whether you want to stop people-pleasing, start a business, end a relationship, stop playing mediocre, or completely change the way you spend your days, a Personal Manifesto is essential. By engaging in this contemplative practice, you name your needs, state your purpose, and become a more active participant in your own joy. In this one-day workshop, we use self-inquiry, we name our emotions, we listen deeply, we explore honestly, and we use all of that to define our needs and intentions. This talk can be customized and expanded to a half-day, full-day, or two-day format for organizations and corporations.

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Speaking Freely

Exploring Liberation Language in our Families

Adults are bilingual; we speak oppression by training and we speak liberation by choice. This workshop will help you hold space to realize how many of us arrived at a parenting approach that centers parental controls (performance arts and power-over), and then to discover how we can get to collaborative, emergent, culture co-creation with our children. We will explore what it means to partner with children to make space to learn about their needs, and to express our own, without trying to force understanding upon our child, or to become passive as we attempt to ease tension by trying to fit ourselves into what we think will make children happy. This talk can be customized and expanded to a half-day, full-day, or two-day format for organizations and corporations. 

Book this now

Akilah S. Richards regularly engages audiences across the U.S. and South Africa. The Jamaican-born podcaster and writer speaks about equity and cultural competence, leadership development, conscious parenting, how people unschool, and unlearning the barriers to being our real selves together, in our homes, in our chosen circles, and in our careers. 

Richards is a founding board member of The Alliance for Self-Directed Education and the mother of two teenage daughters with whom she and her partner, Kris, have been unschooling since 2012. 

In 2016, Richards published the first episode of Fare of the Free Child podcast, now known among the short list of must-listen-to podcasts for anyone considering parenting and leadership from a liberation lens. The podcast focuses on Black people, Indigenouse people, and People of Color (BIPOC) families who practice unschooling and other forms of Self-Directed, decolonized living and learning. 

In 2019, Richards joined the celebrated TEDx Speaker village with her poignant speech, Raising Free People, where she shared the now widely-celebrated philosophy,


“We can’t keep using tools of oppression and expect to raise free people.”


As the co-founder and Executive Producer at Raising Free People Network, Richards and her team produce work to challenge and encourage social justice minded people to explore privilege and power in their relationships with children in particular, and with leadership in general. In addition to public speaking, she facilitates trainings, established and customized courses, and consultations that help resolve the ways that unexamined experiences with bias and oppression disrupt families’ and organization’s capacity to sustain cultures of belonging.

You can find her views on Self-Directed Education, racial equity, deschooling and decolonization for leadership and community in Mater Mea, My Brown Baby, Mutha Magazine, Everyday Feminism, Ravishly, and The Alliance for Self-Directed Education’s celebrated online magazine, Tipping Points, among others. Additionally her advocacy and organizing work has received national press including NBC TV, NPR, CBC Radio, and several print publications, including Essence, Real Simple, Hold the Line, and Rosemary Magazines.

Workshop Costs

Fees range from $2,000-$10,000+ depending on the speaker, type of presentation, and number of presentations requested. All speaking engagements require at least travel expenses to be covered. If funding is limited, please consider getting co-sponsorships from other groups or nearby colleges in exchange for additional presentations.