I’ve had a long running relationship with the Learning Societies unConference (LSuC), since I first discovered it years ago. Of course, it’s been a one directional relationship. LSuC didn’t even know of my existence, but every year, I watched each event unfold, the dates being announced, the registrations being opened, the build up to each event, and then, when the event got going, all the pictures and reflections of participants there. I longed to be there. I couldn’t really fathom how the LSuC plays out and I knew the only way to find out out was to experience it for myself. I knew though, that however it plays out, it would be an experience in inspiration!

So on the 26th of December 2017, when my family and I walked through the gates of Bhoomi College – the venue for LSuC – it was with great excitement and anticipation. And LsuC did not disappoint at all.

“The energy here is amazing” my husband commented. I nodded in agreement. People everywhere were high on life, excited about the things they were doing and boundaries they were pushing. I dared to imagine what the the world could be like if the whole world was one big Learning Society of sharing knowledge, passions, mentoring, and just being. For, although this was a place filled with participants that had started amazing projects, got institutes off the ground, planted up forests and organised an 800+ people unconference (for like the 10th year or something!), there were those that were just trying to figure life out, and the best thing of it all was that it was hard to tell the groups apart. Everybody just was, there was a distinct absence of airs about oneself of one’s achievements. I experienced people open to both learning about others and sharing their own journeys. There was a session called deep dating – I didn’t get to it, though to me the whole event felt like a deep dating event – in the best possible of ways.

As an unschooler, I was keen to meet the other unschooling families. I sat in on the Bangalore home and unschoolers session and my husband and I smiled at how similar the questions and concerns that were raised are to the ones we have here in South Africa. My husband and I also hosted a Unschoolers’ meet and greet session so we could find and meet out Indian and global counterparts. I also managed to get to Dola Dasgupta’s final session for unschoolers and was totally inspired with her gentle way of holding space for everybody and at the collective wisdom of the participants that shared. It was heartwarming to be able to so easily connect with the unschoolers.

I popped in and out of other sessions, but mostly I just marvelled at all the interactions happening around me. There was often an impromptu circle of people playing frisbee, soccer, music circles of some or other instrument, singing, dancing, laughing, earnest and casual discussions. I got to witness people seeing each other after long absences and enjoyed the watching the warm embraces and obvious joy of reconnecting. I too had some of those moments – meeting my South African friends, meeting my Indian friends that I had met on a previous visit, meeting online friends in the real world. A hug in the real world is such a wonderful additions to our formerly online only interactions.

I marvelled at the variety of sessions on offer. At the openness and enthusiasm with which people were happy to share their secrets and know how, their gifts.
I am very sensitive to how spaces accommodate children. The mark of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable. A mark of an event, for me, is how children get to interact within the event. For the most part, it seemed that children organised themselves. I am sure much more happened that I am not aware of, but I saw sessions on the board being hosted by young children, I saw them self organise games of Werewolf, take to the announcement mic to make announcements as needed, engage in free play and join adult run sessions if they were interested in them. They were completely and naturally a part of the event in how best they wanted to a part of. And that is something I truly appreciate about LSuC!

There is so much more that I haven’t captured. Can such a rich experience ever be captured in mere words. I don’t think so. Much gratitude to the organisers and volunteers for making it feel like a seamless event. I am sure there was a lot of hard work and stress involved in putting it all together. Much gratitude to all the people I met – it was such an honour. Now that I have attended an LSuC, I know why I felt so connected to the event all these years: because coming to LSuC felt like coming home! I look forward to returning.