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August 2023: Roots and New Seedlings

Today, our doors will open to young people for our new Dandelion Aftercare program, and in just a couple weeks,

we’ll be welcoming our young people and families into Wild Seeds ALC Pilot Year #2. These are huge milestones after a nearly 15 month long pause in our in-person programming, from when Pilot Year #1 in FDR Park ended, and we found our program to be without a home.

This last month, filled with building preparation, open houses, family enrollment meetings, onboarding new staff, gathering with other unschooling centers through the Philly Alt Ed Collective, and doing final administrative preparations has been a whirlwind of excitement (and some stress, if we are honest). It has really shown us just how much we’ve grown, how much we’ve prepared, and how ready we are to step into this new chapter of leading the co-creation of an intentional community around unschooling. Despite how challenging it was last year to trust that the setbacks were helping us align with our truest, most aligned purpose, the last month has really affirmed how essential our pause was in getting us ready for this next chapter.

As we are still thoughtfully preparing the soil to nourish our new seedling of community co-creation, we can’t help but return to the roots of The Dandelion Project as well as our origin stories for how we’ve gotten to this moment in time.

The Dandelion Project was originally birthed in the Fall of 2020 with the intention of creating an intergenerational digital space for unschooling families to connect and learn together. At that point, we had spent years brainstorming and visioning how we might start an unschool one day, but the high cost of renting building space in Philadelphia felt like an impossible barrier to actualizing our vision in equitable and accessible ways. We refused to create an unschooling space primarily serving well-resourced white folks.

Randomly, we attended a Organizers Call through the Alliance of Self Directed Education, and we got to hear from Sidney who runs the Wanderbus in Martha’s Vineyard. At the time he shared that he met up with young people in a public place, collaboratively worked with them to set the day’s adventure, and then piled them into his oversized van. That night we realized that thinking we needed a building space was getting in the way of stepping into our dream– learning happens everywhere, not just in special designated learning spaces.

By Spring of 2021, we had arranged for Wild Seeds Pilot Year #1 to launch as an entirely outdoors program out of FDR Park in South Philly. We got a gigantic event style tent as our outdoor classroom, and we were excited to reimagine how public land could be used and centering young people in deciding that. While we had lots of experiences as educators and starting programs, we had no idea the amount of learning and growing we would do that year (so much learning, that we’ll have to save that for a whole other post). We were devastated when we learned the park wouldn’t renew our permit for the following year, but we felt confident that we’d figure something out before Fall of 2022.

Then absolutely everything we tried fell though. Painfully. It felt as if every step forward made us take three steps backwards. At our lowest moments, we felt like we were the wrong people for this work and deeply questioned whether we were pursuing the right dream. Then in January 2023, after more than half a year of writing policies and practices, exploring location options, imagining new kinds of programs, and trying to get all sorts of different things that we weren’t really excited about to gel, we hit a breaking point. We sat down and decided that we had two choices: to leave this vision behind or to put all of our energy into finding a building space so we could relaunch Wild Seeds, the thing that actually made our hearts sing.

Within weeks of our newfound commitment, we had a realtor (Amanda Turske, commercial realtor and unschooling mama at Philly Free School) and we went to look at our first building space. The building just so happened to be at the corner of where my street (Reed St) and Lauren’s street (9th Street) intersect in South Philly. When we walked in, we knew it was perfect. We had manifested something powerful when we chose to trust our hearts and align our actions with it. Can you see the space potential in these "before" shots? We'll share our progress in a new post soon!

Since then, we’ve been working hard but each step seems to be filled with more ease. We’ve established TDP’s baby board, received non-profit status, interviewed and hired new staff, managed our building’s interior rehab and construction, connected with a dope artist (McKinna Salinas) to design and paint our exterior, updated and built new administrative processes and documents, written grants, designed onboarding and professional development for staff, planned out a year’s worth of community-building events and experiences, visioned out small group work, procured furniture and supplies, whew, and even more. Nearly everything is ready for our launch, and we are growing even dreamier dreams for our future.

When we think back over the last decade or two of our lives, we can see all the ways our previous experiences and learnings and healings and growings have set us up for this moment (those might be other blogs someday, too!). We know doing something different from conventional norms while also fostering deep community is messy and hard sometimes, but we have limitless faith and trust in our intuitions which continue to tell us to keep going and growing. We deeply trust that unschooling is a pathway towards collective liberation, and that liberation is something we can practice right now in our lives and relationships in this very moment. We are grateful the universe trusted us to create a container for co-creation, and we are thrilled while considering all of the future possibilities. For now, we’ll step one foot in front of the other and bring as much presence and love and joy to this new chapter. Here we go!

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