Sometimes the best way to support a young person is not to add anything to their life, but simply remove things. Cammy joined PLC struggling under the weight of anxiety, stress and depression from the demands of school. PLC helped her by simply removing those things and giving her the time, space and support to re-discover what she loved doing in life.

Cammy’s love of PLC and how it can help people, spurred her to help with the start-up of Bucks Learning Cooperative, where she was the apprentice for 2014-15. She led classes in art, photography, and yoga. Cammy (now Cameron) is a visual artist, life coach, and breath therapist, with her own business, Conscious Creations.

Cammy shared her story at our self-directed learning celebration in spring 2014:

Linda, Cammy’s mom, shared their family’s story at our self-directed learning celebration in spring 2013:

I appreciate the chance to share our continuing PLC story. Last year at this event I spoke about our then-12-week old experience as part of PLC. I talked about how, after 2 distressing years, our daughter Cameron emerged from a stupor, a stupor characterized by debilitating abdominal pain, school refusal, alienation from friends and activities, and a revolving door of therapists.  I talked about how our family, teetering on the edge of dysfunction because of Cameron’s issues, stepped back and gradually over those 12 weeks returned to normal.  Cameron became engaged with the world once again.  Instead of spending days in bed, cut off from friends and barely interacting with us, she’d talk about her new friends at PLC.  Instead of dreading to leave the house, becoming physically ill at the thought of it, when headed to PLC she’d be the first one out the door in the morning. It is a dramatic story of healing in every way.

But when I spoke last year we were relatively new to PLC. We were mostly healed but still concerned for the future. We had no idea whether the whole arrangement would last, whether whatever it was that caused Cameron so much anxiety in traditional school would re-surface.  So while we were overjoyed to see her healthy and happy, deep down we were wary about whether it would last.

In addition to that we were concerned about the status of her education. As Cameron re-engaged we were thrilled, but our worry shifted from her health to thoughts like: How will she make her way in the world without going to school, how will she earn a living as a “high school drop out”? We found it tough to shake our deep-seated expectation that children should attend school and be taught things.

But over the course of this year at PLC our narrow view of what the path to success looks like was challenged.  At first, being the parents of a child who didn’t attend school was a frightening thought. But there were a few milestones that built on each other and over time helped us turn the corner. Initially I kept un-schooling-related reading material handy and whenever I began to freak out I would read until I felt better. Discussions with PLC staff and attendance at PLC-sponsored events revealed the prospect of rich alternatives for Cameron, alternatives that probably would not have surfaced if Cameron had stayed in school. PLC’s Outside the Box series highlighted opportunities that reinforced the value of a different approach, including everything from gap year programs to the potential for a un-schooler to submit a stand-out college application. About a month ago I had the opportunity to visit North Star with Alison and some of the PLC kids.  From that short trip I gained an appreciation of PLC staff’s vision for a vibrant community of self-directed learners. So over the year our expectation that children must be taught things has given way to the conclusion that children just need to be allowed to learn things.  Last night when I asked my husband for any additional thoughts he has about PLC that I could share he said, “It just feels right…it feels normal.” I agree.

So enough about Cameron’s parents.  Let me tell you about what Cameron has been up to.

Cameron has been physically well since she left school.  The anxiety that fuelled her illness is gone. At PLC Cameron has chosen to study Philosophy and Emotional Intelligence. More recently she has included Current Events as a favorite subject. She has completed Photography and Drawing classes at Mercer County Community College. In addition to being allowed to choose what she wants to learn about, Cameron has taken on the responsibility of charting her own course for the future.  She is studying math and language arts in order to prepare for the Accuplacer test which will allow her to take other academic classes at Mercer. Cameron is a PLC Ambassador, PLC Photographer and PLC “mother-hen.” She volunteers at an animal shelter, held a seasonal job at a photography studio, works at a climbing center, and is currently an intern at the Center for Interim Programs. Clearly, Cameron is making up for the time she lost while she was ill. She is in the process of considering whether she wants to pursue travel, work or college. It wouldn’t surprise anyone who knows Cameron at this point if she manages to do all three.

At PLC Cameron is recognized and her presence is valued.  She feels it and we feel it. Freed from whatever social or academic issues may have contributed to her illness and unhappiness, our kind and compassionate Cameron is back, in the form of a healthy and fully engaged young woman who we know will make a positive impact in the world.

We are thankful to Joel, Alison, Paul and George who have nurtured Cameron in so many various ways over the past year.  We are thankful to the PLC kids. Cameron attends PLC at a reduced fee so we are thankful to those of you whose contributions make that possible.  I hope my update on Cameron’s progress provides the feedback to assure you that your contributions are invaluable. And I hope that you will continue to support PLC’s effort to help kids like Cameron learn without school.