Love It Forward: Extending Radical Unschooling Philosophy

As I prepare for traveling to Texas and then Australia for speaking gigs this fall, I am remembering a flight that my family took back from England where I was the keynote speaker at the first ever Unschooling conference in London.On the flight home there was a mother traveling alone with two kids who were sitting next to us. Being such a big family, we took up almost a whole row of seats on the plane. As we took off, I could see the mother getting impatient with her kids. She had a two year old and a child around six. The two year old was standing on the seat looking at the people behind us. The mother was so frustrated and I saw her squeezing her daughters leg really hard. She talked in a really low, angry voice scolding her. My heart hurt seeing this, and Joe and I began talking about how cruel this mother way being to her kids.As I judged this mother, it began feeling bad focusing such negativity toward her. I had a moment of realization that I could extend the Unschooling philosophy of respect and kindness to her and see what happens. I could choose to focus on this mothers needs under her behavior and see how I could help her and her kids. I could maybe make a difference and be guided by love and respect instead of judgement and feeling, better than. This was a pivotal moment in my life as a Radical Unschooling parent and advocate.

I quietly asked Devin if he would switch seats with me so that I could sit next to this mother. As we rearranged I saw her look up at me with hopeless, tired eyes. I smiled at her and tried to focus loving, kind energy toward her. I looked into her eyes. I asked her, “Are you alright? Can I help you at all?”. She slowly lowered her head and started crying into her hands.

She told me that she had been traveling for over two days. She was visiting her family in Africa and she was finally on her way home to see her husband who she hadn’t seen in three months. Her luggage had been lost and she missed her last flight. She shared that she was exhausted and hungry and had absolutely nothing left to give to her kids. She said to me, “I’m normally much kinder to my children”.

My heart opened to her. I offered her a hug and when I did, she began sobbing. I told her not to worry and that we would help her out in the last leg of her journey. We rearranged seats again so that Tiff was sitting next to her daughter who was around the same age. For the rest of the flight they laughed and played games and watched movies together. This exhausted mother gratefully accepted our help. I walked her two year old daughter up and down the aisles of the plane. At one point I looked over to see that the mother was sound asleep in her seat. Our family happily entertained her children for over 5 hours. When the Mom woke up, I gave her a cup of tea and a sandwich. She looked refreshed and renewed. She hugged her daughters and played with them for the rest of the flight joyfully.

In the beginning of the flight, when I saw this mom, I judged her. I instantly built a wall between she and I. I viewed us as two very different people with opposite parenting philosophies. Devin and Tiff also saw this mothers actions in the beginning of the journey and commented on how mean she appeared to be acting to her kids. When I asked how I could help, my children also witnessed me shift from judgement to understanding and love for this woman. It was a moment in my life of personal growth and one that my children learned so much from witnessing.

When we judge someone, we don’t know their story or their path. We instantly shut down the possibility to spread peace and love and make a difference in the lives of others. When we can look beyond the surface we may see ourselves in others. We have all been at our worst at times and it hurts to have the eyes of judgement on us when we are needing support and connection.

For the rest of the flight I chatted with this mother. Listening to her talk about her life and personally path was so interesting. We had so much in common. We laughed together over tea as our children played. I can’t image how negative the flight would have been if I didn’t shift from judgement to love. I created the space for connection and that felt so empowering!

As we were getting off the plane the Mom turned to me and thanked me. She said that I gave her such a gift and that she would never forget us. She gave me a hug and in that moment I knew that I had grown as a person.

Since the experience with this mother, I have extended the core concepts of Radical Unschooling philosophy to others in my life. It is so much more than a parenting philosophy. It is a life philosophy. Focusing on others needs, rather than their behavior is a tool of peace and connection that can change the world. I love that my own path brings me into ever widening circles to extend the joy and respect further and further to others. This spiralling growth is never ending.

The flight home from England was a turning point in my life and the life of my family. I can’t wait to see who we can help on our next journey overseas. I am soon going to take a thirty hour trip to Australia with Devin. I know it will be fabulous because no matter who we encounter, if we allow love and understanding to guide us, only joy will follow.

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” Mother Teresa



  1. What an amazing post. Thanks for sharing Dayna.

  2. Yes, thank you Dayna. For this amazing reminder pro openess, pro love.

  3. Hi Dayna, I love all you write and what you stand for. I also completely agree with extending the RU philosophies to everyone in our life, it would be a truly peaceful world and something I stand for myself! 🙂 I’m wondering if you can give me some clarity or maybe write a post on this….. I’m a single mum with a 5 mo and a 26 mo. I love RU philosophies, but I do find I sometimes get cranky or tired, my kids (one or both) can stay up till 10-11 at night some nights. I see you writing about enjoying time with your kids but how do you enjoy many hours a day with young kids? I’m not sure I’m asking the question right, but at this age, when its all about filling thier needs how can you keep your own cup full? This post struck me more, as one thing I would love to do is to travel with my kids, or even get out the house more, and I do feel its a difficult task (I dont drive and have no transport) I suppose its my own ’embarrassment’ or having my kids act as any young children tend to do in public – stand on seats etc. Its normal, but I know others will expect me to ‘discipline’ I also worry about ‘spoiling’ others fun by allowing my children be children. Hope that all makes sense. Any advice would be much apprieciated! Thankyou

    • Hi Emma, I am happy to set up a time when we could chat on the phone or through Skype. Just send me a message through this site and I will schedule you in for a time to talk.

  4. Thank you. This is so much what we need to do … support mothering. I also do this all the time …. if there is a mom with flailing child in cart, when I get to cash register I trade places with her. Or, I ask can I help you. In restaurants and public I tell mothers and fathers with fussy, crying, and even playing children who look embarrassed that they don’t need to shhh or quiet their children to comfort adults. Adults can deal with it. Not glaring and looking at mother or father like they are monsters or losers is a good start. Who hasn’t been there? Kids get tired. They are dragged everywhere, without input, expected to just comply. One more thing, about flying. Children, especially infants and toddlers, are still very sensory oriented. They are sponges. They FEEL, soaking up the emotions of people in their environment. There is so much stress and anxiety and fear around flying and children soak it up and express it .. it’s actually a good thing to acknowledge a crying baby, in your heart, and feeeeeel what is that you are feeling. Deal with your own stuff so that baby doesn’t have to. One time a woman in line, long registration line at college, about 3 away from her turn, had little boy with her who melted down. People were so frustrated themselves that it just triggered their own … ADULTS … I asked someone to hold my spot. Walked up and asked if I could help … saying, “I feel the same way. I wish I could throw myself down here and have a good fit. This is so frustrating. (Loudly,) we all feel like it and we’re grown ups. i think you deserve a credit just for getting through registration.” The little boy stopped like a faucet, just looking at me. Like you said, she was so grateful. After we laugh, so much stress will fall away. I chatted with them until her turn and went back to my spot. I’m watching your Dr. Phil appearance right now, and I think being forced to stand in line from age 2-3 until highschool and not allowed to touch or interact with people is just one of the many horrible things done to children, so that at the university, they’ll just stand there, watching a little child in stress, judging his mother.

    I LOVE your article and your work … and play and living.

  5. Wow what a beautiful post! It brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing this important lesson!

  6. I’m confused. This seems like a Biblical life philosophy… how did it come to be called a RU philosophy?

  7. Love this story Dayna, thanks for sharing and thank you for the reminder. I had a harsh exchange with my sweet daughter yesterday and I responded/reacted negatively to her meanness toward her little sister. I *needed* to read this to remind me to look beyond her behavior and see/help her meet her needs. It was a lot easier to respond more gently when she was younger! Now that she speaks and acts so adult like I sometimes forget that she is still a child needing the love and understanding of her Mommy. Thank you for helping me see how I can do better with her. I know better — I was temporarily blinded by my own reaction to the injustices of big sister maltreatment. I had three older sisters and the cruelty I witnessed between my daughters stung my heart and truly had nothing to do with the actual situation!

    Love you!

  8. I am SO this mom…. You never know what someone carries. And when it becomes too much. I am thankful for a community to help carry my four children… and parent them… and me!

  9. This is so perfectly what I needed to read today. You’ve summed up some thought’s I’ve been having in recent weeks, just beautifully. It can be so hard to know just how to support people properly, but it comes easily with love. Thanks Dayna.

  10. Phyllis Kapilla says

    I enjoyed reading your blog so much. It is always good to be reminded of the good stuff that passes thru our lives. Thank you.

  11. What an amazing experience. I’m trying hard to refocus more on the positive in life, which is hard to do sometimes. I loved reading this. You are truly an inspiration Dayna!!

  12. All I can say with tears in my eyes is, phenomenal and so inspiring! Thanks for sharing and reminding me of this opportunity to connect with others.

  13. Clarice Ribbens says

    Thanks! I find the same principles in Christ’s teachings and believe your ideas are inspired by the grace given by God to all who seek the good in others. Praise God!! I pray that all those who claim to follow Christ will also be kind to their troubled and distraught family members, friends, strangers, and enemies!
    As Christ said, “Love one another. In the same way I loved you, love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples –when you see the love you have for each other” (The Message)

  14. As an RU mom and well just as a person who is on a quest to grow more in love and compassion I found your post and your change of heart very moving and inspiring. Thank you for sharing your lives with us. I know how difficult being on both sides of that judgement coin can be. I am definitely going to be more conscientious of my words and actions toward others.

  15. made me cry, i just missed seeing my grandma one last time because i was too scared to fly alone with my toddler, now she passed away. if only more people would be nice to small kids on flights instead of having unreasonable expectations, like a toddler sitting still on 12 hour flights and being quiet during a 24 hour jouney. i had very rude people complain to cabin crew and to myself during past flights

  16. I think if I tried this with mothers on the bus who are getting angry with their children, they would tell me to mind my own business! Nice idea, but many people are too defensive for it to work.

  17. Wiki Hamilton says

    Hi Dayna, your story is great and I agree with lots of the comments made by other people. I wanted to share my thanks also xx

  18. Bobbi Dyar says

    I love how you approached her in a way that was so compassionate and helpful and you focused on their ‘needs rather than behaviors.’ I have been getting so mad watching people be mean to their children. I think this is really going to change my perception of others!

  19. David Lemay says

    This is beautiful, Dayna! What you describe here reminds of lot of the Buddhist loving-kindness meditation to cultivate love, compassion, joy and equanimity.

    Thanks for sharing, d.

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