Last month at the Imagination Lab, we hosted ‘Lab Late: Wild and Hopeful’, a discussion on parenthood, child rights and the importance of doing things differently. The conversation was led by blogger, mother and yurt lover Lucy Aitken Read and Amy Doust, former teacher turned full-time education disruptor and mother of three.

This guest blog post from Amy Doust gives you an inside look at the event and the stories that were shared during it. 

“Back in mid-July, we were joined at the Imagination Lab by a group of mainly ladies and mums, with a fab grandma thrown in for good measure. Over drinks, cheese and not that much that was too virtuous, the group got to grips with our slightly unusual stories!

Both Lucy and I were inspired to break free from the norms of parental life by similar realisations that we could choose to do things differently. For me, a chance encounter at a wild splash pool while on holiday in Italy sparked the idea to uproot and move with my children and husband (well sort of with my husband, when he wasn’t commuting back to London) to the rural mountain area, despite the fact that my family knew no one there and didn’t speak Italian.

For Lucy and her husband, they had a spark of inspiration after watching ‘Revolutionary Road’ when they turned to each other and realised they didn’t want to end up like that. Cue a trip in a camper van round Europe, seeking a different life, which ultimately landed them across the other side of the world.

After living wild and free in Europe, Lucy and her Kiwi husband moved to New Zealand and mistakenly ended up on the rainiest side of the island. Lucy’s choice to take her children abroad was a conscious decision to raise her children from outside of the system. Undeterred by mud in the winter, they’ve set up home in a yurt and are building a community of like-minded folk to support their journey as parents and lovers of slowing things down and living more naturally.

Whilst the stories sound glamorous, we were keen to discuss the challenges of raising children of different ages in other cultures.

In my case, with three children and no family support, the sense of isolation was perhaps trickier for the children, who were dealing with interacting daily in a new language. Now, with space, time and the chance to reflect and re-visit Italy, the extent to which my children have grown through the experience is evident, heart-warming and rewarding. I spoke with the audience about the raw emotions you feel on a journey like this, fraught with extreme highs and tough lows. My family took the opportunity of living abroad as a way to step back and reconsider our choices. Now back in the U.K., I’m home educating in a child-led way: exploring new challenges and choices with my three excitable and energetic children.

Lucy let the group in on a secret that ear plugs help her to cope with the noisy excitement of children who are exploring their own individuality. She laughed as she confessed that the more manically enthusiastic she becomes, the more her husband knows that it’s all getting a bit too much.

After a break for more nibbles and socialising, we reconvened for questions from ‘the bowl of truth’, the audience’s chance to ask us more about our best and worst parenting moments; what we take for granted in life; and what recommendations we would give to other families considering taking a similar, bold step.

Both of us were united in thinking that community is important, but community doesn’t have to mean a mass of people. Sharing your highs and lows, as well as the daily ins and outs of being a mother (even with just one or two friends) helps to nourish your mind to make these kinds of dreams possible. That was ultimately what the evening was all about: a group of women coming together to share, support and inspire in the way that women have done for each other for generations.”

Want to visit the Imagination Lab for yourself? Take a look at all of our upcoming events

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