When parents feel “weird/crazy/bad” for not putting their children in to school, or for taking them out.

Yesterday I received an email from a mother who’s son is deeply unhappy at school, but who is being criticised and told she is a “bad mother” for not forcing her child to attend. A week or so ago I was chatting to a mum I hadn’t met before, in a playground, and home ed came up because there were home ed kids there. The mum said that she was stressed about how to support her 6 year old son because he was getting in trouble at school. The main reasons she gave was because he didn’t want to sit still all day, and had a good idea himself of what he wanted/needed to be doing. That was getting him into trouble because it’s not ok in school to choose how you use your time. Lets say the school wasn’t particularly interested in her son’s need to move or direct his own learning, and was more comfortable labelling him as disobedient/naughty, and insisting that she toe some kind of line to get him under control.

Now, I’m going to take the space of this blogpost to address something that I think is really inexcusable. It is when parents (or children) are left feeling like they are “weird/crazy/bad” by the people around them for questioning schooling.

I’d like to highlight that this is a feminist issue, because it is most often mothers who are experiencing this – they tend to be the ones closest to the coal face of children’s experience. They also have a long history of being diminished and labelled as ‘crazy’ when challenging authority and/or deviating from the norm/what is expected of them, and we need to collectively stop doing that because it is abusive, silencing and limiting to progress.

This is also a children’s rights issue, because children’s access to their rights at all times and in all places (including school) should be a primary concern to us all. The very nature of schooling as it currently exists is a direct obstacle to this, as are the attitudes and behaviour of some adults and even children who have internalised the marginalisation of children as normal, natural or necessary. Who have also learned that conformity and obeying the system of schooling is more important than questioning whether it is a healthy space or best serving children’s needs, individuality and growth.

So, back to the main point, of parents feeling “weird/crazy/bad” for challenging schooling.

A survey of young people published earlier this year by Barnados, identified SCHOOL as being their most cited cause of stress: “By the age of 16, stress at school was a worry for 83% of children.”

There seems to be a cumulative negative effect of schooling on children, peaking at the end but starting in the primary school years. I would suggest that in actually starts in the preschool years (and continues to impact and influence throughout adulthood), and that children themselves underestimate it’s full impact because they have adapted to and accepted various aspects of schooling that is damaging to their sense of self and personal agency.

The diminishing mental health of children is a symptom of a dysfunctional system and environment of schooling. Let’s highlight here that schooling, and education, are not one and the same.

As a parent, if someone said to you: “You can send your child to school, but by the time they are 16 there is an 83% chance that it will be negatively affecting their mental health”, what would you say? “Oh yes please where do I sign them up?” Or would you ask what you other options were?

It is deeply uncomfortable to start interrogating and addressing the full problematic extent of schooling, seeing as almost all families in our society use schools, parents love and want what is best for their children, and teachers enter schools with a passion for education, not wanting to negatively impact the children in their care.

It is uncomfortable, but it is absolutely critical that we do it.

Parents and children that question the system, or make the decision to do something other than school, are deserving of recognition and support, not undermining or black sheeping. As a society we need to be questioning schooling and working on alternatives, so that things can change positively now and in the future for children and society as a whole.

Consent Based Education Workshop: LONDON – FULLY BOOKED


I am really excited to share that I am offering a London based, one day Consent Based Education workshop!

The workshop will be taking place in a studio at effraspace in south London, just a few minutes walk from Brockwell Park, on the edge of Herne Hill and Brixton.

Details for the workshops are:

Date: Saturday 4th November 2017
Time: 10am-5pm
Location: effraspace, 21 Effra Parade, London, SW2 1PX

This one day workshop will be an immersion in Consent Based Education. The day will be broken down into two 3 hour segments, with an hour break for lunch in the middle.

The morning will cover:
– Why are things the way they are? The History of Patriarchy.
– Breaking cycles – how to do it and why it’s hard.
– What is Consent Based Education?

The afternoon will cover:
– Love and Relationships, Freedom and Boundaries
– Learning, Creativity and Flow – Structured and Unstructured
– The Bigger Picture

The workshop will involve presentation, Q&A, discussion and reflection on each of the different themes.

Participants will be provided in advance with some orientation materials. These may include videos, podcasts, articles, quotes and/or images, and are designed to give context to what we will be exploring on the day.

£45 per person

To book your place on the course, please email: sophiechristophy@gmail.com for payment details. Full payment is required to secure your place. There is a limited number of places available in order to ensure a quality experience for everyone involved.

Please note: This is an intensive course with challenging and potentially transformative content.

Reframing ‘Neediness’

Let it be known: Every single person on this planet has needs. And yet, there seems to be an aversion, in my culture anyway, to acknowledging that.

Maslow famously laid out his ideas about needs in this pyramid:


Everyone’s landscape of needs, or needset, looks different. Some people have higher social needs than others. Some people have higher sexual intimacy needs than others. Some people are more risk averse and have higher security needs than others. But everyone has needs.

If you have, by luck or design, always had your needs met, you may not realise what your own needs landscape looks like. You might just have always felt good and balanced, and not really given any thought to the concept of needs.

However, if, for some reason, there are things going on in your life that are acting as a barrier to you being able to meet your needs, it might jolt you into an awareness of how important need meeting actually is.

You might be a sensitive person who has a heightened awareness of their needs (see ‘thin bark’ reference below).

Once you do see needs, you might also notice how phobic our society is to the idea of people having needs. For example, imagine the connotation that comes with the description of being ‘needy’. It’s not a positive one.

This, like many things, can be observed in the realm of parenting culture – the environment we create between parent and child to pass on the norms and values, social and interpersonal meanings of our society.

There has been a strong cultural resistance, historically entrenched, to the idea that babies are individual people with a their own set of needs. Rather than acknowledge this human reality, parenting culture has been based on the idea that parents control their children and that it is normal and acceptable for parents to deny/ignore needs that might be expressed by their children. Or frame that expression as ‘bad behaviour’.

This results in us/society being socialised into ignoring our needs, not listening to ourselves, and essentially becoming so distanced from our needset that it no longer sits within our personal awareness.

This can be a problem.

When a person, of any age, is experiencing their needs not being met, it can have adverse affects for that person, and depending on the circumstances, for the people around them as well.

Needs being left unmet over time result in distorted behaviour, that can cause harm to the self and to others, and it can result in deteriorating physical and mental health. Maslow’s theory places need meeting as the primary motivator of human behaviour. And if there isn’t a prosocial way to go about meeting a need, a person may then either turn in on themselves by allowing the need to go unmet, or start behaving in a way that is not prosocial to meet the need by any means necessary.

How long it takes for this to happen depends on an individual’s margin of resilience.

The best analogy I can think of to explain how resilience works, is to think of trees. Some trees have thick bark, some have thin bark. If a tree = a person, it’s bark = their resilience margin.

People with lots of bark can survive prolonged periods of their needs being compromised/going unmet (aka trauma). People with thin bark, are affected much more quickly by the experience of their needs not being met adequately, because their layer of protection is thinner.

As I mentioned above – it is possible for a person to not really experience their needs being unmet. They might have a combination of thick bark, and the ability to manoeuvre themselves without being particularly aware of what they are doing, into situations, relationships and circumstances that meet their needs. Having some cash available helps with this, as money does facilitate needs being met – plenty of the needs listed above by Maslow require access to resources to be met.

But, even people used to experiencing ‘needs stability’ are likely going to hit a breach of their needs when they go through a life changing experience, like becoming a parent.

As a parent, it can be a lot more challenging to manoeuvre yourself into a position to get your needs met easily, perhaps in the ways that you were used to pre-parenthood when you experienced significantly less personal responsibility and demands.

Parenthood itself can be considered a high risk zone for needs going unmet. The consequence of this can be adverse behaviours/feelings that do not represent the person in their most ‘them’ (self-actualised) state – for example behaving in a way that is out of character, feeling ‘not themselves’, and/or deteriorating mental/physical health. Ultimately, personal and interpersonal dysfunction and compromised health.

This risk is heightened in families where parents do have an awareness of their children as unique individuals with their own meaningful and important needsets to meet, who are parenting in a progressive, children’s/human rights oriented way. This is because supporting their babies/children in having their needs listened to, respected and met, can take a lot out of a parent physically and emotionally, and in a society that has little regard for the needs of babies and children, comes with the extra work of living as a family in a way that is widely considered to be counter cultural and can meet with external resistance.

Another barrier to people being able to embrace their needs and seek to meet them, is the impact of internalised negative connotation with the idea of even having needs, or worse, of being in a state of not having your needs met and therefore being perceived as ‘needy’ (as mentioned above).

The solution to this?

  • Raise children from birth in an environment in which their unique needset is acknowledged and respected by the people caring for them. Make the meeting of needs a thing, not a nothing. Be responsive to the needs communicated by babies, and children of any age, so that they don’t learn to ignore/become unaware of their needs. Support them in acknowledging their needs and in understanding the different ways that these can be met.
  • Resist miscomprehending people – children or adults – who have thin ‘resilience bark’ rather than thick, as being in any way deficient or in need of ‘toughening up’. In the same way that you can not force a tree to grow thicker bark, you can not force a person to be more resilient, and trying to do so will just cause more damage/trauma to that person. Instead, listen to them, believe them, and support them in being able to meet their needs and to not persist in an environment/experience that is harming them. It can be said that the most sensitive amongst us have the most to teach us about this world that we create and live in.
  • We can work to observe and reconnect with our own needset, and learn to see them not as neither good or bad, but essential aspects of ourselves that deserve to be acknowledged, respected and met as best we can. Doing so will create the most favourable conditions to live our most authentic and self-actualised lives.

Booking Open: Autumn Consent Based Education Course for Parents – FULLY BOOKED

I am now taking bookings for the September – November 2017 Consent Based Education Course for Parents.

About the Course:

As parenting evolves beyond the traditional authoritarian model, and more and more families choose to live together in more respectful, socially just ways that acknowledge the personhood and agency of children, essential questions arise as to what that means in regards to our relationship with ourselves and others, our outlook and interaction with the world around us.

Consent Based Education is a response to this quandary. What happens when authoritarianism, the basis of all our existing systems, is stripped away, when we become more individually empowered in our own lives, and seek to support our children in this too? What happens when we embrace our own autonomy and capabilities, when we question the education and social inheritance we’ve received up until now?

What happens when our consent and voice really does matter – when we come closer and closer to our authentic selves?

This course is designed for parents who want to explore and go deeper into their understanding and experience of Consent Based Education, for their own personal development and to support their family’s life long learning in a consent based way. You can find out what it is like to take part in the course here.

The course is made up of the following 6 sessions:

  1. The History of Patriarchy and Consent – Why are Things the Way They are Now?
  2. Breaking Cycles – the Process of Change
  3. What is Consent Based Education?
  4. Love and Relationships, Boundaries and Freedom
  5. Creativity, Flow, and the Potential of own CBE
  6. The Bigger Picture

Before each session, a selection of preparation materials are emailed out – this can include things like podcasts, videos, articles and quotes. This prep material is designed to be thought provoking and takes between 1- 2 hours of your time. The prep is optional, although having a look at it will help you get the most out of the sessions themselves.

The sessions last for 2 hours, and are a combination of presentation and group discussion, critical thinking and reflection. Snacks and drinks are provided.

The course will be taking place between 10.30am-12.30pm on the following dates, at a venue just outside of Bishop’s Stortford:

Sunday 10th Sept
Sunday 24th Sept
Sunday 8th Oct
Sunday 22nd Oct
Sunday 12th Nov
Sunday 26th Nov

The course content is structured in a chronological way, with each session building on the one before.

Price: £15 per person per session, £90 total for the course (total course cost to be paid on booking).

Group size is limited to 8 participants to ensure a quality experience.

For more information and bookings, please email: sophiechristophy@gmail.com

What is it like taking the Consent Based Education course?

I’ve recently come to the end of the first Consent Based Education course for parents.

The course is made up of 6 sessions, and runs fortnightly over 12 weeks. I always hoped that both mums and dads would be drawn to taking part, and amazingly, we had a 50:50 split. It was such a pleasure to work with the group over the six sessions, I learnt a lot from their experiences and insights, and finished the course feeling really excited about the potential of CBE ideas being taken out into the world. I am really going to miss meeting the group once a fortnight, eating popcorn, and discussing making the world a better place!

If you are curious as to what it is like to take part, the quote below is taken from feedback that I received from one of the parents that just finished the course:

My experience of the CBE course was one that left me feeling empowered, invigorated, and ultimately feeling that anything is possible. I originally wanted to attend the course as we as a family know that we will unschool in the future. That however shouldn’t determine whether you do the course or not. If you are a gentle parenting household, or you feel that your children are being deprived of their autonomy on a regular basis, and you are uncomfortable with that, this course will give you the courage and most importantly the tools to question those deeply rooted patriarchal influences found in schools and every day situations.

As a mother of 3 little ones, having the course material to digest and assimilate between each session was very welcome indeed. It enabled me to feel prepared with the questions i wanted to ask, thus leaving me feeling like I had gotten everything I had wanted out of each session.

This course is perfect for anyone who has that uncomfortable conflicted feeling that their children’s autonomy isn’t being heard or respected. Having an understanding of the history of patriarchy, and where perhaps our own subconscious patriarchal influences stem from, gives us the opportunity to change and follow a more consensual lifestyle. For me in particular this was pivotal in allowing myself the opportunity to forgive myself for the times I should of been more consensual with my children, and turning a belief into behaviour.

The course that Sophie has created is an authentic, and loving space in which to reflect and learn on how we can all become a more consenting family unit and more pertinantly, shift the way we think and treat our children as a society. It has definitely helped me reframe my perception on relationships, love, life, and what education for our children and future generations should look like.

What has the course left me thinking? My words cannot sum it up better than Sophie’s: “If we want our children to understand consent, we have to live it with them”.

One of my regrets is not taking a group photo before the course was finished – I won’t make that mistake again! Below is a one of the pictures that was kindly taken during the course.


In the next few days I will be releasing booking details for the Autumn course, which will be taking place locally to Bishop’s Stortford, between September and November. If you would like more information, or would like a CBE course in your area, please contact me by email: sophiechristophy@gmail.com

What is ‘deschooling’?


Photo: San Francisco, Museum of Modern Art, no year

‘Deschooling’ is a term that is used to describe the process people go through when they transition to home education – particularly unschooling. It’s is something that can be beneficial for parents who went to school themselves but want to home ed, and for children who have been attending school but then deregister to start home educating.

Deschooling helps people to move to a self-directed and self-motivated way of studying and living, from one that has been directed and controlled.

The term ‘deschooling’ gives us some clue to it’s meaning – ‘de’ describes the taking away/reversal of something, ‘schooling’ the thing that is being taken away.

But what exactly is the ‘schooling’?

Traditional schooling functions, among other things, as a process of socialisation into subjugation. One of the key things that we learn during our time at school is to accept the authoritarian model of ‘power over’ as normal, and to learn our place and role within that. We are socialised into accepting that the person at the top has power over those underneath, and the best way through that is to please/satisfy the person/people in authority, in order to survive/do well in the system.

Punishment and reward is used as a tool to reinforce this. At school, when we please those in authority, we are rewarded, often publicly.  If we fail to please, then we may be punished (also often publicly) – either directly, or more discreetly over time, by being labelled as not doing well enough, trying hard enough, as being difficult, or as having something wrong with us.

Traditional schooling also teaches us that learning is something that is controlled by the teacher, and our role as learners is to take on board what we have been told, and prove that it has been internalised. We are ‘schooled’ into thinking that ‘real learning’ looks like a particular thing, that happens with a teacher, in a classroom. That it isn’t something we ourselves can manage and direct, but that we need someone else to direct us and show us what is important. We are ‘schooled’ into believing that any learning we do independently isn’t real.

This process of ‘schooling’ doesn’t only happen in school. It can also happen in other spheres of socialisation, for example, in the family. When parents behave in authoritarian ways with their children, and use punishment and reward, they are teaching the same kinds of messages as are described above: to survive/do well/be loved you must please. Fail to do so, and you will suffer. It is a way to condition, coerce and control people into being a particular way, and doing a particular thing.

We have become ‘schooled’ once our subjugation – to a person, system, or idea of who we ought to be – has become normalised. At that point the existence of ‘schooling’ as an influence becomes invisible, as we have accepted subjugation as ‘life’.

Deschooling, then, is a process of personal liberation. It is the process we go through in order to deprogramme our bodies and minds from the conditioning that results from being socialised in a ‘power over’ dynamic. It creates space for us to reconnect with our own inner voice, sense of self and autonomy, and to release any belief, conscious or unconscious, that misusing our own personal power over others is ok.

Deschooling enables us to realise, accept and embrace our most authentic selves, our feelings, strengths, weaknesses. To acknowledge and address any fear or shame that has resulted from being socialised via punishment and reward, that is limiting us in exploring and being ourselves. It empowers us to be authorities in our own lives and to self-advocate – and crucially, to listen to, acknowledge and respect that same self-empowerment when it is demonstrated by the people around us. It creates a climate for honest relationships.

Deschooling frees us to be who we truly are, to understand ourselves and our own needs, and to make space for other people to do the same. It frees us to own our capability to learn what we want and need to, in order to explore our potential – and get excited for other people to do the same.

Compulsory SRE? How about we stop teaching children that their consent doesn’t matter in the first place.


I just read this article by Dr Elly Hanson about the “radical overhaul of sex and relationship education (SRE)” recently announced by the government.

She makes some really important points about the current situation, and at the end calls for sex and relationship education that is “available to everyone… well resourced and embedded within a wider curriculum”.

I wonder if Dr Hanson is aware of unschooling, I would have expected her to flag it up in her article if she was, accompanied by the fact that mainstream schooling – where this SRE is supposed to take place – is fundamentally non-consensual, and that this might be a problem that no amount of SRE is going to fix.

Herein lies the important question:

Rather than trying to teach consent, why don’t we stop teaching that consent doesn’t matter?

Our culture normalises that children’s consent does not matter. We usually don’t ask, we don’t wait for a reply, we don’t take the time to explain. Children are often deprived of the opportunity to consent in the home, and critically, in the school environment. It is common that even if children self-advocate, their wishes are overridden.

Ask yourself this: how often are children given the opportunity to consent to their relationships and experiences when they are at school?

First they are generally told that they have to go (although it is of course perfectly legal for children to pursue their education outside of school through home education and unschooling), so straight away are often deprived of the opportunity to consent to the environment in which they spend a significant amount of their time. Once at school, they are told what to do, when and with whom. They are told what they will be learning, and how, when they can play, when they can talk to their friends, when and where they can move around.

Often times they are told what they have to wear and look like, very specifically, and what they can eat – sometimes they are even told what order they have to eat it in.

It isn’t until people are 14 years old that they are given a say in what they study at school, and even then, their options are strictly controlled.

Consent isn’t something you can teach, it is an experience and a feeling. When someone asks you for your consent, to be able to consent in an meaningful way, a person needs to be able to pause, think and reflect – Do I want to do this? Do I want this to happen to me? – without coercion. They experience a feeling of being in control of their own destiny, of looking within themselves, to see if they do indeed want to consent to what is being proposed, or not. They need to know that the person asking for their consent genuinely means it, and will respect their response, in order for the consent to be meaningful.

Trying to ‘teach’ this, whilst persistently exposing children to a non-consensual environment, I just don’t see how it works.

What we should be doing, is not un-teaching consent in the first place. Normalise consent in children’s every day lives and environment, from birth, and your SRE is done. No child is too young to know that their body and their minds are their own, that their say matters, and that other people, of any age, should respect them. Children who grow in an environment where their voice and consent matters, easily recognise what is non-consensual, and understand that it is unacceptable.

Having the opportunity to consent should be a base line experience, not a novelty or add on. It should be a lived experience so that it is taken for granted as normal, so that people can understand how to navigate this world in a way that maintains their physical, sexual and emotional safety.

The coercive nature of schooling and traditional parent child relationships normalises and teaches coercive relationships and behaviour – this is the exact opposite of consent. If we want children to understand consent, we have to live it with them.

To those who are really committed to SRE that genuinely makes a difference, I suggest getting behind consent based education from birth, researching unschooling as an alternative to coercive and non-consent based mainstream schooling, and I encourage you to challenge the countless normalised examples of children being deprived of their autonomy and consent in their everyday lived experiences.