Episode 6

Published on:

17th Feb 2021

Adele Jarrett-Kerr - I value wisdom a lot more than I value knowledge - 017

This week, I’m joined by Adele Jarrett-Kerr; a mother, writer, home educator and breastfeeding counsellor, originally from Trinidad and Tobago, now living in Cornwall. Adele also works with her family’s small, regenerative farm near Falmouth and hosts a podcast about human connection called Revillaging.

Join us as we talk about the importance of developing critical thinking, what our children teach us, experiencing colonial dismissal, deprogramming from the dominant culture, different ways of accessing knowledge and the problematic nature of academia, partnering with nature in farming and so much more!

If you haven't already, be sure to join our Facebook community to connect with other like-minded queer folks and allies.

Find out more about Gem Kennedy and Queers & Co. 

Podcast Artwork by Gemma D’Souza


Find out more about Adele’s work on her website

Listen to the Revillaging podcast

Check out Soul Farm

Follow Adele on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter

Listen to Adele’s podcast for the Freedom to Learn Forum, Address the Harm: Self-Directed Learning for Decolonisation

Full Transcription

Gem: Welcome to Queers & Co., the podcast on self-empowerment, body liberation and activism for queer folx. I'm your host, Gem Kennedy. I'm a transformational coach, as well as creator of the Queers & Co. community.

Gem: Hey folx, welcome to another episode of Queers & Co. I don't know about you, but lockdown fatigue has really set in in the last week or so. It gave me a lot of hope, actually imagining people listening to this in like six months or a year, and hopefully lockdown being a thing of the past, or at least things being easier. So yeah, if you're listening in the future, well done you. For everyone who's listening now, in February 2021, I hope you're all keeping safe and managing to look after yourself. I wonder if there's anything that you could do today that would help your day feel a little bit easier, maybe help you feel a little bit more supported. I'm really conscious of that at the moment, because as I said, locked down in our household is really becoming tiresome. The children just want to see their friends, and we just want to be outside seeing all the people we love. So it's feeling really frustrating.

Gem: Luckily, I have a really great guest for you today. And it's someone that I spoke to back in December and oh it was so good. When I listened back just now when I was editing and transcribing the episode, I just had so many thoughts, there are so many things that we touch on. And I'm really hoping that she's going to come back and talk to us about some other things that will become clear as we go through the episode. I think you're gonna really enjoy it. And I'm sure that you'll get lots from what my guest has to share.

Gem: One of the things I'm conscious of with the podcast is that I know lots of people who listen don't have children. And I feel like there might be a tendency to switch off when there are sort of children's rights or unschooling specific podcasts or guests who are working in those fields. But I really would encourage anyone to listen because not only do we talk about the ways we are with our children, there's so much learning that comes from how we think about education ourselves and how we allow ourselves to discover knowledge. And I think what my guest had to share around that was just really fascinating, and I learned a lot.

Gem: So without further ado, let me introduce you to her. She is a mother writer, home educator and breastfeeding counsellor, originally from Trinidad and Tobago, and now living in Cornwall. She also works with her family's small regenerative farm near Falmouth and hosts a podcast about human connection called Revillaging, which I'd highly recommend you have a listen to. Introducing my excellent guest, Adele Jarrett-Kerr. Hi, Adele, thanks so much for joining me

Adele: Thanks for having me, Gem. I've been really looking forward to this conversation.

Gem: Me too. And we kind of already jumped in before we started recording. So we decided that we better start recording so we can capture what we're talking about. And really, we were talking about sound quality, but actually kind of what the subtext was like unschooling and queering things, I guess. And so it'd be really interesting if you're happy to just introduce yourself and how you identify in sort of various ways.

Adele: Yeah, sure. That's good. Yeah. So my name is Adele Jarrett-Kerr. I am originally from Trinidad and Tobago, and I live in the UK. I've lived here for 15 years. So I'd say that that is a huge part of my identity. I'm an unschooling parent of three kids who are nine, six and four. And we have always done life without school, but have kind of transitioned more and more towards unschooling, as I've learned more about children's rights, but also decolonizing myself, that's been a huge part of our process. And we run a farm, and I'm one member of a team of four who run a farm here in Cornwall. It's a no-dig farm, which uses regenerative practices, although I'm always a bit cautious of using that word, because it is a word that comes from indigenous and African cultures. And we are trying to embody that in all ways, not just in the sense of the way that we do agricultural practices, but trying to get into the philosophy of that and living regeneratively. Yeah, because it's become a bit of a whitewashed buzz word. So it's like a lot of thing and I sure we'll get onto that at some point. I'm trying to think of what else would really say? Yeah, I dunno I think that probably covers a few things. I have been working as a breastfeeding counsellor, well volunteering as a breastfeeding counsellor for quite a significant portion of my life now, last almost 10 years, but I'm kind of taking a break from that but I feel like that has actually informed a lot of the things that I do as well. So it is worth sort of mentioning. And I'm not sure if there's anything else, I probably can't be neatly packaged, like most of the things about us and will probably emerge as we have the conversation rather than me saying I'm Adele and I'm this, this, this and this.

Gem: Yeah, I think it's really useful place to start. And there's so much already that I'm like, Oh, I wanna know about this, I wanna know about this. And our paths have crossed over the last year or so in different spaces, but not enough. So I'm really keen to find out more. So you came to the UK 15 years ago, and your journey to the children not ever going to school and also decolonizing your life in general as well as education... Yeah. How did that kind of journey unfold? And was there like one thing that catalysed it? Or was it a very gradual process?

Adele: Which bit of the journey? Cos there are quite a few things that you've just mentioned there.

Gem: There are, aren't there? I'm wondering... I guess my question is around you had children and did you always know that they weren't going to school? Were you already kind of in touch with children's right and understanding decolonisation at that point? Or was it later on? I guess, because for me, the real catalyst was having children...

Adele: Well that's the case for so many of us, isn't it? Yeah. having children is just such a profoundly transformative experience. I don't want to see that in the sense of... because some people like to say that you can't fully experience life unless you become a parent, which is just not true because there are lots of different pathways into these things. But because it is, I guess, because it's hard in a lot of ways, it does kind of speed up the process for those who experience it anyway. Although there are other big things that can bring us into that. Yeah, for me, it definitely was... I had always known that I was going to home educate actually because I hated school myself. And I had the fortune which a lot of people don't have of knowing people who were home educated when I was growing up and envying them. And also because, well... as I didn't grow up here, I guess the rules probably would have been different here, but it was quite laid back in terms of whether I went to school or not.

Adele: So actually, for much of secondary school, my mother, she just allowed me to just not go if I didn't want to. So I would go for like the bare minimum, and then just not go for quite a lot of it so I guess that would probably be, well, it would probably be considered school refusal here. Whereas it wasn't that kind of an issue there at the time anyway, particularly because I was still able to... I happen to have the privilege of being able to make the grades anyway, because I test really well and then forget everything I've learned. So I was able to game the system in that way, which shows that the system doesn't work. And yeah, so all of that stuff kind of came together for me. And then I had the really strong feeling when I was pregnant, that I didn't want this child to go to school, at least not at first, it just felt like for me, it was the family togetherness. That was important. And I think that's the case for a lot of people is that you start off with kind of a few ideas. And it's only as you do it that you start to gain more reasons for why you're doing something. And that's definitely been the case, I think even now at this point, I would say that my reasons are either different or more in number than they were even a year ago. So I think that just keeps on happening as we get to know our children, as we get to know ourselves and that's what becoming a parent was for me, it was kind of taking a good look at myself, and getting to know a lot of things about me that I wouldn't have gotten to know. And what I hadn't got to know yet, but in a very kind of quick and intense sort of journey way as they like to call it.

Adele: And yeah, and it was really strange as well becoming a parent in a culture that wasn't mine. It was a second culture shock in a lot of ways because I experienced huge culture shock when I moved here. Actually, it wasn't just culture shock. I call it colonial... Well, it was a sense of just feeling that I wasn't fully accepted. I didn't fully belong. I was constantly reminded that I was foreign and that my foreignness was somehow worthy of being dismissed. So it was a colonial dismissal that I was experiencing. So it wasn't just culture shock. And I didn't experience that again when I had my child, but what I had was just feeling like a really primal all of the things that I would have probably... I hadn't even had a chance to think about. All of the things that I would have expected to have... I don't know some sort of like memory of what you sort of expect when you become a parent. But none of that was there. And it's the whole not having your family with you. And I know that it's different here, families often aren't very involved with each other, but I come from a culture where they are. So it was a lot of those things kind of allowed me to think with a bit of a blank slate. So it was a gift really, because it was a chance to really look at what was important to me. And I think that that kind of informs a lot of my perspective, when I'm talking about things is that I've been given the opportunity to come at things from kind of a slightly different angle, because of having moved because of being kind of on the margins in some respects. And people in the margins are always the ones who are able to disrupt because we see things from a different angle.

Gem: Yeah, absolutely. And it's so powerful to think about that in terms of unschooling and the way that we raise our children, and I know that you, if anyone hasn't listened to it, they should definitely go and check out the talk that you did for the Freedom to Learn forum on decolonising education, and I'm conscious of not repeating all of it. I think what was so what was so fascinating about that, is that you talk about when families are unschooling, if they're not actively decolonising their practice or their family culture, then it's kind of not really unschooling, and it's not really having that radical impact that as unschoolers, they're often intending to have.

Adele: Yeah, because unschoolers can feel that we're upsetting the colonial power structure between adults and children, which is true. And in indigenous cultures, children are much more at the centre, and much more on an equal playing field. But while we're doing that, if we're not kind of coming alongside our children to gain these tools together, well, to disrupt the culture and to... Think of how to put this. To look at things together through a informed lens, then we're not actually giving our children, we're actually doing them a bit of a disservice, because we're just saying, "Go out there and be educated by the dominant culture". And we know that the the dominant culture is not decolonised, the dominant culture is there to just keep perpetuating the same kinds of harms, over and over again. And so you're just putting your child into the world, but not actually, you're definitely doing some good by trying not to oppress them better, but you're not giving them the tools to think about where they might be oppressing others, or where they might be accepting messaging about themselves from others. You know, because not all the messaging comes from us, obviously.

Gem: Yeah, it's so true. And I'm thinking about... because obviously, we don't want to be pushing our children to learn a particular thing, but at the same time if they're not aware that those resources are available, if they're not aware, for example, that the dominant culture is a thing, then to them as you said, I think this really great quote, where you said, "If something appears to be neutral, it aligns with the dominant culture". And when we're kind of not preparing our children with those tools and resources to sort of critique things and to look at things from different angles, then, yeah, it is just a perpetuation of the mainstream dominant white supremacist culture.

Adele: Yeah and it's the critiquing things, that's such an important skill, the critical thinking, and it's something that we need to develop in ourselves first, so it's not really so much about like, we've got to teach our child how to do this thing is that's not what we're aiming for, but we need to see it for ourselves. And for a lot of us, we don't see it, because we have fallen asleep with this culture, we have to wake up to what's happening. And so we need to educate ourselves, we need to be thinking deeply, we need to feel deeply and allow things to come not just into our minds but into our feelings and our bodies. And then from there be able to... we will notice things and we'll be able to model this kind of critical thinking and not just a case of like just being negative and pulling apart everything but modelling love you know and generous thinking, and all of all of that stuff. And it's really interesting to me... so I bought these, well actually I was given these Nancy Drew books by a friend years and years ago, and I just thought I'll just hang on to them because my kids might like it. I sort of vaguely remember reading some Nancy Drew as a child, and my nine year old is now of the age where she's reading them, and she said she's going to read them because we're in a pandemic, and she can't get to the library and her reading material is a little bit thin on the ground, but she said that after I read them, I think you should get rid of them. Why? And she said, because it is so sexist and racist. Oh, okay. So then we were talking about what were the things that came up and she was talking about First Nations people and the gender roles and all of that stuff that's going on. And I just thought, yeah, that's really interesting because I don't remember, because I read them as a child and because that kind of modelling wasn't happening. That's not something that I'm levying at my parents at all. It's just the way that the culture was and we are becoming more awake to things. I'm sure that if I read it now, I probably would be quite shocked. But I'm thankful for the fact that we have enough of these conversations, and she kind of sees my decision making process around things enough. And she's making decisions for herself. So that she knows that she feels able to read this because sometimes she decides she's not gonna read something. But she knows that she feels able to read this, and notice those things and critique them, but she also is able to say, but that's not a reason that we should keep it hanging around, because there's plenty else out there, and you'll have time to buy and replace it with other things, when the time comes for my sisters to read them.

Adele: It's so great. Like, it gives me goosebumps thinking that there are children who are essentially, um, I guess, like I was more aware or potentially, I guess, yeah, I was more critical of the world as a child and teenager than I was in my sort of early 20s. And it's so great to hear that there are people growing up with that, and that that's encouraged in a family and, you know, it's the culture that has been set and there's discussion ongoing, rather than it being stifled, or, you know, something we shouldn't talk about. I'm thinking about my nine year old who, sometimes we talk for example quite a bit about pronouns and gender and stuff, and sometimes I'll say, "Oh, you know, that that man over there", and she'll correct me and say, well, you don't know if they identify as a man. And I'm like yeah actually, that's so true. I don't. I'm non-binary myself, but we do make those assumptions or kind of still have those dominant things that pop up from time to time and it's so great when your children are like, hold on a second, or, yeah, they're not living in that paradigm that you're having to remove yourself from.

Adele: Yeah I mean, doesn't that just show just how internalised these things are, though, that, you know, even if it's something that we are actively having to confront, because of our own identities, we're still prone to accepting what the dominant culture says, without kind of... it's...

Show artwork for Queers and Co.

About the Podcast

Queers and Co.
A podcast for queer folks and allies on self-empowerment, body liberation and activism.
Hi, I'm Gem! Join me as I chat to queer folks and allies about self-empowerment, body liberation and activism. My guests are at the forefront of change-making, working in areas like fat activism, sex positivity, intersectional feminism, drag/cabaret, LGBTQ+ activism and children's rights.

I'm a transformational coach, activist and founder of the Queers & Co. zine, podcast and community. Through my work, I support LGBTQ+ folks and allies to reclaim their personal power and take up space so that they can impact the world in ways they have only dreamt of.

Find out more about my work: www.gemkennedy.com
Find out more about Queers & Co.: www.gemkennedy.com/queersandco

About your host

Profile picture for Gem Kennedy

Gem Kennedy

I’m Gem. I'm the founder of the Queers & Co. zine, community and podcast, as well as a transformational coach and activist. I’m also queer, fat positive, an intersectional feminist and Mum to two free-range children.

I help LGBTQ+ folks and allies to reclaim their personal power and take up space so that they can impact the world in ways they have only dreamt of.