About us

We like to say that we are all PhDs because we use a different acronym – Paradigm Hacking Directors! In reality, we have a broad set of skills and experiences and we each contribute in our own valuable ways. We are the people behind the programs, blogs, and special events. Introducing the creative, passionate, intelligent people who contribute to We Learn Naturally.

Tanya Collins Appleton

Tanya Collins Appleton

Director of Learning in the Woods

I am a survivor of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and I grew up with a limited understanding of empathy, intelligence and my own power. Fortunately, wise and loving mentors have always seemed to find their way into my life. As a result, I am a hopeful and voracious learner and have been fumbling my way in and out of activism for many years. Parenthood has and continues to be a profoundly transformational experience for me. As a parent I realized I’d been neglecting two fundamental aspects in my quest for personal, relational and social change…. HEALING and COMMUNITY. As a parent, as a child care worker and in all my relationships, I work to take responsibility for my own feelings, healing and needs. My growth now needs to happen in the context of authentic communities that strive to be awake, compassionate and to hold each other accountable. I’ve found such a community with We Learn Naturally. I see children and youth as whole people with inherent dignity and I aim to work with them skillfully and mindfully, as their equal and as their ally.

Areas of interest: Trauma informed healing and living, Non-Violent Communication, Self-Directed Education, Creating consent culture, Conscious and respectful parenting and child care, Nature connection, Anti-Oppression, Decolonization.

Chelsea Bohnert

Chelsea Bohnert

Mother, Activist & Researcher

I am a freedom fighter, passionate storyteller and fierce believer in the power of love. As an unschooling mom of four, I have the honour of spending much of my time with young children in various settings, who teach me more and more about myself each day. They bring to my awareness the incredible power of the stories I choose to share with them— both consciously and subconsciously, regarding our purpose and our connection to self and others; family values, learning/education, the food we eat, spiritual awareness, and so much more. It is through these adult-child relationships that I am perpetually reminded of my own childhood. I’ve come to recognize that my ‘inner child’ is in no way separate from the person I have become in adulthood, but rather, that I *am* that inner child! A realization that not only emphasizes the significance of our childhood experiences, but also shapes the context for my work with WLN.

Areas of interest: Self-Directed Education, children’s rights, NVC, marginalized youth, nature-based healing, accessing ancestral wisdom, family preservation, respectful/conscious parenting, connection-based healing.

Erin Fleming

Erin Fleming

Mom, Flawed Human, Chief Envisioning Officer (CEO) of We Learn Naturally

I love theory and science related to understanding people on micro and macro levels. Playing with how different theories overlap brings me a lot of joy and drives my curiosity. Sometimes my desire to understand our interconnectedness pushes me to ask questions beyond what is considered socially acceptable. When I have stepped outside that realm, I feel vulnerable. The mistakes I make in that zone leave me feeling humbled and quiet. Yet I take risks again because it’s the only way I’ve found I can achieve the depth of learning that I crave. I like to surround myself with thoughtful, wise, creative people and then I do my best to observe and learn from them. I have poured my resources into creating and founding We Learn Naturally, Learning in the Woods, City School, The Barn School, Educational Alternatives Conferences… and the ideas just keep coming! I feel thankful to have a life that affords me the opportunity to be curious and open and to spend my days with families and people that leave me feeling inspired and hopeful.

Areas of interest: Attachment Theory, Self-Directed Education, ACE Scores, Self-Directed Healing, Healing in Community and Natural Settings, Nonviolent Communication, Natural Child Development, Creative Processes and Learning Processes

Julie Kuipers

Julie Kuipers

“It may seem strange, I suppose, for many of us to understand that we, at best, stand on the planet as equals with all the other people, including young children. We are each fully formed, fully valid, fully functional human beings no matter our age. Naturally, we have different lots in life, different blessings and challenges, and are on our way to different places, but we always remain, most of all, worthy of being loved for being exactly who we are.”

– Teacher Tom

I’ve always found my place with kids. It was no surprise that I became a teacher. As a new mom, I began to learn what beauty happens when I wait. Learning to wait and watch my own children simply being is an ongoing challenge that fills me with peace each moment I manage it. I am learning to trust children with their learning. I am trying to remember how often I can trust them with so, so much more. I am transforming, working to unlearn much of my teacher training. I teeter between biting my tongue and coming to the ‘rescue’ (read: managing for them what they often can accomplish on their own), and then run through scenarios in my head wondering if I should have done the other. I don’t feel confident and I am really trying to be ok with that. I question everything. I remind myself that there are so many right ways to be and do. I am a community builder. I reach out. I invite. I welcome. I wonder. I observe. I am open to it all. I discuss. I seek to understand. I connect. I support. I try to be a support whenever I can, sometimes (often?) to a fault. I make things complicated. I am trying to simplify, trying to slow down. I alternate between bringing all. the. calm. and a nervous intensity. I check in, over, and over. I bring love. Always love.

Areas of interest: Respectful parenting, connection, mindfulness, nonviolent communication, self-directed education, moving slowly, creating consent culture, and experiencing nature.

Carolyn Ralph

Carolyn Ralph

Connection Architect

“To be yourself, in a world that is doing it’s utmost, night and day, to make you just like everybody else, is to fight the greatest of human battles and to never stop fighting.”
(e.e. cummings, from The Girl Who Could Fly)

A self professed tree-hugger, you can often find me (hear me!) playing my penny whistle or drums for the local flora and fauna. I am a radical unschooling mother, eternal student, passionate creator and determined paradigm shifter. My favorite time is spent with my kids and together we have worked to cultivate deep trust in each other. Although I am challenged by our culture of adultism, I deeply desire to amplify my children’s voices, trust their innate wisdom and support their choices, allowing them to be guided by their own internal compasses. I am passionate about contesting institutional spaces and systems, with a focus on compulsory public education. I am especially interested in supporting folks who desire to consciously parent. Through the study and practice of Nonviolent Communication, I have been developing a growing awareness of the possibilities that exist when I respond to my children and myself with compassion. As I wander this planet, I feel an aspirational drive to shift spaces that are disconnecting into spaces that are safe for connection and creation. Paradigm shifting is challenging work that meets my need for radical change and so I am committed to a mindfulness practice which helps to keep me grounded, hopeful and stronger in my resolve. Being a part of the We Learn Naturally community meets my needs for meaningful change and personal growth.

Areas of interest: Social justice, AOP, conscious parenting, unschooling, self-directed education, mindfulness, NVC, critical pedagogy, children’s rights, community development, quantum physics, metaphysics, energy work, art and music.

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