Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Why I Unschool

So, I wanted to touch on why I unschool our kids.  I have three kids, ages 6, 3, and 1.  Since my oldest was about 1, I knew I wanted to unschool.  I picked up a book at my local library called The Unschooling Handbook by Mary Griffith and that was it for me.  Unschooling was the way for us. (Never heard of unschooling check here.)  You may be thinking, isn't that a little naive to make such a drastic decision after reading just one book?  Maybe for some, but for my husband and I it made perfect sense.

 Why I unschool is kind of a hard question to answer for me because what do you say to someone who asks you why you want to live?  There is every reason in the world for us to unschool! The easier question would be why don't I send them to school?  I could give you some concretes there.   Unschooling for me and my family is a natural extension of living our lives in harmony with our desires for ourselves as well as the desires of our children.  It is our children being driven to learn by their own curiosity, creativity and imagination.  Their curriculums are tailor made to them, by them and in effect, makes each of them so beautifully unique.

After reading The Unschooling Handbook, I read all the books I could get my hands on about unschooling, which lead me to peaceful parenting, non-violent communication, the non aggression principle, and so much more that has added such meaning to my life.  It was like a brilliant sun shining in a dark room.  All of these principles help guide our lives.  One of the main reasons we don't prescribe, pressure, or force what our children do for the day is because it goes against all of these principles.  You may be thinking, "Well, Lyndsey, you are the parent.  It is your job to push them in the right direction."  And this is a very common thought.  This is kind of a harsh way of putting it, but is obvious in the way most people treat their children. Most people don't trust their kids.  We don't believe they will be kind, share, be compassionate, learn and a whole host of other things unless we motivate them, coerce them, reward or punish them into it.  A lot of this pressure we put on our kids comes from our own inadequacies(and believe me, I deal with it too!)  We have to raise them right, or we will be societal pariahs.  You see it at the supermarket when a mother is trying to check out with her children and one is crying, the other is punching his sister, and the third is no where to be found.  Most people around her are thinking, "Get it in control lady!  You are the mom, show them who's boss!"  I myself am guilty of thinking the same thing long ago when I was single and knew everything.

Imagine an alien has come to you from another world and is asking you to guide him in the customs and ways of your planet.  Would you bribe him to motivate him to learn faster?  Would you punish him when he wasn't learning fast enough?  Would you be angry with him when he has found something amazing and wants to investigate further when you are trying to show him something you feel is important?  Now replace the alien with a child and ask the same questions.

My point is that children are whole, loving, kind, compassionate and brilliant in their own right!  I wish that this was commonly taught and believed.  There is no need to push children to learn, for they already do it on their own.  There is no need to push them to be kind, for they already are.  It is when we start pushing our children to do these things that they start loosing their passion to do them on their own. It reminds me of a quote from Master Uguay from Kung Fu Panda:

 "One often meets his destiny on the road he takes to avoid it."

 I believe it is my job as a parent to help facilitate my children's lives.  I want to guide them on the path to finding their own passions and study the things that they love.  

Unschooling gives our family the freedom to do what we want, when we want.  We don't have to schedule our activities around school.

When you live your life doing what you love, learning is just a happy side effect.  It naturally occurs.  I have had worries in the past about my kids learning to read and write.  Now, I think, maybe they wont do it at age 5 or 6, but I have no doubt that reading and writing will be a natural extension of the life of a child who loves to learn.  Isn't that the case with babies?  They learn to walk with no help from us, they learn to talk with no help from us, so why do we think they would just stop advancing there?

A hope that I have for my kids through unschooling is that if they live their lives chasing their passions they will never separate living from learning.  They will be able to find a way to monetize their passions instead of working a job they are apathetic about.  This is something my husband and I are trying to do, but find it hard to think outside the box.  I hope if my kids are never put into the box mentality they will never struggle with box-like thinking.  If they want to work a nine to five job, cool, if they want to travel the planet while writing for national geographic, also cool.  The world will be their oyster.

If someone doesn't have the ability to unschool for whatever reason, these are still principles you can live with your children when they are home with you!

This is just a small excerpt of why we unschool.  Since this is my life right now, I'm sure you will read more in some future blog posts.  If anyone has any questions, comments, or curiosities, feel free to contact me.  I have lots of good resources on this topic. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Zest of Life vs The Experience of Life

A few days ago, my husband and I were watching an episode of Grey's Anatomy(one of my guilty pleasures when I have extra time) and there was a really interesting interaction between two of the doctors.  Two attending dr.s were talking about how they keep the residents around because they bring a fresh perspective to the hospital which helps keep the attendings from getting too set in their ways.(Apologies if you don't understand the lingo, here's a link if you are curious.)  Leave it to my husband to make the connection from that to kids.  We like to talk about how children have the zest for life that adults usually lack, and adults have the experience of life that children lack.  What a perfect team!  

In a perfect world children would keep adults young, and adults would help guide children through life.  Are you thinking, "well, that's what I do!"  Good for you!  Even I have to admit that what usually happens is the adults feel like children are sucking the life out of them and children feel like adults are too bossy and wont let them make any of their own decisions because they(adults) know better.  Come on, admit it, you have probably felt that way at least once in your life, whether it was with your own kids, or your parents, right?

Who here has felt like these parents?

So this whole exchange between adults and children is really something I like to think about a lot.  Not only just in a family dynamic, but in a cultural, or societal dynamic too.  One thing that really gets my blood boiling is when older adults talk about how "kids these days are so selfish and disrespectful."  This reminds me of when I was a teenager and I knew I was right, but because I wasn't the adult it didn't matter.  I was subject to whatever the adults decided.  It has become a power struggle, and lets face it, adults have more power and can subject us to their will much easier than children can.  But really, there should be no power struggles, just cooperation, and hopefully some kind of compromise between the zest and experience.  

Living this unschooling life has been really eye opening for me.  One blog that I really love is Play at Home Mom.  Her son, who I'm not exactly how old he is, but he can't be anymore than 3 or 4, has his own drill, hammer, and other real life tools, where most children have play tools.  Some parents might be shocked by this, but what I love about it is that the mother is always with him when he is using them, guiding him when needed, but mostly just being with him and enjoying watching him learn how to navigate his world.  This is a perfect example of a parent helping a child navigate his world, not by suppressing him into safe choices that she thinks he can handle, but by letting him handle some real life choices and being with him to make sure he stays safe.  Now, I'm not telling anyone to go out and buy your toddler a drill, but to start critically thinking about the decisions your child wants to make and if you can help him/her navigate that choice.

And, for those of you with out children who think that kids these days have no respect, think about when you were a child and you wanted your opinions and views to matter.  Sometimes experience clouds your ability to be open minded.  I only hope when I am the face of the older generation that I can remember the zest of life and try to keep an open mind for what the new generation wants to bring in.  I hope to teach my kids correct principles, but I also hope to teach them to think for themselves and consciously choose for themselves what they believe.

As far as our life goes, the perception that we get from people who don't know us very well but know we unschool seems to be that our kids just walk all over us and get whatever they want.  This couldn't be further from the truth.  I believe that children are born good and learn the junk, rather than are born evil and need to be trained to be good.  So far, this has been our experience with our kids.  We have found that if they are respected, they give respect, if they are responded to, they respond to us, etc, etc.  At our house, honestly, it is still balanced in the parents direction.  We try to let the kids have as much say as we feel comfortable, but we are still adjusting the balance.  We want to be our child's guide through this life, not their dictators.  We want them to feel free to make the choices they feel are right for them, as we like the freedom to do the same.  And as far as zest goes, we try to get off our high horses and let the kids remind us how to have fun.  Its been a learning process for us, but I am happy to adjust.  It is my belief that how we raise our children ultimately shapes the future.

Raising my children with freedom and autonomy and love is the best way I know of changing the world.  Sure hope it works!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Embracing the Change

So, have you ever had one of those times in your life where you just felt like things either were changing, or they desperately needed to?  Yeah, I'm going through one of those times right now.  I just went through my list of blogs that I followed and deleted at least half.  Most of what I was reading was home decor and remodeling things.  I am still interested in sprucing up my home, but that is not my main area of interest.  Its not my passion, it isn't what keeps me awake at night.  I need more inspiration, more food for my soul, more...transformational reading!!  I need enlightenment, and reading about how to brighten up my living room isn't going to give me that.  I can't speak for anyone else, because it really seems to do the trick for some of the writers of the blogs that I unfollowed, but it just isn't enough for me anymore.  

I have a desire to inspire as I have been inspired.  Someone once told me to be the kind of person that I would like to meet, and I have spent a lot of time pondering that.  I don't want to be ordinary anymore.  I don't want to pretend that I fit in, because I so don't fit in.  This is kind of an uncomfortable place for me to be though.  If you know me, you know I'm friendly and social and I like to be liked.  Who doesn't?  Lets be honest. 

 I was telling my husband last night that, right now, I feel like I am in between a rock and a hard place.  The rock is that most of what is inspirational to me is a little offensive to many of my friends and family, and the hard place is I can't just stop seeking it out because others don't like it.

  So, I think I just figured out my problem.  That's right, writing things helps me sort out my thoughts.  This is so difficult because I let what people think of me matter more than what I want and what I think of me. what's the answer?  I don't know.  I'm figuring my life out one step at a time, just like all of you.  Its hard to go through life without support.  Luckily I have my husband and kids and some extended family who love me regardless.  Its just that when I was growing up, my friends were my family, and its weird that that is suddenly turning around.  I don't know what to do with myself without a girl friend to cry to.  My husband will just have to get in touch with his feminine side. ;)

So what is it that inspires me?  Anything that would make life better.  Better for me, better for my kids, better for you!  In order for that to happen I have to let go of a lot of things that just aren't working to do that for me.  The world is a changing, and I am embracing the change.  People sometimes like to tell me that they think the world is getting worse, well, I don't believe it.  I see some amazing good happening, and its growing, and I want to be a part of that growth.  It feels good to be in charge of my life.  A friend of mine just sent me an email that said something to the effect of, "if you aren't consciously choosing what you believe you are living your life unconsciously." So this is me, living my life consciously!

So...could this post have been any more vague?  Ha!  I know!  This post was probably more for me than for anyone who reads it.  Not even sure if anyone will read it, but if you do, I hope you were inspired to live your life in a conscious way, if you aren't already. ;)

Oh, and one of my goals is to become a better writer, so I am going to go at it by blogging.  If anyone would like to critique my writing your comments are welcome.  Thanks for reading!!

I think I will sign off with a quote from Will Smith, because he is awesome...and this quote totally resonates with how I have been feeling lately.