So, I’m going to just be linking & leaving it up to you to decide what you read or if you read anything concerning the matter. There’s been a lot of buzz about what ‘we’ say & how we say it. Idzie wrote a little post about her issues with the word ‘teaching’ and then followed it up with another post here. In that second post, you’ll find a link to a post titled The Unschooling Police. I left the comment below at that post:
I think a lot people who are new to unschooling benefit greatly from avoiding words or concepts like ‘teaching’ or ‘rules’. It’s kin to packing up/throwing away/lending out all your packaged curriculum & textbooks until you are convinced that learning really happens without all that, lest you be tempted after a week of ‘nothing’ but Legos & Cartoon Network to start trying to use them again.
It’s easier to find the *need* for & Joy of classes while fully submerged in an unschooling life, than it is to find the *need* for and Joy of an unschooling life while fully submerged in compulsory schooling.
For those of us who ‘get it’, it can seem overkill to eschew certain words…but over seven years ago (before I was a mother) when I started hitting the discussion boards and being reprimanded or corrected for word usage & certain beliefs, I was extremely grateful for the wake-up call. Having the words I use & the meanings I attach to them challenged was a good thing.
I hate that I have been doing this for so long that I’ve almost become ’sloppy’ with word choice & communicating my Value Set of Anarchism & Radical Unschooling…conversations like these are necessary more for those of us who have been at this awhile than for newbies.
I know my son *teaches* me tons of things on an almost daily basis. I choose to listen & *learn*, because I am genuinely interested in what he has to share (usually).
The other thing I wish I had addressed was about the difference between Unschooling & Radical Unschooling. Some people in the community really say that Radical Unschoolers are the only true/pure unschoolers…I might secretly agree with them…
I know I’ve talked about Radical Unschooling before & how I realize how you ‘could’ have an educational or academic only unschooling, but that the very concept behind unschooling seems to say otherwise. I find it hard to believe that if someone fully embraced the concept that Life Is Learning, that every waking moment & decision made is Learning, that they wouldn’t naturally find themselves leaning towards Radical Unschooling or Whole-Life Unschooling.
Let’s take sleep for an example. At any age, our children learn tons about themselves, their bodies & human nature when they, for example, experiment with bed times & varying lengths of sleep/sleep deprivation. What’s more important, *they* learn how much sleep *they* need & when *they* need to sleep. Us forcing them to bed when *we’ve* ‘had enough’ or when we think they should be in bed doesn’t help them find their own sleeping rhythms, but they DO learn not to trust us about sleep & that bigger/older people can use force over smaller/younger people.
I was going to use Media as my example, but I hate long debates about media. Media is flush with innumerable learning opportunities & resources. To limit media is antithetical to unschooling — whole-life or not.
There are some people who really *need* to have things in their life that they can control…it’s understandable, especially if their childhood was largely OUT of *their* control. I know several academic only unschoolers & have had plenty of conversations with them about their ideas, principles & how they view unschooling. They are great people who *need* things to control. They are loving parents, but not always as respectful as most of the radical unschoolers I also know. Their relationship with their children tends to be strained in areas where it wouldn’t be if they could find a way to give their children back some control over their own lives.
Invariably, their need for controlling things bleeds over into their children’s education, their ‘unschooling’. This leads to ‘pushes’, “heavy encouragement” (not my words), forcing of certain materials/classes/practices and ultimately, a not-so-child-directed education. It happens with an almost unnoticeable force from the inside. One day either their children speak up about it or they realize their own unhappiness with ‘unschooling’.
Life goes from, wear what you want to you can choose between the red shirt or the blue shirt. *That* is NOT unschooling.
I (and SO many before me) have seen, experienced & learned that there is a way of parenting or way of seeing Life & our interactions with those we share it with that is beneficial for unschooling, almost imperative for an Unschooling Life to be as broad & open as possible.
Yes, one can be a traditional parent or an ‘AP’ parent & ‘unschool’ their children in an academic sense, but I can’t help but think about what they AND their children could gain from shedding parental control issues & living an over all more respectful & consensual life with one another.
Yeah, I’m just now getting around to posting about the conference. I have positive thoughts, negative thoughts & some suggestions. I thought that I could divide the post up into respective sections, but the thoughts & suggestions all kind of blend together, so this post just ended up as a stream of consciousness piece.
NEUC was our first big (by big, I mean more than 100 count) unschooling event. It was wonderful to be around so many families who are all striving to live in similar ways with one another as we try to live ourselves. It was fantastic getting to see a bunch of children of all ages running around (literally) with each other and not being intimidated by the adults around them, yet actually enjoying the adults around them. I can’t really convey the feelings of love, respect & freedom that I had while at the conference and do them any justice.
There has been a lot of talk on various blogs (I won’t link, but you can Google to find them) about two issues 1) “unparenting” at the conference and 2) making future conferences more “welcoming”. I want to address the 1st issue before I talk about my experience at the conference.
In a sense, I am not really sure what “unparenting” is (nor are a lot of people, but we all apparently know it when we see it). Concern has been expressed about the group of children who were running around (being children), the state of the art room, unattended children and some other things. First, if I can’t walk away from my child from time to time at an unschooling conference, where in the hell can I do it? I personally have been annoyed by many people who have been very judgmental in their comments about unattended children at the conference. Personally, I feel like it is my place and the place of many other unschooling parents who are already “there” and are not just coming into this life to be available for new parents at these conferences…available to hang with their children who don’t want to be present for presentations/talks and available to help out parents who are struggling while at conferences.
I hung out with one little boy many times at the conference who wasn’t yet 3 years old. His mum left him in the play room and he had a couple siblings who would flutter in and out every once in awhile to check on him. He was content to play dress up and only needed someone to help him in & out of costumes. His mum *needed* to be present at talks and he didn’t want to attend them. She felt safe enough at the conference to leave him in an un-staffed room. I met her and from the conversation I had with her, she was anything but an “unparent”. However, if her child had been a little bit older and running around with the group of 7 to 10 year old boys at the conference, I feel as though she might have been labeled as an “unparent”.
I know that I left Elijah or rather he left me on many occasions. This usually worked out, but there were a few occasions when he got busy and then forgot where I said I’d be and he panicked when he couldn’t see/find me. He was brought to me once in tears by someone early on the first day (thank you whoever you were, I never looked up, only heard a woman’s voice). I felt bad, but at the same time, I knew that he was surrounded by caring respectful adults who would have done their best to comfort him, if I or William truly couldn’t have been found. We talked about how to deal with things again if he forgot where I/William was or had a problem…end of story. I think I might have erroneously thought that it was safe to not hover around my child the entire time we were there — just like the little boy’s mum. I posted awhile ago about the two different kinds of playgroups & gatherings that we’ve been part of…I guess I assumed that large unschooling gatherings were like one really big “scene one” — maybe I shouldn’t assume that’s how it is, even when that’s how so many portray it to be. I found myself doing A LOT of “parenting” of other children and I never thought twice about it…maybe it’s NOT my “job” to have the capacity to parent whatever child is right in front of me at any given time (but that just feels wrong, anti-community and certainly anti-village).
Regarding the art room…really, I mean really? Do none of these people have crazy destroyed art rooms/dinning rooms/play rooms at home? Because they are lying if they say they don’t (I’ve seen the flickr pictures to prove it). Would it have been nice if the floor coverings weren’t destroyed, yes, but it also would have been nice if the floor coverings weren’t tissue thin plastic sheets.
Apparently there were children/teens (not sure which) who had ran up & down halls late at night or who had knocked on doors & ran…I don’t know, because I didn’t see any of that — that’s NOT cool & shouldn’t have happened, but what are you going to do…make sure it doesn’t happen again. I don’t think *we* were ever loud late at night in the hall…there was some pool noodle fighting with the lovely family across the hall (high C & B & family), but that was well before 10pm (which *I* feel is time for quieter things at hotels). The teens want, nay need, to stay up REALLY late, so I feel it’s important that they have the space to do that.
Now, to address the issue of the mob of children (mainly boys aged 7 to 10 yrs.) who were running around playing games, free running on the handicap ramp (which I would have predicted if I had done the walk-through when deciding on that hotel for the conference & did point out the night before when we were sneaking around in the conference area that there would be some free-running occurring on the ramp) and other means of mischief. Something was missing from this conference that I have seen over and over again from pictures & videos at other conferences…children playing OUTSIDE. Unless I was totally out of the loop, I don’t recall anyone playing outside, trying to organize anything outside and Elijah sure never told me that he was going outside to play with so & so or such & such group of kids. I truly don’t blame these children at all. They were contained to a building and mainly one floor of that building almost all day every day for 4 to 6 days…I would have been going crazy too! In the past 7 years that I have been vicariously riding the unschooling conference circuit via blogs, photo albums & online videos, I have seen at almost every event, a mob of children outside on a playground, in a section of the parking lot riding bikes/scooters/etc. or some similar place outside with a few “designated” adults — usually the adults were the parents of a couple of the children outside, but it usually appears to be about 5 to 8 children per 1 adult present. Why was there no one outside at NEUC?
On the other side of this coin, I was also missing a media room. I really thought that there would have been a room where we could have set up gaming consoles & such…maybe I was dreaming. I know that would have helped curtail some of the running about & done so in a positive, attractive & constructive way.
In the unschooling community and more-so the radical unschooling community, there is this goal of making sure everyone is “taken care of”. After talking to several families who were new to unschooling/conferences, I feel like a lot of the new-to-unschooling families at the conference didn’t feel taken care of. The main reason being that they had a choice of either go to talks to share & learn or hover around their child…hell, I even felt like that several times (I can’t imagine how I would have felt/coped if William hadn’t come with us). I’m suggesting a volunteer rotating staff, child-care or adopt a newbie program…seriously. I think a lot of people who “left” their children, felt like they had no real choice, but to either leave them & trust the community (which, I don’t feel is wrong) or to forgo any possible enlightenment being handed out in order to follow their children around.
Moving on to making these things more “welcoming”. I didn’t feel unwelcome, but there were a couple times (one in particular) where I didn’t feel all that welcome or included — in which case, I just got up and moved elsewhere or found a group of kids to hang out with for a bit (the children at these things are really fun to be around!). I’m not a group person and I have a hard time getting into a group, but it’s not as difficult with a group of unschoolers, because I don’t have to explain myself, my choices or my parenting all while everyone is looking at me like I just sprouted an extra head. I will agree that it can be difficult for a newbie when there are a lot of people at these events who are always there, have known each other for years or are just simply really out-going. I don’t think it’s fair to lay the blame on newbies or on conference veterans. I will say that it is much easier to “fit-in” (if you will) , when you’ve had a presence on discussion boards or have a blog that makes the rounds…people recognize faces and names — I had the fortune of having been on online discussion boards for several years & having a blog with lots of readers…so, I wasn’t *so* new, even though I was new at this conference. I have to think on this one a little bit more, but I’m sure there’s somethings we can integrate into future conferences to make it easier for people to “join the family” (so to speak).
Overall, I had a fantastic time, that is until I got back home and realized that I am NOT surrounded by respectful parenting in my everyday encounters. While these events lift me up while I am present, they do make it harder to get back into the daily routine when most of the parenting going on around you is mainstream, punitive & oppressive. I can almost liken the feeling to a sugar high…all these fantastic people & feelings, but then once the supply of sugar is gone & the processing done, then on comes the crash. The crash for me this time was pretty rough…I was angry, not just sad for the kids I’d see at the grocery store, the bank and coming from & going to school, but angry at their parents & society in general for how horrible it treats children & how unfriendly it is towards youth in general. I’ve dealt with my feelings, which took some time (hence why it’s taken me some time to write a post about NEUC) and now I’ve moved on…
…on to thinking about how great the Unschooling Cruise is going to be! It appears that it is going to be a small group, which will be nice & intimate. I can’t wait!
We will set out around midnight Tuesday night on our drive to Wakefield (Boston), MA for the Northeast Unschooling Conference.
We’ll be checking in one day early on Wednesday, so if you are checking in early too and want to hang out or nap together (!), look for us…we’ll be following a wild-haired 5 year old boy who will most likely be in striped pyjamas…oh, wait, doesn’t that narrow it down to most unschoolers?! I’ll be checking my email until about 5PM Tuesday, so if you want my cell phone number to track me down in Boston, drop me an email (PghMidwife @ naturalattachment dot com).
I’ll try to blog at least once during the trip, but no guarantees. I will do some tweeting (though only with my phone & I only follow William on my phone…don’t think I don’t love you if you don’t get a reply from me personally). We’ll have tons of photos & film footage to comb over when we get back, but don’t you worry, I’ll post up highlights of our trip and plenty of memorexed moments.
We’re looking forward to this conference. I am going to get to meet a lot of really awesome people in the flesh. I won’t be checking my email, so you’ll just have to wait, because this is one week of my life that is more important than just about every thing else that goes on in the rest of the world. Getting to spend almost an entire week with nothing but famlies living their lives in Freedom, Freedom from school and mainstream parenting…purely heaven. It will be nice to not have to explain myself or my choices every time I turn around…instead of preaching to the choir, I’ll get to sing with them and Shine with them.
Can’t wait! Hope to see you there.
Really? Is that necessary? Apparently. I was inspired to write this post by several things, but the two that stand out are as follows:
- 1. I bought Elijah a pair of Gap pants that convert into shorts from the thrift store a couple months back. They had some signs of use (little bit of “dirty hand” stains around the pockets & a couple spots here & there), but otherwise they looked really good and only cost me fifty cents! When William saw them, the first thing out of his mouth was, “it’s nice to see that someone who bought their child Gap pants actually let them get near dirt”. I agreed, because that’s not a pair of pants that *should* have been dirty, but then we’re stereotyping people who shop at The Gap…not that I feel bad for doing so.
- 2. Back in May of this year, another unschooling parent wrote a really AWESOME post about children being free to express themselves through their clothing, hair & so on…even when bystanders in public give you (the parent) the stink-eye.
So, here I am writing about this as well. Elijah has a fond love for costumes, Halloween, dressing in monochromatic schemes, stripes, crazy color/pattern combinations — inherited honestly from me — and has no shame in going out with pants on backwards or shirts on inside out AND backwards. He tends to live in pyjamas or similar clothing…round these parts they are called “life clothes”. I’ve gotten some really nice comments about his clothing. I stressed out about dirt & stains for a tiny bit, but realized that it doesn’t matter if people are happy. Dirt often leads to happiness, you know.
I remember reading about Valerie’s daughter and her ink that she made…the ink hand prints all over a dress that Valerie had made for her.
“The dress was now covered with handprints in bright purple. As she ran into the room, the women gasped and said, “Oh no!” while my smile could not have been bigger. I could see by her face that she had something to share with me and was proud. Laurie said, “I made INK, Mom! I found these purple berries and squished them together and we can paint with it!” I said, “Would you show me how to make it when we are finished in here?” She grinned big and said, “Sure, Mom!” She ran back out to the yard.
The other children watched with their mouths open. They had been certain that Laurie was going to get into trouble and surprised that she not only did not get into trouble but also was encouraged to make the ‘ink.’ The women were also amazed that she was not in trouble for ruining her dress. The fate of the dress never occurred to me until I saw the looks on the women’s faces and was asked, “But what about her dress?” I replied, “But she made ink!…”
I can imagine what my mother would have done…what my grandmother would have done. Oh, my. I’ve learned that I really don’t care. I don’t want Elijah to damage his clothing to a point that it isn’t wearable, but even that might be okay depending on the circumstances. I mean it would be bad thing if he took a pair of scissors and cut up all his clothing, but if he took a pair of scissors to a particular shirt or pants or outfit to make it his own or alter it for his needs, then that’s a good thing. He has to have clothing to wear, but it is his clothing AND I can’t buy but so much at any given time. I really can’t imagine him shredding his entire closet of clothing, but I’d say that something will get shredded before the year’s end…and the sky won’t fall because of it.
I think I’ve said before that I usually find that the dirty kids with messy hair, faces & clothes are the happier children in a room or on the playground. It’s those poor “Sunday best” children that I want to rescue or the “we perfectly match mum & dad” and “can I have some seltzer water for this stain” (I kid you not, this came from the mouth of a 5 year old…I’m not even sure that 5 year olds should know what seltzer water is, let alone know to use it on a stain).
I brush off the looks people give us. And I say us, because I still dress like I did in middle & high school: if it’s close to the bed, not covered in something, doesn’t smell like hell or a revolution and I can get it on, then it’s clothing and wearable. I don’t care what other people think. Elijah has every right to dress however makes him happy, which until recently was no clothing at all — thankfully, he didn’t mind getting dressed for public or company.
Every year we make a disc of pictures for the family and last year we decided to make a video too. Elijah has a “theme song” because of his unique sense of style, Everyday (is Halloween), by Ministry. So, we spliced & diced footage & stills to make him a music video. It can be found here (it is a .VOB file, so some of you might not be able to play it in your browser, but will have to save it and play it with whatever DVD program you have on your computer).
I don’t really know what to say about radical unschooling and clothing…it seems so simple to me. I know that some parents on a few lists have expressed concern because they feel like since they spend their money on the clothes that they should get a say in how their children are dressed or because they have to be “seen with” their children, they should dress a certain way. Eh…really? I don’t dictate how other people can use the things that I buy them, I might tell them the intended purpose of something if it’s not obvious, but once it’s theirs, it’s theirs. I don’t tell my husband how to dress, though he’s been known to ask me if I am seriously wearing what I have on! I’m happy to be seen with my son, regardless of how he might be dressed, his hair might look and so on…he’s awesome and anyone willing to talk to him would figure that out.
I tend to view clothing as an extension of a person’s body, an adornment if you will. I don’t believe ANYONE (not even your parents) should have control over your body, much less be able to tell you how to dress in your day-to-day life. It’s different if you are required to wear certain clothing for a specific activity where safety might be a concern or needing to wear a special uniform for a certain job and so on…these are usually situations that we place ourselves in and are willing to accept the dress requirements, otherwise we avoid these situations or try to change the requirements.
I say, just poke those bystanders right in the stink-eye.
I’d love to have links to other blog posts that talk about unschooling & clothing or parents who don’t place more value on certain styles of clothing for their children over other styles and so on. Here’s a couple posts that I have saved over the past year or so that mention clothing, “life clothes” & unschooling:
Fantastic Quote from Frank
“2. What do your children wear to [UN!]school?
I thought this was a homeschooling quiz! We wear what Fergus calls “life clothes,” [That phrase was actually first used by Marty Dodd with Fergus in Corvallis, Or.!] sometimes know as pajamas. Or shorts. Or whatever we feel like wearing. I usually at least put on some underwear before I come downstairs from my room. Otherwise the girls, if they’re up, make rude noises at me.”
Some other boys who LOVE stripes AND pyjamas
Another great “life clothes” quote found here.
“We spent the last two weeks shopping for appropriate clothing for the event, because as most of you know, my kids are more the “life clothes” kind of people than the “fancy clothes” kind.”
Where “life clothes” got its start
And the post I linked to at the beginning of this post.
Cats Crackers*, Almonds*, Raisins* & Toasted Nori*
Black Beans* & Black Olives
Vegan Griller Patty & Ketchup*
On Tuesday, we went to the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum (where one of the staff recognized me & mentioned that she loved my challenge that I sent the museum) with our neighbor and her grandson. We had a pretty good time and I got to spend some more time with my neighbor who is one hip lady!
Our neighbor said that they were going to go home, eat and then go to the store…once we were dropped off and getting food around for ourselves, Elijah said, “do you really think Collin wants to go to the store with his grandma…we should see if he can play Legos with me while she shops”. I called and it was a done deal; Collin skipped over after he ate dinner and the two boys played Legos, built with blocks and did a little drawing.
This is a perfect example of kindness & respect begetting kindness & respect…I know that I’ve mentioned before that Elijah doesn’t like going to the grocery store (or any major shopping place for that matter), because it is literally an assult on his senses. I arrange my shopping plans so that I get everything done on William’s days off, so that Elijah can stay home with him or so that they can be dropped off somewhere to hang out while I get business taken care of. Elijah thought it was only fair to extend that arrangement to his friend while our neighbor went shopping. I think it was a very kind & compassionate moment for Elijah — he didn’t want to see his friend have to endure (I’m assuming he thinks most kids are effected by stores the same way he is) going to the store when there was a clear option for him to avoid it.
I love my son