Anne Boie is an unschooling mom of four who is actively engaged in supporting the unschooling community as a producer of Lainie Liberti’s For the Love of Learning web show, the US distribution coordinator for the film, Being and Becoming, and the producer of a new online show, Youth on Subjects of the World. Anne joins me this week to talk about Clara Bellar’s documentary film, Being and Becoming.
Quote of the Week
“If there is anything that we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves.” ~ Carl Jung
Questions for Anne
Can you share with us a bit about you and your family and how you came to unschooling?
The film starts as Clara Bellar is about to have her first child, and not long after she and her husband realize they want to nurture their son’s creativity, authenticity, and self-esteem and want him to be a free thinker. The question at the root of their quest became, “were a place and time really necessary to learn?” And that is what they seek to answer through visiting a wide range of autonomous learning, or unschooling, families. Her first stop is with Naomi Aldort and her family. It was really fun to see some old home movies of the kids and to see how their interests began at a young age and wove their way into their adult lives. One thing that stood out for me was the point she made about how important it is for us to spend time with our children—to be aware and to be present. That allows us to know who they are—their personalities, their interests, their strengths, their challenges, so we can better engage with and support them as they pursue their goals and aspirations. What stood out for you from Clara’s conversations with the Aldort family?
Clara brings out an important distinction in the film, the idea of freedom, not licence. Naomi mentions a book by that name by A.S. Neill, and I did a quick search after and found it was published back in 1966. It was a compilation of his replies to letters he received from people who had read his classic Summerhill and had questions around how the philosophy plays out “in real life.” In Summerhill, he wrote, “It is this distinction between freedom and license that many parents cannot grasp. In the disciplined home, the children have no rights. In the spoiled home, they have all the rights. The proper home is one in which children and adults have equal rights.” Naomi describes it as protecting the child’s power over themselves—their autonomy—not their power over others. But most of us have grown up enmeshed in power-based relationships so this can be a challenging shift for us, can’t it?
Clara visits with the Fadel-Renau family in France, and the dad likened school to a “school of thought.” That lessens some of its power, doesn’t it? It reminds us that the compulsory education system as we know it has only been around for a hundred-odd years, so it’s more of the new experiment on the block—humans have been living and learning for thousands of years. His point was to do what suits your family’s needs but not to do it blindly, to realize that sending your children to school is a choice. It’s so easy to forget how new, in the grand scheme of things, the school system we have really is, isn’t it?
I meet Arno and Andre Stern a few years ago when they came to Montreal, Canada, and it was fun to hear from them in the film. I loved Andre’s point that people often mistakenly assume that a child who is free lives in chaos. Arno, his dad, made the point that, “Freedom arises out of structure, not out of chaos. A child knows there are limits—not restrictions, limits.” As I thought about that more, I realized it can be hard for people who’ve never been free to control their own days to imagine that children—people—when given the freedom of choice, will explore their personal need for structure and routine. They will find the ways they prefer to do things and make those choices more consistently—not chaos. And that there are natural limits to things, though they vary by individual—many people just rarely encounter them because the restrictions they’ve had to live with have made their world even smaller than those natural limits. They haven’t often explored the edges of their comfort zones, where we find it’s totally okay to say “no thanks” to going further. It’s like parents thinking, “if I let them eat sweets that’s all they’ll ever eat,” or “if I don’t restrict TV, they’ll watch it all day every day.” What did you think of their point that freedom does not equal chaos? Has that been your experience?
Clara ends the film by saying, “After all these encounters, the path is only beginning. I no longer need to understand everything. I can see that it’s about letting everyone simply live their own life so that they’re being and becoming their best.” It definitely takes a while to get that place of trust, doesn’t it? That place where we don’t need to know all the answers—to understand everything—before we start down this path?
What piece stood out most for you from the film?
Links to Things Mentioned in the Show
The film’s website: Being and Becoming
Lainie Liberti’s For the Love of Learning show
Naomi Aldort’s website: authenticchild.com
André Stern’s website: andrestern.com
Arno Stern’s website: arnostern.com
Anne Boie on Facebook