LIVING JOYFULLY NEWSLETTER
Issue #7 | Jan 31, 2013
JANUARY’S THEME: The Philosophy of Unschooling
Welcome to our new subscribers! I hope you are enjoying the Exploring Unschooling email series.
And a big hi to our regular readers too! I hope you are finding some helpful information and inspiration in the newsletters. If you have any comments or questions, feel free to hit me up on the blog or the facebook page. Or just hit reply to contact me by email. 🙂
Learning about unschooling is incredibly fun and I really enjoy sharing this journey with you!
ON THE BLOG … this month
Here’s what I’ve talked about on the blog this month:
Nope! Understanding the principles behind unschooling is important for anyone choosing to live this lifestyle. Real learning, learning that is understood and remembered, isn’t about copying a successful or experienced person’s actions: “in this circumstance, do this”. That’s more like memorizing. The problem is that when a new situation arises, you’re stuck. You have to go back and ask, “Now what?” Real learning is understanding the principles and processes behind the actions and how they fit into your personal worldview well enough that you can do some analysis and make your own informed choices, in any environment or situation. And specifically, as parents interested in creating a thriving unschooling environment, we want to gain experience in making choices that are compatible with unschooling.
Learning about unschooling is often sparked by something that challenges us to begin questioning the conventional ideas about learning, parenting, living, success, the path of school-college-job. Regardless of the initial inspiration—whether you commonly challenge the status quo or specific issues have arisen that are now encouraging you to ask questions—a paradigm shift is the culmination of two discrete, yet connected, actions: shifting away from something that doesn’t seem to be working for you (typical a conventional viewpoint), and moving towards an idea that seems to better align with your understanding, experience, and goals. Here I talk about the first step of that shift: understanding where you’re coming from and what may not be working for you.
Moving onto the second step of the paradigm shift and continuing with the examples from a week earlier, I talk about the things we ponder when, after having left conventional wisdom in our rear-view mirror, we start moving toward the new paradigms we see up ahead. For example, when you start looking for the learning instead of the teaching it’s like a whole new world opens up! And we may be surprised by the avalanche of self-inquiry sparked by the seemingly simple question, “Why not yes?” Soon enough it’s plain that unschooling isn’t just a new set of rules—it’s a lifestyle.
LET’S TALK ABOUT … Unschooling as Art
As I mentioned on the blog this month, this is an incredible moment in human history. The ability to communicate and share ideas with other like-minded people across the globe has burst into our daily lives over the last decade, challenging our beliefs more deeply and swiftly than has been possible before. I’ve been reading Seth Godin’s new book, The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? over the last couple of weeks and even though I haven’t finished it yet, the notes I’ve already made are more than enough for a discussion! I am constantly struck by the parallels with my unschooling experience so I thought I’d share some of the quotes I’ve noted and my comments.
His premise is that as the industrial age fades away it is being replaced by what he calls the connection economy. And as the market dwindles for interchangeable workers to complete a fix set of tasks with a fixed set of skills in exchange for a reliable paycheque and a sense of security and comfort, it is being replaced by demand for people that approach their chosen work like an artist: they care about what they do, they are inspired to do their best, and they are willing to share it with those who are interested.
“Speaking up when there’s no obvious right answer, making yourself vulnerable when it’s possible to put up shields, and caring about both the process and the outcome—these are works of art that our society embraces and the economy demands.”
Parenting as art. UNSCHOOLING AS ART. Unschooling is about abandoning the apparent safety of the educational system, breaking new ground, making our own connections. And it’s why unschooling looks different for each person.
This quote exemplifies the beauty of unschooling. As parents we don’t push for a “right answer”. Instead of wearing the shield of “parents are always right”, we talk with our kids. We drop the stance of power over our children and show our vulnerability through openness. Paradoxically, in the end this makes us stronger. When we discuss things and come to a path forward together, the support of that choice is stronger than any one or two of us could manage on our own.
We care about the process of getting to an answer (not “the” answer, an answer). That’s where our kids learn how to analyze situations and evaluate choices—skills helpful throughout their lives no matter how things change and society evolves. The outcome matters in that we diligently support our children in pursuit of their decision: the choice made in that moment is really part of the process because we continue to talk with them about it. Has the choice worked out as wished? As expected? If not, how has it deviated? Why might that have happened? They have grown with the experience and that learning is brought into all future processing.
“An artist is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo.”
Unschooling parents are artists: the bravery and boldness to challenge conventional parenting and educational theory; the insight and creativity to discover how unschooling works best in their unique families.
I am an artist. You are an artist.
“Art isn’t a result; it’s a journey. The challenge of our time is to find a journey worthy of your heart and your soul.”
I see unschooling as a journey worthy of the heart and soul of any parent who sees the merit of this philosophy and lifestyle. And these parents live diligently with their children, in turn helping them discover interests and passions that are worthy of their heart and soul.
“There’s only one way to organize a deck of cards in order. There’s just one way to stack the dishes according to the manual. The industrial economy embraces coherence. Art, on the other hand, is almost never coherent. It’s messy and comes in fits and starts. It’s difficult to write a table of contents or outline for. It’s unpredictable. And it demands our attention. It works the way our brains do, not the way our machines do.”
The conventional school system is a product of the industrial economy: there is one right way to do things, the way the teacher teaches. The real learning that we see in our children with the freedom of unschooling is messy and comes in fits and starts. You can’t outline it ahead of time because it flows in unexpected yet beautiful ways: it’s unpredictable. Unschooling learning mimics how their brains work because they follow their thoughts, their brain’s unique connections, instead of someone else’s curriculum. That’s real learning. And it’s what so many unschoolers have observed time after time with their children.
It’s also why learning about unschooling is challenging: it’s not coherent because it’s not a curriculum laid out for people to successfully implement step-by-step. But once you start to dig into it, it makes sense. And it’s incredibly interesting. Watching our kids live and learn is captivating.
“If what you’ve done is what you’ve been ordered to do, then the labor doesn’t seem to belong to you.”
This is a universal and human response. I talk about this in Free to Learn, through the lens of chores and telling your kids to do things (which is different from mentioning things that need doing). It robs them not only of the choice to do it, but of the satisfaction of a job well done. It steals their ownership of their actions because now they’ve done it for you, not to satisfy the original need: you’ve stepped in and subverted their learning. You may think that pointing out the messy play room and telling them to clean it will help them learn to notice it and do it without being asked, but most often what they are really learning is to only do things when they’re asked! They stop looking at the environment and just wait until they’re told to do it. That’s not going to be much use when they’re living on their own.
“Art has no right answer. The best we can hope for is an interesting answer.”
Ambiguous, yes, but true. It emphasizes the uncertainty of unschooling: there are no specific answers, no “do this, get that.” We are all different people: different personalities and strengths and weaknesses and dreams and goals and interests. And we all change over time as we gain experience being ourselves. In each moment we make choices: not necessarily right or wrong, just the ones that seem to make the most sense at the time. Unschooling won’t guarantee any particular outcome for your children, but in the end they will posses a deep understanding of themselves, of the process of learning, and a good set of skills to help them pursue whatever life’s journey they choose.
I’ve been enjoying the book so far and I see so many ways that unschooling fits snugly with the emerging economy he discusses. The principles of unschooling are based on some basic human truths. It’s some of these truths that Seth is bringing to light here, even though it’s through a different lens. These ideas are universal.
I may have just found a topic for my third book!
LIVING JOYFULLY … with unschooling
It’s been a very busy three months of prep, submission, waiting, and planning, but we received very exciting news last week: Lissy’s US artist’s visa application was approved! And for the full three years. Yay!! So on Monday I drove her back to her apartment in NYC and helped her get settled. I met the rest of her roommates and she gave me a tour of her neighbourhood, the nearby coffee shop and park, and her building rooftop. I drove back home alone yesterday, and though life will be Lissy-less here for a while now, we’re thrilled she’s living her dream. 🙂
And a quick update on my second book, Free to Live: Create a Thriving Unschooling Home, the last bit of editing will be done over the next couple of days and I’ll be moving to the production step: formatting the various ebook and print files. As a bit of a tech geek I enjoy this step, but mostly I’m looking forward to sharing it with you in just a few weeks!
Wishing you lots of fun with your family,