At this point in our journey we’ve navigated the road of trials, though I’d like to point out that, in my experience, our trials are never completely “done.” There will be more challenges in the future; certainly as our children get older, new situations will arise. For example, my eldest was ten when I did the bulk of my deschooling and at that point I had little need to contemplate my parenting perspective on boyfriends/girlfriends, jobs etc.
When these situations do eventually come up, you may be surprised by the conventional perspective that instinctively bubbles up. It’s not failure, it’s a clue that we have some more work to do. Take the time to process your initial reaction and then contemplate the situation from your unschooling perspective.
Over the next few stages of the hero’s journey we’ll be tackling some bigger picture questions. I see them as the more spiritual aspect of the unschooling journey. We’ll start with things you probably already considered as part of deschooling your way along the road of trials, but now we’re going to see what insight we might gain when we gather them together and examine them from a wider perspective.
Beyond Good and Bad
This stage of our journey is symbolized by an encounter with the queen goddess, representing the birth-death cycle.
The whole round of existence is accomplished within her sway, from birth, through adolescence, maturity, and senescence, to the grave. She is the womb and the tomb: the sow that eats her farrow. Thus she unites the “good” and the “bad,” exhibiting the two modes of the remembered mother, not as personal only, but as universal. (p. 95, Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces)
I imagine on the road of trials you encountered a number of issues where you began with preconceived judgements of “good” and “bad.” What happened when you reconsidered them through the lens of unschooling? Here are some that I worked through:
The devotee is expected to contemplate the two with equal equanimity. Through this exercise his spirit is purged of its infantile, inappropriate sentimentalities and resentments, and his mind opened to the inscrutable presence which exists, not primarily as “good” and “bad” with respect to his childlike human convenience, his weal and woe, but as the law and image of the nature of being. (p. 95)
As I reconsidered so much conventional wisdom, I came to see that most often things aren’t as black and white as they first appeared. It became clear that we are so quick to judge things!
Most of us were raised in an environment that emphasized right/wrong or good/bad in almost every situation. Many of our parents and teachers used praise to reward “good” actions and behaviours, and shame to punish “bad.” These were the tools we knew by heart. It was a bit of a light bulb moment when I realized they were more about training than real learning.
After digging into and processing so many of my earlier judgements, I was humbled. As I looked at these choices through my children’s eyes, I came to see that pronouncements of good and bad are most often superficial and dismissive, narrowing life to stereotypes. I realized that for individuals, all experiences have value—they all have a hand in making us who we are. That when my children are free to choose what they do, they are getting something of value from their choices, whether or not I (or they) can define it. Without judgement and shame, inner conflicts dissolve. It’s life. Or as Campbell puts it, “the nature of being.” (Bigger picture, yes?)
As my wish to understand my children’s perspective and choices grew, my need to judge them faded away. With it, so did our conflicts. Our trust in each other grew.
Undercurrent of Joy
And in that open space, I discovered an undercurrent of joy running through our lives. Beneath all of our experiences. I wrote this a couple of years ago about that deep sense of joy:
A third insight that grew from my shift to unschooling was an accompanying shift in my time-frame. As I changed my perspective on learning from compulsory school years to lifelong learning, I also began looking beyond the immediate impact of moments to the bigger picture. I could be in the moment, and realize that in the grand scheme of things, most things aren’t as dire as they may appear. My perspective shifted. I found I could be more present with both happiness and disappointment in those moments, but they no longer took me on an internal roller coaster ride because I didn’t equate the longer-term deep sense of joy I felt inside with the emotions of the moments I was in. (Finding Joy)
The joy is in knowing we are making choices for ourselves, that we are in control of our lives—no one else. Yet with this fresh (to me) and rather buoyant perspective, the conventional voices soon crept in and I began to worry that I might really just be “ignoring reality.” So, of course, I dug into that too. Here’s a snippet of what I discovered for me:
A positive outlook through challenges isn’t about convincing myself that the problem is really a blessing in disguise (though I don’t rule that out either—sometimes my mind just hasn’t caught up to reality yet). It’s about moving through the initial fear to a place where I see the other side. I likely don’t know what it looks like, or how I’m going to get there, but I see a point in the distance to shoot for: I have shifted my perspective to the bigger picture. (A Positive Outlook Isn’t Turning a Blind Eye)
There’s a certain grace we can muster to move through challenges when we live with that undercurrent of joy, and I instinctively understood its value, even before I started writing about it. I know that because ten years ago I incorporated it into my website name: living joyfully. 🙂
In this stage of my unschooling journey, I questioned my need to judge my children and their choices and found it wanting. I no longer felt like we should be trying to avoid “bad” moments so we could finally live our “good” lives.
We were living our full lives all along.
If you’re inclined to share, I’d love to hear about your journey in the comments! Here are a few questions about the “meeting with the goddess” stage to get you started:
1. Which good/bad judgements did you work through?
2. Did something in particular spark you to question the act of passing judgement itself? Or was it a culmination of little things?
3. Have you discovered an undercurrent of joy in your lives?
4. How do you work through challenges?
Next stage: Woman as the Temptress: Accepting Our Nature
The road so far …
Departure phase of the journey
Call to adventure: We discover unschooling and excitedly imagine the possibilities.
Refusal of the call: The many implications of choosing unschooling hit. Do we commit?
Supernatural aid: Our children guide us on our unschooling journey
Crossing of the first threshold: Confronting the guardians who claim to protect us
The belly of the whale: Transitioning to a learning mindset
Initiation phase of the journey
The road of trials: The heart of deschooling