The full round, the norm of the monomyth, requires that the hero shall now begin the labor of bringing the runes of wisdom, the Golden Fleece, or his sleeping princess back into the kingdom of humanity, where the boon may redound to the renewing of the community, the nation, the planet, or the ten thousand worlds. (Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, p. 167)
After choosing to accept the call to adventure, we have spent a lot of time and effort on this unschooling journey of exploration, learning, and growth. The unknown world we set out to discover now feels like home. And with our quest accomplished, it’s time to enjoy the fruits of our labour.
It feels amazing! We see our kids making solid choices, exploring their boundaries, and learning like crazy. We love the time we spend with them: sometimes deeply focused and in the flow of an activity; sometimes relaxed and laughing, enjoying their company; and still other times commiserating and consoling and validating their frustration and sadness. It’s living as a full contact sport—energizing and tiring and beautiful.
Yet … it’s here that we can also begin to stagnate. Life feels wonderfully satisfying in our “unschooling bubble.” Safe. The bubble was so incredibly helpful in the initiation/deschooling phase, giving us the time and space we needed to observe and contemplate how real learning happens, to better understand ourselves and our children, and to explore ways to live together as a family. And now that our unschooling lives are flowing reasonably smoothly, it can be tempting to stay in the comfort of our bubble.
Maybe our safe zone is mostly our own home. Maybe it includes regular gatherings with the local unschooling community—park days, gym days etc. Maybe it includes the library and the rec centre. Eventually though, as we continue to explore and learn and grow, it’s likely that we’ll start to bump up against the edges. There are interesting things in the ordinary world!
When that happens, the thought of returning to the challenges of the traditional world can be intimidating. Maybe you’re worried about you and/or your children experiencing the judgement of others more directly. Maybe you’re wondering if you’ll get caught up in rush of busyness again, feeling pressured to “prove” to others that your choice to unschool was a good one. We are reminded of all those questions and challenges we worked through in our bubble: will our newly won understanding sustain us in the swirl of the conventional world?
The process isn’t as simple as just stepping back out, as many hero stories attest. This return phase of the journey is as intricate as our departure into the world of unschooling was, and will have us figuring out how to re-integrate with the ordinary world in ways that work for our family. Maybe at some point we’ll want to more actively share what we’ve learned on our unschooling journey with others. Maybe we’ll be happy to concentrate on living our unschooling lives—we are still a shining example in the world of a different path for anyone who is curious about such things. And we will discover that we can retreat and cocoon in our unschooling bubble whenever we feel the need to recharge.
Campbell’s point is well-taken that those who refuse to return may not be actively sharing their newfound wisdom. Yet our responsibility is first and foremost to our family—what works for us as individuals. That is unschooling in a nutshell. So the question we consider at this stage is whether or not our unschooling bubble is a supportive and helpful feature in our landscape. If it’s still an integral part of our lives, we will refuse to step out. For now. The key is to pay attention to when it starts to feel constricting; when any of us begin to feel like we’re wilting rather than growing.
There are other journeys, other mysterious worlds waiting to be explored. But they’ll wait until we’re ready. 🙂
If you’re inclined to share, I’d love to hear about your journey in the comments! Here are a few questions about the “refusal of the return” stage to get you started:
1. Did you find it helpful to cocoon in an “unschooling bubble” as you were diving into unschooling?
2. Has your family found it helpful to stay mostly in your bubble for now?
3. What things did you find challenging as you began stepping back into the conventional world?
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.
The meeting with the goddess: Seeing the value in all experiences.
Woman as the temptress: Accepting our nature.
Atonement with the father: Accepting others where they are.
Apotheosis: Moving to compassion.
The ultimate boon: Unschooling with confidence and grace.