We made it! We have achieved the goal of our quest, the ultimate boon: we are unschooling. Our relationships with our children are strong and connected and we are confidently living and learning together as a family. We are enjoying life, with its ups and down and twists and turns.
This moment isn’t lit up on a marquee or marked by thunderous applause. And funny, we no longer wish for that either. We’ve come to appreciate the amazing beauty of the simplest moments: cuddled with your child on the couch watching a favourite movie; walking in the park, your kids darting from flower to flower, handing you this stick and that rock to add to their collection; watching your child enthusiastically turn on the water to show you how it flows over the complicated contraption of pots and plates they built in the sink; laying in bed together, reading a story out loud to your child as their eyes blink heavily. These moments bring us deep joy and contentment. We know the power they hold.
Our shift from deschooling to unschooling isn’t a finish line we’ve made a beeline for, but more of a dawning realization that happens after we’ve crossed into this new realm: “Ahh, we’re unschooling.”
In this chapter of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell continues to share the stories and myths of many cultures, describing the fundamental goal shared by these heroes—and us—on our journeys:
The gods and goddesses then are to be understood as embodiments and custodians of the elixir of Imperishable Being but not themselves the Ultimate in its primary state. What the hero seeks through his intercourse with them is therefore not finally themselves, but their grace, i.e., the power of their sustaining substance. (p. 155)
The goal is not to become a god or goddess-like being. On our journey we’ve learned to accept our nature, to live mindfully in the moment, and not get caught up chasing some embodiment of “perfection.” There is no “perfect” model of unschooling. Day-to-day, it looks different for everyone. But the principles of unschooling—the spirit with which unschooling is lived—is fundamentally the same. And that is what we’ve explored and absorbed on our journey.
In Campbell’s metaphor, we have journeyed to attain the grace of the gods/goddesses. Not to take it from them; it’s not a fixed commodity. But to come to understand, and therefore share, their perspective, their spirit, their outlook on life. Their grace.
And why is grace considered a sustaining substance of life? It’s not about immortality. The real prize the hero has gained is the knowledge of their indestructibility in life. It’s that understanding, deep in your bones, that you will be able to move through whatever challenges life throws at you. Grace is the compassion and kindness that comes from knowing that you will endure. That there is a light at the end of the tunnel, even if you can’t quite see it yet.
It’s not a case of thinking that when distressing things happen it’s “for our own good” or that “we deserve them.” We don’t feel the need to place blame, which adds a distorting filter to many situations, hence we see them more clearly—more gracefully—and treat everyone involved more kindly and compassionately as we move through them.
The many trials and tribulations of our journey have prepared us for this moment, bringing us to a place where we are able to live and learn in the world with grace. It has been a lot of intense, personal work! What I love though, is that the journey starts out focused on our children, and ends up being a boon for ourselves, yet one that fully—and joyfully—includes our children in its embrace. It has also grown beyond unschooling itself into the realm of life.
Our unschooling journey will also inform any other journeys we may undertake in the future. In the last couple of years I’ve been struck by seeing other people’s journeys bring them to similar perspectives on life:
Brene Brown and her shame research.
Leo Babauta and his habits work.
Amanda Palmer and her art/music community.
Cory DeMeyers and his parkour work.
Their respective journeys have brought them a sense of grace that exudes from their writing, their speaking, and their interactions with others. Again, remember, being graceful doesn’t mean “perfect.” In fact, understanding we aren’t “perfect” is part of the journey to grace.
What does this look like day-to-day in the real world of unschooling?
It looks like family members confidently pursue learning in any of its forms, including more formal classrooms, without getting caught up in the trappings of the system. We choose to participate in the environment and take from the experience what we are interested in. We evaluate the experience against our own goals, which often includes more than just grades.
When I’m stymied trying to figure out how to come up with a plan that meets the needs of everyone involved, it looks like me openly asking my kids for their suggestions, knowing they too will consider everyone’s needs. They are full members of the family, and they often have a fresh perspective and some pretty great ideas!
And it looks like my kids bursting out laughing at the joke if I answer their question with, “Because I said so.” 🙂
If you’re inclined to share, I’d love to hear about your journey in the comments! Here are a few questions about the “ultimate boon” stage to get you started:
1. Are there times when expectations of others are more likely to sneak up on you?
2. I find joy to be a clear beacon on my journey—I choose the next step that moves me closer. Is that your experience?
3. Who are some of the people you see living in the world with grace?
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.