LIVING JOYFULLY NEWSLETTER
Issue #13 | May 1, 2013
APRIL’S THEME: Unschooling Families
Spring is finally peeking through in our neck of the woods! It’s lovely.
Talking about unschooling families this month has been fun—I love starting with an idea and as I write seeing what bubbles up as the real focus. I lay out the topics and general ideas of what I want to write each week ahead of time, but the actual writing is a wonderful act of discovery. Sometimes I have to keep writing and writing to find it, like I mentioned at the end of Who Am I and What Makes Me Tick?, noting that I cut out as many words as I kept as I strove to find the right words. Other times the words flow much more easily from my thoughts, like in the post How Do You Measure “Fair”?
The newsletter comes to life the same way. The topics of the different sections change as I write, sometimes often, as I find the connections and a flow that I hope comes across more often than not. 🙂
And welcome to our new subscribers! I hope you find the newsletter helpful on your unschooling journey.
ON THE BLOG … this month
Do you have strong beliefs or principles that you choose to live by? Do you expect that your children live by them too? That’s pretty easy to accomplish when they are young, but what about when they discover that other options exist? It is possible to respect your principles while still supporting your child’s drive to explore and learn and in this post I dig into some ways to do just that.
Why is it important to explore what makes us tick and what does that have to do with unschooling? I talk about some reasons why families choose to extend unschooling beyond academic learning. And that discussion leads me to ponder a question often asked by people upon first hearing about unschooling, “How will they learn to get up for a job and become independent, successful adults??”
The idea behind fairness is an important one: to be fair is to be free from bias. In families that means not showing favour for one child over another. It has come to symbolize love. And parents don’t want any of their children to feel they are less loved than their sibling(s). But how do you measure “fair”?
… or helping the reluctant spouse/partner/other significant adult in your child’s life learn about unschooling.
LET’S TALK ABOUT … Sandra Dodd’s Big Book of Unschooling
For those who find themselves in a situation where their spouse either doesn’t have the time or the inclination to passionately explore unschooling but wants to understand it enough to be comfortable that this lifestyle isn’t going to do a disservice to his children, I wanted to share a resource they might find helpful: Sandra Dodd’s Big Book of Unschooling.
It’s kind of like a paper version of her website, which is huge. But far from being overwhelming, the book is filled with short yet powerful sections that can be browsed in any order. It’s a wonderful resource to pick up for a few minutes at a time, which is just what the reluctant spouse might be comfortable sparing. And it covers most unschooling topics imaginable, from principles to Piaget to teens to typical days.
Each section is clearly labeled and links are included to the related web page(s) so if they want to follow-up online, they can easily do so. And once on the website, each web page links to other related pages so they can follow their unique train of thought … and all of a sudden an hour has passed! Immersion and learning at its finest.
In the book Sandra talks about reluctant spouses too: “If a parent is enthusiastic and excited about unschooling, then it could work! If both parents are enthusiastic and excited, it can hardly fail.” It is great when both are enthusiastic, but put aside your expectation that your spouse get excited now—that pressure won’t help anyone learn. Instead, do your best to get unschooling working well for your children and meet your spouse where they are.
How is getting unschooling working well for your kids helpful for your spouse’s learning? Well, there’s theory and then there’s practice. Learning how unschooling works is important—most definitely for the primary unschooling parent. But seeing it working well in practice can be invaluable information for the reluctant spouse. Back to the old adage of show instead of tell. As Sandra says, “Unschooling can prove itself if it’s not thwarted.”
Of course, the book isn’t only of interest to reluctant spouses! It’s chock full of the ideas surrounding unschooling and a great resource for anyone learning about unschooling. If you’re interested, you can find more information here:sandradodd.com/bigbook/
When it comes to learning about unschooling, my mind conjures an image of various learning threads coming from both sides, the theory (the principles of unschooling) and the practice (unschooling in action with your own children), and when they meet they weave together to create an exceptionally strong fabric of understanding. And that understanding grows into confidence and trust.
But the threads don’t need to grow equally from both sides—how they come together depends on the learning style of the person. Maybe they like to see things in action and from there they start to see the bigger picture of the theory behind it. Or maybe they prefer to dig into theory first and then they begin to understand how it relates to the everyday actions they see. No matter. Make them both available: theory and information in ways they prefer to absorb it and in practice by living it with your children every day. Then be supportive of your spouse/partner/significant other as they weave it all together in their unique fashion.
LIVING JOYFULLY … with unschooling
This newsletter is arriving a day late—I hope that doesn’t rankle too much! Last weekend we went to visit Lissy in NYC and the days before I was prepping for our visit: gathering some things from home she wanted us to bring, remembering the package my Mom dropped off for us to give to her, packing that Easter chocolate I picked up on sale the week after, and her huge and heavy, but stunning, book of Tim Walker photography.
We had a great weekend!
We drove, leaving early Friday morning for a typically nine hour drive, but with more than usual traffic at both the border and the NYC tunnel, it took almost an additional four hours. We were thrilled to finally pick up Lissy, quickly check into our hotel, and then scoot into Manhattan for a bite to eat. After some delicious pizza we wandered the Times Square area, soaking in the bright lights. I was, again, impressed by how well Lissy navigates the city, both above and below ground.
On Saturday we spent several lovely hours at the Museum of Modern Art. As we worked our way up the floors, I was struck by how intently Lissy and Michael went through the exhibits, reading the accompanying information as things caught their interest. At one point we took a break to grab a coffee and sat by a computer station, browsing MoMA’s online collection, which includes lots of exhibits that are no longer on display. Lissy busily went through the photography artists, taking note on her phone of those that caught her interest to research more later. We spent quite a bit of time with The Brown Sisters, clicking around a series of 31 photographs of the four sisters, taken once a year. Fascinating. As the afternoon wore on we still had a couple floors left so Lissy suggested we try to walk through them just taking in the art itself, not reading the plaques. Funny how it changes your mindset, encouraging you to draw your own conclusions. It was really fun too!
The rest of the day we strolled the Highline, ate dinner at our favourite diner, and spent a couple hours walking around in Central Park. It was lovely weather and I couldn’t stop commenting on how much further along spring was in NYC! It was very relaxing—and sinking into those quiet moments as we’re sitting on a bench allows our thoughts to wander and deeper conversations to emerge. Wonderful.
Sunday we grabbed some breakfast and went straight to Lissy’s apartment. It is such a vibrant and lovely neighbourhood! She showed us around, went through the things we brought, and then we all sat in the sun on her roof for a while. More lovely conversations.
Connections, and re-connections, happen all the time: through a shared insight over art, shared laughter over joke in the subway, over nail painting and tv watching, and through quietly contemplating spring side-by-side in the park. Life is where connections are made. You don’t need to try to set up meaningful situations (special dinners, family meetings etc) for big things to happen. Meaningful moments come from the people gathered, not the context. From being together. Unschooling families in action.
As we hugged goodbye I noticed how connected, relaxed, and happy for her I felt. Text messaging, phone calls, and video chats are amazing tools to help people stay connected. And sometimes touch is just what the doctor ordered.
Wishing you a terrific week with your family!