LIVING JOYFULLY NEWSLETTER
Issue #17 | June 29, 2013
JUNE’S THEME: Unschooling Teens
Hello again! This is your friendly, twice-monthly Living Joyfully newsletter. I’ll keep you up-to-date with the blog, talk about an unschooling-related topic (this time a movie review), and share some more personal unschooling insights.
Michael and I had a terrific time at We Shine last week, hanging out with other unschooling families. Gatherings and conferences aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but being in community can be a great catalyst for learning—about unschooling or any other topic. We’ve been unschooling for over eleven years but I’m always learning and exploring. And it’s definitely very inspiring to be in the company of unschooling families. The kids are awesome!
ON THE BLOG … this month
When conventional parents choose to create a relationship with their children that is adversarial in nature that’s probably what they’ll get in return as their children become teens and begin to exercise their growing autonomy. It shouldn’t be surprising that if it’s tools of control they see from their parents, those are they tools they’ll reach for in conflict. You can only harvest what is planted. Unschoolers choose to plant different seeds. This week I talk about some of the strikingly different ways unschooling families view and experience the teen years.
Everyone wins with strong, connected, respectful relationships. Conventionally, relationships with teens are painted as either/or: either you focus on maintaining authority (tough love) or you avoid challenges altogether (let them run wild). Yet unschooling families have found the beauty of living inside the spectrum of those extremes. In this post I look at some of the ways unschooling parents view relationships differently and what that can look like in the teen years.
Unschooling breathes life into the concept of lifelong learning. Discuss.
If you’ve been unschooling your children for any length of time, you’ve likely been asked that question. And it’s a good one! In our lifetime a college degree has been practically synonymous with getting a good job and being conventionally successful, so it’s no wonder that family and friends worry that our unconventional path may force our children to forfeit the golden egg. Certainly we can debate the value of the conventional definition of “success”, but today let’s focus on the learning side of the college coin.
LET’S TALK ABOUT … the movie Accepted
I have been looking forward to this for months: an excuse to watch it again! LOL!
I love the tagline: “Reject rejection”.
This 2006 movie stars Justin Long, Jonah Hill, and Blake Lively. When Bartleby isn’t accepted into any colleges he has to listen to his Dad make comments like,“Bartleby screwed around and now he’s not going to college. He’s thrown his life away.” Already adept at making fake IDs, in a brilliant flash he decides to create a fake college, the South Harmon Institute of Technology (note the acronym!) to placate his parents.
He and his friends end up renting a building, finding a dean (comedian Lewis Black in a role that seems tailor-made for him), and gathering fake students to appear legit for move-in day. But through a series of mishaps, they end up with three hundred also rejected students on the doorstep of their fake college and their real learning journey begins.
I still get goosebumps at various points!
There’s Bartleby’s “sorry we’re not a real college, time to go home” turned welcome speech. When Abernathy Darwin Dunlap stands up and says this is the first time his parents said they were proud of him, Bartleby realizes he can’t hand these kids yet another rejection in the long line of them that has infused their lives up to this point.
This leads to the montage of Bartleby’s tour of a nearby well-respected college as he’s trying to figure out what it’s all about to get his college up and running. It doesn’t sit well with him, and after a conversation with his “Dean”, he gathers his friends and shares his insight: “All our lives we’ve been told what to learn. But today the tide is going to turn my friend, because today we’re going to ask the customer.”He proceeds to ask each of them, and then every student, “What do YOU want to learn?” Such an important question! The result is their “curriculum”: a white board filled with ideas that are accepted without judgment. Not just accepted, but embraced.
And then there’s the State Board of Accreditation hearing when Bartleby hits this point in his climatic speech to the review board: “We don’t need your approval to tell us that what we did was real. ‘Cause there are so few truths in this world, that when you see one, you just know it. And I know that it is a truth that real learning took place at South Harmon. Whether you like it or not, it did. ‘Cause you don’t need teachers or classrooms or – or fancy highbrow traditions or money to really learn. You just need people with a desire to better themselves, and we got that by the shit-load at South Harmon.”
Beautiful!! I love any time I hear the message that it’s the learning that’s important. Wherever you find it. 🙂
LIVING JOYFULLY … with unschooling
Let’s talk about tribes, connections, the bigger picture, and building your own unique picture of the world. What makes you, brilliantly you.
These ideas started bubbling up while I was writing my last blog post around the idea of college and other ways our teens might choose to connect with others and learn. But that post was getting quite long and in danger of feeling scattered so I decided the newsletter would be a better place to dig more deeply into this particular aspect.
I was thinking about the implications of our increased ability to connect in near real-time with others around the world. What does this increase in connectivity allow us to do? To find community. Tribes. Plural. I have quite a few diverse interests! And it’s tempting to expect that others see the same connections between those interests as I do. Yet I have come to realize that just because I see overlap and connections between interests, I don’t need to convince others to see those same connections. And I don’t need to find my twin, the person in the world who sharesall of my interests. I can feed my soul from various sources.
That idea piqued my interest so I grabbed a pencil, drew three circles, and quickly filled in some of my passions, how I feed them, and how they overlap. Sure, some day I may find my twin and enjoy incredibly connecting conversations, but I find so much learning and growth and joy in connecting with others through any interest, as well as in communities in which a couple of them overlap. (Then I took a moment to recreate the drawing digitally so you could read my scribbles. 😉 )
These connections are thrilling for us, and rightly so! But we can sometimes get caught up in convincing others to see the same connections between disparate interests that we do—others being other adults, and our children. I enjoy sharing my thoughts and the connections I see, but I also try to remember to do so without the expectation that others will find the same meaning. I like to think that the ideas I share might give you pause; maybe challenge you to take a moment to consider them and what they might mean in the context of your own lives. That’s cool! But the bigger picture of your life is yours to weave together.
Another cool thing is that as I explore the world through other perspectives I’m finding that some basic ideas keep appearing, over and over. I like those. They seem like they may be important in the grand scheme of things. For example, I recently discovered Good Life Project. Here’s how its creator, Jonathan Fields, describes it: “Good Life Project is a set of shared values. A community. A creed, bundled with a voracious commitment to move beyond words and act. First, as a manifestation of your soul. And then as a quest to have the adventure of a lifetime, and to leave the world around you changed.”
In more mundane terms it’s a weekly web show of in-depth interviews with people: men and women building deeply-meaningful businesses, bodies of work, movements and careers. Each show is about 40 minutes “allowing us to dive deeper, with a focus on storytelling, learning and humanity.” I love the insight into how others see and live in the world and I find it an interesting commentary on the conventional definition of “success”. I’ve only watched/listened to a couple so far, but I feel a connection.
I love how in a recent blog post, Questions Are Easy. Listening is Hard., Jonathan describes how deep connection with his interviewee as the most important piece of the puzzle:
“When you listen deeply, the right questions come naturally. Hearts open. Stories tumble. Conversations soar. Magic happens.
Next-level ideas, needs, insights, stories and revelations come out. And, if you’re paying attention, it’s impossible to not want to know more. So you ask questions out of a genuine sense of curiosity. And the conversation goes places that’d never have been visited had you stayed “on-script.”
The few times I’ve felt interviews go off the rails, it’s because I’ve lost focus. I’m no longer there, stuck in “I need to look good so I’m gonna pretend to listen while actually fabricating my next blockbuster question” land.
When you check out, people know. And the possibility of sublime moments and deep connections evaporates.”
This is how we talk with our kids. With hearts open, listening deeply. Without “pretending to listen while actually fabricating how we’re going to convince our child that we’re right.”
I also often talk about the importance to unschooling of both genuine curiosity and strong connections with our children. I love discovering that while I’m often exploring life through the window of unschooling, there are many others, looking through completely unrelated windows, that are discovering the same kinds of foundational ideas about life.
I just listened to a podcast this week, ostensibly about developing online business and productivity, and the conclusion they reached? The key is understanding that everything you do is a choice. My seven word speaker’s intro last week at the We Shine conference? “Remember, every day is full of choices.” Fundamental and universal ideas. And with unschooling, we are living this way with our children. How great is that?
Skipping back a moment to my intersecting interests image above: the relationships I discover between all these interests is my unique view of the world to build. It’s the foundation of my voice. Other writers and philosophers and business people with whom I feel a connection don’t need to be convinced that unschooling is the way to go to validate my choice—they have their own worldview to live. If they happen to become interested in unschooling at some point, cool! I and many others are sharing information and insights online that may help them on that leg of their journey, just like they have helped me on mine by sharing their passions.
Just like you are building the amazing and unique web of experience and knowledge that is YOU. And alongside you, your children are building their unique view of the world. The learning is in the living.
Wishing you and your family a wonderful weekend, of living and learning together.