LIVING JOYFULLY NEWSLETTER
Issue #28 | January 19, 2014
JANUARY’S THEME: Exploring Beyond the Family
Hi again! I hope things are well and that you and your family been enjoying January so far.
I love the feeling of rebirth that comes with a new year. Just knowing the daylight hours are slowly increasing (even though I can’t yet see any evidence!) makes me smile. I’m feeling refreshed after a couple of weeks off and excited to get back to our familiar routines. This year I’m enjoying playing around with my own routine and habits, changing some things up and seeing how they feel. When the goal is discovering how the changes work out—not the change itself—I never feel like I’ve “failed”, even if I choose to return to the familiar. And I definitely learn more about myself in the process.
I was brainstorming topics for the blog at the beginning of January (you’re always welcome to send me your ideas—just hit reply!) and I wasn’t surprised that this month’s topic of exploring beyond the family quickly bubbled to the surface. We’ve been coming out of our holiday cocoon and happily getting back to our scheduled activities, and I was reminiscing about how we came to Michael’s karate dojo. Which reminded me of the other activities my kids have enjoyed on and off over the years and how we made them work. Which reminded me of the things unschooling parents often to differently when it comes to supporting our children as they engage with conventional society.
I hope you find this month’s posts helpful as you continue to explore ways for your unschooling family to live joyfully in the world. 🙂
ON THE BLOG … so far this month
Is your child interested in taking a class or joining an organized activity? Swimming lessons? Ballet? Hockey? Let’s talk about some of the things you can do to support their interest: considerations for choosing where to go, ways to help them get out the door, and why quitting might be the way to go.
LET’S TALK ABOUT … Life and Music by Alan Watts
My eldest son Joseph sent me a link last week to a video—we exchange links to videos, websites etc when we come across something that interests us and we think the other would enjoy. This time he sent me a link to an animation by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of South Park, bringing to life a recording of Alan Watts (1915-1973), a British-born philosopher, writer, speaker, and comparative religion expert.
I had come across it a few years ago, but it was lovely to see it again. It’s only about two and a half minutes long if you’d like to watch it yourself: Life and Music
I thought I’d pull out a handful of interesting bits:
“In music, one doesn’t make the end of the composition the point of the composition. If that were so the best conductors would be those who played fastest. And there would be composers who wrote only finales. People go to concerts just to hear one crashing chord, because that’s the end! But we don’t see that as something brought by our education into our everyday conduct. We’ve got a system of schooling that gives a completely different impression.”
And since he spoke those words, that focus, if anything, has gotten stronger. The school system is all about the end goal: graduate. Every day is about the next thing—the next chapter in the textbook, the next test, the next exam, the next semester, the next grade, the next school. No matter what they’re taught, students learn that this is what life is like, the constant chase for something.
They’ve learned this so thoroughly that by the time graduation comes, they’ve gotten caught up in the job search, in finding what they will chase next. And the cycle continues.
“And when you’re through with graduate school you go out and join the world. And then you get into some racket where you’re selling insurance and they’ve got that quota to make and you’re going to make that, and all the time the thing is coming! It’s coming! It’s coming! That great thing, the success you’re working for. And then when you wake up one day about 40 years old you say, “My God, I’ve arrived. I’m there!” And you don’t feel very different from what you always felt. And there’s a slight letdown because you feel there’s a hoax. And there was a hoax. A dreadful hoax. They made you miss everything.”
Do you remember when the moment when you began to realize that there might be other, perfectly wonderful things to be found in life if you stepped off the conventional conveyor belt?
“We thought of life by analogy with a journey, with a pilgrimage, which had a serious purpose at the end,and the things was to get to that end. Success or whatever it is, maybe heaven after you’re dead. But we missed the point the whole way along. It was a musical thing and you were supposed to sing or to dance while the music was being played.”
I love how this ties in to the topic this month. Life is about the journey, not the destination. Our children’s exploration of the world is part of their journey and as unschoolers we realize that the joy is in the exploration—not in reaching “the end.” As parents we are enthusiastically helping our children explore both the world and themselves to find their own joys and interests and passions.
Unschooling is about living and learning in the world, dancing and singing along the way. It’s life. 🙂
LIVING JOYFULLY … with unschooling
I had a very lively discussion last night with Joseph. We started talking about online fan reactions and how vitriolic they could be, with demeaning comments and outright threats. We talked about how that kind of reaction actually seems rather common across the board when an issue arises (and how some enjoy inciting divisive conversations). It seems we’ve both encountered times when, even though we have an opinion on an issue, those with similar opinions are behaving so badly we have no wish to be associated with them.
We wondered, is this how we as a society want to communicate? Do we think threats help others understand our point-of-view? If our goal is to have others consider what we’re saying and maybe learn something from the exchange, is putting them immediately on the defensive a good strategy? Is that a good learning mindset? The compulsory school system has risen over the last hundred years—might there be a connection between that and how we’ve come to communicate with others? Or have we always generally communicated in this fashion, and our increasingly connected world is just now making that more obvious?
We talked about how new the internet is, how this ability to connect and communicate in real time with people around the world is in its infancy—I may have tossed out the phrase “wild west.” 😉
At one point I wondered if, after this initial flurry, people would get tired of being so worked up all the time and begin to converse more thoughtfully, less reactionary. What will the internet landscape look like as it matures? We talked a bit about the net neutrality issue here too.
There aren’t definitive answers to these questions, no “right and wrong,” but the conversation is fascinating. It’s such an interesting time to be living!
Wishing you fun and interesting activities and conversations with your family this week. 🙂