LIVING JOYFULLY NEWSLETTER
Issue #8 | Feb 16, 2013
FEBRUARY’S THEME: Deschooling
This topic is near and dear to my heart. Discovering and transitioning to unschooling was incredibly fun and challenging and scary and fun. Focus on the fun. That’s where everyone’s best learning is: theirs and yours.
ON THE BLOG … this month
Here’s what I’ve talked about on the blog so far this month:
Deschooling is a general term used to describe the transition to unschooling, expanding our definition of learning beyond the classroom paradigm. Conventional wisdom tell us that learning looks like teachers and listening and writing and tests. Even years after we’ve graduated, chances are our vision of learning is still locked within those four walls. But what might we see if we remove our school-goggles?
You’re feeling an incredible swirl of both excitement and trepidation: you’ve decided to try unschooling! You understand that you, and anyone else in your family who has been in school, will be deschooling for a while. But without school, what will you actually do all day??
LET’S TALK ABOUT … Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
As you begin to remove your school filters, you’ll see so many things around you with new eyes. Take this sassy and iconic masterpiece of a movie. Released in 1986, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was written and directed by John Hughes and starred Matthew Broderick as the charming Ferris Bueller. In a nutshell, Ferris is a smart and street-wise high school kid who decides to take the day off to smell the roses. Hilarity ensues.
If you’ve seen it before, try watching it again. Deschooling is a time for asking yourself tons of questions with an eye to discovering what you really think about life and learning.
Ferris: Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
And today’s conventional lifestyle probably moves even faster: pressure at work for increased productivity; pressure at school to power through the curriculum with good grades; pressure to participate in more and more extra-curricular activities; pressure to “keep up with the Joneses”. Bigger and better and faster.
That is not to say that these are bad things to pursue in and of themselves if you choose them, but for sanity’s sake, it’s the motivation that counts. Is it your goal? And some other questions that might pop up:
- What might your family do with the free time versus highly scheduled evenings and weekends?
- Are the kids enjoying the activities? Do you want them to participate more than they want to participate? Why?
- Do you regularly have time to relax and chat with your kids? Hang out doing things with them they enjoy?
- Is there free time for them to dive more deeply into the things they find fascinating? To notice the world around them? To talk with you about what they see?
- How do you define “success”?
Cameron: Ferris, my father loves this car more than life itself.
Ferris: A man with priorities so far out of whack doesn’t deserve such a fine automobile.
[Ferris caresses the car in admiration]
Cameron: No. No! Apparently, you don’t understand!
Ferris: [ignoring Cameron] Wow.
Cameron: Ferris, he never drives it! He just rubs it with a diaper!
The tug-of-war between possessions and relationships. What do we value? Why? What satisfaction do we derive? Are we looking long-term or short-term?
Later in the movie Cameron’s frustration with his relationship with his father bubbles over and, kicking his father’s car repeatedly, he asks, “Who do you love? Who do you love? You love a car!”
- No judgment on the passionate collection and restoration of classic cars, but again, what is the collector’s motivation? Understanding our motivations is key.
- How might our passions and hobbies live alongside our role as parent?
- Are we pursuing them as a means to enhance our life? Or to escape from it?
- Are our children involved as much as they are interested? Are there ways they could be more involved?
- Do they feel an “us or them” dichotomy with our interests? Do they feel like our interests interfere with their lives?
- Is that the impression we want to give them?
Ferris: I do have a test today, that wasn’t bullshit. It’s on European socialism. I mean, really, what’s the point? I’m not European. I don’t plan on being European. So who gives a crap if they’re socialists? They could be fascist anarchists, it still doesn’t change the fact that I don’t own a car.
- What things catch your attention? Stuff that’s important or interesting to you?
- If it’s not important or interesting, really, what is the point?
- If your mind is elsewhere, do you retain any information shared by someone else for any significant length of time?
- If you don’t remember it for long, was it really learned?
- How might we help our child own a car if that’s what they are interested in?
- (Ha! I snuck that one in. Might be a good question for some day though.)
That’s not to say that there’s any piece of knowledge in the world that should be lost or forgotten. I’m sure understanding European socialism, or knowing the location of deciduous forests in North America (after I wrote that I googled to double-check it—took ten seconds), or being able to recite the first ten digits of pi, is interesting to many people. And some day European socialism may be interesting or important to Ferris (you know, if he was a real boy). And on that day, I would imagine he’d gather information about it through his favourite sources, maybe books, websites, documentaries, chatting with others who know the information he seeks either online or in person. And it would begin to make sense to him. And he’d be much more likely to remember it because there was a point. That information had meaning for him in that moment. It made a connection. He learned it.
I just picked a few lines from the movie that might spark questions for you. I imagine if you watch the movie with your fresh deschooling eyes, you’ll find many more!
LIVING JOYFULLY … with unschooling
It’s been years since I considered myself deschooling, but thinking (and for me, writing) about it is always helpful. It reminds me to take a moment to contemplate whether I am doing my best to support my kids (and my spouse). Am I available when they want to connect? Am I bringing interesting things into their lives? Two of my kids are no longer officially “school age”, but sharing interesting things we come across has become a fun way to connect, no matter our ages.
Last weekend I took Mikey (15) to a second private lesson, an hour and half away, to expand on his acrobatics and stunt fighting skills. And a couple days ago we signed him up for his first out-of-town provincial karate tournament, and we’ll be staying the night at a local hotel with friends from the dojo. That’s next weekend and should be quite the experience! He’s said he wants to try out other tournaments this year, so this is our first step in that direction.
A couple days ago I shared a link to Chuck Palahniuk’s upcoming books with Lissy (18) through facebook. He’s been one of her favourite authors for years. And Thursday night she sent me a few pics on my phone taken while she was out at a Valentine’s event (in New York), from the food spread, to the interesting flowers in the bathroom ceiling (!), to a shot of the “fun and scary” performance piece she was watching. We chatted back and forth alongside the pics.
Another day this week Joseph (20) and I went into town to get his hair cut, and renew his Health Card. When we were done he had a spur of the moment idea to visit the gaming store to hang for a bit and browse, something he hadn’t done in quite a while. He ended up finding and buying a couple of games. And that night he lay on my bed as I tidied up some clothes in my room and we chatted and shared some thoughts about life and goals and moving through change. We moved into the family room to watch a couple TV shows together, spending some time side-by-side.
My husband is out of the country this week on a business trip, but we touched base a couple times a day through texts, and a couple times by phone.
So yes, I’m feeling quite well-connected to my family, even when we’re physically spread across three locations. It’s helpful to touch base with yourself regularly to see how things are going, no matter how many years you’ve been unschooling: relationships and connections last far beyond those school years!
And the production of Free to Live: Create a Thriving Unschooling Home is going very well. I have the raw ebook file ready to go, I have chosen another of Lissy’s images for the cover that embodies joy and freedom and childhood, and it plays with the idea of an unschooling home. I shall keep at it. 🙂
Wishing you and your family a fun and connected weekend!