Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The World Village

I've always intensely disliked the axiom Life isn't fair.
Even at very young, it was something that seemed so glaringly wrong and just completely disregarding of anything reasonable or loving to me. Like an excuse. Like things just randomly happen, without our influence or care, and there is nothing we can do about it.
As an adult, I have to tell you that I still find it a 'truth' very different from my own experience.
This great law is something I am pretty certain you will never hear pronounced from me, nor is it something that I choose to teach my children.

I think some of the problem (worries) that people have with unschooling is that children will be left ill-prepared to survive in 'the real world'.
It isn't even a valid point, but it's something that those not practicing its ways often throw out there to proclaim unschooling a disservice to children.

I started thinking about this about two weeks ago when Maddie started playing JumpStart World 1st Grade on her computer.
"Mom... can you help me with these games?"
"Of course!" I said, settling into the chair next to hers.
Two minutes later I was smiling and remembering doing the exact same things a few years before...
Aside from the nostalgia and sweetness of watching another baby learn the same way as one before her, sitting there brought up several other poignant things, as well.
Thoughts on rewards. Personal preference. Learning and exploring things that were entirely separate from, and indeed, had nothing to do with me.

I've mentioned before that Trev learning games and processes on the computer is sooo different from things that Eric and I like.
He gets completely undone sometimes with new games, and will shout and cry and totally erupt.
My own thoughts on this are "Why in the world would anyone do that to themselves?" and the obvious solution to me is to just walk away from it. (I'm a Peace lover, after all.)
But I've realized that though my little boy might shout "Foul!" and cry and rage... somehow, he loves this challenge. He loves the feeling of Conquering that comes later. He shows fortitude, and perseverance, and that is not a character trait I shall reason out of him by tempting him over to the "just give up" side - where it's quiet. (Even though my sanity is sorely tested during those times.)

So I sat with Maddie, and watched her get gems for passing off her learning games. Numbers, reading, logic, patterns... "Ding ding ding... Did you see that? You've earned some gems!" says Frankie.
Our various games don't have a lot of blatant "good boy!"'s, but like most games, you uncover worlds and earn points as you progress. You have to do certain things in order to move on, and up.

Some might suppose that my children would object to these games. I mean-- that's not the way it works in our life. We don't use rewards and punishments to navigate, in our family. We don't put conditions upon behavior and actions... there are rarely absolute "Must Do"'s in our home.

Most of the time people suppose that if we don't place conditions (psuedo-natural consequences) upon such things, our children won't learn how to go about living and creating a happy life. If we don't teach them how the world "really works", when faced with it, they'll kick and scream, and be totally unprepared for... well, everything.

But my children love these games.
They're totally cool with it. It's just a part of the game. It's just the way the game works. Playing the game is fun. They play it, because that's the way this one is set up, and they enjoy it, even though. If they didn't like it, they would choose something different.
They don't expect everything in the world to operate the same way.

When Trev was really little and I was just learning about (radical) unschooling, I would get upset with my mother for her arbitrary "because I said so" ways. This wasn't (and isn't) something my children accept, because I have never asked them to. There are times, every so often, that I'm so tired and drained and just say Mother of God, "No." But my children have been raised well enough that they know how to call someone on something - especially if it's important to them. "Why not?" they'll ask... forcing me to actually think about something instead of just reacting from being way too far inside my own head.
And I prefer it this way. Indeed - it's fundamental that my children feel in charge of their lives, and feel worthy enough that they can stand up to anyone (mostly me) and say "Excuse me? I don't think so." :)

But alongside my children learning that their voice is one that will always be heard in our home, they also live in a village. They have relationships with grandmothers. And cousins. And neighbors.
The world itself is full of relationships for them.... zookeepers, people walking their dog past our home, store workers, waiters, librarians... sometimes disapproving, sometimes friendly, sometimes superior, sometimes rude or intrusive...
These people are a part of our existence. I don't get to hold up a sign, and say "This child is homeschooled and has never had to raise his hand to speak or feel that adults are more important than he is... he believes that he has every bit as much a right to share what he knows and believes of the world as you do."
I always have my hands full anyway, I don't want to carry around signs.
So my children speak for themselves. And their conversations and relationships with Others are really none of my business.

I guess people fear that if you live with children this way, they'll be be beastly. (Hmmm, more beastly than adults, I mean.)
They'll insist upon always having their way... they'll harass until they get what they want... they'll totally disregard others possessions and property (and others rights to them)... they'll tell people off for disagreeing with them... and it's true that once in a while, they do do some of these things (and I hate to point out the obvious, but again... just as adults do)...
But not always. And not even usually.

Because they're growing up in a fair and large and colorful world. My children know that their rights are important... just as others are. Their voice is valid; and so is their brother's. Their needs matter, and so do their mother's. Time, opinions, desires, preferences, needs, aptitude, boundaries... we all have all of these things, and they're equally important.
Sometimes they might feel so passionate about something that theirs is most important... but that's a part of it, too, isn't it? Sometimes we have to gauge our desires or needs against someone else's, and decide what's best to be done.
And along with that knowledge and experience comes a gradual empathy and understanding of the souls of the village.

I love these babes.
I'm crazy about them, actually.
I can plainly see in our everyday life that there is plenty of opposition for them.
There are plenty of genuinely natural consequences for actions and choices--and they're evident. (And when that evidence is being ignored, I don't mind pointing out something and saying "Did you see what happened there?" or "You might wanna rethink that...")

The world shows itself and its ways to these little souls a thousand times a day... I do not need to purposely raise them believing in (and belonging to) a hostile and nonsupportive world.

My children live in a village. A world village, thanks to this modern age.
I respect my children's choices in how they go about exploring and discovering that world. And as noted, much of it has nothing to do with me.
They have their own preferences, they have their own relationships, and they have their own ways of navigating and negotiating through this life.
The world and experience will teach my children what it will.

And happily and joyfully... I get the good stuff. The big, juicy, sparkly, limitless, loving stuff.
Because I can... because I want to... because it's what I choose to do... I show them the magic.

If not me, then who?


  1. Oh, how I love these words, Stephanie. I want to take each one and say, Look at that! Look at how it shines and resonates inside me. Look at how I'm nodding, and smiling! :)

    My kids, too, are growing up in a world where they know they will be heard. They also know things are broken and unjust in places outside "us" — they are attuned to injustice, and empathetic and alert. They want to save the animals, find world peace, nurture the earth back to health. They feel so deeply.

    I so, so care for this way of Being, the way you have described. I began to write I love this, and I love that, but I would rewrite your whole post! So just know that it flew home to me, lodged inside, where all of me said, "YES."

  2. So true.

    We've been home edders for two and a half years, and each month I see us shifting ever closer to radical unschooling.

    I used to try school at home, and it was an epic fail.

    I threw the maths curriculum in the bin, stopped trying to sit all four restless little bottoms down at the same time and let loose with the art materials.

    Today I found myself in the garage with the Big Two, discussing comparison words. It was a good English lesson, but it was natural and fun.

    I hope one day I can relax enough to live it fully, and stop the waking up in a cold sweat, panicking that I am ruining their adult lives....it's happening less and less, which is a good start.

  3. I have to say I love your day to day updates, but I also love your deeper, more intense posts as well. I am working towards being more in touch with and aware of Emma. I am pretty good, but I know I have a long way to go. It is so foreign from my up bringing that I struggle with it, but I am fortunate to have people like to to help me become a better mom and person.


  4. I whole heartedly concur! Your words said what my heart has been pondering for weeks/months (a few years even?)! Thank you, Stephanie, for being a beacon of light and a fountain of wisdom! Your reflective posts always seem to come at the exact "right" time. :)

  5. Love this post! I am so happy to be raising a child who questions things. The 'adult' world isn't always prepared for our kids, they aren't used to kids questioning them on certain levels, but that is just her norm. I too have 'Oh MY GOD NO" days, but try to make them very far between.

    Great post!

  6. Helena - it's so baffling that people think that the more lovingly and kindly you treat children, the worse they'll turn out. :/

    Kelly - the terror does go away. :) I think it helps when you pay attention to their seeking, if you speak honestly with them, and if you do something about it if/when you have fears. (talk to them, figure out what's bothering you, find out if it's 'true' or not, and do something that makes you feel better if it is--stir things up or bring home something new and cool or go somewhere really neat.)
    I've found if I'm paying attention (to me and to them), it's pretty easy to keep the fears away.

    Tina - it's foreign to most of us, I think. We're told that children are mold-able little things just waiting to be created into something - and if we don't do it strictly, they'll naturally turn into demons. :/
    Which just isn't true.
    But the more and longer I choose openness and love, the sweeter it gets.

    Thank you, Shel.

    Karen - yup. I often liken it to how women were treated a hundred plus-a-few years ago. :/


Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!