Measuring Intent

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We’re just now feeling our regular, joyful familial groove return from our time spent gorging on connection, freedom of mind and space, and the annual quintessential family reunion we call The Rethinking Everything Conference.  There are a great many ideas, situations, and conversations on which to reflect and I will continue to analyze and integrate for a great (great!) while.

‘Intent’ has come up several times in the last week in several different ways.  During the very first regular session of the conference, Barb Lundgren, Dayna Martin, myself, and Mark Hegener conducted a panel discussion entitled, “Immerse Me in Unschooling.”  It was a rousing couple of hours with lots of inquiries, debate, and revelation.  During a discussion about a mother feeling overburdened by her child not bringing his dishes to the kitchen after eating, Dayna brought up ‘intent.’  Do we assume positive or negative intent when a child does not live up to an expectation that we hold for whatever reason? 

When holding a freedom-based conference for hundreds of families in a fancy, mainstream hotel, obvious issues arise.  Hotel staff, unaccustomed to the din of children at play, stiffen, raise eyebrows, and increase the security presence.  Some found themselves more relaxed and joyfully aware by the end of the weekend.  I imagine the others just took more ibuprofen for their aching heads and feet and were grateful that their children went to school.  The difference in these two camps is their assumption of intent.  Do they assume children are inherently good and the play is honest and joyful?  Or do they assume that children are destructive, malicious, or simply unaware?

At a recent park day, one of the toddlers in our group decided she would be most comfortable playing naked in the sandbox.  At almost 100 degrees, the rest of us were thinking she had the right idea.  One of the mothers at the park, however, did not.  Ten minutes after she inquired as to whom this child belonged and asked if we were aware that she was not wearing clothing, a police officer arrived indicating that the little girl was indecently exposed and (adding his personal bias) ‘nobody else needs to see that.’  Interestingly enough, Texas penal code section 21.08 defines ‘indecent exposure’ as :  A person commits an offense if he exposes his anus or any part of his genitals with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person.  Gosh, I wish I’d had my pocket copy of the penal code with me at the park.

The short of it is that we can argue intent all day.  There is only one person in any situation that is actually justified in dictating the intent and that’s the subject.  We could then make judgments as to whether their stated intent is their actual intent.  But one thing is certain: perception is not intent.  Perception is based on personal bias and our own subjective history. 

Now, I haven’t liked the word ‘assume’ since my 8th grade teacher broke it out on the blackboard.  You may have heard this one: “When you assume, you make an ass– out of –u– and –me.  And, after reading The Four Agreements, I feel incredibly free never assuming anything again because generally an assumption is something we take as a personal affront without any basis in truth.

But that is when we assume negative intent.  There can never be harm when we assume the best for and about people.  We maintain our personal integrity and it completely changes how we interact with others such that the energy is always going in a positive direction. 

So what I’m about to say is a challenge but it will change your life.  Assume positive intent and act accordingly.

HB #29- The Traveling Family

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In anticipation of our upcoming sessions, Barb Lundgren of The Rethinking Everything Conference interviews Sarah and Chris Parent about living a mobile life!

 

Since our family took to the road in July of 2010, there has been an overwhelming response from old and new friends alike.  In this interview, we share some brief answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.  We can only do so much in a 1/2 hour!  Come get the nitty gritty, down and dirty info, tips, and tricks when we share our sometimes scary, sometimes funny, always interesting experiences at Rethinking Everything 2011!

Click here to stream this interview or download FREE on itunes!

RE conference banner 2011
Humans Being

Go Ahead- Change your mind

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We all want what’s best for our children, don’t we?  The answer is ‘yes‘.  Even parents whose short-term motives and tactics I question have the same long-term goal – healthy, well-adjusted, caring, ‘successful’ adults (we can debate the qualities of this last one some other time). 

When we were transitioning our suburban life to one on the road as an RV traveling family, I received two specific messages from acquaintances who expressed their concern for our children’s well-being and long-term happiness.  At first I took them as the routine concerns of observers that have cropped up whenever we’ve made a choice that is not along the lines of what ‘regular mainstream’ families do – of which there have been many.  Further discussion revealed that these people had, themselves, lived a traveling life during periods of their own childhood.  This got me to thinking.  I could not reconcile how a decision that we had made enthusiastically as a family would result in our adult children looking back with anger or regret.  I needed to process.

What makes someone wish in retrospect that they’d had a different experience? 

One thing:  Choice.

When we feel empowered in our own experiences and that we have control over the decisionmaking process, there can be no regret.  The outcome may not be what we had anticipated but, in the long run, we’ll not lay blame on others for what we’ve experienced or what has become of us.

The key? We can always make another choice.

This applies to everything.  If a child chooses a food and doesn’t like it, do we scold him and force him to eat it anyway?  This takes out the empowerment of the choice.  Next time there is no choice- opt for something he knows he’ll like.  And then we wonder why our children aren’t more adventurous in their food intake?

If a child decides to take ski lessons and opts out after a few sessions because it’s just not her cup of tea?  Do we shuttle a miserable child to and fro until the end of the season because it’s been paid for and committed to?  Again, a child who is not allowed to change their mind is disempowered from the beginning.  Learning at every bend, they fear then that their next ‘choice’ may result in extended misery and/or disappointment from their parents and opt out of trying a new activity.

Think on this: if a friend asked you to come and try Tai Chi but you knew you’d have to go to every single session for six weeks whether or not you ended up hating it, would you try at all?

 Choice.

Children are always learning.  Some are adventurous in their choices and are trying new things all the time.  Others exercise just as many choice muscles but in a more reserved way (saying ‘no’ is a choice).  How many foods your child eats or activities and experiences your child participates in is not indicative of their level of comfort and independence in making the choice.  It’s our unwavered support of their decisionmaking that results in confident, fulfilled children and adults. 

When a group decision needs to be made, children are capable of seeing the broader perspective with the help of supportive adults who can share objective wisdom gleaned from more life experience.  Children are naturally caring and do not wish for their choices to negatively impact others.  (Impulsivity for younger children is just that- there is no intention to harm or offend those around them.)  Even infants can communicate their needs and desires effectively when their parents are tuned in. 

Choice doesn’t mean always getting what we want.  Compromising is a choice when it’s done rationally and independently.  Children do this all the time during play.  Yes, sometimes assistance is helpful.  And that’s our job!  Not to judge but to facilitate when we’re needed.

So ARE we screwing up our kids by traveling?  As long as it continues to be the choice of everyone involved, no.  They will always feel that their input matters and that they have control over how and where their personal journey takes them.  We CHOOSE to be together.  We CHOOSE to travel and see the world.  We CHOOSE to listen to, accept, and communicate with each other whenever situations are difficult and reevaluate as needed.

Love it…. till you don’t.  Then choose something else.

Spare the rod. Save the child.

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Yesterday I re-posted a link on my Facebook page to The Center for Effective Discipline’s Spank Out Day.  Honestly, I almost didn’t re-post it because I thought it rather unnecessary to tell people not to spank for two reasons.  1) Most people don’t spank anymore anyway.  2) People that do spank know there are better options but are sometimes too angry to control themselves.  I thought it would be silly to even bring it up.  We’re all working on doing better everyday, right?  Wrong.

I’m glad I did.  Because I was wrong on both counts.  Apparently spanking is still considered an appropriate means of dealing with what parents deem as behavioral issues with children.
no-spanking

I’m feeling pretty judgmental on this issue today and, after careful consideration, feel absolutely certain that there is no grey area here.  I’ve trotted around it in my head trying to think of a kinder, gentler way to help people to understand why it’s unnecessary and positively damaging to spank children.  There isn’t one.  Because people who spank feel absolutely entitled, if not obligated, to do so in order to raise obedient little soldiers.  So I’m going to say it really loud- STOP HITTING YOUR KIDS!

We could go on about peoples considered as lesser throughout our history being subjugated to the will of the dominant sector- yes, as recently as women who were punished routinely by their husbands (completely within their rights) for any manner of ‘wrong’ doing.  But parents who spank don’t hear this because of their determination to raise an obedient child.  Children do not have the same rights as other groups in the eyes of these parents and, indeed, in the eyes of the law.

We could talk about issues of perpetual violence and detrimental associations between love and violent behaviors.  But parents who spank will say that this was how they were raised and they love their parents and turned out well.

We can talk about linguistics and the fact that spanking is a soft word that parents use to alleviate the guilt associated with the words ‘hitting’, ‘abuse’, ‘violence’, ‘control’ which are all more appropriate words to describe the actual act being committed.  But parents who spank will say that the motivation behind spanking is different.  They are not hitting their child out of anger, they are hitting them out of love.  (Now say that last part again in your head.  Do you hope to be loved that way?)

We can even cite literature that shows that physical punishment is completely ineffective in creating the behavioral change the parent seeks.  What it incites is fear and any manner of deceit in order not to get caught again.  Spankers say it works because they see less of the behavior.  Might we be hopeful that this is because the child has sought out a more supportive environment and is spending less time with the abusive parent?  We can hope but given that children of ‘spanking age’ are usually in their very physically dependent early years, I doubt it.  But it’s not because the desired lesson was learned.  What is internalized by the child in these encounters is to live in fear because those who love them also inflict physical, psychological, and emotional harm on them.

Hitting is only one of many (a few more: time out, isolation, humiliation, withdrawal of affection, taking away personal items/’priveledges’) overt and damaging methods of controlling a child.  Simply replacing hitting with another method of control is not the solution.

The hard part here is NOT learning a new skill to use in these situations but changing the way in which we view them and our children.  It is changing the way we view the traditional hierarchical family dynamic to one of trust, appreciation, support, and true love (not this wacky, power struggle, abusive cycle kind).  And guess what?  You will never need discipline or punishment because what you have created is a respectful home community in which your wisdom, care, and love are appreciated because they are communicated in ways that are clear to the child’s heart and mind. This article- Why we don’t punish our son. Ever. – nailed it in my opinion. Thank you, Jillian Lauren, for rocking me to sleep last night with the pull I needed back to MY reality- the one in which my children communicate openly with their parents and each other and difficult situations are met with compassion and problem-solving not violence, guilt, and shame.

Having support in parenting is monumental and generally people parent the way their parents did so the support for change is definitely not coming from there.  When we know better, we do better.  Here’s some great literature for reconsidering and healing the parent-child relationship:

Connection Parenting by Pam Leo
connection parenting
Parenting for Social Change by Teresa Graham Brett
parenting for social change

Inspired Words

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Coloring Outside the Lines

Some invest heavily
In wrong and right
As if the world
Were black and white
 
Suppose you took
The color away
There’d still be
Countless shades of gray
 
Countless opinions
And points of view
Countless thoughts
On which to chew
 
Should you find something
That works for you
You may want to assume
It will work for me too
 
But I am unique
In my view of the world
How my thoughts and beliefs
Have swirled and twirled
 
In what I’ve experienced
What I like and detest
In what brings me joy
Or brings out my best
 
If I am to find
My place on this Earth
If I’m to find meaning
Feel value and worth
 
I require the freedom
To play and explore
To learn from mistakes
To make even more
 
To try on ideas
To try out new things
To find my own truth
To give my heart wings
 
To be sacred me
In a rainbow of colors
Not a two-tone clone
Spoon fed by others
 
No matter how good
Their intentions may be
No one else can see
What’s right for me
 
I am more capable
Than you can know
Your fears and limits
Won’t help me grow
 
Coloring outside the lines
Is essential
Like you, I am born
Of pure potential.

 Dan Coppersmith

© 2010 Dan Coppersmith

Reprinted with permission.

All Rights Reserved.

See more of Dan’s uplifting poetry at: www.SpiritWire.com

 

HB #28- Guest Podcast:: Freedom & Responsibility with Barb Lundgren and Quinn Eaker

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Quinn is Barb’s oldest child and a grown unschooler.  Having been unschooled in the deepest sense of the word, his sense of self is strong and his awareness is broad.  Discussions with Quinn are immediately intimate.  There is no small talk, no waste of a moment.  He truly lives the intention of being present in the moment rather than simply spending time.  I encourage you to listen to this podcast.  It is truly revealing as are most discussions with Quinn.

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Topic:  Responsibility is the New Compassion
click to the right of this box to listen to the mp3 recording now!

Many people believe compassion is high level action, a sacred/good/right/high feeling and/or thought about another. This, like with all else, is ok, but the reality remains that the energetics of what it is based on is dysfunctional.

Compassion is based on the idea that there are people who NEED help, that there is nothing you can do for them besides feel sorry for them, pray for them, decide for them, take care of life details for them or donate goods to their cause.  All of this is just a handicap for ongoing dysfunction and thus makes the individual who expresses compassion part of the dysfunction.

This conference call is designed with focus on the parent/child relationship to bring forth some realities of freedom and responsibility.  As an example, let’s say one has a child..and this child is upset, angry, shy, frustrated, sad or some other aspect of bad energetic.  Instead of adopting the feeling of “I will pray for my child to find his way or I will buy her something to ease the pain,” a parent could choose instead to talk to the child about how he is feeling, sharing that it is ok to feel however one may feel but there ARE options.there are alternatives.there are infinite possibilities.  Or, possibly an even higher action would be to know that pain is a part of life, as is confusion, uncertainty, doubt, and all may all be a part of evolution.  This is OK.  IT IS NOT a bad thing and actually very important in the self-existing and growth process.  It is  important that an individual be able to deal with one’s own thoughts feelings and life.  It is important that one is able to know that she has the ability to influence her own experience and that she is capable of dealing with whatever experience life brings forth.  Until an individual is capable of dealing with one’s own thoughts, feelings, actions and overall life one will continue to be subject to the system of government/school/corporation/control/manipulation/dogma that is established for them.

There are many people who are aware that they dont really like what is going on but have no idea what to do to shift or engage beneficial new realities to unfold.  There are so many people that do not think for themselves but look to others for guidance.  This is a guaranteed path to suffering.

There is no benefit in taking care of everything for a child, with regard to thinking, choosing, and deciding for a child.  One may think this is compassionate and that compassion is holy but, in fact, it is a handicap that does not serve the parent nor the child.

Children are born of pure potential.  It is, in fact, this world that they are born into and their parents that birth them that is replete with fear, limitation, doubt, lack, control, manipulation, war, abuse, compromise, suffering etc., etc.  Why is it that these children need adult guidance?  Why is it that they need adult TEACHINGS?  Why is it that they need adult COMPASSION????

They do not, of course, and though the title of this is cool and powerful it still boils down to the fact that children are born capable and connected and by living in this world and the influence of the world around them that they lose connection to that.

The alternative to all this is Responsibility.  Children will NOT be responsible until they actually HAVE  responsibility.  Most children are not only irresponsible but wild, destructive and rebellious because they have not experienced real responsibility.  When a child is authentically able to choose for himself, when he sleeps, how he keeps his room, how he treats others, what he does with his time/thoughts/feelings, this child becomes very involved in the process we call LIFE.  A child becomes fully engaged and efficient with her choices and chooses highly beneficial realities for herself.  It is only when a child does not have responsibility that she is irresponsible and seemingly wastes her time.

A child is born with an inner guidance system that is highly sensitive and in tune with what is important.  Every time a child is forced, controlled, manipulated, advised or taught something not actively sought, he is further and further from this natural state of being.

Give your child full responsibility for her life, her choices and follow where that energy goes.  Provide unconditional support and love.  When a child needs/wants something you have to offer you can be sure that child will come to you with a clear and honest request.

Mistakes may be part of life and a free, responsible child may make them as well.  What a free, responsible child will not do that children without responsibility WILL do is repeat mistakes, for when one is living for oneself and responsible for all that one does it is silly to repeat mistakes.  When a child has no responsibility then the mistakes are not for them but for others.  If a child has no responsibility she will not care if she breaks something.  Actually, a child might want to break or ruin things to rebel against control.  A child who is responsible will know that unless there is some very important reason it is not beneficial to break things.

Click here to stream this podcast or download FREE on itunes!

HB #27- Guest Podcast:: Freedom & Responsibility with Barb Lundgren and Courtney Taylor Clay

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Several have asked me about unschooling teens.  Who better to speak to this than a young adult (now mother!) who, herself, was always (in all ways) unschooled?  I am pleased to have Courtney and her family in my personal experience.  Her presence is quiet and powerful.  She has much to share.

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Courtney is an unschooling mom of a 9 month old son and is herself a product of a lifetime of unschooling, self direction and self responsibility.

Topic:  Raising Teens with Maximum Freedom and Self Responsibility

Who says being a teen has to be difficult?  Who says teens lack motivation and are irresponsible?  It doesn’t have to be this way!  In an environment of respect, love and unconditional support, teens thrive, self direct and experiment with life in exciting and profoundly intelligent ways that foster growth, independence and self ownership.  We’ll talk about how to achieve this empowered and enlightened state with your teens, or soon-to-be teens.

Click here to stream this podcast or download FREE on itunes!

Rethinking Everything Conference 2010 is Upon Us!

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Yes, it’s almost here!  Chris and I are once again thrilled to be a part of this amazing, life changing, growth experience so aptly renamed the Rethinking Everything Conference.  We are prepared to enlighten and be enlightened, connect, grow, challenge, be challenged, inspire, expand, and have TONS of fun!  I can easily and without hesitation say that this conference is as unique and profound as it is dynamically fun.  Our kids have been looking forward to it since… oh… our departure last year!

We are honored to be part of a truly noteworthy line-up of rethinking speakers.  We hope to be able to offer MP3 recordings of our sessions so check back!  Here’s what we’ll be talking about:

Who Needs a Doctor, Anyway? with Sarah Parent
We will all agree that the human body is an amazingly complex system of anatomic and physiologic connections and, while this skims the surface of the actual interconnected brilliance of our being, this is the sole focus of allopathic medicine.  Traditional Western medicine assesses symptoms, identifies the physiologic pathology, and implements chemical or physical manipulation to alter or mute the symptomatic response.  Even illnesses without identifiable physical cause have elaborate diagnoses and medications to alleviate symptoms without ever addressing a root cause beyond physical or chemical alteration in function.  Even identifying psychosomatic manifestations is a thing of the past as consumers demand concrete explanations and quick fixes just as they would at the auto mechanic; and this is as close as medicine had come to linking the emotional and energetic components of the individual to what becomes a physical manifestation of illness. 

Sarah is a Master’s prepared Registered Nurse of 12+ years and has recovered thoroughly from her experiences in the medical profession.  She will share the information she uncovered in her Master’s thesis, Reiki studies, and herbal and homeopathic research to convey the basic health of each of our physical bodies.  Discussion will focus on the emotional and energetic imbalances that contribute to physical manifestations of illness and biologic breakdown.   Get ready for self discovery, self love, discussion, and a change in the way you view wellness.  We all get sick sometimes.  Let’s figure out why.

“Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.” -Isaac Asimov

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My Kids Don’t Do Anything They Don’t Want To Do
with Chris Parent
And why should they?  Independent thought can only be had when one is allowed the freedom to be independent; to succeed and to fail on one’s own terms; to own the experiences and information and move forward.  As a whole-life unschooling dad, my kids have the freedom to make their own decisions in life.  We do not force our kids to eat what we eat, when we eat, or go to bed at a particular time.  They decide what learning opportunities they will pursue and even what constitutes a learning opportunity.  Our family works as a unit with everyone having input to the decisions we make as a family.  When we try to plan out our days (if we try to plan out our days) we take into account what everyone wants to do with their time, not just the adults in the family.  By respecting everyone’s needs and desires, we maintain a peaceful environment at home because no one feels out of control or ‘less than’.  In this session we will explore what it means to support true freedom in our children, how these dynamics work for my family, and how they can work for yours.

“In the end, the secret to learning is so simple: Think only about whatever you love. Follow it, do it, dream about it…and it will hit you: learning was there all the time, happening by itself.” -Grace Llewellyn

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Finding the heart of what Works for You and Your Family  with Sarah Parent
Living consensually – a lifestyle in which all family members are equally valued and respected – is exhilarating, empowering, and… challenging.  Unschooling is based on a foundation of trust that each child knows everything they need at any given time which, in theory, is brilliant and, in practice, can be downright terrifying.   How can we stay the peaceful, trusting course when family, friends, society, and our own inner voice place seeds of doubt or wage all out war on our decisions and practices?  

This session will be devoted to the construction of individual Guiding Principles that will form the unshakable foundation of your vision for your family and children.  Sarah will use meditation, imagery, and supportive discussion to    help each attendee extract their core principles and use them to form vision statements to maintain alignment between goals, dreams and daily interactions.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” –Albert Einstein

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We’ll be kicking back and sharing bliss, too! 

Rock Star Parents with Chris Parent
Calling all adults/parents!  Are you a rock star in hiding?  Dust off your instrument of choice (guitar, drums, or vocal chords) and check out the song list.    We’re forming an adult rock band to open the show and warm up the crowd for the Beatles tribute band at RE.  We’ll be practicing solo over the next few months then rocking and having lots of fun together.  Let’s stretch ourselves on the stage and show off a little joy and talent for the youngsters!

Set list:
Summer of 69 – Bryan Adams
Free Falling – Tom Petty
Take the Money and Run – Steve Miller Band
Brown Eyed Girl – Van Morrison
You Shook Me All Night Long – AC/DC

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Fairy Houses with Sarah Parent
“There are many things in this world that I have never seen but it’s not for me to deny their existence.”  This is what I tell my children when they ask if fairies are real.  And, indeed, fairy dust and notes ‘written’ in sticks have arrived shortly after they have completed fairy houses near our home.  Join in the delight of constructing natural, conscious creations for our fairy friends.  We will read  Fairy Houses  by Tracy Kane and, using the eco-conscious guidelines set forth in this joyful tale, build our very own fairy village in the woods surrounding the AATC. 

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Letterboxing – Letter what?! with Sarah Parent
Letterboxing is a hobby or pastime combining arts/crafting, nature, and treasure hunting.  Letterboxes can be found all over the world.  You may have walked right by one without ever knowing it was there!  To letterbox, one follows a prewritten clue (some are quite simple and others require research) to seek out a small box housing a stamp and logbook.  The stamp you carry as your identity is stamped in their logbook along with your ‘trail name’ and hometown.  You also mark the book you carry with their stamp – giving a lasting memory/proof of the find.  For more information see: www.atlasquest.com.  Most letterboxers who ‘plant’ boxes hand carve their stamps and write a clue that provides information about a topic of their interest, historical information about the location of the letterbox, or some type of coded clue to exercise the brain.  Hand carving stamps is fun and easier than you think with a little practice.  There are many sites that show how like this one:
http://www.atlasquest.com/tutorials/carving/

The AATC is situated on 30 acres of beautifully wooded land on which to hide letterboxes and have a colossal, weekend-long treasure hunt!  People from all over the world will come together to hide boxes, seek boxes, and have lasting memories of this fun, artistic, exciting adventure.

To play:

-Plan to hide a box!  Which will be a little plastic storage box/bag.
    o Place a small logbook (these are usually no bigger than 2”x2”) in the box.  This may be handmade or can be one of
       those handheld spiral notebooks.
    o Place an ink pad in the box so that people can mark your book and theirs!
    o Hand carve or choose a stamp that reflects something important to you or your family (your home state’s bird, a      
       hobby, a sports team, etc.).
    o Name your box and start your clue with information about your theme.  You will finish your clue at the AATC when 
       you choose a location to hide the box.
    o Post copies of your clue on the   Letterboxing Bulletin Board at RE so that others can seek out your box.
-Prepare your trail stamp and logbook
    o Either choose or hand carve the stamp that will serve as ‘your mark’ in others’ logbooks.  Since the logbooks in the
       boxes are small, make sure your stamp is small to fit.
    o Pack a small notebook (a composition notebook or similar will work well) to collect the stamps that you find.
    o Occasionally, letterboxers will forget to place an ink pad in their box so bringing one with you is a good idea.
-Letterboxing etiquette
    o Be sneaky when you’re hiding and seeking boxes.  Hide them out of sight from curious passersby who may disturb
       the box location.  Re-hide them well when you’re finished stamping.
    o Be sure to pick up your box at the end of your stay at RE.  The box can be donated to RE for future use or taken
       home with you and re-planted near you!  If you do this, list your clue on     www.atlasquest.com  so letterboxers will
       seek it out.

See you on the trails!  FYI- if you see another letterboxer on the trail, you may ask to stamp/sign each other’s logbooks with your trail stamps.  There are many more ins/outs and secrecies to letterboxing.  Do a little research and we could have traveling stamps that come back to RE 2011 regaling tales of their adventures in the form of beautiful stamps.

HB#26- Guest Podcast:: Freedom & Responsibility with Barb Lundgren and Teresa Brett

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Another great guest podcast especially for you! 

Barb Lundgren of the Rethinking Everything Conference and Rethinking Everything Magazine and Teresa Brett of Parenting for Social Change dissect the process of consciously moving forward in our parenting by addressing our personal blocks and challenges that hold us captive in struggle.

Topic:  The Spiral of Learning, Growth, Freedom and Responsibility

The idea of learning as a spiral comes from Paulo Freire’s discussion of praxis (action and reflection).  It is the notion that learning is much more like a spiral than a linear progression of knowledge and skill development. For us parents, rather than progressing linearly, we will often revisit the same challenges.   When we consciously develop the ability to reflect on our actions, we hopefully revisit the issue from a perspective that is further up the spiral, requiring thoughtful work on our part.  Let’s talk about the thoughtful process that is required of us as we challenge ourselves to upgrade our actions, our communication with our children and teens and move gradually up the spiral to a place of real confidence and unconditionality.

Click here to stream directly or download FREE on itunes!

HB#25- Guest Podcast:: Freedom & Responsibility with Barb Lundgren and Yours Truly

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How often do we slip into old paradigms of parenting/learning structure without even knowing it? It’s easy to fall back into traditional patterns with our children when situations become uncomfortable or we’re not getting the outcomes that we expect or desire?  In this conference call, Barb and I discuss the rationale for these missteps and how to re-orient ourselves to a paradigm in which we are supporting freedom and responsibility for our children… and ourselves.
 
Topic:  Replacing Manipulative and Coercive Parenting Behavior with Trust and Allowance to Foster Maximum Freedom and Responsibility for Ourselves and Our Children and Teens

Despite our well intentioned motives, we err when we fall back on old school, conditioned ideas of what children need to become responsible beings.  Notions of withholding privileges, time outs, “natural consequences,” forcing a child to complete unfinished projects, setting meal times and bed times, for example, are all old school ways of being with children that result in resentment, angst, disinterest and a general lack of taking responsibility.  Let’s dissect how the development of self responsibility really takes place and some of the myriad loving and respectful ways of communicating with children and teens that fosters this.

Click here to stream directly or download FREE on itunes!

HB #24- Guest Podcast:: Freedom & Responsibility with Barb Lundgren & Scott Noelle

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I have a surprise for you!  In preparation for the Rethinking Everything Conference in September, Barb Lundgren is hosting a series of seven conference calls focusing on many different areas of concern for parents regarding Freedom and Responsibility.  I will be sharing them here with you. 

In this episode: Barb and Scott Noelle discuss how to ready ourselves with an awareness of what freedom and responsibility are and how to support them in ourselves and our children as partners.

 Topic: Are You Ready for Freedom and Responsibility?
As much as we might dream about and want to create rich environments of unconditional love and support for our children’s and teens’ freedom-based learning, the fact is we can’t give what we don’t have!  If we feel enslaved to work, bound by beliefs, stuck in relationships, burdened by chores, or addicted to others’ approval, we have yet to claim for ourselves the kind of freedom and responsibility we want our children to have. This can lead to feelings of resentment towards our children and even lapses into the kind of adversarial parenting behaviors we’ve rejected. In this call, we will address some of the conditioned thoughts and beliefs that are difficult to let go of and offer strategies to unload that baggage once and for all, so you can be confident and free to move ahead and create the life you dream of.

Click here to stream this podcast or download FREE on itunes!

In Support of Nothing

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My kids love to watch PBS.  Fetch with Ruff Ruffman and Cyberchase are two of their favorite shows.  And they learn alot from them.  I must admit, so do I!  For the most part, we find the minimal advertising that PBS presents innocuous.  There’s a newish ad that they are running that burns my kids every time.  It’s a promotion for Chuck E. Cheese.  The catch phrase is something like, “We’re showing kids that doing something is way better than doing nothing.”  The aim of the ad is to show that this pizza/arcade establishment is ‘partnering’ (I’m not sure how other than running this ad) with PBS (a television network) to encourage children to get out and get physical exercise.  I’m not sure how these two can do anything more than lip service in this arena given their primary goals- making money on pizza and arcade games and having viewers for television programming.  This aside, my kids question the insinuation of the message- that children opt to or ever really do “nothing”. 

Activities that constitute “nothing”
Why do the kids find this offensive?  Well, they do not understand how anyone could assume that kids are EVER doing “nothing”.  I’ve given this much thought.  What DOES doing “nothing” mean?  I used to know.  At least I thought I did.  Before I had kids and spent all day every day with them, I thought I knew.  Doing “nothing” meant spending time being “idle” or not participating in an activity that seemed “appropriate” at the time.  It meant that the objective observer could not measure a product from the time spent.  Sitting around?  Watching television on a sunny day?  Playing video games?  Listening to music?  Talking on the phone? 

Standards of measurement

This is an old story for unschoolers but in a new context.  It’s a tremendous process of growth to recognize that learning is happening without putting the burden of proof on the learner.  Testing aptitude does not truly measure learning just as intangible or inobvious outcome does not indicate a lack of productively spent time.

These are completely subjective judgments on the part of the observer and, after bearing witness to the true nature of unadulterated people, I understand that there truly is no such thing as doing “nothing”.  The kids point out that they are doing at least three things in every moment – (heart) beating, thinking, and breathing.

This leads me to one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite movies- Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium:

Molly Mahoney: [after they have set all the clocks forward in a shop to strike noon at the same time] Now we wait.
Mr. Edward Magorium: No. We Breathe. We Pulse. We Regenerate. Our hearts beat. Our minds create. Our souls ingest. Thirty-seven seconds, well used, is a lifetime.

Time well spent, indeed.  How often do America’s over-scheduled children have time to regenerate, create, or ingest?  And how often are those who do considered to be lazy, unproductive, or… bored – leading to overscheduling?

The importance of doing ‘nothing’

Doing ‘nothing’ has a bad rap.  It is also often confused with being idle, bored, loiterous, or other such words bearing the negative connotation of being unproductive and potentially spinning backward into troublesome behavior or activities.  I find the complete lack of obvious productivity to be glorious to witness.  It is mystifying to watch a child as they ponder, stare, wonder, and process internally.  These are the moments when their true nature dissects the world’s input, fills in gaps of previously held knowledge, and moves forward with new assumptions and questions.  These are the quiet moments when passions are spun round and round to revel in the excitement of information held and wonder at that which is yet to be discovered.

Boredom as communication

Let this not be (necessarily) confused with declarations of, “I’m bored!”  which can often mean a number of things given any variety of family dynamics.  Sometimes, “I’m bored!” means, “I’d love for you to engage with me.”  Sometimes it means, “I’d love to learn something new or engage in a new and exciting activity.”  The boredom to which I am referring is what we often call ‘downtime’ around here but is really some of the most ‘up’ time their growing brains have to process all that is coming to them and at them in this world full of stimulation.

How does this translate to the schooled child?

No matter what we think of how school time is spent and whether it is worthy of the time taken from the lives of our children, there is no question that school takes up a tremendous amount of a child’s lifetime.  Getting to school, being at school, after school activities, getting home from school, doing homework, and preparing for school all over again.  So much adult discussion is devoted to how exhausting this life of taxi driver and schedule keeper is and yet there continue to be more and more ways to squeeze in more ways to squeeze out more productivity from the child.  When advertisements say, “we’re showing kids that doing something is way better than doing nothing,” I come at this from two angles:

1) Doing ‘nothing’ is some of the most valuable time we spend in our lives.  These are the moments of meditation, deep thought, and connection with ourselves.  We should not rob our children of the chance to make this connection while they are still young and not in need of a class series or a self-help book to do it.

2) How many children have a chance to actually do ‘nothing’?  To sit with their own thoughts, process, and feel who they really are?  Are we talking about encouraging physical activity?  I assure you that a free child wants to move their body because it feels good.  A child who is over-scheduled and under-empowered will default to ‘zone out’ mode when given the opportunity because they have to.  A full day spent in an institution without free thought or choice and with governed instruction and assignment is physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting.  It doesn’t burn the calories or work the muscles that free play does but it sure does use up the time and energy needed to participate. 

If the public access goal is to have physically healthier kids, we may want to make mental health the priority.  The more time and energy we take from our kids, the less they have.  It just makes sense.

Rethink Everything!

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I co-publish Rethinking Everything Magazine with my bosom buddy Barb Lundgren of the Rethinking Everything Conference.  Let me tell you a little about our magazine and a special price we’re offering to celebrate the release of Issue Three on July 1st!

Why is this magazine different?

Where do I even start?  This is an online magazine like you have never seen before.  The pages turn!  There’s audio and video from our writers and links to expand your knowledge and toolbox for your own personal enlightenment process.  Don’t like to read online?  Download, save, and view whenever as a full color, gorgeous .pdf file.  OR print your copy to read anywhere you like!  No other magazine gives you such rich content in any format to fit your reading style.

Who are these writers?  They are artists of change and inspiration in their own lives- people who have found it within themselves and outside societal lines to inspire transformational change in their lifestyle and mindset.  We’re talking everything from birth, parenting, and education to healthcare, finances, sustainability, and MORE!  Barb and I work with every writer and handpick the stories to fill each quarterly issue with tellings of change that will move, inspire, push, and empower you- the reader.

As you may know from the Humans Being podcasts, part of my rethinking process has been evaluating my own passions as I seek to support my children in their authentic lives.  Who am I?  What do I love?  Rethinking Everything Magazine is an integral part of this process.  I have experienced so much change in every avenue of my life and continue to proceed down the roads less traveled even as we venture out onto them (yes, we’re moving into an RV to travel North America!).  In subscribing to this magazine, you are supporting entrepreneurship, freedom, and growth in your own life as well as ours.  This is why we love this so much. 

Attracting and reading empowering stories of people jumping out of institutional thinking and boxes to find new and emboldened paths for their authentic lives continues to be transformational for us.  We hope you will join in the process- to think deeply about your engrained beliefs, to feel supported in your change process, and to LOVE yourself enough to feel the discomfort and empowerment of growth.

How do I subscribe?  I’m so glad you asked!  You can always subscribe from our website  and right now we’re offering a great deal- $15 off the regular subscription price. 

Subscribe now for just $35 for a a FULL year!

You’ll receive your first issue on July 1st– that’s SOON!

 

Claiming My Voice on internet radio

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I love to speak and enlighten about freedom and living in connection with and support of children. 

My good friend, founder of the Rethinking Everything Conference, and co-publisher of Rethinking Everything Magazine, Barb Lundgren, and I were recently interviewed on an internet radio program called, Claim Your Voice, Own Your Life.   Maggie Self of Children of Spirit  went a little deeper with this interview.  It was refreshing to go to more detail about what it means to live an inspired life and act as the learner rather than the teacher in our relationships with children.  No discussion of donuts and bedtimes here!  Of course, we could have gone on for hours and even days but on this occasion, thirty minutes had to do.

~Click here to listen to a brief but much deeper discussion of radical unschooling than what you’re used to~

Co-Creating with Teresa Brett- Interview

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Listen to my interview with Teresa!

Recently, I had the rich experience of interviewing (conversing really) with Teresa Brett of Parenting for Social Change on Co-Creator Radio Network.  The interview is in preparation for Teresa’s speaking at the upcoming Rethinking Everything Conference about which I am so excited.  I have a previous connection with Teresa through Rethinking Everything Magazine for which she wrote the complete story of her transition from career professional and attached parent to the reality that the encultured parenting mentality and emotional baggage from her own childhood were squelching the development of her children and causing rampant disconnect in their family.  Sound drastic?  It is…  Become a subscriber!  Read Teresa’s story in the July, 2010 issue of REM

Teresa’s journey has many parallels to my own and it was brilliant to discuss the leap of parenting thought with someone who is not afraid to use words like: ‘abuse’, ‘discrimination’, and ‘oppression’ with regard to traditional parenting techniques and mentality.  Politically correctness be damned.  Let’s call it what it is.  There are no more qualified to assess the relationships and damage than those who have experienced the full spectrum of perspectives and grapple with this awareness on a daily basis.  There is a consciousness that comes hand-in-hand with the contrast of our origins and our desire to support authentic children.  Growth is perpetual, uncomfortable, awakening and leads to more open eyes in all areas of our lives.  We are aware of every interaction and communication, constantly turning them around in our minds to evaluate if we are supporting or manipulating- if the voice that is speaking to our children is our authentic voice or the one that has come of our own upbringings- manipulated through enculturated parenting traditions and institutions.

Teresa and I discuss these challenges and the brilliant growth for ourselves and our relationships that results.  What does a world of empowered people look like?

Click here to listen to our lively and thought provoking discussion!

Finding Personal Connections

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“We are the only unschoolers in the greater _____ area.”  I hear this all the time from unschooling parents feeling isolated and seeking like-minded community.  My first question to them is whether they have actually looked… and where.  There are many ways to locate unschoolers and connected/respectful parents but, being that this is not traditional educational/parenting methodology, we need to think outside the box.  We probably won’t find these traits in our neighbors, the other parents on the soccer sidelines, or in our workplace cohort.  There is definitely a need to come out of our shells to an extent and seek the support and connection we desire.  The life of an unschooler can be extremely isolating for introverted parents and even more so for their children who may not share this personality trait and are left wanting more social interaction than is made available or comfortable for their parents.

Many of us find a reliable friend in the internet and support in the faceless names and personas portrayed on-screen in chat rooms and on groups.  Don’t get me wrong, the internet is a fabulous tool.  I have connected with loads of interesting people and garnered much in the way of support and food for thought through groups, essays, blogs, and websites.  However, nothing can replace the camaraderie of regular face-to-face interaction with families living and learning similarly.

I never said it was easy.  How bad do you want it?  I can tell you from personal experience that local connections are worth every moment of the trials and tribulations of the search.

Where do I start?

Internet search– Open your favorite search engine and type in your area with ‘unschooling’ or ‘unschool’ and see what comes up.  You may need to enter your county, metro area, nearby city, or state.  The first step toward making connections may be as easy as this.

Yahoogroups– This is a great resource for groups of all varieties of interest and support.  There are a great many unschooling groups- both international and local- to be found here.  You can once again search for your area or begin joining international groups for a start in internet-based support. Setting up an account or starting your own group are both free.

Meet-Up–  Finding unschool groups here will be a bit more rare (there is a fee for starting a group) but worth a shot since I happen to know there is a Dallas/Ft. Worth Whole-Life Unschoolers Meet-Up that began almost a year ago. 🙂  Setting up an account is free and your search results will reflect your locale.

International groups and lists– There are many groups (see especially unschooling Yahoogroups or local homeschooling info groups) and lists (like Radical Unschoolers Network) on which you may be talking to people who live right near you!  Generally, it’s very acceptable to post an inquiry about unschoolers/radical unschoolers from your area.  You may want to include a request for them to contact you offline so as not to bog down the group.

Start your own group- If you build it, they will come.  I am on my third time at this and it has been successful each and every time.  In southern NH, myself and 4 comrades- meeting through perfect serendipity (and a post on a national unschooling yahoogroup :))- began a larger area unschooling group called LEAP which continues to grow exponentially.  Upon moving to Texas, I began a small, local yahoogroup of similarly aged children and like-minded parents of the same name.  This group has since dissolved but those of us who bonded through that experience have gone on to other things and remained close.  Last year, myself and 4 other DFW unschooling mothers got together to form the DFW Whole-Life Unschooling Meet-Up to fill a need for growth, discussion, and networking in the area.  It continues to be a tremendous success and we look forward to each and every get together for play and focused discussion.

A Few Notes

You may not feel it.  As with anything, it is entirely possible and even likely that you will meet many people with whom you do not connect deeply before you find one with whom you do.  Just because they’re radical unschoolers or (insert common descriptor here), doesn’t mean that you will have other things in common.  Many times it has felt worth it to continue to find common ground with people if only because it has been important for me that my children have friends who are used to their parents being kind to them.  There is a difference in those children and the friendships and play have always been stronger and more joyous as a result.

Be willing to travel.  Getting together with other unschoolers/respectful parents often requires us to drive greater distances.  It has always been worth it.

Be open.  My first meeting of unschooling friends was (as I said) completely serendipitous.  The story can be heard in HB #2- Finding the Real World.  We connected because we were all very open about our beliefs and goals when we met and were talking.  The more open you are about unschooling and respecting your children, the more apt you are to find others who do the same.

You’re Not Alone

Recently, I noticed a thread on one of the national boards of someone asking for good areas to which to relocate as they were searching for unschool community.  I was pleasantly surprised to see members from all areas of the country piping up to throw their area in the running.  There were dozens of areas represented- both rural and urban- by people who deemed their locale to be supportive and socially connected for unschoolers.

So when people come to me and say that they are the ‘only’ unschoolers in their local area, I have to believe that there is a pretty good chance they’re wrong.  I’m not being an optimist.  I speak from experience.  Southern New Hampshire now has a group of 255 members as I write this post.  Yup- southern New Hampshire.  I quickly and easily formed a group of 13 families (there were more who wanted to join and I was of the mind to keep the group small at the time) within a 1-hour radius all with children around the same age as mine when we moved to Texas.  Our Meet-Up group (granted, it is the entire DFW metroplex) now boasts 128 members- some of whom travel an hour or two happily to make these connections. 

Granted, it is certainly possible that, even after exhausting all of these possible avenues for finding like minds, you will come up dry.  I have come across many lately who are considering relocating for this purpose.  While this may seem drastic, to know deep, personal connections with others who strive to live a positive, connected life may be worth it for you. 

As we make the transition to a life on the road, we’ll be seeking whole-life unschooling families and groups with whom to connect as we explore North America.  We’re looking forward to meeting you!

Trust and Pixie Dust

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“I am youth!  I am joy!  I am freedom!” sang Peter Pan, as he flew through the air across the stage avoiding Captain Hook’s grasp with each pass.

As I sat this morning in Casa Manana Children’s Theatre enjoying another spectacular play, I noted once again with interest how often undertones and flat-out overtones of freedom, choice, pure joy, and fulfillment fill our entertainment but not our lives.  Why, Peter Pan is about an island filled with boys who run away from home so they “never have to grow up and learn solemn things”!  In a recent Humans Being podcast, I talked with Tara and Justin Wagner about encouraging our unschooled children to preserve and nurture this lust for knowledge, passion, and independent growth in a household in which the financial support is derived from a parent in an occupation or routine in which they are unfulfilled.  These are the homes of the lost boys- our boys, the ones who see their futures in the glazed over eyes and hectic routines of their fathers.

Where did this notion come from- that we, along the way, must scrap our impulsiveness, passion, sense of fun, and eager desire for adventure?  Or that it must be sacrificed in exchange for financial stability and social status? And why is it continually perpetuated despite awareness to the contrary?  Most parents feel so much pressure for their children to ‘succeed’ that the pressures of this contrived and miserable adulthood existence are imposed earlier and earlier in children’s lives so that they’re ‘prepared’ and can ‘function highly’.   We escape to entertainment to once again feel the possibility of freedom, fulfillment, and consciousness that was encouraged and then left behind in the innocence of youth.Magical Fairy Dust

To truly support a generation of joyful, conscious, passion-driven people, we must, ourselves, strip away the ideas and beliefs that joy is just beyond the next bend or that we work now to live later.  Reconsidering the lives we have made and the goals we have set can be very difficult.  How do we de-program ourselves while still being able to provide for our children?  There is no set recipe for this because each of us has a different flame, passion, dream to pursue.  I can say that there are a few general steps:

1. Consider financial expenditures.  Money (or lack thereof) is the biggest factor keeping people in unfulfilling situations.  The things you thought you needed pale in comparison to the joy of living in the now.  Shedding things (sell, consign, donate) and bills (downsize, go to one car or no car (!)) is incredibly liberating.

2. Consider your dreams.  We all have them.  They seem unrealistic or are shelved for ‘someday’ while we continue to live the day-to-day routine hoping that one day the stars will align and a green light will flash telling us it is time.

3. Someday is right now.  Start working quickly and earnestly in the direction of the dream(s) you have identified.  Make a vision board.  Don’t wait.  No more excuses.  Today is the day you will feel full because you have chosen to live. 

Peter Pan renewed my awareness of, intention and attention to feeling the joy of life and analyzing what is truly necessary.  Learn from your kids!  And watch this video of Adora Svitak: What Adults Can Learn From Kids.

If I keep thinking these good thoughts, I may even take flight.  Will you fly today?

HB #23- The Organic Life- Wagner Interview

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Photo Credit: Sara Janssen

Join me for a live, in-person interview with Tara (The Organic Sister) and Justin (her deschooling/deworking husband) Wagner as we discuss their organic, intentional life as an unschooling, full-time RVing family living and working in freedom.

This is a must-listen!  Tara and Justin Wagner have taken many leaps in their lives- the most recent of which has been moving on from a predictable suburban life to travelling full-time with their unschooling son in an RV.  Listen in as we discuss what inspired this shift in mindset and lifestyle, what life is like working to live rather than living at work, and where they’ll go from here.

Do these podcasts and profundities inspire you?  Donate to keep the Humans Being podcast/site vital! 

Click here to stream podcast or download FREE on itunes!

Music Selection:  I Choose- India Arie  /  This Time Around- Helen Stellar

Analyzing "No"

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Have you ever thought about why you say the word, “no” to your children?  Parents are incredibly trigger happy and “no” is their bullet.  Sometimes “no” is disguised in a few other words or hidden entirely in a phrase that sounds different but, in the end, means “no” (e.g. – “not right now”). 

Children are explorers, adventurers, pretenders, scientists, clowns, wonderers, wanderers, inquisitors, and so much more.  How, then, will they learn in a world where “no” is the easy answer from adults who deem a certain behavior to be inappropriate, uncomfortable, dangerous, or (more than likely) inconvenient?  Indeed, how will they learn the importance of the word “no” when it plays on and on in the background of their lives like a monotonous beat lacking interesting lyrics?

Learning requires experience – on this we can all agree.  Even those who support traditional education are aware (though without the ability to fully incorporate it) that hands-on experience is required to incorporate information into our lives rather than in our short-term memory visitation.  I would venture to guess that more than 90% of “no” (or likewise negating phrase) usage is not based in any real rationale.  What people think of us or whether the situation makes us uncomfortable is not considered ‘real’ when weighed against the potential for the continued learning of our children. 

How, then, are “no” and its comrades in negation used?  I can think only of two situations:

1) My child’s exploration is impinging on the freedoms of others.

2) My child is unknowingly putting him/herself in serious danger.

Even with these there are considerations and the evaluation of whether we are clinging to the potential for these two to be true (b/c it makes the situation easier for US) or if they actually do apply to the situation.  Mild injury is not serious injury and can be a significant learning experience.  Dirtying their clothes does not constitute impinging on your freedoms b/c you are the family launderer. 

Tremendous liberation for all of us lies in the deep analysis of our use of negating statements and redirection.   Not only do we open ourselves to the joy of exploration and revel in our role as the supporters of our children’s constant learning, but we regain/maintain the integrity of “no” for those situations in which it is truly needed.  Our opposition to behaviors and activities is taken much more seriously and with value by our children when it used sparingly and with regard to their need to explore their world.  Children who do not hear “no” constantly stop in their tracks when it is uttered by their trusted adult.  Just as needed to support our children, so should the word “no” be used.

Note to my friends from Clan of Parents (May 9, 2010 post ‘Going Up’) – I request that my children not climb on the kitchen counters, walls, etc. with ‘playground feet’ and that they move glassware so that there is less of a chance of breakage/injuries.  This is generally honored but sometimes forgotten.  This is the basis of a consensual relationship in which all parties are respected- freedom supporting freedom.  They explore in plain sight because they know I support them and will help them without question as requested.  My “no”s are generally rooted in reality and rationale.  When they’re not, my astute youngsters respect my need for them to pause while picking apart my holey negations to transparency so that even I can see the ludicrous lack of foundation.  Those moments are the true “teaching moments”- the ones in which I learn more about me.

HB #22- Supremely Socialized

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Are homeschooled children social misfits?  Socialization is a primary source of concern in discussions of homeschooling- surpassing even maintenance of educational standards.  Join me as I share research, evidence, and perceptions of socialization similarities and disparities related to educational avenue.

Thanks to Casey- North Dakota, USA- for inspiring this show’s topic.

(Wikipedia) Socialization– Socialization is a term used by sociologists, social psychologists, anthropologists, politicians and educationalists to refer to the process of inheriting norms, customs and ideologies… it describes a process which may or may not affect the reflexive agent, and which may or may not lead to desirable, or ‘moral’, outcomes.

Social Skills and Homeschooling: Myths and Facts by Isabel Shaw

The Hurried Child by Dr. Raymond Moore 

Comparison of Social Adjustment Between Home and Traditionally Schooled Students by Edward L. Shyers, Ph.D., University of Florida, 1992

Have Fun. Learn Stuff. Grow. by David Albert

Homeschooling Grows Up-  HSLDA- 2003 Study

Fifteen Years Later: Home-Educated Canadian Adults- Canadian Centre for Home Education- 1994

HOME-SCHOOLING: Socialization not a problem (The Washington Times) by Michael Smith

There is no standardized child- whether traditionally schooled or homeschooled.

Studies are useful for debate scenarios to support homeschooling and provide objective means of assessment.  Socialization can really only be assessed in regular interactions with others.  We take cues from our children as to how, when, and with whom they wish to initiate/perpetuate social contact. 

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Check out Rethinking Everything Magazine!

Join me in September, 2010 at the Rethinking Everything Conference!

Thank you for listening-  Please donate what moves you to keep this podcast vital!

Click here to stream the show or download FREE on itunes!

Nine in the Afternoon- Panic at the Disco / 257 weeks- Nine Days

Unschooling- The Real Story

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I recently came upon the Family Mental Health blog on PsychCentral.com about unschooling.  More specifically, the writer of the blog lived up to the initials following her name and questioned Good Morning America’s edited portrayal and highly biased discussion of the unschooling lifestyle.  She conveyed her gut reaction after viewing the piece and made a call to anyone with more information about unschooling to respond to the post.  I was astounded in the blogosphere – filled with ignorance and instantaneous, unsubstantiated post-hurling – to find someone actually posting to request information about something that just didn’t sit right and smelled biased.  Thank you, Erika!

Here is her post: Unschooling- What’s the Real Story? By Erika Krull, MS, LMHP

There are several great responses on there.  I am posting mine here as requested by a listener and friend who thought it was a great, succinct description to pass on to questioners.

———————————————————————————————-

Thank you, Heather, for clarifying my comment about hygiene. Yes, I am the mom from Discovery Health’s Radical Parenting segment that was excerpted on GMA. Here’s the deal- we are not coercive parents. We do not demand that our children participate in any behavior or situation that does not feel right to them. We discuss things with them in a way that they will understand WHY things are important to do. There are many things that we all do b/c they have always been done but without reason. We are encouraging a conscious life. Because they are genuine and empowered, there are never issues of resistance for the sake of resistance. Yes, they brush their teeth (we talk about why that’s important and visit the dentist). Yes, they eat healthy food primarily (regular conversations about nutrition, label reading, etc.). Yes, they get plenty of sleep (when they are tired, they sleep). Because these segments are edited to present the contrast, showing my kids eating apples would not have depicted that. My children choose from whatever is in the house. The day of filming a donut was brought in by the film crew for my son. Do public school kids not eat donuts? Unfortunately b/c that is a glimpse of choice, it is commonly interpreted as routine. I am pleased that we put ourselves out there so that discussions like these can be had. Media will be media.


WRT Unschooling – Yes, this is a method of facilitating access to the abundance of resources our communities, internet, travel, etc. have to offer and pursuing our children’s interests/curiosities to the fullest. This is how our children learned to read, do complex math (for FUN), explore evolution and endangered species, research colonial America, and so much more. Learning is real and organic and exciting! We have taken this respect for our children’s minds/learning and extended it to their bodies, emotions, and psychological well-being. This is called Radical Unschooling. It is a life in which we all respect each other and are continually communicating, learning, and growing. Unfortunately, there is a distinct misinterpretation of children as a whole when people assume that they will disrespect their bodies and other people if there are no arbitrary rules. Communication and guidance are constant, reciprocal and result in healthy, loving, and joyful family relationships as well as empowered, conscious children.

Good Morning America- Featuring Unedited Unschoolers

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Good Morning America responded quickly yesterday to emotional viewer reactions over their highly edited and opinionated segment on radical unschooling.  Christine Yablonski and Phil Biegler were flown to New York City to appear on this morning’s show to offer information about radical unschooling in conjunction with Pat Farenga – home- and unschooling expert.  They responded to a few of the major concerns noted on GMA’s viewer comment thread- How will unschoolers get a job and function as adults?  How will they have exposure to choice and opportunity in the world?  How will they function as adults having never had structure or boundaries?  Yablonski, Biegler, and Farenga did a wonderful job in the short time* that they were given of presenting an overview of radical unschooling in a positive light.

While it was heartening to hear GMA’s George apologize for his emotional, biased statements regarding the radical unschooling lifestyle and to listen to a more comprehensive overview of unschooling from the guests, how many people saw a quick blip yesterday and didn’t tune in this morning as they began their busy day?  Or turned off the TV when they saw there may be government regulation on sodium content in foods on their way out the door?  Yesterday’s segment was damaging.  Today’s was a bandage that will hopefully remind GMA to evenly present subject matter to their viewers the first time – or not.  Does this just emphasize the fact that the average television viewer tunes in to feel that rush of emotion and reaction rather than information?  That this drives ignorant but money-making buzz and increased viewership?  Unfortunately, those who seek more information about unschooling from GMA through reading the text story accompanying the video will garner more of the edited, stereotypical, inaccurate opinions of unschooling and will have to look further on their own.

Addressing our educational norms to the very core of learning theory will take a lot more than 5 minutes but I am hopeful to think of additional viewers that may have tuned in just for this morning’s informative, positive piece.

*Many times since my family’s appearance on the Discovery Health Channel’s “Radical Parenting” special (1:38) and especially after these two Good Morning America segments has it been noted how limited the timeframe is for these pieces.  Having not watched a mainstream news program, morning program, etc. in years, it is astounding how short the American attention span has become.  When we (this includes the kids) watch something on television, it’s because we are interested in the topic/subject matter and want to know/see more.  To see this type of commonly watched program sectioned out into pieces a few minutes long- just enough to squeeze a viewer reaction- spoke volumes about mainstream culture – fast-paced, rushing to judgment, and on the way to something new with an uninformed viewpoint on several different topics.  To this end, I am excited for the release of Unschooling: The Movie as well as another documentary that is currently in production about unschooling by radical unschooling mother, Susan Burke.  I will keep you updated when I have more information.

Good Morning America- Sheds Uninformed Opinion on Unschooling

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The Biegler/Yablonski family was featured on Good Morning America this morning hoping to shed some light on radical unschooling during mainstream America’s morning cuppa’ joe.  GMA quickly put a halt to any open discussion that might have been had in the MAINstream, however, by spewing their negative judgments and opinions before, during, and after the highly edited and biased segment. 

Watch the 5-minute segment here- Extreme Homeschooling: No Tests, No Books, No Classes, No Curriculums

My comment on Good Morning America’s Shout Out thread this morning:

GMA’s representation of radical unschooling was biased and uninformed.  RUers learn from real life experiences in the ‘real world’ everyday and are generally more confident, capable, and intellectual than any schooled child.  Life is choice at its finest and the resources and opportunities that unschooled children have at their fingertips are boundless.  Underestimating our children and their natural capacity and desire for connection, respect, choice, and learning is the mistake that is undermining our culture and society.  This was a very close-minded segment edited to generate gasps more than actual discussion.  I, too, encourage GMA to edit their content with more vision and less personal opinion and applaud this family for supporting their children in natural learning, inspired thought, adventure, and entrepreneurship. 

In addition to submitting a comment on the thread, I felt compelled to contact ABC directly in the hopes that they would like more information about radical unschooling:

Contribute | Do you have more information about this topic? If so, please click here to contact the editors of ABC News.
In bold is what they received- my response exceeds their character allotment maximum:

I am very disappointed in the biased representation of unschooling portrayed by GMA this morning.  I am the mother of the radical unschooling family in the video clip from Discovery Health and, though DHC’s opposing viewpoints (“experts”) were based in societal prejudice and misconceptions (similar to GMA), felt they did a much better job at allowing us to present how learning happens in the limited timeframe allotted for national television.

Some resources to inform you about unschooling so that you can present a more unbiased forum for discussion: I host and produce a podcast called Humans Being (www.werhumansbeing.com) which focuses on connected parenting and radical unschooling.  There are conferences all over the United States from which people are garnering more information on unschooling all the time- one of the finest is the Autodidact Symposium– coordinated and facilitated by grown unschoolers.  The yahoogroup: Ask Unschooling Offspring is another great resource for contacting teens who are being and adults who have been unschooled.   The classic works of John Holt have been used for decades in mainstream educator training and are the basis of the unschooling revolution.  John Taylor Gatto- former esteemed educator and critic of standardized education- has much to say with regard to the validity of unschooling.

My additional responses to this segment:

Unschooled children represent unschooling through their actions and pursuits.  Questioning teens with regard to their readiness for college is a very mainstream perception as to what is deemed important at any given time.  Could you ask the same of a schooled student and get a similar response? Absolutely.  Is college really necessary for individuals to attain success- whether that be classified either by financial status or happiness? No.  True investigation yields information to the direct contrary.  This brings up a very important double standard that is often portrayed in the dubious questioning of unschooling.  Ask these same questions of traditional school and the answers are either equal or an appalling testament to the lack of inspiration, support, opportunity, and options that the system yields for our children.

There was a glimpse of the children’s passions/interests when their indoor cultivation was shown and then cameras cut away to their sword fighting.  Yes, as unschoolers, much of our lives and learning are focused on play.  It is a sad commentary on our culture’s values that life, learning, work, and play are not seen as interwoven facets of the same life experience.  In the same right, for GMA to portray radical unschooling to a mainstream population, it is important on some level to depict the children’s interests/passions/endeavors and discuss learning theory and the extensive history of unschooling philosophy and practice (see the works of John Holt, John Taylor Gatto, and many others).

No- children need not be forced to participate in activities that are undesirable to offer options, opportunity, nor to help them become accustomed to doing things that are uncomfortable.  The choices that each of us makes in life are based on our confidence level, personal preferences, and goals.  An empowered individual who is supported in their choices will seek personal fulfillment through whatever means necessary (college, training, apprenticeships, hard work/practice, etc.).  Unschoolers support their children in the widely varied and potentially ultra-focused learning opportunities that are available in our communities- local, extended, online, etc.

I am very interested in pursuing this further with you.

Warmly,

Sarah Parent

(whose unschooling family is getting ready to begin full-time RVing and seeing what this great continent has to offer- first hand)

So far, I have gotten their automated response that apparently does not automatically integrate the <name> field on their comment submission page:

Dear ,

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get from our users, and will pass on this information to our reporters
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HB #21- Do You Strew?

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Yes, we’re heading in the direction of our dreams!  House sale, inspection, appraisal, RV- yahoo!  What is YOUR normal life?!

Minka has moved on.  We are so appreciative to have had the years together.  Both her life and her transition through death were connecting and growing experiences for our family to share together.

New audio!  Yes, I am in stereo now thanks to some new software and technological improvements.

Rethinking Everything Magazine Issue Two came out on April 2nd! If you have not received a FREE trial issue, check out the website.  If you liked Issue One, become a subscriber!

Thank you to this month’s financial supporters of Humans Being!
Susan Burke- unschooling mom and director of an upcoming documentary about unschooling.  Come see her at the Rethinking Everything Conference or e-mail her at: susan@slackworks.com

Andrew Bartelt- unschooling dad and owner of AB Computer Solutions in Houston, TX.  If you’re in that area and need technological assistance for your small business, let’s support unschooling entrepreneurs!  713-581-0292
——————————————————————————————————————————————  
What is strewing?
I read and comment on an excerpt from Sandra Dodd’s website in an attempt to clarify what strewing actually is (and is not) and how we can facilitate through this method.
 
An excerpt from John Holt’s Teach Your Own helps us to understand what strewing is NOT. 

Examining the energy behind strewing
 – scheduling for the sake of it
 – consulting/sharing not sneaking/watching
 – teachable moments vs. truly interesting experiences/tools

When done in earnest and without manipulative intent, strewing is a form of facilitation and a means of joyful connection.

Support this podcast- give what moves you.  Every little bit helps!  Make a donation to keep this podcast vital.

Stream this episode NOW or download FREE on itunes!

Music Selection: Normal Life  –  July for Kings

This IS the Real World.

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Many people ask me how my children will function in the ‘real world’. 
Further questioning reveals a concern that, because unschoolers are not accustomed to having their time and activities regimented by an external authority, they will be unable to function in society as adults.

Unschoolers do not live in some kind of self-limiting bubble. Our children live and function with us in the ‘real world’ every day.  They are more aware of the operations and interactions of society than any child forced to function within the confines of an institutional setting can possibly be.  A school child’s time is spent in a counterfeit reality- one in which their interactions lie primarily with children of the same age and those with adults are maligned by the distinction that is authoritarian rule. School is not even a remote replica of society and, therefore, cannot effectively teach anything about authentic responsibility, accountability, and integrity of the individual within the confines of a structure in which there are endless expectations but very little in the way of personal exploration.

Related podcast- how our family came to unschooling:  HB #2 Finding the Real World

Contrary to popular belief, children (and people- for that matter) are inherently compassionate, intelligent, and curious beings.  All of these qualities become sufficiently squelched in a system that is bound to rewards, punishments, and an inability to foster the individual learning and social needs of any child but for the continuing unmet needs of the whole.

Recommended reading: Alfie Kohn’s- Punished By Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes

Comparing assimilation in a school setting to that in the ‘real world’ is quite possibly a sad commentary on what today’s American considers to be an acceptably mundane life of following rules, working at a less-than-satisfactory job  for similar wage, and going through the paces.  We consider life to be an exciting adventure- one in which there is always some new topic to explore, activity to endeavor, and interesting person to meet.

Mind expanding reading: Give Me Liberty by Gerry Spence.

Glimpses at our adventures and ponderings on Clan of Parents.

What about ‘authority’? Police? Government? Accountability to others? Children are the subjects of constant mentoring if only through their own curiousity and observation.  While my husband and I are constant questioners, we are law-abiding, tax paying, good neighbors in our community.  We have never insinuated to our children that they are anything less than perfectly capable and kind individuals and so they are.  The next most powerful learning experience for all of us is communication.  Discussion about every facet of the world we are experiencing and contemplating is constant in unschooling families.

Will they be able to get a job?  Does this question refer to that concern of being unable/unwilling to bow to authority?  What kinds of jobs and managerial structures are these?  Yes, our children will thrive in any setting.  They emanate respect, kindness, and teamwork and generally receive the same.  Because they have not been forced to shed their personal integrity and respect for self in favor of the submissiveness required to spend a childhood based on someone else’s design, they will not need self-help books to instruct them on how to remain emotionally intact in social/professional interactions.  I listened to a podcast some time ago of an interview with Laurie Chancey, adult unschooled daughter of Valerie Fitzenreighter (auther- The Unprocessed Child), who was asked how she learned to deal with bullies.  She paused and said something to the effect of: “I guess if I had gone to school, I would’ve needed to learn that.”  These are scenarios that play out in school social settings in which power struggles trickle down and become the norm.  The multitude of unschoolers of all ages with whom we interact are better at dealing with conflict and communication than most adults because they are empowered, confident, and kind (both to themselves and others).  I hope my children never feel that they need to bow to any authority but rather continue to give and receive respect in a healthy, productive way that is ideal in interpersonal and professional relationships- in The Real World.

Radical Parents Talk Back

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Tune in tomorrow – Sunday, March 21st at 10 pm CST – 11 pm CST to hear myself, Elizabeth (AP mom), and Gina (gender neutral mom) on The Feminist Breeder & Friends Radio Show as we discuss our experiences with and reactions to our appearances on: Discovery Health Channel’s ‘Radical Parenting’.

This is a LIVE show so you’ll have the opportunity to call in, ask questions, and talk with us!

This show will be archived for future reference and available on itunes.

Radical Parents Talk Back

CPS- We're A-OK

2 Comments

There have been a smattering of blog comments in response to Discovery Health’s ‘Radical Parenting’ special indicating that Child Protective Services should be involved with our family.  Why?  From the perspective of an overbearing, traditionally-minded parent, the dynamic of our family is frighteningly lax.  It is immediately assumed that because our children are not FORCED to comply with arbitrary dietary restrictions, hygienic schedules/requirements, and are free to determine how they spend their time, that this constitutes some sort of negligence on our part.  Nothing could be further from the truth.*  The end result- the assumption follows- will be that our children will consistently make poor choices, have resultant health issues, and will not thrive educationally.  Once again, a longer than 20-minute look into our lives and a mind open to research over the last 3 decades in child development, nutrition, and learning theory demonstrates that nothing could be further from the truth.*

*Here’s the truth.  Discovery Health alotted 20-minutes for a lifestyle that is so complex and replete with contrast to traditional parenting that the only way that they could depict the specific areas of our lives in which our philosophies play out differently was to show the viewer the ways that we support choice.  It’s easy for any parent to support a child choosing carrot sticks or apple slices.  This (though certainly caught on camera during our weekend of filming) would not have enlightened anyone to the fact that our children are completely free to choose what they eat and when.  Encouraging and supporting choice through guidance and nutritional information while also assisting the child in interpreting their body’s cues and situational circumstances to decide what to eat at a particular time is an incredibly connected, hands-on, supportive way to parent. 

Related reading: The Full Plate Club

Related podcast: Free-Range Kids

No- we don’t force our children to bathe.  Forcing a child to do anything teaches them to relinquish authority over their own bodies to those who are more powerful or ‘know more’ than they.  Need I say more?  Most parents readily coerce their children to do things against the child’s will and then wonder how the child could have gone off with a strange adult, been the victim of a pedophile, or other horrifying circumstance.  Yes, it is the same thing.  Every single situation in which we disempower our children takes a brick away from their wall of self-protection.  Does this mean that my children walk around in dust clouds like Pigpen on Charlie Brown?  Absolutely not.  I don’t bathe according to an arbitrary schedule and neither do my children.  We bathe when we’re chilly, want to relax, play in the water, or when foul odors are detected.  Again, communication is key when we live in a community- our house being our tiny, core community.

Highly recommending Alfie Kohn’s Unconditional Parenting as a resource for understanding and practicing support of the authentic child.

Child Protective Services has plenty on their plate.  Believe me, as a Registered Nurse of 12 years, I am fully aware of the burdensome caseloads of these professionals.  Get your facts straight.  Parenting with consistent guidance and communication while supporting our children to govern their own bodies and minds is an optimal parenting methodology.

Texas Child Protective Services states as their goal to “protect the child and strengthen the family.”  Bravo!  We have the same goal and one that I am devoted to as a radical unschooling mother in every moment of every day.

Some day maybe these people will refocus their criticisms as they deprogram… 

Ageism in Unschooling

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As a Registered Nurse for 12 years, I am very familiar with the phrase, “eating our young.”  In a Google search, I find all the references to this phrase to be in regards to nursing.  Sad… and curious because I know this is not the only group in which this pattern of behavior occurs- alienation, condescension, sentiments of superiority, etc. aimed at a younger or less experienced set.  I have heard from various sources over time this phenomenon cropping up in the unlikeliest of social groupings- the unschoolers.  

As an unschooler, I ask myself, “who am I?”  I answer that I am a mom who has done and continues to do a tremendous amount of self-work to allow the trust in my children who are beyond capable of determining what they will learn and when.  My position in this journey is as facilitator of the ‘how,’ the comrade, the guide, and the supporter.  These are things I have done with my children since birth.  How, then, did these children only become classified by some as unschoolers when they came of “school” age.  If I don’t believe in school, its mandates, its schedule, its endless restrictions, then how does my open admittance to social and networking connections within a community so opposed to institutional regulation and strangulation be withheld or seem only partial?  All of our children are unschoolers- curious, self-directed, passionate learners.  If anything, we as parents are the lost souls requiring enlightenment, support, and relinquishing of heavy institutionally engrained baggage to understand that learning is joyful and happening everywhere and in all things- all the time.  For that, we have each other to provide consistent support and resources.

When we restrict inclusion in valuable conversation and networking based on age divisions- saying that families aren’t ‘unschooling’ until their children reach some magic societally-determined age for the beginning of learning, not only are we being hypocritical but we are restricting their comfort and ability to exchange in thought, support, and growth.  One of the most inspiring reasons for me to be an unschooler is the wide open acceptance of all learning and growth opportunities that come our way.  Welcome unschoolers!  Let’s grow.

HB #20- Product and Process- 'Radical Parenting'- the special review

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Join my husband, Chris, and I as we discuss and explain some recently blogged comments about our recently aired segment of: 

Discovery Health Channel’s ‘Radical Parenting’ special
3 Families- Attachment Parenting, gender neutral parenting & radical unschooling

General consensus is that Radical Unschooling is, by far, the most ‘radical’ of the styles.  Hmmm.

General opinions-
1) Interesting take; not for us.
2) We can incorporate more of that connected parenting within
our traditional school comfort zone.
3) We wish they had shown a family with older kids.

 Why? This is not about the outcome.
 Just as with public school, we’ll turn out tradesmen, Harvard graduates-
 any and everything you can think of…
 The point is that it’s all attainable in happiness and through pursuit of 
 personal passions.
 It’s about joy and connection.

4) These people are crazy and should be jailed.
 WHAT?  How could loving, trusting, and guiding our children be perceived in this way?

 The most prominent concerns from the show:
  – THE DONUT

  – help with teeth brushing- recommended by the ADA 🙂

  – reading to my son when asked
     Yes- I will- everytime
  
  – too much TV
  
  – do we have jobs?
 
  – our kids won’t function socially
 
  – our kids won’t be able to function in the ‘real world’

Here’s what it comes down to:
Unschooling and connection parenting are based on a multitude of developmental, psychological, and learning principles.
Just like you- we care.

Support this podcast- give what moves you.  Every little bit helps!  Donate button on top right sidebar.

Music selections- Youth Gone Wild-  Skid Row  /  Revolution- The Beatles

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