Go Ahead- Change your mind

2 Comments

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.

Good Morning America- Sheds Uninformed Opinion on Unschooling

5 Comments

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 ,

Thanks so much for sending us your contribution. We read everything we
get from our users, and will pass on this information to our reporters
and editors. We hope you’ll continue to send along facts and
information.

Thanks again  —
The Team at ABCNEWS.com