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~

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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!

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.

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

Considering 'Radical Parenting'

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We gathered around the television this evening- the kids, Chris, myself, my mom, Barb, and Steve.  We waited with the television on mute while some horrifying dramatization of seizures was finishing.  The kids paid no mind- climbing on the couch and showing Barb and Steve their newest creations and talents.  There were flutters in my chest while heart and head were in conflict.  Heart: expect a wonderful, joyous, intelligent representation of our lives which can serve as a launch for those interested in researching more.  Head: what will these late-entry parenting ‘experts’ say to discount what we are doing?  How will they use their placement as having the last word?

Heart and head were both right.  We were really thrilled with how our pieces of  the show came together.  It is virtually impossible to squeeze all that is whole-life/radical unschooling into a 15 minute nutshell.  ‘Radical Parenting’ did manage to hit the high points and give a decent enough overview such that interested people can proceed to investigate on their own.  We were amazed at how natural it all looked and how well it was all pieced to flow nicely together.  Very professional. 

Head knew, though, what it meant when we were apprised only a few weeks ago that the network had requested parenting ‘experts’ to comment on each family.  Not only were these people completely uninformed about the depth of research and evidence that supports unschooling, but we were not given the opportunity to discuss what they considered ‘negative’ aspects of unschooling/consensual living- lack of socialization, difficulty/inability to function in a college/work setting, etc.  These are such common misconceptions that they seem laughable and it was disappointing to hear these types of irrational stereotypes conveyed in the ‘expert’ opinion. 

I only twitched once during the show; when one of said ‘experts’ indicated that respecting our children and encouraging self-direction is a great notion if you’re dealing with little adults, but we’re dealing with children.  This struck me as incredibly ignorant and downright agist.  It is a clear indication that he has no idea the extent of communication, guidance, and discussion that goes on in a family that is connected, respectful and trusting.  “Hands off” parenting, this is not. 

Nevertheless, we are pleased.  ‘Radical Parenting’ depicted three wonderfully loving, engaged families living intelligently from our hearts.  I feel confident and satisfied in knowing that we played a role in informing mainstream society of the potential to live peacefully and joyously, supporting our children in all aspects of their growth.

HB #19- True Freedom

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News
Discovery Health Channel’s ‘Radical Parenting’ featuring my family’s connected, passion driven life will air Wednesday, March 3rd at 8pm EST/7pm CST

Rethinking Everything Magazine
– has thought provoking interviews with our change agents up on the website
– is ready to release Issue #2 on April 1st. Have you subscribed? Issue #1 is FREE to preview by contacting- publishers@rethinkingeverythingmagazine.net
– already gotten Issue #1? Comment on the website!
www.rethinkingeverythingmagazine.net

Personal news- find me on Facebook and continue to get updates (sidebar link)

New awareness- money is not the drive. Passion is the drive and money is the consequence.
We are following our passions and becoming self-directed just as we hope for our children.

The kids’ perspectives on what it means to be free with parents enslaved to the corporate mindset and bills.

Our intentions-
– pursuing work that we enjoy.
– putting intention and planning toward extended travel/adventure. 
– eliminating unnecessary bills (they are all unnecessary unless we deem them otherwise) and living simply.

Donation button now available for Humans Being in the sidebar.  I gladly and appreciatively accept donations toward keeping this podcast vital.

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

The Mother He Needs

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My article, “The Mother He Needs” has been published in the Jan/Feb issue of Life Learning Magazine  online. I’m very proud of this story. It is at the very core of what I feel is important in my mothering- intuitively feeling and truly listening to the needs of our individual children rather than societal and engrained expectations.