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 #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!

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!

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.