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.

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

 

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.

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