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
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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.

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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~

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!

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

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)

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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.

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