We Are Equal, Pass It On

I just watched this interesting video, which got me to thinking…….

Does unschooling portray women as

“The weaker sex”?
“Less than” men somehow?

I mean, the majority of unschooling families follow the “old-fashioned model” where the woman gives up her career, “doesn’t work” and is “just a housewife”, don’t they? Is unschooling anti-feminist because the model most prominently displayed is one where the wife stays home with the children while her husband goes out to work? Are we setting our kids up to believe that is the only way to live? The ideal model? Are we sending a message that women have a less important role if they choose to stay home instead of going out to work? Are we sending a message to our children that the man brings home the bacon and the woman does the dishes?

I beg to differ. Not just because my husband often does the dishes.


My Experience

I have felt empowered by taking on the primary unschooling role. Prior to unschooling, I rarely went on wild adventures with the kids unless my husband was along for the ride, usually in the driver’s seat (so to speak). I mean, I took the kids to Playgroup with other mums, and things like that, but we didn’t step too far outside the realms of ” normal” unless we were all together as a family.

When we brought the children home from school, I quickly discovered that recreating school at home was too small, too limiting and, well, too boring! The world was out there waiting to be discovered, and my husband was at work. It was time for me to get into the driver’s seat!

So I found my strength,
my courage,
my adventurous side.

I learned to navigate the streets of Sydney! Even in peak hour. And I haven’t looked back.

Just because my husband has a Master’s Degree in the filing cabinet, wages in the bank and recognition for his paid work, it doesn’t mean our kids see him as superior.

Just because I am the one who usually takes them places and walks beside them as they discover this big wide world, it doesn’t mean our kids see me as superior.

In our family, freedom of choice is prized more highly than complying with cultural norms. I didn’t choose to stay home with the kids because I am the woman, but because it was what we both wanted. Over the past twenty years, my husband’s career has progressed and I am still “Just a Mum”. Our choice to take on these roles has nothing to do with societal expectations or traditions, and it has no impact at all on who has the most value, who is the strongest, who is the most important, or who is the most capable and worthy of respect.

In staying home with my children or accompanying them on our adventures as the case may be, my children have not seen someone who is weak, or second rate. They have observed me living a full and interesting life, facing challenges and obstacles, and learning immensely in the process.

I am not an enigma, who rushes out the door along with the kids in the morning (kids to school, mum to work), and then rushes around when we all get home, trying to get through all the required homework and school prep tasks. I am present, available and known, 24/7, warts and all.

I hope that in giving them the opportunity to observe my humanity up close and personal, they have benefited from my transparency, as they have seen both struggle and strength, mistakes and growth.

So no, I do not believe that unschooling shows the woman as weaker or less than her working partner. I think it gives our children the opportunity to see strength in action. And struggles too, at times. Transparency and reality. Equality.

The other side of the coin

As the at-home-out-and-about parent, I think it is also important

– to “live out loud” our respect for our partner, just as we respect ourselves and our children.
– to verbalize our appreciation for their monetary provision, so we can live this wonderful unschooling adventure!

How the other half live

Whilst our family has chosen quite traditional roles, we do not live in isolation. In our out-and-about life, we mix with a variety of different families, including gay parents, single parents, nuclear families, grandparents as carers, and so on. Sometimes the woman is the primary-caregiver. Sometimes the man is. And again, our kids get to see that they all have equal value.

The take away message

It is not about which parent is the best, the strongest, or the most favoured. It is not about one parent using the other one for a leg up, standing on them to make ourselves look taller. It is about being confident of our own value, and appreciative of theirs.

As we live out equality within our home, our unschooled children will absorb a lesson that cannot be taught in a text book. They will have a birds’ eye view, a window into the world of their “stay at home parent”, not just during their toddler and preschool years, but during their entire childhood, including adolescence. They will experience directly that she is more than “Just Mum”, more than just the one who does the dishes and sweeps the floor (on a good day!). They will see her learning, growing, tackling projects and hard things, exploring her own interests, supporting them in theirs. During this shared learning journey, they will engage together in fascinating, incredible and deep conversations about all manner of things and they will know that their mother is definitely much more than a barefoot pregnant lady in the kitchen with rollers in her hair!

Unschooled kids have  an incredible opportunity to share daily life with the stay-at-home parent, watching them sometimes fall but always rise up to meet the many challenges along the way, growing stronger and learning all the time, just as they do. When they observe the working parent treat the at-home parent with value and respect, not just as a “housewife” but as a capable, strong, intuitive and mindful parent, when they observe the at-home parent treat the working parent with the same respect and appreciation, when they witness both parents treating each other with mutual respect and placing equal value on their different roles, they will have a frame of reference with which to see others.

They will know from experience that just as their Dad is valuable, strong and important, so too is their Mum. And so too are they!

When our unschooled children are parented gently, they will directly experience a reality where neither mother, nor father, nor child, is better or worse than the other. All are different, and all have equal value. They will feel empowered and equipped for life, by seeing life lived out before them. They will experience the opportunity to partner with their parents, just as their parents partner with them. Listening ears, compassionate hearts and kind words go both ways! When they are treated with kindness, and their needs and feelings are respected, they will know that they have value, and they will be much more likely to treat others in the same way.

From that platform of witnessing and experiencing mutual respect, kindness and equality of value, they will hopefully see all people everywhere in the same light. They will not feel the need to use anyone else for the purpose of making themselves look better, or more powerful. They will know, through their direct experience, that all people everywhere have equal value, whether mother or father, male or female, black or white, homosexual or heterosexual, “special needs” or “normal”, old or young, rich or poor, leader or follower, academic or trades person, a woman who gets paid to work outside the home or a woman who chooses to stay home with her children.

And the world will, gradually, become a better, more equal, place.

Gaming Helps Bullied Kid

Bullying is never, never, never okay.

But neither is it black and white. It is not a simple case of “bullies are bad, victims are good”. Bullies are usually people who are hurting badly, themselves, and looking for an easy target as an outlet for their own pain. I think the saying “Hurting people hurt people” is an insightful observation. I don’t want to bully bullies, because that would be ridiculous! Yes, they need boundaries, but they also need love and understanding.

I truly believe that putting 98% of society’s children in mass childcare for twelve to fifteen years, with 2% of society’s adults in control, is a recipe for disaster, but that’s not the purpose of this post.

I simply wanted to point out that in the above video about bullying, the boy talks about how gaming helps him to process and cope with some of the impacts of the bullying. I thought it was interesting to hear it straight from his mouth, because it helps to debunk the myth that gaming increases violence. In case you couldn’t be bothered watching the video clip, here is the relevant bit:

Gaming actually helps me a lot,
to calm down and get out of the troubling parts of my life,
and to clear my mind of things that happened.
It’s like you go into a different universe….
I wish to fly without anything to hold me up…..
I like Harry Potter and I wish I could do magic! 
I’d zip everybody’s lips, all the rude people’s lips.

Video gaming can help people to handle stress better, reduce their hostile feelings and reduce the likelihood of depression, which I imagine would be a factor for the boy in the above video. There are many other benefits, too.

It’s time to radically rethink our assumptions about things like gaming!

Instead of Teaching

suli-breaksLet me introduce you to Suli Breaks.

The man with the voice. The speaking voice. The voice of insight, perspective and wisdom. I’ll let him do the talking and I really, really hope that as many people as possible do the listening. With ears wide open.

Here’s a teaser: “If education is the key, then school is the lock. Because it really never develops your mind to the point where it can perceive red as green and continue to go when someone else said stop, because as long as you follow the rules and pass the exams, you’re cool. But are you aware that examiners have a checklist? And if your answer is something outside of the box, the automatic response is a cross, and then they claim that school expands your horizons and your visions. Well, tell that to Malcolm X, who dropped out of school and is world renowned for what he learned in a prison.”

After the videos, I will share some of my thoughts about schooling, education and learning.

There’s some interesting stuff in those videos, hey? I’d love some feedback on what you got out of these videos, what you feel challenged by, and where to from here….

They have caused quite a controversy in this well-schooled society of ours, where the emphasis on “getting a good education” is often interpreted to mean dependence on an educational institution. There seems to be an idea that without forced schooling, no one will learn, and our society will go backwards; yet some of our most brilliant minds and most successful entrepreneurs are “high school drop outs”.

I find it hard to believe that being told what to think, how to learn, and what will be on the test, is a particularly successful way to educate all the children in a society.

What is education, anyway? Is it something that is done to a person? Is it filling a void with enough information to ensure opportunities for future “success”?

Is the onus of education on the teacher, or the learner?

What does “teaching” really mean, anyway?

It seems, to me, that teaching is something that is done to a person, learning is something a person does for themselves. In the words of the very wise Joyce Fetteroll,

“Teaching is putting information in; learning is drawing information in.”

Even when someone thinks they are teaching someone something, they are never really in control of what the other person is actually learning. Someone could try to teach someone that 2 + 2 = 4 and the other person could be learning that the person thinks they are an idiot! A child could sit in a school classroom and be “taught” by the most highly regarded teacher, and yet learn nothing from the lesson at all. They may, for instance, learn that “I don’t have autonomy here” or “I suck at maths” or “What I really want to do is not respected” or they may learn something of what is being taught.

Imagine, for a moment, two children with the same IQ, sitting in the same classroom with the same teacher. Will they both learn the exact same things?

We are all learning, all the time. What we learn is up to us. When we are seeking knowledge, information and wisdom, we can source our information from all the ends of the earth; we do not need to make our first port of call a “teacher”. All those years we spent in school where the teacher was the expert set us up for a future where we do not trust in our own ability to learn, believing instead that we need to ask someone else to teach us.

When someone “teaches”, they are supposedly the “expert”, the one with the knowledge. The learner is the receptacle.

Should a teacher be judged by what a learner learns?
Should a learner be judged by how well a teacher teaches?

When a child’s head is stuffed full of the knowledge deemed important by our society’s current educational authorities, does it leave them hungry for more? Are they able to retain the knowledge after they spew out what went in?

When a child is given the freedom to be curious, to ponder, to investigate “just because”, they will learn. When they are free to ask questions rather than being forced to answer them, they are more likely to still be hungry for more, and to seek nourishment for their minds, rather than needing to shrivel up their natural thirst for answers to allow room for parroting the answers to other people’s questions.

In her book, The Teenage Liberation Handbook, Grace Llewellyn writes an introduction that in itself is worth the price of the entire book. She tells a story of a young girl living in a forest, hungry for the beautiful fruit on the tree that is just out of reach. She longs for the day she can reach the fruit, and in the meantime enjoys all that she can discover on the forest floor. One day she is taken to a big ugly grey building by a man who tells her they will teach her how to reach the fruit. What she is fed there ruins her appetite for the real thing, and when she is finally able to reach the fruit, she no longer wants it.

As a mother of unschooled children, I am delighted that they enjoy the freedom to pursue what interests them, rather than spending their childhood sitting in a classroom with the masses of other children, all being taught the same things and all having to regurgitate it back on the same tests. It brings me so much joy to support my children in their interests. To honour their passion. To delight in the flow of their days. To take them to interesting places. To provide resources that are inspiring. To help them find the answers to the questions that keep on coming. To watch with wonder as I see them quench their thirst for knowledge, only to wake up the next day thirsty for more. It is a bit like drinking from an eternal fountain that never runs dry, and always leaves you wanting for more.

So instead of teaching, I show, introduce, discuss, facilitate, strew, provide, take, support, and partner with my children in their learning journey. It’s a wonderful life!

N.B. I have total respect for the hard work of passionate teachers. My post is about questioning the system, and looking beyond teaching, to the joy of learning, and hopefully empowering people to trust in their own natural ability to learn, rather than assuming they always need someone to “teach them”.

From Jitters to Joy

JITTERS – nervousness; a feeling of fright or uneasiness
JOY – the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation

Molly. Sweet, sensitive, compassionate, yet also proud to be a gutsy girl (not a girly girl, she will confidently tell you!). She dreams of being a famous actress and singer (and an animal rescuer, thinking that maybe her fame could help save more animals, so she can tick both boxes). She recently did an 8 week drama workshop with some other home educated kids. She was SO excited! However, after the first week she was unsure about returning to classes because she was the oldest and tallest, and had felt that the class was a bit “babyish” for her. I communicated her thoughts with the drama coach, who listened with understanding and compassion, and responded with a helpful strategy to use Molly as a bit of a leader in the group.

She ended up enjoying being a bit of a leader amongst the younger (and definitely SHORTER!) kids

The “showcase” at the end of the 8 week program soon crept up, and the nerves set in! She was very adept at explaining to me just how she felt: that strange mix of excitement and terror! Yet she bravely got up there, threw herself into it, and had an absolute ball!

The part of the showcase she had been most nervous about was a two-person skit called “Petter Popperkosh and the Mean, Ugly Troll”, mainly because it was her first time ever performing on stage where she had to say individual lines out loud. She had actually wanted to play the part of the troll! At first, when she found out she was “Petty Popperkosh” she was bitterly disappointed (and very worried she’d have to wear a dress!), but she soon embraced the reality that being in a production doesn’t always equal getting the exact role you want, and she gave the character her own “tough chick” spin.

She got to stand up to a “mean and ugly troll” with gutsy girl power 🙂

It was so lovely to see her blossom and grow in confidence through this experience, and to make new friends, even though they were younger than her. I do love the way that home ed kids happily play with such a mixed age group of friends. Just like most adults do!

They did some made up plays and improvisation as well, and basically had perhaps more fun than the audience did!
There’s some of that fun I was talking about!
And ended up, of course, with the all important certificate of achievement. Personally, I think the classes themselves and, of course, the performance, were a great achievement in themselves.