Friday, September 07, 2007

I Saw Something Nasty In the Woodshed (or) A Homily

Well, maybe I did.
We'll see.
I'm not yet sure what its name is. Maybe Back To School Worries and Livin' R.U.

Two years ago last month I knew homeschooling was it for us. It was an easy decision- charters were hard to get into, my sisters homeschooled, my child had never been to daycare. Three months later, in November, I joined Always Unschooled.
As soon as I heard of unschooling (I studied it in the fall months), I knew that it sounded right.
But of course I had some things to work through. I wrote a few months back on deschooling, and what that process meant for me.
It's interesting to me that I've drifted over a few blogs lately that are expressing doubt and fears - it's Back To School time. This is one of the problems that I have with schools, and school thinking. We've done it for so long that it has managed to replace our own good judgment, and it has instilled itself in our brains as simply The Way.
It's merits are not usually questioned, as it is just something that Must Be Done. There are problems with the system, of course, but nothing that a bit more money won't fix.

I have seriously conflicting thoughts about school and the ru life.
I believe in freedom. That means for all.
I believe that the earth's souls should be allowed to fulfil their truth in freedom. It occurs to me that that includes folks that wish to live in misery or under another's tyranny or under orders or following along with what their society dictates. Thus my dilemma. Freedom includes freedom to live in bondage. Complex, if you see what I mean.

In the matter of living ru - I get a bit more... huffy.
No, I'm not perfect at it. I am an extremely emotional person, and I holler sometimes. I am sinfully impatient. I am bossy by nature.
But I really, really believe that living respectfully with children - ru- is the right thing to do.
I mentioned to Evie yesterday (during a correspondence regarding a comment on her post) that for me it's almost like the beginning of a revolution.
A hundred years ago women were afforded no where near equal rights. While it certainly isn't equal today, either, in most parts of our society at least they (we) are not regarded as chattel to be owned, patted on the head and patronized. Maybe by a few idiots, but that's their truth for this time around, I spose.
I think that looking upon children should be viewed with the same eye. To think that we can take a child and make him into what we dream for him to be is erroneous. If that were true, and a child had no thoughts (outside his parents) of his own, then we (the parent) would never come across opposition. The child would just say "Yes, ma'am", and that would be the end of it.
One of the things that really infuriates me (as Evie now knows) is the belief that children should be controlled.
Parents that insist that their children save their allowance for school supplies and school clothes. Or dictate at all how that allowance should be spent and saved. Or make them save their money for a bike if they want one (provided the family can afford it). Pssh.
It infuriates me that parents have an "I owe you nothing" mentality, and that the child must work for her possessions.
Listen, folks. We all knew going in that "children are expensive". Eric and I lived together for eleven years before we had a baby. We were terrified that we couldn't afford it.
Eventually we jumped - and knew that we would find a way.
And we have. We're not wealthy people. We have a decent (but fifty years old) house in a good part of town. Eric makes a good living for us - but he is the only one bringing in a significant amount of money.

After I cleaned up the playroom and sorted everything, last night I was thinking "Wow, this is a really great house for a kid to grow up in. We've got just about everything." And I was proud of it, and happy for my children. Don't get me wrong - we don't have boats, and jet skis, and motor cycles, and battery powered hummers for the children to drive, but we have a variety of paints, and boxes for make believe, and legos, puzzles, a kitchen with wooden toys and pots, books, books, and more books - everything from Martin Luther King Jr. to constellations to the Human Body to the deep sea, and lots of fun play equipment (including bicycles!) outside.
Do I begrudge my children these things? No way. I figure I owe it to them. It comes with the territory.
There are certain things I owe to my children because I am their Mama. A happy childhood is one of them. Tools to aid them in imagining and growing. Nourishment, of all kinds. Safety. Joy. A healthy environment. Respect for Who They Are.

As you can see, while I believe in freedom, I also have very specific ideas on how a child should be treated. I believe they need room to grow - freely . Unconditional love. Unconditional liking, even. Respect. I believe they should be treasured and accepted.
Indeed, I believe it's the answer to most of the world's problems.

Back to the nasty in the woodshed....
I had a bout with panic for a minute a few months ago. Its name was Cartoon Network. It invaded our hearts, minds, and home for several weeks.
I got reeeeeal diligent in stocking our Learning Cabinet. (which we call the shelves in our entertainment center in the livingroom - where I keep some supplies handy.) Strewing. Cuisenaire rods, tangrams, library books, legos, dominoes, pick-up sticks, paints, etc. Swapped and traded once a week or so.
I got all terrified after hearing Naomi Aldort (whom I highly respect) say something about children's brain development and the repercussions tv had on it. I didn't freak, and turn it off, but a couple of times I had to sit down and have a talk with Little Son and say "Trev, I'm concerned about this..." and he'd play for a minute, and go back to the tv. Days eventually turned in to a couple of months, if I remember right.
I bit my nails.
"Wanna read something with me?"
"No thanks."
"Hey, wanna build with dominoes?"
Sometimes it was "sure!" and sometimes it was "nah".
Strew, strew, strew. I was nowhere near where I was last fall, when I was really quite compelling in my ideas and suggestions. But I was worrying, and I was offering.

I mentioned to Eric (dh) a few days ago the things that have been happening lately.
I have not traded out that cupboard in months. (you might have noticed it's chaos in some of our pictures in the livingroom on olm.)
There is no need.
There is so much learning diversity in this house these days. Every day different tools and toys are brought out by the children. And books. Especially books. For about six months there my children had no interest in books. It layed me out for a while. There were lots of other things going on, so I wasn't panicking, but I was more than a bit concerned when my son told me "Books are so boring! It's much better to see the moving pictures on tv!" whoof- Stagger, stagger, stagger goes the mother, clutching her chest to pull out the knife.
But I didn't press it.

Last year at this time, I was much in the same place as some other unschoolers seem to be finding themselves in this year.
And I didn't like it. I wanted desperately to trust, and to know that everything would turn out all right.

Now our lives seem so full - bursting and brimming with discoveries and explorations.
I can't say if it's me and my perceptions that have changed - though I am sure I have grown more confident and at ease with our ways- or if it's that my children are just a dozen times more sparkly.
I think it's probably that I have no attachments, or (hardly) any expectations, and that we are free to pursue our happiness, and that I've come to a place that I believe and trust in "learn in our own way and time, the things that we love." (Ren Allen)
How great is that?
After these almost two years, I'm finally coming to a place of trust.
I'm so thankful to be in a place of appreciation and celebration instead of attachment and fear.

Yes, there was something nasty lurking in the woodshed.
But I went out there and bravely flung the door open wide, and then just walked away.


Aubrey said...

you have such a way with words. i had my first "back to school" nightmare a few nights ago and it got me thinking a little harder on where I stand with RU.
after feeling the panic and anxiety associted with the first day of school again in my dream it just reaffirmed my strong desire to live in freedom.
that includes everyone in my family, not just the kids. you see, I am rather selfish and don't want to live by anyone else's agenda but my own.
anyway, loved your post. keep up the inspiration.

whimsigal said...

"Stagger, stagger, stagger goes the mother, clutching her chest to pull out the knife."

This caused me to imagine Fred Sanford, calling for his precious Elizabeth, hand over his heart. I must admit, I laughed out loud when I read it.

After the comment you left yesterday on my blog, there can be no doubt where you stand on RU and woe be to those who try to get in your way. I feel the same way you do, it is revolutionary and it exciting to be a participant. It's a blessing to be a witness to the miracles and magic of childhood.

You have written as eloquent a post here as you did your comment yesterday and I so enjoyed reading them both!

Stephanie said...

After sniffing and quite literally wiping the tears from my eyes...

Quite so!

I'm gonna have to save that one and use it at another time.....

Lerend Zonder School said...

I've been having similar feelings lately and wanted to start a discussion about it. Suffice it to say I feel like everything I read in the media lately has some new and improved agenda on how to control/limit your children. I think it was in Sunday's paper they have a new section titled Education/Learning or something of the sort (or maybe it was a special since school just started) and there were 3 or 4 different stories and all included ways to make your kids do this or that (brush teeth, finish their antibiotics, go to bed at a certain time, ect..) and limit them on this or that and I was so angry after reading it, I was just like "wow, here's this minority population that is basically being discriminated against and it's the thing to do and so mainstream even" it's just not right.

Anyway, I can be civil enough not to tell other people how to parent, but I cannot respect people who parent their children in a controlling/limiting environment, it may work for the parents, but it sure as hell doesn't work for the kids. Different families have different way of doing things, and I talk with Damek a lot about that, as we are around the neighbors a lot and he sees the differences, and I would never give my opinion unless asked, but I cannot respect them internally seeing what I see. RU works for kids, it may not work for the adults, but it works for kids, and that's all I'm interested in. (sorry for the rant, we just got home from a night at the neighbors).

Oh, and I do know what your talking about when you mention CN, as it has been around here for the last few months. I'm embracing it and watching all I can with him and trying when I can to entice him in other ways. I'm also knowing that what he learns from these shows is just as meaningful as what we can read in books, and we have had some great discussions brought on by all the imaginative cartoons, subjects that I don't think he would have embraced in another form. We are constantly learning, I believe just as much from CN as from going to the library, as playing with "educational toys", ect...