Welcome to my life. It's a whirlwind of kids, chaos, pets, people, family, art, and being home (most of the time; I like to get out here and there). We unschool, so the unexpected is, well, expected...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I'm that mom

I'll play the impromptu blog carnival... inspired by Flo and then Ronnie

I'm that mom who...
...lets teenagers come over and climb up onto the roof of the house
...stays up later than anticipated to watch a youtube video that leads to more of them
...goes on bike rides even when I have a pile of dirty dishes in my sink
...asks for grocery requests and tries to comply
...gives either of my children my last $5 bill
...helps find ways around seemingly insurmountable obstacles
...lets my kids pick the music
...lets my kids pick the movie and/or TV show
...sets aside projects to help one of my kids with one of their projects
...makes platters of food and calls it dinner
...lets my kids leave large and messy projects and play out in the living room for extended periods of time
...will spend an hour or more salvaging a special toy that was injured
...who will give up my special saved crafty item to one of my kids who sees a vision of use for it before I do
...doesn't have any rules, but when pressed, will say my only rule is to "be kind" or "play nice", said mostly to neighbor kids who insist I have rules that I'm not sharing
...who doesn't punish my kids or ground them or make them do chores
...who is privy to really private information
...who is blessed to have kids that are happy and like to be home

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Unschooling is: post #7

Unschooling is about seeing the world from the perspective of the child and taking that into consideration.

The day before yesterday the neighbor girl ran away from home. Her mom had sent her to her room and grounded her for being disrespectful. To me, the irony is clear, the mom was clearly being disrespectful of her child by grounding her and sending her to her room. As if somehow, because she is younger and smaller she can be controlled and manipulated to the parent's idea of how she should be.

There's a lot more to that story, much of it could have been avoided if the mom took her kid's perspective of the world into consideration. I drove the mom somewhere that same night that the girl ran away and in the car, we talked about stuff. She keeps allowing bad men into her life, she says, and this is her wording not mine, "My picker's broken." I get that, it's a cycle of violence that she probably grew up with.

Her kid's "pickers" aren't broken yet. They knew immediately that the last guy she brought home was a bad one. Her son knew it, he came over to my house and cried the day he moved in. A year later and another kid, that man landed in jail for giving his girlfriend a black eye and breaking a radio. That was the least of all that he did. The daughter that ran away had been removed from the home because of that man. She was forced to live with her estranged father and while there, witnessed him brutally assault his mother. She was able to go back home because her mom's boyfriend was in jail.

She's angry and frustrated and ran away. She called the police and made allegations of abuse. Personally, I don't think it's true, I think she wanted to punish her mom. It worked. I don't know what the outcome is. I've been a crying shoulder for that mom so many times. She's so caught up in her own emotional trauma that she can barely parent.

If I had to give a simple set of instructions it would be this; put yourself in the perspective of the child, be calm and gentle, don't allow men to be involved for a while, GET help, seek counseling.

I wonder sometimes how parents can be so unaware of what goes on within the minds of their children. How can a mother, who gets a second chance at having her daughter back home, the abusive man gone, NOT see that she needs to be the voice of her children and be understanding of the huge emotional trauma that they dealt with and should recover from?

So, that's not really unschooling. From my perspective, seeing the world through the eyes of a child, gives me pause to do things differently. It would be easy to do just what feels right to ME. Kids are born with this innate ability to see things from their own eyes, from their own perspective, it's what makes us all individuals. As they grow and learn and see and do, their perspective grows to encompass more and to see things from many angles, including the view of others. How much better can that happen, than to model that for them? To be a person who does that, as their parent, the most trusted person in their world, is a gift, not to be taken for granted.

Yet, I see parents doing this in big and small ways all the time. Every time a parent tells a child something that isn't true, they take it for granted. Every time a parent sees multiple choices and only give their child one, they do that. Every time a parent says "no" and doesn't have a good and logical reason for it, they do that. Every time a parent's idea of what is "right" trumps the child's idea of what is "right", they do that.

Children are PEOPLE! It shouldn't be a radical idea to acknowledge this, but most parents don't see that. Sure, children have less experience and may not always make the best choices. What I've come to understand through unschooling, is that if you can see that a child can learn what they need to learn to live happily, then certainly you can see that they can make decisions too, that they can think for themselves as real bona fide PEOPLE, and what better way to help them along, as the more experienced person, by being there as their partner and validating their very person hood and choices, by being their soft landing when they make mistakes, by helping them find better and better ways to do things.

These are the things that make unschooling work. How in the world can a parent angrily swat their child's behind for not obeying an order, if they first see that their child is a real person NOT to be ordered around? If a big adult male person did that to a woman, they'd go to jail. It dehumanizes people. Might does not make right, no matter how much people feel that it does. It's oppressive. Children are people, and as people, should be treated humanely, asked, talked to, and respected by those around them as REAL PEOPLE, not objects to be ordered about. If a child says "no", then gosh darn it, it should be respected. The more I respect my children's right to have a say, the more they say "yes" to me.

When parents can see that their child has a perspective that requires the answer of "no", even if it causes inconvenience to the parent, they'll know that much more about how their child works, how they view the world and find out why they are saying "no". It so often is something so simple to accommodate that I wonder at parents who expect obedience, and if a parent shows how life can be one of accommodating one another, they will do the same, for you, for others, and for their own children. It's a selfless act to accommodate a child, but one with HUGE rewards that come with a child who becomes accommodating in the most unexpected ways.

It's a whole different way to view the world. We live in a culture that puts children away from their homes to be raised by strangers, a world where they must follow rules and "get along" with all those around them. We train them to not question authority, to put up with bullies and not recognize their own comforts and feelings. Parents perpetuate this at home, kids must eat when they may not be hungry and sleep when they may not be sleepy and do homework that they may not want to do. All of this is called NORMAL childhood. There is NOTHING normal about living in this way. Most adults I know, if put in that environment would react terribly to it because they KNOW it's wrong. Enslaved people know that enslavement is wrong, they feel it to their very core. It's exactly what we do to children though, we treat children as if they are somehow less than adults, that they must do and go along with every thing that adults around them say they must. Then, people are left wondering why so many teenagers misbehave, why college students binge drink and why children disrespect their parents by "talking back" or do their chores in anger.

There is nothing wrong with being a child. Children are people, younger and less experienced people, people capable of greatness! They aren't disobedient, they aren't rebellious, they aren't disordered, or diseased, they aren't any less than any adult. Children react to their environments in the same ways in which ALL people react to their environments. The difference is that children so often don't get to create their environments the way adults have the power to do for themselves.

Unschooling is seeing the world through the eyes of their children and creating an environment that matches it, that fosters it.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Unschooling is: post #6

In the absence of school and all it entails, children can be free to pursue their passion.

Our culture has gone the way of certification and qualifications and benchmarks and licensing and degrees and diplomas. Yet, what do those things mean? What do those things imply? That a person has put in a certain amount of time, read a certain amount of required literature, written a certain amount of required writing, taken a certain amount of non-essential required courses, done a certain amount of hands on work, and passed enough tests and examines.

Does it really mean that a person has reached a level of proficiency? Does it mean that person really knows what they are doing or that their knowledge is enough to be employable, and that they have a strong work ethic?

Our culture creates commodities of people. Early 20th century factories required functional expendable people that were literate enough to perform the required tasks. That model has been perpetuated many times over in the work force and the education designed to create a mass of employable people. Is it still necessary? Is this really what parents want for their children?

Chamille is old enough to have a job. What she wants to do is cut hair. To do so requires a license. This morning I read the history of barbering. The red and white striped pole stands for the two points of barbering, one of cutting hair, the white, and one of surgical procedures, the red. The pole itself is said to be used by the patient to hold onto and it had a cap on it that represented the container for holding leeches and catching blood. When a barber would finish with all that blood, those white cloths would be rinsed and hung out to dry, twisting in the wind and winding around the pole to create a twist of bloody cloths.

Many hundreds of years later, barber poles still exist to symbolize a barber shop. The first organization of barbers was founded in 1094. The practice of barbering is said to be around since 6000 BC. It involved the practice of hair cutting, teeth extraction, medicines, and other specialized surgical procedures. How many of those barbers today do any blood letting, amputation, or teeth pulling?

Somewhere along the way, barbering and surgical procedures got separated. Barbers were paid more than someone who was just a surgeon, until surgeons alone were used by British war ships during the naval wars. Since it wasn't referenced, I'm assuming these were the wars that came about with the advent of the Navy Royal in the time of King Henry VIII.

Barbering was a multi-tasked business practice of offering several services. Many hundreds of years created specialty services. The original practice of cutting hair still exists. One can go to a beauty school and get a license to cut hair. Separate from that, they can also get a longer and more expensive training in barbering, which also provides a license to cut hair. The difference, as near as I can tell, is the learning to do facial hair and learning the history of barbering. Kind of... Here's an excerpt from one barber school about what is learned in barber school, "Although barbering courses are often taught at cosmetology and beauty schools, there are also independent barber schools which are designed specifically to teach the time-honored profession of barbering. Students at barber schools learn such services as steam facials, facial massages, and foam shaves, as well as modern razor styling, hair cutting, coloring, permanent waving, and blow drying. Through these programs, students train for their state barber license, which is given by a state barber board."

I seriously doubt they teach any sort of blood letting as a time honored tradition of barbering! It's almost laughable, actually, that steam facials, facial massages, and foam shaves, are considered to be essential time honored traditions of barbering considering the actual history of barbering!

What DID get held onto after all those prolific things a barber did, was the credentialed aspect of it. The easiest part of being a barber is STILL being thrown into the arena of being so complex that one must be licensed to do it.

What I'm left wondering, is why do so many professions require licensing? If a person is really great at cutting hair, and performing all the services that a hair dresser does, what difference would a license provide? Most states license through the guise of "health and safety". Is hair cutting really for the health and safety of an individual? Is that a hold over from the history of barbering? Why is a profession relegated to aesthetics, controlled by health and safety? Despite the obvious reasons of disease prevention from the tools of the trade, it seems a bit overboard. Not only that, all schools in the area require a highschool diploma or a GED, as if somehow those things will make for a better cosmetologist. The benchmarks for those requirements have little to do with what makes for a passionate and talented hair dresser.

I must admit, my thinking has been influenced a bit by Ivan Illich's Deschooling Society. In the very first part of that book, he writes, "Rich and poor alike depend on schools and hospitals which guide their lives, form their world view, and define for them what is legitimate and what is not. Both view doctoring oneself as irresponsible, learning on one's own as unreliable, and community organization, when not paid for by those in authority, as a form of aggression or subversion. For both groups the reliance on institutional treatment renders independent accomplishment suspect."

I'm simultaneously reading "DIY U, Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education" by Anya Kamenetz. Both books say very similar things about how education, and the need for credentialed mass populations, may actually do more harm than good.

So, what does this have to do with unschooling?

Chamille really wants to get paid to cut and style hair. The way *I* see it, she should get on with the doing of that. There are barriers to getting there to legally accept monetary compensation for doing so. To Chamille it's no big deal to jump through that hoop, although, she has misgivings about doing all the extra classes that she has zero interest in that are generally required for getting a license.

For me, if, as a culture, we'd like a change in the status quo of the lack luster educational system, the worst thing one could do, is jump through the hoops and buy into that, literally. I don't have the answer.

Meanwhile, I will support my kids in getting what they want out of life, in the here and now. Right now, that might just be cosmetology school and all that it entails, state credentials and all! Even though, the subversive and aggressive part of me would like to say, "F that"!