Friday, December 17, 2010

the mess and the village

the mess.
the mess of books on and off of the bookshelves. the mess of sewing stuff under the stairs. the mess of papers on the desk. the mountains of laundry both in front of the machine and on the couch. the mess of beads and jewelry parts in the corner. the mess of yarn and various crocheting projects beside the couch. the mess of paints and canvases by the table. guitars on the walls, drums in the living room.
Oh the mess!

the mess that is unschooling.
Why do I say this?

because for us, and i suspect a whole lot of other unschoolers,
this is what the unschooling environment looks like.

projects and supplies for projects everywhere.
the mess is irritating at times, overwhelming at others; but mostly,
the mess is a sign of learning!

judging by the mess... boy, are we learning a lot!

the learning that is everywhere and in so many forms.
And so mostly...
i have made peace with the mess because it is just part of where we are at as a family, right now.

So i just wanted to put that out there...
for families who are already unschooling or who are thinking of unschooling.

the mess is inevitable.
AND it will be okay.
MESS is patient, it will wait.
the mess will be better some days and worse others.
it will be organized mess some of the time.
the mess will always be there.
i am closer to being at peace with it;
and with that comes freedom and appreciation.

the realization that it is a trade worth making.
Mess in exchange for learning.
mess in exchange for time spent with my children,
creating, being inspired, exploring.

the mess is worth it.

the village.
"it takes a village to raise a child".
the village is something i am thankful for.
and feeling more and more appreciative for everyday.
the village is full of people and family that have been gracious enough to be a positive, supportive influence in our lives.
the village says to my daughter: "i see your gifts of creativity"... "i see you would like to learn how to swim- i can help you with that"... "i will help you to sew"...
"i am here to help"....

Our village is full of wise women who are willing to share, and mentor.
Our village is full of hugs.
I am hopeful that our village will continue to be full of support when we encounter challenges too.
I hope our village will be empathetic and non-judgmental
as we ALL have our own mountains to climb.

Feeling thankful for the beautiful village that we get to be a part of.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

thankful for uncomfortable remembering

Tonight, I find myself pondering the past. Usually I find myself living in a state of "future", thinking ahead, planning.

the past. *sigh* who likes to go there?...

and yet, I'm remembering back to my teen years.
remembering the challenges that surrounded me, that surrounded my friends.
The challenges that my parents, and others would talk about with such concern. such worry.
and this enigma "peer pressure"...
I was so sure I was not affected by it.
sure that for me an MY friends, we were somehow exempt from it.
I remember the atmosphere
drugs and alcohol,
teen pregnancy,
of girls in abusive relationships,
of friends and classmates in violent and abusive homes,
eating disorders,
and teen suicide.
I remember losing some.
Some of my friends. Some of my dreams.
Some of my hopes, and vulnerability.
Some of my trust.
I remember the confusion and overwhelming-ness of it all.

And none of these subjects are ones we like to talk about, or like to ponder... I think, because we all have our stories. We have all known these things.

Add to this a scary statistic I recently heard, 3-45 minutes; that is the amount of time total, per week, that parents and their children spend talking; having conversation that is not related to making plans or doing tasks.
~Conversation that is about knowing each other. about connection. think about that for a minute. and then think about the things I mention above. ~how do any of us come through it?

This has me thinking about my availability to my little ones, only... they are getting bigger everyday; and am I there for them? and am I beating this statistic? I hope so.

I hope that we are getting to know each other as people.
I hope that we are developing a relationship that allows them to talk freely.
I hope I am communicating my love and affection,
my confidence in who they are,
and who they are becoming.
I hope I am advocating for them.
By advocating, I mean "standing beside."
Being a support, and a soft place to fall.

I'm feeling like I do a lot of "talking", reflecting, pondering in this blog. I hope it is at least a little bit enjoyable to read. I hope that in relating some of my thoughts, I am connecting.

I am hoping that some might be inspired to think about some of these things. To spend some time in what might be an uncomfortable state of remembering. Remembering being the child. Being the teen.
Recalling what you needed and wanted. What you wished for.
Because I have been thankful for this uncomfortable feeling.
Remembering... needing acceptance, support, listening ears, affection, confidence, reassurance.
The "stand beside" variety of advocacy, that I was blessed to find among some kind-hearted adults.
The kind of advocacy that says,
"I am here to listen. I am here to support you."
I hope that I will be able to do this with my own children;
and I hope they will also meet others who will do this with them.

Pondering, reflecting, thankful.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Someone told me unschooling is BRAVE. They said it is brave because no one, including myself, really knows the outcome. And further, they said, if my children do have a good "outcome", people will assume I just got lucky. Fair enough, I say... but what parent ever does know the outcome?? Who really says "I'm going to do it THIS way, and I will have a good outcome, guaranteed."?

And when asked what they want for their children,
most will reply that the want their children to be HAPPY.
Happy and successful.
From there on the details vary,
so where am I on the spectrum?

I want my children to be happy, and healthy... spiritually, emotionally, and physically healthy.
I want them to have lived and therefore learned
honesty, integrity, confidence, kindness, peacefulness, patience, faith, love.
I want them to have developed
communication skills that will serve them well
when they have their own families.
I hope
they will have living skills, like cooking nutritious food.
I want them to know they are valuable and know what gifts they possess.
These are the things I hold as the most valuable.

~Where are they going to learn these values and skills, if not from their parents and family?
~If not from spending time with themselves?
~Are they to learn these things from attending school? No, I do not believe these are the things learned from going to school- BUT these are the things I would define as the "basics".
And this is where our BASIC definitions vary...

There is all this talk of basics, in education... as in "the children must learn the basics, reading, writing and math." What does that even mean?!
And does basic, reading, writing, and math really require 13 years in an institution to learn? It has been shown, time and again that these basic skills can be learned in approximately 100 hours, when a learner is ready and motivated!!

~Did you know that it was recently reported that 40% of fourth graders in bc are not reading at grade level? So what is going on? By 4th grade literally, hundreds of hours would have been spent in school, supposedly learning "the basics!"
~Could the flaw reside in the definition of "grade level"?

***If nearly HALF of students are not where they "should" be, is it possible that the expectations themselves are flawed?? Is it possible that "readiness and motivation" is being overlooked?
...and even if it were taken into account how can one teacher adequately meet each learner where they are at?!

It reminds me of when I was pregnant with my son, and we were planning a home birth. There was no shortage of people calling us BRAVE, or selfish, or foolish. To me though, the mothers laboring and birthing in the hospital were BRAVE.... with the monitors, and the hospital beds, and the limits on movement, eating, bathing... their trust handed to well-trained professionals.

Back to BRAVERY.... I'm feeling like leaving "the basics", by either of these definitions, to someone else would be truly BRAVE.

I know that there are people
who think unschooling is
selfish, foolish, or even down right lazy!
I am totally okay with them thinking whatever they like....
while I am busy following my children's lead;
watching out for signs of readiness and curiosity,
finding and playing learning games,
making sure of opportunities to play with other kids,
finding mentors
supporting them
in learning dance, art, music,
or anything else they feel is important for them,
reading stories and bible stories,
exploring nature....
laughing and laughing and laughing till it hurts!

Our life of unschooling is a full and happy life!
And I guess if having all this fun with my kids,
when they could be in school is brave....
then I guess I'm BRAVE too!

Monday, October 18, 2010

how we got to this unschooling place

It occurred to me that I spend a great deal of time writing about this thing we call unschooling. I write about it's philosophies and how positively it has effected my family. My writing has been somewhat impersonal. Distant.
I would like to share with you how we got to this place, because it was not the obvious choice and has not been without it's challenges. In fact, there have been a few occasions I need to remind myself why this is the path we have chosen.
(I will warn you, this is long...)

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I was a pretty conventional mama. I had a doctor. I birthed Olivia in the hospital in a rather artificial way. (which I will save for a later post) I tried to breastfeed, but alas, breastfeeding was not going to happen for us. As is the story for so many moms. So like so many moms, she drank formula. And I continued reading the common, average parenting books. Listening to the advice of anyone who would give it.

I was a mama who was very unsure how to mama. I was lost. I made a lot of "mistakes".

As she was becoming a toddler my husband and I happened to read the story of the bible character, Daniel. In the story, Daniel and his 3 companions are taken as captives to Babylon. In Babylon, the king orders that they be a part of the education system in Babylon. The king strips them of the names given to them by their parents and gives them names related to the Babylonian deities. He tries to make them change their diet. In the school, they are required to learn all about the Babylonian ways; their language, their holidays, their gods. The education system in this bible story did everything it could to strip the boys of their identity.

My heart hurt for these boys. In exploring the story with my husband, a few things jumped out at us as note worthy.

The goal of this education system was to strip the boys of their identity, to force them to learn what the government thought valuable. Ideally, the king wanted to integrate these boys into their way of life. We noticed the similarities to our current educational system. Trying to create cookie-cutter children- dressing alike, thinking alike, celebrating alike. I did not like the idea of my child being a part of a system whose goal was to mold her mind; to make it fit in with this world's ways. I also reasoned that at 5 years old there wouldn't be much of an identity for them to strip away, before inculcating her with this worlds culture.

The boys were teen-agers when they were taken captive. Before being taken, it is quite likely that they had many years spent with their family; learning from their parents, and others in the community who cared about them; others who shared their way of life; and their values. The boys in the story succeed in keeping their identity, and I suspect that the large amount of time spent with their families before being taken captive helped to create strong bonds and a strong foundation of beliefs and values. Their way of life would have been "inculcated" in them daily for at least 13 years, before this separation.

The boys were taken captive, against their will, and against the will of their parents. Their parents did not say, "this will be good for them, this will make them stronger." They were not willingly sent.

At this point, I knew I would not be sending my child to school. It didn't feel right. I wasn't sure what that meant we would do yet. Just that she wouldn't be going.

I gave birth to my son about a year before Olivia was to start kindergarten. I had come along way as a mama. I birthed him at home with midwives, my hubby, Olivia, my sister, and my close friend. I was confident. I knew who I was at this parenting gig. We co-slept. We nursed. (until he turned 4) We massaged one another. We loved. We were together.

The month before I was to register Olivia for a homeschool program, I had doubts.
Life was challenging with two children. My house was always a mess. I was exhausted. A good deal of the time, my body hurt and I had no clue as to why. The idea of someone else watching my child a few hours a day was kind of appealing.
~I questioned whether I had been over thinking it before. ~I questioned whether keeping her home with me would be taking on too much.

A friend of mine had put her son in school the previous year; she told me that 2 children, in this elementary school had been sent home for having oral sex at the school! I didn't know which part of this story shocked me the most. I felt sick.

Also, her son had been having some struggles with the work he was given to do; the school was wanting to label him with some disorder to explain his difficulties. This all sounded terrible.

~What if my daughter was exposed to kids engaging in these kinds of activities? ~What if she had trouble with the curriculum?
~Would they want to label her too?

My husband said, "Look, I know, you know what you really want to do. So do it. And stop worrying. We will work it out." Little did I know what a life altering statement that would be...

After a lot of searching, I came across a home-school that gave the children choices about what they would learn. All the subjects were mashed together in work-booklets that had been prepared on various topics. Butterflies, dinosaurs, cats.... The teacher was very nice, and the borrowing library was pretty big. The school said Olivia would have $800 to put towards lessons. This sounded good. A month or so into the school year, we were feeling the weight of my health problems and our huge mortgage.
~We wanted to make sure of what was now very important to us.

We sold our house, bought a cheaper townhouse that needed some serious renovations before we could move in. Our family moved in with my in-laws. Obviously, this provided a new set of challenges. But my in-laws were incredibly hospitable to have us! And they supported me in taking care of my kids. I really needed and appreciated the help. Eventually, we got moved into our new home, and I found that a gluten-free diet vastly improved my health. We switched to the home-school program offered in our new town. The workbooks were similar, the teacher was nice; and we were able to be a part of the group art, drama, and science activities offered locally. Also, this new school offered Olivia $1200 for recreational lessons.

There is no easy way to say this.
The workbooks were boring. Olivia was expected to do about 4 worksheets per day, on various things. A lot of it was skills she already had a handle on, so they were boring; some of them were beyond her abilities, and were frustrating; and a lot of them were simply irrelevant to her life. Our "school-work" time quickly turned into a power struggle, with plenty of tears to go around. This was not working. I was beginning to feel that I was out of options.

My husband happened to come home with two books for me; he had stumbled on them, discounted for $2 each. Both were about home-schooling, from what he could tell. One was "De-schooling Our Lives"- a collection of articles from various writers; the other was "Dumbing Us Down" by John Taylor Gatto. I love reading, and dove in. In the first one I read article after article about this thing called "unschooling", and stories from families who had done this mysterious thing; and something called a "free school" where children were free to learn whatever they wanted, however they wanted. This all sounded very new and wild. Crazy! I came across an article by John Holt in this book. This is one of my favorite quotes from him:

"This faith is that by nature people are learning animals.
Birds fly; fish swim; humans think and learn.
Therefore, we do not need to motivate children into learning
by wheedling, bribing, or bullying.
We do not need to keep picking away at their minds
to make sure they are learning.
What we need to do - and all we need to do -
is to give children as much help and guidance as they need and ask for,
listen respectfully when they feel like talking,
and then get out of the way.
We can trust them to do the rest."

It felt like a fire was lit in my heart. This wild, crazy, trusting thing called "unschooling" felt true.
Indeed, my child had learned to walk and talk on her own, and in her own way. I observed that in the times we weren't struggling about "home work" she was playing and learning happily. ~Could this really work? It felt scary. I approached my husband about it. He was not interested in reading the books; this idea sounded way out there to him too. I think it felt scary to him too. He said he trusted me; and he was willing to give it a try for a certain amount of time; provided that he could still see that she was learning.
~Would she learn to read? write? Oh no, how on earth would she learn math?! This was an overwhelming and exciting place to be.

So here I was- public school was out of the question; and now home school was over too.
~Where exactly did that leave us?

I wasn't sure. I told Olivia that for the remainder of the year I would not be forcing her to do her homework, providing that she could explain to her teacher why she wasn't doing them. She did. "They are kind of boring. I didn't want to do them anymore." It made me smile, and I felt proud of her. She was able to begin to re-claim her right to learning.

Over the summer break I read "Dumbing Us Down". My mind and heart sucked it all in. This book was written by New York's "Teacher Of The Year". He outlined from his experience what lessons the school system he was working in were Really teaching. Many of the lessons being the downright opposite of the lessons most parents would want their children learning. Lessons on confusion, position, indifference, emotional and intellectual dependency, provisional self-esteem, and lack of privacy. He explained the difference between "education" and "learning".

One of the things I came across in "dumbing us down" that made the biggest impression on me was a breakdown of kids time: "Out of 168 hours in a week my children (his students) sleep 56. That leaves 112 hours a week out of which to fashion a self..... children watch 55 hours of television a week. That leaves them with 57 hours in a week in which to grow up. My children attend school 30 hours a week, use about 8 hours getting ready and traveling to and from school.... average 7 hour per week in homework- a total of 45 hours..... that leaves them 12 hours a week out of which to create a unique consciousness...." it continues to factor in eating time, and time in extra curricular activities.

I started to think about my own children and their time. Their precious time. Out of 168 hours in a week, my children sleep 70 hours, leaving 98 awake hours. If I gave 30 to the school.... and 6 getting ready for school, and 6 doing homework, a total of 42 hours per week, Isn't that the same amount of time an adult puts into a full-time job? That would leave me with a mere 56 hours per week to just BE with my children. Take away time that I am distracted, cleaning, cooking, or persuing my other interests; or time my children spend at friends houses, or time watching tv. At best, I would get to spend a mere 14 hours per week more time with my children than the school.

Now what? Someone told me it was legal to write a letter to the school board stating that you were teaching your child yourself. So perhaps, this is what I would do. Write a letter stating that I would like to raise my own child.
That I would like to use my right to teach my own.

Sometime in that summer someone told me about a "homeschool" who supported "unschooling". After a lot of meditation, I enrolled her. When the lady who was to be our "learning consultant" called us; I was very upfront about what I wanted our year to look like. Free. No pressure. No boring workbooks. Would that be okay? Yes! Was the answer I got. I was still unsure of how this would work. I just just knew that the below was what I hoped for:

"Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist; it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges; it should allow you to find values which will be your road map through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you are doing, wherever you are, whomever you are with; it should teach you what is important: how to live and how to die."~John Taylor Gatto

In all honesty, that was merely the beginning of our unschooling journey. We have had many challenges since then, but I will save them for another day...

Monday, October 4, 2010


what is culture to you?
what is life all about to you?
what makes you special? unique?
if i wanted to learn all about you, what questions would i ask?

this idea of us all being from a place unique only to us is something i've been pondering all week.....
what began all this thinking about culture?

An unschooling teen referred to schooled kids as belonging to a "culture" unique to school- to his description- a culture about surface, about looks, and fitting in, about sameness, and rightness, competitiveness; a culture of ridiculing anyone different, and so on....
but alas, this blog entry is not about dogging on public school... it is about so much more than that... it is about life...

then someone else presented the idea to me of meeting someone from another land, another culture; wanting to get to know them; taking them out for a coffee and conversation in an effort to learn more about them- who they are and where they are from.... i envisioned this scenario, as i was asked to... looking at this other person, this stranger from another land, i felt curious, and FULL of questions...

i imagined this person as not sp
eaking fluent english, but as someone learning english... i imagined having to repeat things back, using hand gestures or pictures to make sure i was understanding what they were sharing.... i thought about the richness of variety of music, art, food, architecture, spirituality.... if this visitor felt welcome by me, comfortable with me... i could learn a lot... if i was open to their answers- especially the ones that felt different... i can feel this open-ness... it was as if we were both children again; exploring the ideas and identities of one another... now i was asked to imagine approaching life with my children from this open, curious, respectful place... wow... is all i can say. what a beautiful comparison. this creates in me a deeper understanding of relationships; both friendships and family relationships. i knew my children had preferences and i have always tried to be respectful of that; but i had never thought of viewing it with the same respect i would give an adult; the same acceptance; the same curiosity.... the same open-ness to the possibilities of learning- from my children, in everyday moments...

So what is my culture all about?

Mine is a culture of learning. learning from people and places and books and experiences, and sharing, and love. Mine is a life full of questions and curiosity; trying new things and getting better at the old things...
In this picture, my culture is all the things that make me unique and special, the things that make me different. in my culture love creates a context of learning, and learning leads back to love.

so what is your culture? what are your questions? What makes you unique? what can i learn from you?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

why, oh why do we expect the WORST??

First, I have to divulge some TRUTH about my motivation for writing today; I read a crappy article about unschooling in one of our local papers. It seemed clear to me that the writer was ignorant about what unschooling actually looks like in real life. I highly doubt she has met any actual unschooling families, or unschooling children. Something I would encourage her to do, with an open mind.

Something else seemed clear too; she, like so many people in our society is expecting nothing short of the WORST from children!!

Why, oh why, do we expect the WORST?!

The line of thinking was, if kids aren't made to read classic english literature, they won't. If they aren't forced to learn math skills, they won't. Basically, if children aren't forced to learn what we adults think is valuable information, they won't learn it.

In my experience, this is simply untrue. Which leads me to so many questions….
What does learning look like for us adults? There are certainly a number of us who are not in school, and yet we learn? How do we learn? Why do we learn? What have you learned lately? What was your motivation for learning it? How did you go about learning?

I’ll tell you what I do for learning… it usually involves researching in books and online; it usually involves finding a knowledgeable mentor to help me along. In the past couple years, I learned to play guitar, crochet, make jewelry, edit photos, and cook yummy gluten-free food. I was motivated in all of these endeavors by curiosity, need, and enjoyment… the very same things that motivate unschooling children to learn and do amazing things.

I want to share my experience with my daughter. She is especially passionate about dancing, photography, and making jewelry. She is going to continue learning modern and ballet this year with her mentor. She is going to continue taking and editing beautiful photos, with so many mentors. These are some of the pictures she entered in the fair this year, where she won 12 first prizes! 1 second prize! And got a trophy for having the most points in her age group. She will keep on making jewelry, as gifts and selling it online and at farmers markets. All of these passions are things she could do for a living if she chooses to.

I have watched dance transform my rather shy baby girl into a very confident, out going girl. I get to witness her discover the natural gift she has for photography and for making jewelry. Actually, come to think of it, running a small jewelry business has motivated her to learn a lot about money, and budgeting. It has been a math learning motivator!

She does all of these things because they are fun! And the confidence that she has developed has her striving after the goal of playing violin. She has been working her buns off, and budgeting and saving, and brainstorming to find a violin, and a violin mentor. All her hard work is paying off too. She has found a used violin to borrow and found a mentor. She has also made arrangements to have a new violin on lay away at the music shop! She is so excited to write a card to Colm, the violinist for THE FRAMES, to tell him that his music was her inspiration to learn.

Okay, okay, but does she know how to do things she doesn’t want to do? Like "what about when she has to go to work one day and she doesn’t want to go? And what about adversity creating a stronger character in her?
" Yes, she does things she doesn’t want to do; and things she doesn’t enjoy doing. She voluntarily sweeps and mops our floors, and cleans both of our bathrooms. Not exactly fun. She also unloads the clean dishwasher, even though she really doesn’t enjoy it. Why does she do it then? Do I make her? She does it because she knows it helps out the whole family when we all pitch in. I don’t make her. And she has expressed awareness that these skills are going to be important for her to have developed when she is an adult!! Really, stop and read that last sentence again.
And guess what?

That same principle carries over to the rest of her life. She occasionally does math problems from a workbook, or as it applies to money or time because she knows it will be essential to her success as an adult. She is learning to read and write, (something she REALLY didn’t want to do, and has been a huge personal challenge for her) for the same reason. She has a map of Canada on her wall, with various cities starred, because she feels it is important for her to learn about her country. One of the things she wants this year is an atlas, so she can learn about the rest of the world too. One of the projects she wants to work on is researching which province and which cities have the most green space.

And she does encounter adversity; adversity that is within her current abilities to face, and to problem solve through, and to rise above. Adversity that in the bigger picture works towards more confidence and positive self image. No, she does not face adversity everyday, for possibly 6 hours per day, among near strangers. But who does? maybe some adults, who work at a job they hate, and maybe they put up with it because a life full of adversity has taught them to expect nothing less, and that they are not deserving of joy in everyday life??

....and who would sign up the one they love for that? a life full of lessons of adversity, all under the guise that it will build character... so character is more valuable than love, when in the name of education?

I have no doubt that she will read english classics, know how to do math, and have gained an understanding of history and various cultures, because she is and active and passionate participant in her life. And let's face it, life is full of learning and learning is fun!

I have granted my daughter the very basic right of freedom to grow and learn. To be the leader of her learning journey. Which is a scary feeling at times, granted that we are conditioned to expect the worst from our kids. She has proven to me that when given that freedom, with love and support, we can expect the very BEST from our children. We can expect them to AMAZE us. Again and again.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


I am full of gratitude.

I just finished typing up a learning plan for my son, who when asked about what he would like to do and learn about this year had only 3 things to say:

1. everything Mario
2. nothing else because "I am NOT starting school"
3. and also, "I do NOT want to learn how to read!"

And so, that is what I had to work with. Building a plan for my determined and fun boy who has no interest in being a part of this planning process; but who will no doubt learn because (as I've learned) being ALIVE makes one part of the learning process :D

Actually, I thought it was kind of adorable. His to-heck-with-it attitude. His "I only like THIS at this moment and will not venture into imagining future interests with you" attitude. And so, like most proud mama's I told his gramma this story about him. And like a proud gramma, she laughed and retold it to her friends. It dawned on me that it didn't have to go that way. She could have heard this story and become concerned about her granbaby's "education". But she didn't, because she is awesome! And, I think, because she loves us, and she loves our son; and I think she knows he will be learning and doing amazing things this year. And I am SO grateful that she has always been loving and supportive- even when things sound kind of crazy!

I included this story in the learning plan that I submitted to our learning consultant; who, I have no doubts will find it very funny! She has been helping us on our learning journey for 3 years already, with our daughter. I consider her one of my valued friends. She has been a beautiful support to my daughter and to our family. She helps me when I have doubts; and reminds me of what is really important to me when it comes to raising my kids. I am so grateful to have the support and guidance of a 'teacher' who has affection for my family.

As I was writing his plan, I had to think about mentors for him. It reminded me how supportive our extended family really has been. My husband's auntie has been doing art days with my daughter nearly every week for more than a year; and has taken her swimming and helped her learn to swim- which is a HUGE deal because my daughter was very scared of the water; but she was patient with her, and kind, and helped her through it. And the gramma's have helped with reading, and trips to the aquarium and disneyland, and encouraging my daughter's passion for photography, dance and jewelry making.

They didn't have to do that, I am thankful they did. It dawns on me that Un-schooling is a huge concept. One that has worked beautifully for my family; but that must have sounded straight-up off the wall to some of the people in our life. Perhaps, it still does. No curriculum?! Child-led learning?! No workbooks?! (unless they want them) No forced learning?! It really does sound crazy. It brings up alot of doubts. Alot of questions. Alot of fears... for me, as their parent trying to figure out how this whole thing would work; but I'm sure for others in our life too. But everyone has been pretty patient with me, as I figure out how this whole thing works.

Gratitude. and anticipation for the learning year to come....

Thursday, September 2, 2010

semi-annual public school rant ;)

alright, i'm not even going to try to hide the fact that this is likely going to be a bit of a rant. it is not going to be in favor of public school, because i am generally not in favor of public school. if you think you will be offended by what i am about to type, stop reading, or choose to not be offended. this is my space, one of the few places i can hope to say what it is i think and feel. so there. continue reading at your own choice....

i am inspired to write this in this fine september morning because for the last week or so, i am encountering so many children who do not want to return to school. they are whining about it, they are bummed about it, they are complaining. they are acting out. they are trying to live up the last week of freedom they will get until winter break. and the adults involved seem to be immune to the whining, and complaining of these kids. WHY? why do the adults involved not give a crap that their children do not want to return to school?

is it because they themselves went to school? therefore it is tradition? is it because they figure its what is best for the kid?

is it that the child couldn't possibly have an aversion to being a part of something that they know instinctively is damaging a basic, integral part of who they are? think about that for a minute. is it possible that school is bad for them, and they know it?

is it that many parents have never thought about this? have never questioned this normal, accepted institute? is it because they dont see any other options? is it because they fear their child would get "behind"?

is it that life is set up for parents to need to work, long hours away from home, and so another option seems impossible? ok, lets face it. part of the purpose of school is to babysit our children while we are at work. it has nothing to do with them LEARNING.

it has everything to do with the way the system is set up. and the majority of people buy into it. this concept that at a certain age you are obligated to leave your family everyday, whether you want to or not. you will be sent to a building to spend ALL of you time as the teacher you have been assigned instructs you. for 13 years every child is expected to just accept this. that they will get a total of about 12 weeks PER YEAR to spend with their families, who love them, and the rest of the time they will have to spend with a randomly selected teacher. and as if that is not bad enough, they will also be expected to take the teachers instructions home with them and complete homework. not even their time at home is theirs, the school even steals that time.

be the child for a moment. this teacher gets to know you for a year or two at best. this teacher is teaching to pay their bills. this teacher may love children. but this teacher does not personally know you, they are not personally invested in your future or the person you will become. they did not bring you into this world. they do not personally love you. this is the person that you will be spending the better part of the year obeying. trying to impress so that you will bring home a good grade. OH, and good grades will be expected in every subject!! nevermind that some subjects bore you, or that you have natural talents and interest that you would love to have the time and support to grow and explore!! you will spend your time in whatever way this institution deems in your best interest, because you are a child; and evidently that means you dont have the right to free time.

can you think of any other institution on earth that people must go to against their own will? where they are expected to obey strangers? where every moment is planned and decided upon for them? how about prison? is prison close to fitting that description? and after a sentence of 13 years, for being a child, you will be free.

ok, i get that a lot of society feels that school is training for work. i get that. for our adult life we must spend a portion of our time working. but for the most part we get to choose whom we work for, how much we work. and we are encouraged to find work that we love and enjoy doing!! our beautiful and innocent children do not get even this basic freedom. they must ask to pee. they must eat a pre-scheduled times. they must do as they are told. they must spend all day everyday with children their age, in a building that is largely cut off from society.

and we wonder why they dont want to go back at the end of summer? actually we dont wonder, that is the point. they are screaming about how they dont want to go, and we ignore them. we dont wonder WHY!!

so what else is there? what is it i do with my kids that has me convinced that there is a better way? ever wonder how children learned BEFORE the very modern invent of public school?

my children have choices. they have even very basic freedoms. life for our family is about fun, enjoyment and learning, all year. over the summer, my daughter continued improving her reading skills, because she wanted to!! she grew her jewelry making business, because she wanted to! she went to the aquarium and spent time with the dolphins, feeding them, and training them with the trainers- because it was one of her dreams. she made jewelry and a card for her favorite band AND met them. SHE made it happen!! she made some of her dreams come true this summer! because she is brilliant. not any more brilliant than any other child. but her brilliance has grown. it has grown because she has the love, support and freedom to GROW!! she doesn't have a stranger scheduling her time, breathing down her neck about how she should be trying harder in math or science. she spent this summer, the same way she spends the rest of the year.

so what IS she going to be doing this year? that is a great question? a question that ultimately is up to her to answer!! i will be checking in here all year to update what she is up to. i will allow you to peer into our life and see what life looks like without school. i suspect we will be playing, hiking, learning about various plants, animals, and cultures... we will be sewing, crocheting, making and selling jewelry... we will be reading and writing great stories... we will be playing guitar, and drums, and possibly violin? we will be dancing. WE WILL BE LEARNING TOGETHER!!!

what a concept.

and my son is kindergarten age. many other families would be sending him out the door, to start serving his 13 year sentence. no. and i am so excited to see what he and i will learn together this year. where will his passion take us? what hidden gifts and talents does he have? what is he curious about? we get to discover together. and i am super-excited about it. i don't have to cry the first day of kindergarten. i dont have to fight my maternal instinct and hand him over to a stranger and institution. I dont have to make myself feel OKAY about it.

i am so indescribably grateful.

i have one last thing to say. put yourself in the place of the child again. the one who doesnt want to go back to school. imagine that you have been complaining, acting out, and otherwise trying to communicate that this feels awful. un-natural. that school is hurting you rather than helping you. and the adults in your life dont hear you. or they hear you but dismiss your feelings. or they try to explain them away.
or perhaps, like many adults, they are counting down the days until school starts, because they are looking forward to having you gone. they are looking forward to having time to themselves. how does that feel? be the child. feel what they might be feeling?

then talk with them, connect with them. explore some other possibilities together. (thanks for hanging in there to the end of this, if you did)

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Friday, August 27, 2010


i wrote this song about the everyday moments that pass me by; pass by without my saying what it is a mean to say; for fear of it coming out wrong; or being judged; or hurting someone; or hurting myself. but it stuck me that the people in my life that i care about and admire the most are brave enough to be real - to say what it is they think and feel. i would like to be more like those people. ~M

Confessions - I’ll follow you

I will Follow you
Barefoot…. Up the hill,
Wet mud in my toes…..
You were singing green
I was dancing blue
In this confession of my dreams….…

No one’s holding back or missing out
On gaining life’s Mercy…..

I’ll Confess the promise that… I forgot
Beg Forgiveness that…. I got lost.
I’ll Admit Truths that I’ve never shared….
In this Confession we’ll write of a better life ahead….

Chorus 2
Because I will follow you
Barefoot up the hill……Wet mud in my toes
You’ll be singing green
I’ll be dancing blue
In this confession of my dreams….

Bridge 2
The rain keeps falling …..on my skin
My Sorry’s have gone Unsaid….

I’ll Confess my truth ….only to find
The words have left my head…..
These Confessions of time….and nights unslept.
The Freeing words that I’ve not said.

This dance that will Free my heart
from songs….that have gone Unsung…..
This rain that will define my truth
That has gone….. Unclear....

But you’ll be singing green
And I’ll be dancing blue
In this confession of my dreams….
No one’s holding back or missing out
On gaining life’s Mercy…..

I’ll Confess my wish that I could go back
I’ll ask the questions that I’ve left …unasked

I’ll Confess my thanks….For these moments of depth
The Chance to say all I’ve left unsaid
These Confessions of silence … of grandeur and dreams
Our dance has broken down all these things

And I will follow you
Barefoot up the hill……Wet mud in my toes
You’ll be singing green
I’ll be dancing blue
In this confession of my dreams….
You’re the confession of my dreams…..

written by Meaghan Carriere

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

rising up

one of my favorite artists says "we are all pulling a boat over a mountain" and i love it. this beautiful visual of a lonely soul, alone, pulling a boat over a mountain. and it brings up a feeling i have a lot lately. that of a full plate. a mouth that has bitten off more than one can chew.

i think of where i am at now, and where i was when i was 20, 25... 26. i think of who i was then, and who i have become. the ways in which i have grown. at 25 i began to have a good sense of who i am. and i am always changing. learning. becoming more fluid. or more solid. depending on how you look at it?!

the "boat" is my family. my life. and the "mountain" is the route i've chosen. uphill. not always easy. it is choosing to live my life with my husband, the same guy i fell in love with as a teen. learning how to work things out. how to climb the mountain together. figuring out that i can change and grow ALOT, and that he can still be in love with me. finding out that we can take turns "pulling the boat". the mountain is extended nursing, co-sleeping, baby-wearing, unschooling.... the mountain is trying to create a "natural" growing up for my children in a very un-natural world.

i have had vast periods of time when i needed taking care of. i have had health challenges. still do, to a lesser degree. and my partner took care of me. thankfully. we have had babies and have been learning as we go ever since. and not always agreeing ;) but finding the space to disagree, and still love. i think i have been the "boat" my fair share. i have been pulled up.

i am having to pull more lately, as my partner is facing his own health issues. and it is hard. i'm not gonna lie and say anything else. it's hard seeing him be sick. grieving the loss a life he had. feeling hopeless, and hopefully not alone. every time i take the kids out without him, it feels like a piece of me is missing. a piece of me is sick, at home.

this is just one of many challenges. together we have conquered alot. i think that together is the only way we will rise up from this one as well. and so i'm so tired. and i'm trying to remember who i am. and the life that i value. needing to remember what i value, and recognize how far we've come. needing to rise to the occasion... to love, be kind, forgive, to breathe until i can find more patience than i think i have... to rise up and keep pulling the "boat over the mountain."

(... for 11 years and counting ;) happy anniversary!! xoxo)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

the "S" word

alright, this is not a new idea... however, it is worth writing about because it will be new to some, and because i feel it is a powerful, powerful concept.

the 's' word i'm referring to is SHOULD. should is a word of suffering. it causes suffering. should is a word of false beliefs, false hopes.... should says:

i should be a perfect mother
my son should be reading by now
my daughter should be sleeping through the night
my children should be in bed
my husband should be helping me

says that our reality is not good enough. is not as it SHOULD be. and the people in our life are failing, we are failing, the world is failing. the world be
should different. and we suffer. should lies. should gives away our power. should feels hopeless.

on the other hand is a word of infinite possibility. could questions. could encourages. could is kinder. could takes into account that people have limitations.... try it on...

i could be a perfect mother
.... it sounds ridiculous. really? could i be a perfect mother? no, impossible. could i do better? maybe. now there is room for growth, now i can explore the possibilities. could allows me to not feel like a failure, but a real person.

my son could be reading by now
.... okay maybe he could be? couldn't he? alright, but he isn't, so maybe he cant, or maybe he doesn't want to yet.... could helps me explore the possibilities, and gives the power back to my son, gives value to his interests, and limitations.

my daughter could be sleeping through the night
... couldn't she? well, she isn't so maybe she doesn't have that ability yet. what could be waking her? hungry? lonely? scared? tummy hurting? ..... okay obviously my daughter cant sleep right through yet. could helps me to value her as a unique person, with feelings and needs; it helps me accept her limitations.

my children could be in bed.....?

my husband could help more....?

you get the idea.

my motivation for writing this is that it seems that so many people are unaware and unquestioning about their thoughts. our thoughts are powerful things. creating our reality, our emotions. and the truth is our thoughts lie to us. they tell us things that are untrue, and we suffer because of it. our thoughts need to be questioned. we have the power to change our thoughts, and therefore our emotions.
so try it, file the 's' word with all the other curse words... replace it with could... replace it with questions. replace it with love, and happiness will follow.