Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Unschooling Music and.... Other Things.....

As a child, around 9 yo, I thought it would be fun to take piano lessons! My mom excitedly bought me a keyboard, and signed me up for lessons. I liked my teacher, and lessons were fun; but they also made playing music so serious; there was so much emphasis on practicing. My mom and dad were putting money into me learning to play this instrument; and so understandably they wanted to see me practice.

It didn't take very long for practicing to feel like a high pressure event, and not fun at all. I also had trouble reading the notes, and felt anxious-

What if I couldn't figure out how to read these notes?

After about 1 year of "not fun" lessons, I quit playing piano. There are some very "gifted" musicians in my family, but somehow, I didn't fit in with them.

I joined choir in middle school; and was told by some people that singing was not my gift.... (actually, I think they may be right on this one ;)

In grade 8 and 9, I thought playing BASS would be fun. We rented the equipment, and signed up for lessons. Again, I liked my teacher; but all this focus on "practicing" was not fun; and hearing from people "we want to hear you play something".... it felt like pressure. During those same years, some of my older friends had started a band; I went to their "jam sessions" every week... and that was fun, and kept my love for music alive!

Although, I stopped playing bass.

When I met Landon, my now husband, he played drums.... I told him "I used to play BASS"; which was kind of true..... except he really liked me, so the next week he came to my house with a BASS and amp! and wanted to hear me play! LOL!

I had to fess-up that I didn't know what I was doing at all!

He invited me to jam with a few of his guy friends... and I did! This felt like "pressure" but I wanted to be a part of this, so it was worth it! All the guys were patient with me; showing me what to play....

Fast forward a whole bunch, in 2005, Landon bought me an acoustic guitar for a present!
No lessons, no pressure!
I was a grown-up, with children, and responsibilities, and so many things to keep me busy... BUT I REALLY wanted to learn to play!!
I could hear someone's voice in my head
telling me it would be really hard to learn an instrument as an adult;
and that I couldn't read music;
and that I wasn't musically gifted like others in my family.
But this was a guitar given from a loving place;
NO strings attached! NO pressure!

I read an article about unschooling music. The writer spoke to exactly what my childhood experiences with music were. He placed emphasis on music being something we PLAY! and by definition, playing is a FUN activity!
I started to look at my guitar as a toy.
I played with it like a child plays with a toy.
I paid no attention to how often I played;
no attention to notes or reading music;
or performing, or playing with others.
I started to see which sounds I could make with a guitar that sounded good.
I banished the word "practice" from my thoughts about music.

I started getting interested in looking at some chord charts, which were so much easier than trying to read music, like I did in piano. I started to write a song called "un-musical" about the messages lingering from my childhood about being unable to play; and about childhood being the best time to learn an instrument.
I have been playing for 5 years now... and I love playing!! I go through phases where I don't play much, and phases where I play ALOT!

SO why am I writing about this??
Because some unschooling moms had posted some questions about kids and learning music, and lessons and practicing. And it got me thinking about the GIFT that my shift in perspective has been, when it comes to music. My children are PLAYING music now, as our home is full of instruments :D

SO what about other things?

What about unschooling ART??
I was SO excited to meet a fellow unschooling mama today, who has set up an art studio for "learning" art.... only it is more like "doing" art. "Being" art. She is kindly opening her studio up to our family once a week to PLAY art. And she has a couple of pottery wheels, and I am just over-the-top happy about this opportunity to unschool art with my family!!

What about socially? How does unschooling affect social learning?

Admittedly, this is one area where homelearners get lots of questions. "Who do you hang out with? Where do you meet other kids?" and the very common "don't you worry about them developing socially?"

Okay, here's my question.

What does the typical social learning look like IN school?

The truth of it is, I heard of a local grade 5 class having to deal with one of the children bringing hardcore porn to the school.
*big sigh*

The child would have been 11yo, tops.
*sigh* And what are the social consequences of that?!

I can't even begin to imagine all of them. All I can say, is I'm really thankful I didn't have to find out how that would effect my children. I'm thankful they didn't have to feel uncomfortable, or shocked, or pressured to "tell" or keep it quiet. I'm thankful I don't feel this is a normal part of normal social development; and although it is obviously a reality, I feel thankful that I cannot wrap my head around accepting this.

And I realize that as teens and adults they will encounter these kinds of situations; and I hear moms and dads saying that these kinds of things coming up in young childhood helps their children learn how to stand up for themselves; to learn how to handle these things; how to stand up to peer pressure.
Um, I'm holding back what i really think about that kind of attitude, because I don't want to insult some people.
I'm trying to choose my words carefully.

I think what I'm trying to say is some situations are just plain inappropriate. Just simply shouldn't happen. And I think it sounds all well and fine to say one is viewing it as a learning experience; however, I don't think that makes it an appropriate learning situation. Period.

... And also, by some extension, the parent that is reasoning this way, is saying on some level that encountering this thing as a child will help the person to know how to deal with this kind of situation as an adult. Okay.... Right. Well, I'm 30, and I never encountered porn in elementary school, or middle or high; and if I were to encounter it now, in my adult life, I have no doubt I would know how to react. It would not be something I would want to be a part of. I would know how to stand up for myself, and speak my mind~ even though I did not deal with this situation as a child. Imagine that!?

However, I did encounter drug use as a child, and teen. And to begin with, I thought I would know how to deal with it.
TO begin with, I did.
But with repeated exposure, it becomes more familiar. Less shocking. The "pressure" doesn't feel like "pressure" anymore; it feels like curiosity. And I did give into it. And I believe that is part of normal social development for a person being raised in a public school system; exposed to any variety of things; known and unknown to the parents. Why would we expect anything else?

So what do we do socially?
We hang out with other unschooling families! There are a few of us around ;) We go places and experience things together; we learn together; we take classes together. And I feel confident that my children are developing a strong sense of who they are, and where they come from. And my feeling is that a person who KNOWS who they are, will find it natural to act in a way that is TRUE to themself, and to where they KNOW they come from.

TO that I would like to add something else that I have been pondering.
Authority- authorship of one's own life.
When does that start? As an adult?
For a lot of people it starts as an adult.
All of a sudden, life expects them to make big decisions.
To own our feelings, to own up to our responsibilities.

When childhood has taught us to fold. To ignore our feelings. To try harder to please people. To gain approval. To respect authority of others, in all circumstances.
Because the authority knows best.
There is no self-authority; because the child does not have the right, the equality, the ownership of themselves. At least, not in any way that matters. And so we learn to bow. To fold. To mistrust ourselves.
Our feelings. Our wishes.

“To trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves, and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted.”
~John Holt

To that end, I am wondering, where is the line? Where is the line between loving, patient parental guidance and controlling authority? How does one help a child to trust themselves? to know themselves? To own themselves?

And at what point does "guidance" become the kind of control that sets up a child to be treated badly in their future relationships?
To be controlled?
To bow out to the preferences of the other, without due regard given to themself?

What are your thoughts?

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