Friday, October 15, 2010

What Will People Think?!?!

Inspired by a recent conversation and this blog post, I thought I'd say a little something about my choices and our lives a home/un-schooling family.   Many people haven't heard of the term and many that have, heard it spoken with condemnation and judgement.  (I won't even bother to link that horrific train wreck of sub-substandard reporting that happened on ABC some months ago.)

What is "un-schooling"?  For me, it's the philosophy that also undergirds democratic education - every person is born a natural learner and that they have the right to learn about what is meaningful to them and that they are to be treated with respect of the whole and growing person that they are.  

You can find a more information about Unschooling here, but like other lifestyle choices, there are a myriad of ways that people translate the philosophy into their own lives and it's is very difficult to pin down any one way to un-school.

I personally don't even like the term un-school.  I much prefer natural learning, learner-directed - even autodidact!   Lately I find myself writing or saying "home/un-school".  Even so, I don't volunteer the self-directed part to people unless they ask what curriculum I use, because then - depending on the person - it can get all weird and defensive and stuff: me explaining learner directed education and them feeling threatened by my rejection of what is "normal".

What was the point of this ramble, anyway?  Getting to it!

One well meaning person asked me today "So, how is [homeschooling] with everyone?"
Sorry, what?
"You know, with society and the government?"
I told her that, "Lucky for me, I don't care what 'society' thinks and the Bahamian laws are vague enough to include home schooing (something like you have to "cause your child to learn") as legitamate, so we're good ... with 'everyone'."

How come I don't care?  Well, I didn't (and still don't) always not-care.  It has been a process - some seven years in the making - involving countless tedious steps.  Some of which include crushing self-doubt, a terrifying sense of aloneness, and absolute humility at the megalithic responsibility of my choices to UN-SCHOOL our children in just about every sense of the term.


Yeah, it has not been easy.   I had to dig and search and find something True that I could tether myself to.  So I thought about how absolutely confident I was about my choice to nurse my children.  And not just to nurse, but to go above and beyond what our society accepts as "normal" to what's actually closer to normal but called "extended breastfeeding".    I didn't give a rat's ass what people thought about me nursing my baby or toddler.  (<--  The best way I know how to say I couldn't care less!)

So I went back to that, and after "extended research", I found that same confidence about my choice to let my children direct their learning with me as a loving mentor and guide.  And now, after lots of heartache and self-doubt, I really do not care one bit what people think about us being a home or un-schooling family.

Still, sometimes people - mostly relatives - tell me what I should be doing. "You need to give that boy a haircut."  Not a decision about education, I know, but a choice we have left to the owner of the hair nonetheless.  His head.  His hair.  Really has nothing to do with me, the way I see it.  If I feel particularly fiesty I'll ask a simple matter of fact "Why?".  When it's a grandma, I politely change the subject.  (Probably reverse ageism, I know.  But what can I do?  I don't want to offend everyone!)

Coming Out and telling the world that I am starting a Democratic School has helped tremendously.  That somehow validates what I do at home.  I don't need validation, but now I have less explaining to do.  I could have gone on quite happily living and loving life with my two babies turning into children, soon be turning to young adults.  But at least now when people question me - generally speaking - it's more in the tone of "tell me more about this new, fascinating teaching style you espouse" than "good god woman, what kind of anti-social, agenda-ridden madness are you forcing on those poor children behind closed doors?".  Though I still get the latter from time to time.

It's funny, really.  That might just be me, however, as I have long been a fan (albeit unbeknownst to me) of non-conformism.

Either way.  I love the life we have as natural learners all together.  Am I ever afraid?  Of course!  It's the ones who never question even their own status quo that I'm worried about.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Growing Pains

I am going to struggle to articulate this feeling that comes in pangs and waves, as I watch my children grow up.  This feeling of - honestly - sadness, as the hours, the days and the years shutter-click by.

I mean, of course I am filled with amazement and joy as I watch these two incredible individuals unfurl before my eyes.  Of course.  But lately I find my heart stopping intermittently as I notice - really see just how fast my children are growing.  I am eternally thankful for some kind of accidental wisdom I must have found (God only knows where) that allowed me to be free of "looking forward" to the next stage of development.  I can honestly say that I wasn't ever waiting for what was supposed to happen next.

I have a crystal clear memory of myself holding tiny Lauryn in the rocking chair, she must have been... ? two weeks old, maybe? and I put my hand on her back and I was so fully Present with how she felt in my hands, on my shoulder - so tiny and new and fragile.  I remember reading the words of the lullaby I had printed and taped to the chest of drawers as I sang to her (... Lavender blue, dilly dilly, lavender green...).  I remember thinking, This moment, this ever so small person - will be gone in a flash.

And it is.  It's gone.

Maybe I may seem like I'm being melodramatic.  (And maybe I am, but this is my blog and I'll cry if i want to.)  But now I look at this comparatively HUGE little girl and I feel sucker punched.  I see her, I hear her, I feel her in my arms - dangling legs brushing my knees and I cannot believe it.

Seven years have passed.  Just.  Like.  That.

Somehow, it doesn't feel as visceral with Ryan.  I am still surprised and amazed at his rapid growth but I guess in some ways, he's baby hood was shadowed a bit by the business of also caring for my still small,  toddler Lauryn so it doesn't have quite the same affect on me.

I think to myself, She's in her eighth year of life.  A thought that stops time and spins the world around me so I need to touch something.  I am so serious about this.  I have to blog because I just don't hear any one experiencing this as deep down as I seem to be.  Though to be fair to everyone else, it could just be a symptom of me being a drama monarch.

It just feels like I'm trying to take water from the well in my cupped hands.

What's the resolution here?  More presence.  I need to rekindle that deep awareness and sense of presence so I hope to add a few nano seconds to the experience of raising these people.

I am imagining holding my "big" little girl close and being as present with the words of The Velveteen Rabbit and her hearing it, as I was with the lyrics of the lullabies.  Me sitting beside Ryan and building dragons ans blazers with the same 'being-there-ness" as I had nursing him.

And then one day when they are adults and we're all together, maybe sipping tea, maybe cooking, maybe just shooting the breeze, I can See them, and Feel them and Hear their tiny voices in all those memories that line the compartments of my heart.  Knowing full well, that there is always room for more.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Joan Osbourne Theology

"if god had a face, what would it look like?" joan osbourne asks me through my ipod.  i look out the window at the pedestrians and see answers everywhere.

but this is not a blog god or what god might look like, this is a blog about my journey as a mom and so i segue now into the conversation i had with lauryn and ryan last night, inspired by ms. osbourne and her query.

ryan was praising - i mean praising, people - god for ketchup and rice all the scrumptious flavours in his mouth. so i asked him what joan asked me, all casual like. acting like i just happened to wonder, "hey ry, if god had a face, what would it look like?" to which he responded that She would have short hair. (me on the inside: o... kay?...) (now I'm going to write it out like a script so it's easier to follow, k?)

me: what colour would it be?
ry: yellow.
me: like annina?
ry: who's annina?
me: the little girl in playgroup (silent: duh!)
ry: oh. ...yes.
me: what colour would her eyes be?
ry: blue.

that's the end of the conversation according to ry's demeanor and body language. i ask lauryn the same thing (as she was eagerly suggesting answers on the side).

lauryn: he would have long hair. curly hair.
me: what colour would it be?
lauryn: blonde, no, brown. and he would have a beard. but not connected to his hair.
me: what colour would his eyes be?
lauryn: brown. and he'd have a nose like yours (she points to my nose).
me: what about his skin?
lauryn: it would be light brown.
me: like yours?
lauryn: no, like sagey's (her bestie that's half caucasian and half filipino)
me: but sagey's skin is pretty close to yours.
lauryn: oh. then... (thinking)... khaki.
me: you mean like daddy's?
lauryn: (emphatic) YES!
me: could god have brown skin like mine?
lauryn: yeah.. sure.

the converstion ends here due to environmental factors (arrival of dad, primarily).

so. okay. my children think god is caucasian. ryan always - for reasons completely unknown to me - refers to god as "she", even if i say "he" ryan responds with "she". naturally, as an equal opportunity gender deity proponent, this makes me feel pleased. so for ryan, god is a caucasian female and for lauryn god is a caucasian male.


this doesn't cause me to feel any particular feeling.  i am pretty neutral about it.  i know this is a common idea in children's perception and i don't make a lot of meaning out of it... yet.  i personally believe that whatever deity exists, if it had a face, it would be all our faces.  certainly not the old charlton heston god, nor the calm european catholic jesus. when i say any prayers, i direct them at the faces of the people i'm praying about. this works best for me.

still, i find it interesting that my children have concluded that god would be european if god had a face.

what does god look like to you?

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Walking with Bare Feet

I went to visit a dear old friend of mine today.  (she doesn't mind being called "old").  this friend is someone who speaks to me in ways that no one else can.  she calls to me.  she tells me stories.  she reveals Truth and helps me see more clearly.  she understands the language of my heart; in many ways, she's the author, originator of wordless communication.

i removed my shoes in her presence, as i often do, but today it was very uncomfortable to do so.  our meeting place today was quite rocky - sharp rocks - but i knew i couldn't wear my shoes.

it was in this experience that i saw the beauty of walking bare footed.  the rocks are rough and pointy, to be sure, but what really stuck me in the feet were the countless numbers of tiny snails that cling to the rocks.  i wished for a brief moment that i had some other soft shoes that i could use to walk on the rocks without getting hurt but then i realized that doing that would have killed many many snails because I would have been unable to feel them.

"yes." she whispered.  "exactly."

she gave me another valuable life lesson:

to tread ever so gently, even where it seems harsh and tough because I never know what soft creatures find their homes there.

sure, snails have pointy shells but they are defenseless against large feet in shoes that can crunch them without a second thought.  bare feet, however, know how to look out for the feet and the snails.

thank you dear Ocean for your magnificent beauty and for the way you sit quietly with me, revealing ourselves to me.  

Friday, July 23, 2010

[not alex haley's] Roots

i have been saving since 2009 to take my family on this long-awaited trip to Jamaica. i have and it was. the last time we were here was 2008. the 2009 trip was missed due in only part to my foolish dependence on some sort of magical goodwill [being] "unexpectedly" providing the means (read: funds) for us to come here.

i waited and waited and nothing happened. though, if i were to be fair and mention the annoyingly tenacious bright side, i would mention that we did, however, go to florida in august to visit my mom and sisters as a sort of consolation prize. (no offense to my mom and sisters, just - our hope was to come to jamaica and live jamaican.

anyway, way to start a blog post with a digression without even getting into the content.

as i was saying before i interrupted ourselves - we worked pretty hard to get here. and here we are! loving our green days, crunchy, salty afternoons, delicious moments and the (re-)discovery of roots.

in demonstration of a profound lack of originality i have to say that regardless of all the cost(s) associated with this trip, being here has truly been priceless.

it's like i've been wearing shoes for two years mostly feeling okay but mildly aware of a burgeoning discomfort; and now i have finally been able to take them off and put my soles upon the earth. tasting it, breathing it, infusing it - becoming It.

but that's not even the best part. nope. not by a long shot.

i'll tell you what it is: it's giving this gift to my children with my best friend. somewhere in the tension of being "non-political/globalist/humanist" and feeling fiercely loyal to my jamaican-ness, i experience an exquisite kind of joy at passing parts of these parts of my self to my children. mountains, caves, animals, rivers, indigenous fruit, peoples, our family, friends and food. inside of these things the earliest version of my self was created and remains a big part of who i am.

(L-R, Front Row to Back: My son Ryan, Jordan (Collie's Nephew), Nathaniel (Andre's son), my daughter Lauryn, Latoya White holding her daughter Victora, my Aunt Pauline, (her husband) Wilmot White, my hubby Nathan, Sean White, Collie (my step mother), and Andre White.

these three (soon to be four) weeks of simply (re-)Being Jamaican together have been more meaningful to me than i have the ability to articulate.

did magic get us here this time? i think so. the magic of hoping, dreaming, and refusing to take no for an answer (aka reckless determination). a magic that has manifested in tangible and unobservable ways on this trip. it has both held us and been held by us all in common.

from wherever this has come, the source of light and goodness, i am eternally thankful to have been it's conduit and witness.

i have come to jamaica and i don't just "feel a'right" - i feel fantastic!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

the fool proof formula for parenting

we have no guarantees.

you can feed your children perfect, balanced foods ensuring them optimum nutrition.
you can send your child to the Best Schools anywhere.
you can raise a Gifted child.
you teach your child perfect social skills and manners.
you can teach your child discipline and self control.
you can expose your children to the world through travel and culture.

you can do all these things and more to give your children the best possible start or opportunities. you really can.

BUT. (ahhh, the but. you saw it coming, don't act all surprised and stuff.)

if You are not happy, if your (child's) family is not happy and if your Child is not happy, none of it - not one iota of what you do- amounts to anything.

i don't mean spoiled, given every thing all the time no matter what. that's not happiness, that's gratification.

i mean Happy-ness. loving life, excited to be here now (generally speaking, of course as we have all been the painfully embarrassed parent of a screaming child -in public).

watch your child. observe this person and evaluate her behaviors and words. is she happy, angry, sad? providing a loving environment that is rich with joy, laughter and love of life - this will undergird any of your other efforts to grow a healthy happy human. it's really the cornerstone for any truly alive person.

as i have said before on this blog (which is a totally teefed quote just like the rest of them): happy people make happy families, make happy communities, make happy countries, make a happy world.

check the mirror. check your life. are you happy?

Monday, April 05, 2010

what this woman wants

for the last, most recent space in time i have felt completely adrift. a bit like clinging to driftwood after a terrible storm. i have not known any thing. no, not one. everything became utterly unknowable and incomprehensibly dark.

i have felt as though Every Thing i knew, and all that has held my life-navigation vessel intact was destroyed leaving me- well, nowhere. absent. lost. forgotten.




i am reminded now of a quote that says that it must become dark in order for the stars to shine. and yet i saw nary a twinkle.

until now.

i asked myself just now as i witnessed the stars and they returned the favor - what do i want? what does cian want? what does Love want for me?

and i saw a star. the luminescent beauty of which shone directly into and out of me.

what i want more than anything is to be (keep being) with my children. to Be With My Children.

To Be With My Children.

and suddenly i am tethered. something has grabbed a hold of me. and i grow in the awareness that not only am i seeing a star, but i am seeing stars. i am seeing and being seen by the whole universe. a universe that is within me, through me. is me.

this desire is mine. but Mine with a capital M because it is the oldest deepest desire of my heart.

i smile because this is true. and real. and tangible and knowable. i am tethered to none other than the north star and i can point my way home.

i can.

i can.

i can!


i can i can i can i can i can i can i can i can i can i can!!!!!!!

/p.s. - i need to note that this is about what i want to do with my life. and my life begins with me + nathan, who has always been and continues to be the place in the ground of all being to which i am always anchored. it is from our place together as One that any movement in my journey begins.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

"you must respect my authoritay"

inspired by a dialogue i am currently engaged in, i thought i'd speak for a moment about "authority". rather, The Authorities. as in, "Act normal. The Authorities are here."

i'm not quite sure where i want to go with this. i'll start by quoting myself quoting someone else: "the majority is never right". (oookayyyy...). i mean, i can think of so many instances in history and present time where a great many people believe A Thing and respect the "authority" that - for lack of better words - *authored* the Thing and then at some point one or three people said, um, i don't THINK so.. and everyone was like what? ...ohhhhhhh. well, most everyone. ... the smart people, anyway.

(good god what a pointless ramble).

anyway, i have this quote as my signature from Thomas Henry Huxley which says that every great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute rejection of authority. a friend challenged me on the overstated nature of the quote and we have been back-and-forthing about it. which led me to this blog post.

is this really true? the absolute rejection of authority? yes, i think it's really true. and now i'm going to tell you why.

to pick the quote apart to it's bones (possibly marrow), i think it was the absolute rejection of authority. but not of *all* authority, just the particular authority on the matter at hand. you may think the sun revolves around the earth, mr. pope, but i beg to differ and in so doing i reject your authority on the matter. absolutely!

you may think it is good to put children in buildings and force them to memorize facts all day every day until they are 18 mr. whole western world, but i beg to differ and i absolutely reject your authority on the matter. sure people need to know things. but i do not accept your pre-packaged "standard facts" that every person must know or be absolutely worthless. i do not accept your idea that all humans need to know the same things at the same time. this is, in the least preposterous, idiotic and incomprehensibly absurd!

i feel that this rejection has given me my own personal advance in natural knowledge, particularly as it pertains to natural learning. i am one of a rapidly growing number of people who are rejecting this authority on education. sure, we are still a minor minority but so were the civil rights activists, the guy who started amnesty international, jesus and his disciples, and even david koresh (just checking). my absolute rejection of that authority has opened a door to me about children as people with rights, not just rights to learn what they need (desire) to learn when they choose, but real life basic human rights. the same rights that women, brown skinned people and other people that have historically (and presently) been denied equal personhood by the reigning authority figures. all people have the right to their feelings, thoughts, opinions. the right to express those thoughts, feelings, opinions (while respecting other people). the right to be treated with respect.

i therefore reject the authority that states that people who are small and young must be struck to be corrected. i, who choose to refrain from subscribing to absolutes, find that i must absolutely reject this prevailing belief. another advance in natural knowledge? i think so. because i think that some generations from now we will look back with shame on the time when it was not just okay be "good" to hit children. yes i do. absolutely.

but i digress.

to get back to the quote, i figure it's time to close and i'll do so by saying that i am not so self absorbed in my philosophies and convictions that i don't see that the quote (taken out context) is a gratuitous overstatement. but for me it's like including a bit of static electricity in my email. just a small bzzt! to trigger a new thought (process!).

i also love being challenged (*squirm*) and pushed as it helps me to a) gain clarity about my own thoughts and b) appreciate, sometimes incorporate newer, broader perspectives.


Saturday, February 06, 2010

control, freak

WARNING: If you parent in the time honored tradition of coercive, punitive "discipline", authoritarian style, you are already offended at this blog post. You already feel as though I am questioning everything you believe in, stand for, think is Good and Right and True. Yes, this is Very Offensive indeed.

But the truth is that what I am doing is questioning my own long held beliefs about how people should be grown by other people. What I am pushing at, challenging - trying to get out of - is this very uncomfortable, scratchy, pokey even "safety net" (which i am now realizing was really a straight jacket) for raising children.

So... watch me squirm. Better yet, squirm with me, will ya?

People think that children who are compliant and easy to control are "good children".

Who among us hasn't seen the obedient child who "listens the first time" and then commented on what a Good Child that was?

[back to lowercase now.]

this is nothing short of vile and offensive to me. as my friend aptly articulated to me recently - and i'm totally paraphrasing - "people are only going to be 'children' for a very small part of their life, so we might as well allow them access [desirable?] adult patterns of behaviors so they can become familiar with and practice them. obviously, i don't mean inappropriate things. i am talking about the characteristics of happy, successful big people that already exist in happy successful small people. determination, persistence, unwillingness to accept the status quo or arbitrariness, looking for creative ways to do things, not being easily swayed... things like this.

in very young people we use labels like: defiant, sassy, rude, devious etc.

you know what this about? it's about *US*! the behaviors are hard for us to manage, the people don't do what we want them to do, they make us look bad to other people. it's more work for us.

our collective illusion of Safety in Control is foundational to the parenting philosophies that are popular today.

control the infant's feeding and sleep patterns or else the whole human being will be completely ruined and your life will be a wreck and you will be a bad parent. don't you dare give your hungry baby your breast when she asks for it or you risk being manipulated and raising a terrible and evil manipulating human. force independence on to naturally dependent creatures or else who knows when they'll stop needing you. everyone knows babies shouldn't need their parents emotional presence and support. all babies need is nourishment and a safe place to sleep. so start training them not to need you from birth just to make sure they really get it. make sure they learn as much as possible as soon as possible or else they will be blithering idiots who can't formulate coherent thoughts and the definitely won't be brilliant "academians" (so, i made up my own word), which everyone knows is the key to True Happiness. make all of their decisions about everything for them because they don't know any better and will magically develop this ability at age 18 as long as you keep doing it for them until then.

control control control.

when they get older, punishment is The Only Way to get them to do what you want them to do. no chance in hell that there are any good humans who weren't hit or coerced to goodness by their parents. and of course, every child who gets hit/controlled/manipulated/forced grows up to be a successful adult. (whatever the hell that is.) and it is about what they will be later because they are not actual whole complete people now. naturally.

all the evidence supports this. if you want to grow a robot who will not think for itself, this is definitely the way to go. that way, we can stagnate the progress of the human race and make sure that everything stays exactly the same because it's all SO good now, isn't it?

obedient, compliant adults who always do what they're told and never ask questions or challenge the status quo is what the world really needs.

talk amongst yourselves...

Friday, January 15, 2010

on having a bad Here day

i'm yelling, lauryn's yelling, ryan's hitting. it's not good.

we've had a pretty good day up to this point but ... i dunno... feeling like i'd like to be There now instead. like later when the margaritas are made.

she fights me on everything sometimes. and nothing is ever good enough. that's how i feel anyway. i get x, she wanted y. i take her to a, she wished it was b or that so and so was there. go to the movies, buy candy. but why do we have go home? let's go again. (whine complain bitch moan).

i feel like i'm on survivor trying to form an alliance with her before the merge. that reference might be lost on some, but there's always google. (which you'll have to do if you want to keep following because i plan to milk that metaphor). so yeah, the merge. i feel like i'm trying to form alliances with both kids. hey, person, i'm on *your* side. i'm making wheels and deals for us! when that other tribe gets all mixed in, don't fall for their tricksie talk. and even if you do, i'll still be on your side. i'll never vote you off.

so it's not so much that i'm actually trying to convince them that i'm on their side because i think they know but sometimes they think that suggestions like, "maybe you oughtta take that off before you swim in the mud" are a secret plot to destroy them. "please be kind to your brother" is a vile and subversive attempt at brainwashing her into a mindless stupor. or a simple "ryan, pleeeeeease try this" (food that we are all sharing) is an effort to off him.

i think i gotta keep finding ways to allow. just allow. thanks to Scott Noelle over at Enjoy Parenting and his Daily Groove inspirational emails, I get little nuggets of wisdom to help me Be the change or the light I hope my children will access in themselves and reflect back to me.

For the most part, okay - SOME of the times- i am able to accept What Is. ryan doesn't have to eat, his body will tell him when and what to eat and i will keep offering him good healthy options to choose from. lauryn doesn't have to know where her toys are, they are just things and they will come back to her or end up where they are meant to be.



i've just turned my frown down side up.