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?