…thus we find ourselves trying to poke certain facts, recipes, and ideas down the gullets of every child in school, whether the morsels interest him or not, and even if there are other things that he is much more interested in learning.
These ideas are absurd and harmful nonsense. We will not begin to have true education or real learning in our schools until we sweep this nonsense out of the way. Schools should be a place where children learn what they most want to know. The child that wants to know something remembers it and uses once he has it; the child who learns something to please or appease someone else forgets it when the need for pleasing or the danger of not appeasing is past. This is why children quickly forget all but a small part of what they learn in school. It is of no use or interest to them; they do not want, or expect, or even intend to remember it. The only difference between bad and good students in this respect is that the bad students forget right away while the good students are careful to wait until after the exam. If for no other reason, we could well afford to throw out most of what we teach in school because the children throw out almost all of it anyway. John Holt, How children Fail, 1964
I know, I am unrelenting in my passion towards changing the way children are educated. I also realise that the very idea that the school system may not be working for our children, is just too hard to even contemplate for most. We have come to rely on the ‘system’. We have come to expect that this is the way, the only way our children can learn, therefore be educated, and have a successful life. This system has become so normal and so accepted, that to veer in any other direction is met with disturbing scrutiny. Nevertheless, many brave ones are tempting the path, and heading themselves towards uncharted waters. We are a part of this movement. Not just because we love Autism too much to conform it out of our children but because we are simply not willing to conform our children to fit a broken system. We are moving towards empowering our children rather than suppressing them. Moving in a direction of allowing, rather than controlling their minds and bodies. Trusting that they have the ability to learn what it is they require to know at any given time. Much the same way we trusted that they would recognise us when they were born, or learn to walk and talk without our forced instruction. Most important, understanding that they are not here to fulfil any requirements of my ideas of what they should be doing with their lives. This is not a new notion. There has been a quiet progressive movement towards this for a really long time. A.S.Neill founded Summerhill School, the first ‘free to learn’ school, in 1921 and the Sudbury Vally School in Massachusetts has been successfully running since 1968. Many more have been successfully modelled on this idea of educating. The idea of allowing children to be free to be who they are, embrace what they want, and learn in a way that comes naturally and supports their thriving, is not really as radicle as it may seem. There continues to be an unassuming movement towards freeing children from the grips of the industrialised school systems. This unyielding movement is steadily growing and I assume will keep on growing as parents become less and less contented in allowing the detrimental failings that schools are having on large proportions of children.
If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
More and more I’m leaning towards leaving my children alone. I am no longer standing in the way of their freedom. They are free to develop, discover, learn and interact at their own will. I’m trusting my children in their natural instincts and better judgements in knowing what it is they are wanting. My parenting is radically different now compared to what it may have looked like fifteen years or so ago. I too, are radically different now. The more I allow myself to flow into the ease of life, the easier life is becoming. There is no longer any one story i am endeavouring to fit into or trying to make my children fit into whether they are wanting or not. There is no direction that has been set before us that we are wanting to follow, that feels right anymore. This story we are creating is new. The way we are moving is new. We are walking a path that few are walking, and we are alright with that. We are unafraid, and faithful to ourselves and to our journey. Maybe there in lies the answer to contented happiness. More of trusting life to happen and allowing it to flow, welcoming whatever arises rather than pushing against and struggling in what comes about. Even the seemingly negative experiences can be blessings if we open to their messages. My children were not born to conform in this world as it is before us now, that i am certain of. I too have resisted for most of my life to agree and go along quietly with ideas and ways that innately have not felt like the right way. Maybe that is why they chose me to be their mother. But ultimately, it has been the determination of my children’s Will to not bend themselves towards people or experiences that they innately know will not serve them well, that has bought us to where we are standing now. I find myself questioning everything, especially things that rise resistance in us or simply just don’t feel right. I am listening to them in their no’s as it holds as much power as what they are saying yes to. And i want them to know from the beginning of their lives what they say yes and no to in life, matters. They are not here to simple follow those who went before them around in their ways. They have their own way, most of the time they are leading it and most of the time its going against everything that has gone before us. Still, we go forth fearlessly trusting ourselves and unafraid of laying new paths that have yet to be walked by the many.
I’ve decided to stay with myself for at least 30 days. Much like inviting an old lost friend over to spend some necessary time with. I’m getting to know the me that is within the me. I’m wanting this to be a beginning of the commitment to myself. This is my gift to myself. This is how i will begin the practice of moving with intent, intentionally moving with purpose. I am keeping myself in the moment, from moment to moment what ever that entails. I’m asking all the questions that one asks when arriving at this place in their life. And I’m listening whilst deeply awaiting the answers. This is how the clarity is surfacing, things that seemed important, are no longer. The ideas that i have been moving my whole life from are changing, I’m realising that they have never been my ideas. I’ve been following a way, a human blueprint for’ this is how things are done way’. And this simply does not fit with me anymore or possibly i am no longer wanting to be a willing participant. There is a larger picture, a greater more expansive idea of ourselves, if we are brave enough to jump and i’m jumping in. I am moving from within, from the inside out. It will be my creative force that will bring forth my ideas that will define my path now, not a story generated so long ago that it no longer makes sense in the world of today. Somewhere along the road we stopped listening to ourselves, and we started following, following all those who went before us. We did this in trust, that they knew better and knew where they were going and that it would lead us too, where we believed we needed to be. I’m not so sure that’s how we should be moving now, and I am sure that it’s not those ideas and deep-seated beliefs that I’m going to insist my children learn from and follow. I know that they already know who they are, it is not my job or concern to cloud their views with personal or world fears. Their stories are that of their own and i trust they know what is best for themselves. My children have the freedom to be. I am not insisting that they part take in the situations to which conformity is enforced upon them if it is not what they are wanting, even in their young ages this can be clear. I’m giving them the space to feel their way rather than filling them up. They will be free to choose and lead their own ways. They are my greatest teachers. It is in all their innate determination and unwillingness to conform to the old stories and beliefs that keeps me asking the unorthodox questions that need to be asked now more than ever before. It is them who have come forth and bought me to where i am standing now, who are leading me towards higher grounds, and i am willingly letting them lead the way, all the way.
I’m excited about my children’s education for the first time. After spending too many years on opposite sides of the bench with the school system and the education of my older children, it’s a much welcomed relief and an exciting new prospect for us. For the past 2 years i have been endlessly searching for alternative schooling approaches to educate my children that differ from the mainstream system that we so often seem to be hauling our children through. Homeschooling or better still un-schooling has gotten my eager attention. It’s not the conventional way to go, or even the most popular form for alternative ways to educate your children, nevertheless something is swiftly moving us in that direction. And really after having already been down the conventional schooling road before, i’m afraid it leaves little to be desired for at this stage. After researching the array of approaches to begin embarking on the homeschooling journey, it became apparent and with a much welcomed relief that we were already innately flowing to this rhythm of learning. And whist it may seem alternative now, my predicament is, as a society facing the enormities of such neurological diversity we will begin to explore these new learning styles more predominately in the future anyway. Right now, everything we are doing feels right. Moving in the natural flow of the children is easy, much easier than the rush of meeting expected time tables and fitting into a routine that doesn’t really fit with us. Now, we move slowly in the mornings, especially on the stuff that doesn’t really matter, like washing faces and getting dressed. The creativity usually begins before the first cup of tea. Everything is always open, accessible and available, nothing stops or finishes at a certain time. I know the learning is happening when they wake and look out to see if anything has grown in the garden or changed form while they were sleeping. They notice a bee has taken up residence in the lounge room and they are unbothered by its presence, ensuring me that its alright, because it’s just pollinating our plants. Painting in your pyjamas is normal, brushing teeth at some stage before lunch is alright, imaginary play is unrestrained and not restricted to any parts of the house, and can take over and last for hours. I can’t emphasis enough how important this kind of play is and how important it is to allow the space in children’s lives for this to happen naturally. We live in a world that is on sensory overload most of the time. Children are losing their way, forgetting how to be without the aid of an electronic device, clouding their minds. I’m seeing it so often now, children are struggling to think of ways to play. They have forgotten this innate wisdom they have been born with and its disturbingly heartbreaking. Playing this way for us happens often and easily, they listen to each other, contemplate and cooperate together, most of the time my involvement is unnecessary and is kept to a minimal. The children are happy, excited to wake in the morning and begin their days, they know that they have the unique experience of leading the way on how the day will unfold and its alluring to watch them in the freedom of this space. It would be hard to imagine now, a life of rushing them out the door by eight with breakfast on the run to spend 6 hours in a classroom, five days a week. I’m thinking we have stumbled onto something uniquely wonderful here, un-schooling is undoubtably unorthodox and still really quite seldom, nonetheless we do like the idea of taking the road less travelled.