a community for home and unschooled kids

“It is hard to swim against the current and risk the negative judgments of parenting peers. Yet, some do, and if enough begin to swim upstream, the river may change its flow.” –Peter Gray, Free to Learn

Thats what we are doing. Bravely and confidently we are swimming up-stream, embarking on a new adventure for educating children. We are doing this because we truly believe that the current systems of mainstream education are fundamentally ‘not working’ for the diversity of all children. There comes a time when it become necessary to move away from what has been done before if it doesn’t innately feel right to be moving in that direction anymore.

“Today most people think of childhood and schooling as indelibly entwined. We identify children by their grade in school. We automatically think of learning as work, which children must be forced to do in special workplaces, schools, modeled after factories. All this seems completely normal to us, because we see it everywhere. We rarely stop to think about how new and unnatural all this is in the larger context of human evolution and how it emerged from a bleak period in our history that was marked by child labor and beliefs in children’s innate sinfulness. We have forgotten that children are designed by nature to learn through self-directed play and exploration, and so, more and more, we deprive them of freedom to learn, subjecting them instead to the tedious and painfully slow learning methods devised by those who run the schools.” –Peter GrayFree to Learn

We are beginning a community for home and unschoolers to come together. We are creating such a place  ourselves because there are no such facilities for kids to regularly be together, who are on these new paradigms of education. And even though, I’m referring to this path of education as ‘new’, it’s really not ‘new’ at all. Free to learn schools have been around and successfully operating since The Summerhill School was first founded in 1921.  This model of schooling, whilst now is still seen as ‘radicle’ and alternative, is what I believe our futuristic education models will be based on and the direction they will begin to move in, eventually.  Why do i think this? Because there is a movement towards this. Parents are not content with the old system because children are not content within the system. It has become clear to those ready to see it, just how much children have outgrown the system already and how exceptionally hard it is to keep themselves ‘happy’ within it. This is why they can’t sit still. This is why we have more diagnosed ADHD now than ever before. If children were free to move, speak, play, eat, rest, run and even shout as their bodies needed,  ADHD wouldn’t be a problem. It wouldn’t need to be medicated. It probably wouldn’t even be noticed. Then the masses of children referred to as having “abnormal behaviours” thereupon become “normal” children once again. If you believe there is such thing that is.

Our idea for education is free from conformity, free from authoritarian fear based learning. Our community will fundamentally from a grass-roots level wholeheartedly trust children in their abilities to know what it is they need to learn about  without being restricted by the confinements of their age. Much the same way we trust toddlers will begin to talk by themselves. We don’t sit them down for hours of instruction, to teach them the spoken word. We just live, talk and play with them, and we instinctively know that the words will form by themselves and in time will be mastered, when they are ready of course.   Children learn better through experience, most would agree with this. If you can offer children experience in what interests them, they not only will learn about it more authentically but more important it facilitates the way for a love of learning. So much of ‘mainstream’ school is, consciously or not working against this philosophy.

“Human beings have been sharing information and skills, and passing along to their children whatever they knew, for about a million years now. Along the way they have built some very complicated and highly skilled societies. During all those years there were very few teachers in the sense of people whose only work was teaching others what they knew. And until very recently there were no people at all who were trained in teaching, as such. People always understood, sensibly enough, that before you could teach something you had to know it yourself. But only very recently did human beings get the extraordinary notion that in order to be able to teach what you knew you had to spend years being taught how to teach.” -John Holt, Teach Your Own

There is a saying “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” [Tony Morrison] Thats what we are doing. We are rewriting the story. We will do this because we are a small part of an important movement that knows we must because it has become vitally necessary for the well being of our children.

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schools of trust

“Like cattle most humans live and die in passive subjection..We live lives locked into narrow patterns, often filled with great suffering and it never occurs to us that we can actually become free.” -Samadhi

“My dream of course is that we give up these dreadful authoritarian prescribed hateful state systems that clearly everybody agrees.. are obviously failing..”[Derry Hannam, retired school inspector]  We are so afraid of giving children the freedom they deserve in being the driving force for their own education, that we are doing them an incredible injustice in their opportunities for true learning and for their lives.  This is not what children want or need anymore and It is not what is valuable for our futuristic world either.

“We need young people who are independent, who are responsible for themselves,…who can work without strict leadership, we need young people and employees who can think outside of the box. Thats what we need. Everything that our schools don’t allow. It what companies need. It’s what science needs. Its whats needed everywhere.”  [ Jesper Juul, author ]

Fear and Failure

He is not stupid. In spite of his nervousness and anxiety, he is curious about some things, bright, enthusiastic, perceptive, and in his writing highly imaginative. But he is literally, scared out of his wits. He cannot learn math because his mind moves so slowly from one though to another that the connections between them are lost. His memory does not hold what he learns, above all else because he wont trust it. Every day he must figure out, all over again, that 9 + 7 = 16, because how can he be sure that it has not changed, or that he has not made another endless series of mistakes? How can you trust any of your own thoughts when so many of them have proved to be wrong? I can see no kind of life for him unless he can break out of the circle of failure, discouragement, and fear in which he is trapped in. .. Worst of all, I’m not sure that we, his elders really want him to break out. It is no accident that this boy is afraid. We have made him afraid, consciously, deliberately, so that we might more easily control his behaviour and get him to do whatever we wanted him to do. ….They get bold and sassy; they may for a while try to give a had time to those adults who for so long have been giving them had time. So to keep him in his place, to please the school and his parents, I have to make him fearful again. The freedom of fear that i try to give from one hand I almost instantly take away with the other. What sense does this make? –John Holt, How Children Fail, 1962

Fear and Failure. I know this is not how we should be viewing our school system to be. However, it has been hard to see anything else that has been more unvarying than the fear and failure that has been systematically instilled into the belief system of my son during his ten years in the mainstream school system. I know there is nothing unique about our experience, that’s the sad truth about it.   We have been at a cross roads many times. Do we stay, do we to leave, do we try another school, only to return to the one that has had the greatest detriment of all. The one where, the reinforcing has become so great that there’s almost a complacency about it. What he has is a comfortable character there, he is well liked because he is a great person, but they’ve looked passed his innate potential because they have already successfully redefined it. I have watched the influences of the educators on my sons well-being over the years carefully. Trying to counteract the messages i could see being instilled and taking effect.  I have watched them change his mind on what he now believes to be true for himself. There will be so much undoing of school to do, when we finally make it and that is if we do. There has been little to no choice of this playing out any other way. An alternative way has never been an option that we have ever had the means to take. We have had to rely on and trust our State System. There simply is no choice for parents wanting to choose where their children should be educated if finances are playing a large component.  That is our system, and the fact is, schools are funded not children. Possibly the idea of funding children rather than schools would free up this predicament, and give parents the choice to choose the best education facility for their child’s unique learning style. Freedom of choice, is not what we have now. What we have now, is a system in such dire restraint that its powerfully failing Australian Children.

The idea that children won’t learn without outside rewards and penalties, or in the debased jargon of the behaviorist, “positive and negative reinforcements,” usually becomes a self for filling prophecy. If we treat children long enough as if that were true, they will come to believe it is true. So many people have said to me ” if we didn’t make the children do things, they wouldn’t do anything.” It is the creed of a slave. John Holt, How Children Fail

 

My children will not grow to know this day as a celebration. They will learn the heavy truths of the suffering that occurred during this time. They will not be sheltered from the painful reality of our history to follow along in this new tradition of celebration, when remembering is more appropriate for the occasion. We will acknowledge the true Australians of this land we have all laid claim to. We will recognise and validate exactly what this day represents. We will say how sorry we are in our hearts and ask to be forgiven, for the undeniably unforgivable.

 

 

 

playing the education game

“An elementary school teacher was giving  a drawing class to a group of six-year old children. At the back of the class room sat a girl who normally didn’t pay much attention in school. In drawing class she did. For more than twenty minuets the girl sat with her arms curled around her paper, totally absorbed in what she was doing.The teacher found this fascinating. Eventually she asked the girl what she was drawing. Without looking up, the girl said, “I’m drawing a picture of God.” Surprised the teacher said, “But nobody knows what God looks like.” The Girl said, “They will in a minute.” … I believe passionately that we are all born with tremendous capacities, and that we lose touch with many of them as we spend more time in the world. Ironically, one of the main reasons this happens is education.”

-Ken Robinson, The Element

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We have reached another final ending of secondary education. The girls are all taking a well-earned breath now. The previous year, has been one of the hardest contradictions i have ever had to give my entire support to and in doing so, it has become ever so clear that my desire to move away from supporting mainstream educating is now undeniable. These girls of ours have played the game and they have played it exceptionally well. I have witnessed them consistently refrain from voicing their truths, their opinions, their creativity and their individualities. They learned to not step on toes and to keep the peace even when it meant going against the truth because to challenge the system or the school or the teacher would have had a detrimental consequence on their personal results, regardless of the validity.  They learned not to make the inappropriate comments and  judgments made by teachers matter to them, and the noticeable partiality teachers held for certain co students bother them.  They worked incredibly hard, kept their focus and received more than admirable results for their efforts and are all now considered  to be a part of a small percentage of success stories of mainstream eduction. But are they? What exactly are we defining their success on? There is no doubt of how exceptionally proud i am of their accomplishments but it has nothing to do with a number or score that some system places such high value on. I wonder to what detriment are they having to acquire their success, and would they really choose it to be this way if given the choice?

My greatest fear is that the message that is being sent within this process of educating is that they simply don’t matter.  The very fact that they are unique individuals, who consist of a complexity of different abilities and talents is being lost in the process. Instead what they are learning is  that they must merely comply and be willing to shut themselves off from the very aspects of who they are, and do what they are directed to do, the way they are directed to do it. They must do this without opinion and ever raising the obvious question of, why? Why must we do this?  This is a very simple and valuable question that is asked often early on in the education process and rarely accurately answered. I fear that what is being really taught is, how to successfully navigate your way through a system and play the game.

These girls true abilities and intelligence cannot be measured in this way. This is not something their education has provided them with, and even with the highest notable recognition, it still fails to see the entirety of who they are and the their immense individual worth.  I hold more appreciation for their ability of withstanding spending so much time within a system that increasingly denied them the space and opportunity to really discover who they are and what they really want for themselves and still keep themselves perfectly grounded.   We have been blessed with wise children. We know that they are more than capable of being in complete control of their own futures. And it will be inspiring to stand back and witness the forthcoming unfolding. I only wonder, what if the same freedom and space and opportunity had been offered much earlier? What if this process is no longer really necessary at all anymore.  It is  my thought that they undeniably would still be powerfully driving themselves forward in their lives, unsubdued.

 

 

 

learning from a barefoot movement

‘First they ignore you then they laugh at you then they fight you then you win’ – Mahatma Gandhi

Any proposed new idea that is going to  challenge a way or belief that has been followed and indoctrinated  for so long is going to gain immense resistance. But to keep going along with systems and ideas that we know are no longer working especially when those systems are ones concerning our children, is no longer justifiable. We are in a time that is requiring brave people to come forth with new perspectives, even if the perspectives are seemingly unorthodox, in the beginning. It is no secret that the education systems in western civilisation are having an adverse effect on children. Some of the most revolutionary ideas of how we may move towards a more diverse and nurturing educating way to serve future generations of humanity more effectively, is coming forth now.  Having  had children that patently do not fit the mainstream educational systems without having to clearly identify necessary provisions in order for them to participate, indicates that change is necessary and any system that no longer endorses notions of what we are deeming to be normal and abnormal is much welcomed from where i am standing.

women standing for women

It is my daughters final year of senior education.  To say I’m incredibly proud of her would be an understatement, but it’s never been her position to prove anything to me. She is already all-encompassing of everything she has ever needed to be. Her final year has been a heavy weight to endure. It has left me as a parent, quite disillusioned and a somewhat perplexed as to why we are deeming it necessary to place such astronomical amounts of pressure upon these young adults shoulders.  Even the most well-balanced adult would have difficulty sustaining the weight of such pressures. Nevertheless she has held her own, in a system that holds very little room for flexibility and individual sentiments. She knows that she has given it her all, and most of all she knows she did it for herself. And that is all that is ever really necessary.  For her final media piece she produced a short film focusing on concerning issues still facing women today on a global scale. She chose to use her voice, she chose to be brave and innately powerful in her message. Whats important is she is willing. Willing to be seen, be heard, and is already comfortable in the knowing that what she has to say matters. We can spend our entire lives coming to this realisation,  the realisation of our own worth and how much of a role it plays in everything we choose to undertake. If this is the only message that our children take with them as they embark on their journeys, then as parents we will have done enough.