challenging the ‘be a good girl’ notion

 

When she is  told to be a ‘good girl’, it is assuming that she can also be ‘bad’.   What exactly ‘Bad’ entails is completely in the eye of the beholder. We see ‘bad’ in all sorts of experiences in our daily lives. Children hear us relaying things we have read about, or seen or are listening to our interpretations of events that are all seemingly ‘bad’, and generally its pretty ‘bad’  if we are all talking about it. So why is it, that children are so often told to ‘be good’ by the people who care about them, implying that they must be capable of being ‘bad’, otherwise what is the point for mentioning it at all.  It is patronising to children that we so easily hold them to such unwarranted judgments.  It is pretending to be loving and kind in deliverance but really its just condescending superiority. Adults would never say this to each other, it wouldn’t be accepted by any means, and it’s not necessary for children either. Our interactions with children have become thoughtless, just repetitive habitual words, that we think have no real meaning or impact. Except they do.  I don’t tell my children to ‘be good’, but they have heard this enough already in their interactions with others  to know that this wins praise. Children are intelligent. My daughter will intentionally do things for the praise. She does ask ‘am i a good girl?’ after completing something, not often, but it happens, and it’s hard one to over come once the mindset has already been established. The truth is, there is no good or bad in children. They are just children learning to maneuver their way through their experiences and emotions. Most of the time my children are outwardly honest in their deliverance of their feelings and that can raise some awkwardness in the moment, usually because honesty is not what the recipient is expecting to hear. Their opinions haven’t been filtered or moulded to fit some false sociably acceptable standard. Their opinions are respected and they are learning that they are valued for them even in their indifference. How we can help others to understand this better, I’m still trying to work this out. My children are not obedient, because I don’t expect they should be.

What do we trade when we prioritise obedience over our children’s needs, mistakes or messy emotions? -Raised Good, parenting by nature

This doesn’t mean that they are ‘bad’. They simply have choices, and most of the time they make the ‘right’ ones for themselves. They are learning that certain choices they make wont bring them their desired outcomes, eventually they’ll make a different choice. It requires more patients and more compassion and understanding. It requires that we be present in the moment with our children.  Admittedly, it’s is definitely easier to take control over their lives and autonomy. It is definitely easier to play the role of the boss and dictate their days to them. Telling them when to eat, sleep, bathe, work, play, talk, listen or  who to be nice to, etc…Its definitely easier to tell them what to do rather than ask them if it is what they are wanting.

My children are more often than not outspoken, meaning they don’t think to hold their thoughts back on any situation, especially ones they themselves are directly impacted by. They are defiantly clear about what it is they are wanting and what it is they do not. They are unafraid to use their voices, and they don’t easily abide towards domination, manipulation or any other techniques that degrades or undermines their  usually valued opinions.  They wont simply hand out respect if it’s not warranted. And this can be somewhat unsettling, if you’re not expecting it, especially when it is coming from a five-year old. Are they ‘Bad’ children, No. Should they do what they are told to do, simply because someone tells them to? I don’t think so. Understandably, this is a tough notion to consider. But i would prefer that my children risk politeness for honesty and remain true to their feelings, than to deny themselves that right, in fear of being socially unaccepted by the opinions of others.   There are many ways we could be interacting with children that doesn’t entail making them feel inferior or imply that they are incapable of making good and safe decisions for themselves.

“The reality that adults have more power than children, however, does not mean that it is appropriate or necessary for us to exercise control over them. Rather, it means that we have an obligation to consciously choose how to use our power. We can choose to use our greater power to control children and coerce them to do what we want. We can choose to do nothing with our power. But we can also choose to use our power to support, assist, and facilitate the growth and learning of children in ways that affirm their personal power, dignity, and humanity.” -Teresa Graham Brett

We could be making ourselves clearer to children about what we are desiring, explain ourselves better without the authoritarian overtones. We could be offering them a range of possible outcomes to consider, before making decisions for them.  And we could allow ourselves to think about it a little more deeply and question our own concerns with needing a certain outcomes.  Possibly, we should be asking ourselves more often,  does it really matter?  We could stop opting for the quick, go to, fix  ‘do what i am asking of you and do it now.’  We could opt out of needing to power struggle with children.

My children are strong and independent, this strategy never works on them and i would never wish it to.  They are learning that people aren’t always sincere with their words and in their actions.  It must be incredibly confusing for children, when their well-being is so conditioned to only having particular outcomes and behaviours, deemed to be acceptable. It still bewilders me, that children are so often condemned for their natural feelings and emotions, it is asking children to deny feeling parts of themselves, simply because they may be causing undesirable attention.

We know that the way we are moving is not the norm, we know that its unconventional. The easier path would be to compel ourselves, despite our instinctual knowing and follow the less confrontational path. We could accept the ‘normalised’ and ‘expected’ way to raise children, without ever questioning it, even if it doesn’t feel right. But thankfully, that’s not our journey.  I’m strongly in favour for questioning what has gone before us and i’m thankful that i’m raising children that will without a doubt question everything that comes before them, before taking it on as their truth at face value.

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changing the paradigms

As my two wilder ones are embarking on their journey of natural learning and self-directed education, my oldest son is finalising his, on the mainstream path.  It’s been a long tedious road, and i can’t say its been worth it. If only i had realised all that i do now, we may have never let that story play our for so long. So much of this path or knowing we have found ourselves travelling on comes from Trust. Trusting myself to know what is best for my children and trusting my children in that they also know what is best for themselves.

My son is excited, really excited. He has no idea what he wants to do, but the possibilities that await and the fact that he can now choose for himself has made him ecstatic. Most might be uncomfortable sitting in the ‘unknown’ with their children’s next move. Most would feel a pressure in wanting them to have an idea or an answer. Most would not be alright in their child just pausing to find their feet or in them seeking out their own fire.

There is no plan that’s set in stone for us, and we have no intention of forcing any learning upon him anymore that holds no interest for him.  We have learnt the hard way, that this rarely works and its more that likely that the information and possibly the skills that we believe are relevant to now, will be more than likely be irrelevant in the future anyway.  Right now what is important for this new venture my son is embarking on is that he regains his passion for learning, not for the sake of meeting some  regulation, or somebody elses ideas of what he should be doing in his life, but for himself. His passions, his ideas and adventures for his life are his to own and pursue, that freedom is his right. School for him has been what has denied him this basic right, for the last ten years.

Now, he will have the freedom to explore what ever it is he is drawn to in this moment. There simply is no need or expectation for him to have it all worked out just yet. It’s absurd, that this has become the ‘norm’ within the realms of the educational system.  There will be times, when the space isn’t filled. There will be more time spent now, where he is not in the position of being ‘directed’ or ‘told’ what to do than ever before in his life. There will be some ‘uncomfortableness’ here, and an uneasiness in this freedom this brings.  Why is it we fill children up from such a young ages, leaving no room for boredom or self discovery; always keeping them ‘productive’ and ‘doing’ in their lives, and in turn keeping them the furthest from discovering their own desires. The longer children are kept within these reins, the longer it takes for them to find their way back towards what it is that they truly desire for themselves. Usually it’s not until, there is enough time left  ‘unfilled’ and free from the direction and ideas of others that they can truly begin to discover this for themselves.

The process of unfolding everything  ‘school’ has made an imprint on, will be long. It will require, patients in the transitioning from being schooled to one where he has the freedom to move in his own life. He will no longer be forced to endure long sessions of dictation on subject matters that have little to no relevance him. He will no loner be conditioned when to eat, speak, sit, stand or listen and if he needs use the bathroom now, he wont be degraded in to having to ask for permission.

So as for the restlessness that most likely will arise at times in the ‘Not’ being consistently told what to do, there’s also going to be a great beauty in bearing witness to my son discovering for the first time the things that truly drive him for the journey of his own life.

 

 

 

 

 

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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 ]

How Children Fail

…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.

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