Wednesday, December 09, 2009

#best 09 " The Challenge of Unschooling"

Today's farewell 2009 blog post was a challenge "that drove you to the edge and then some." For me, there can be only one answer, because there is one challenge that encompasses all others.

My challenge, and my family's, has been unschooling. It has become our life, shaken us up and out of the complacency of "just the way things are", made our lives sing and soar.

It has also, at times, been a royal pain in the ass, a huge epic struggle to let go of old ideas, old "have-to's" and "supposed to's" - a struggle, sometimes, to let go, in general.

I used to believe I needed to do a great many things. Feeling as though I had no choice in the matter freed me from considering all the choices I did have, if only I could be brave enough to do so.

As we moved from my reading about unschooling to our first bumbling changes in our lives, I began to have some inkling of the freedom we might one day find. One day - but, at that point, we were a pendulum, out of balance, swinging far in one direction, then as far in the other.

Finding a natural balance has required me to go deep within myself, to find the frightened and stifled little girl I was, to listen to what she had to say with all the focus and attention I was learning to give to my own children. I needed to see her as she was, look once again through her eyes, return to live once more in her small and powerless body.

I needed to see Jim that way, too, as the little boy he was, not so frightened as I was, in childhood, but instead the child of divorce and remarriage and a blended family with three older sisters who dominated the time and attention of his home. That was a harder one - I know Jim in childhood only through his stories and some picture albums. And today he is a big capable bear of a man, bearded and strong, very much unlike a child.

I needed to give up all the expectations I had for my children, all the glory I'd hoped they'd vicariously cover me in. I myself was classified a "gifted" child, and thought it mattered whether my children were. Somehow, if they weren't, I would have failed in the making of them...

I've come to see, though, through this year of unlearning school conditioning, that they themselves are the gift.

Jeremiah, tw days ago, asked me, "Mom, what's an element?" He is 8. We went to a planetarium show during the winter, called "Molecularium", and, after, we did a lot of talking about molecules, atoms, and the smaller parts inside. So, using that, I explained that all the atoms in an element are the same, that helium and gold and silver and lead and copper are elements, and so are the hydrogen and oxygen in water.

He thought about this for a minute, then asked, "What's milk of magnesia?" I explained that as best I could, then asked where he'd heard of it. "Two places - Married...With Children and Family Guy," he answered. shows he's never seen that day we went to the planetarium. shows he will now stay up all night to watch, and from which he's gotten an irreverent tour of life and history and wit and irony and sarcasm and theatre of the absurd and satire he informed me that Brian, the talking dog on Family Guy, is an atheist. "And so am I." he said.

I remember telling my own mother I was a atheist when I was about 15 and supremely skeptical. she became anngry and offended and told me I was not, and not to say so again. We were not regualr churchgoers by any means. I was a deep thinker even then; I knew what I meant, as well as what was in my soul, and being told I didn't made ME angry and offended.

iIt was the same thing with Star Trek, Men at Work, makeup, anything that I was passionate about that my parents couldn't understand. They might have embraced my passions; but, if they didn't share them, they would or could not. They might have simply tolerated them as things important to me that they would never understand (I have this type for Jim's 4x4 videos. I know they excite him, but all the vehicles and trails just look the same to me. Bet they wouldn't on horseback, though...).

What happened, and still does today, is that my parents actively deride my passions. Here's a sample conversation I've had more than once, upon being called by my mother.

mom: "What are you doing?"
me: "Watching M*A*S*H with Jim" (we've done this since the earliest days of our relationship, own the series, and still do today. You could say it's mildly important to us.)
mom: (sighs; voice gains a note of disgust.) "I HATE that stupid show!"
me (impatient, no longer really in the mood to talk) "I know you do, Mom, but we love it, and that's what we were doing. "

The result of this is that there are very huge chunks of what's important to me that I have never been able to share with my parents for no other reason than that they don't understand that these things ARE important to me, and scorning them keeps me a bit distant and reserved with them. I've never been fond of relationships that make me too often uneasy and guarded. it's too much work. I prefer the easy companionship of those who believe that each of us has things they hold most dear, and those things are very much a part of and a reflection of who they are.

I do not embrace all of my children's passions, and there was a time, not so very long ago, when many things (cable TV, video games, the freedom to choose when and where to sleep, when and what to eat, what to wear) were forbidden for no other reason tha that i could not see the importance of them. That old pattern I was raised within, that my parents still live within, was so much a part of my life, I didn't even realize I was repeating it with my own children.

Becoming conscious of it was the first, hardest part. Since I began to see, the revelations have been fast and furious. They keep deepening, as I see the children blossoming as their choices, their passions are honored and deemed equally as important and valid as my own...gorillas, stick ponies, Hubble telescope, Pokemon, intestines, Nintendo, kittens....the list will get longer as the days and weeks and months and years of living with "YES!" become deeper and wider and MORE.

Getting here is a huge victory, but there is so much further to travel, so much more to understand. It will be the work and joy and passion of my lifetime, making the journey!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Shannon what a lovely post! Reading about your parents made me identify how I felt-but could never quite put it into words! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I think it's really brave to put your thoughts out there like that!
We've just started this unschooling journey and I can totally identify with the up/down not that easy to let go of habits feelings!
Thanks again.