Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Unschooling Ourselves: Enjoying the Journey

It all begins with and returns to the family.
It's no news that maternal blood and tissue carries the DNA of the mother's child for up to decades after the child's birth. Pregnancy is just the beginning of the long relationship we have with our children; a relationship that is give-and-take-and-give. We grow so much from our gained understanding of love and humanity, when we have children, and as we parent them. All of us are on a journey of growth, trying to find better ways of parenting our children and our spouses and ourselves.

When we love, we teach our children to love.
When we trust, we teach our children to trust.
When we love ourselves, we teach our children to love themselves. 
When we unschool ourselves, we unschool our children.

So why unschool ourselves?
Because many of us were raised in a school system, where we learned to follow the pack, to attempt at all costs to fit in, to make the grade, and to measure up to what was expected of us by others, without questioning, in our early years, what we expected of ourselves. Now, as parents, we are the people being looked to for help, but we've become very good at passing the buck. Or we've become very timid at taking responsibility. It's much too easy to go ask somebody else, or, increasingly, look for answers on the Internet, without reminding ourselves that every single opinion we are given is just that: an opinion. It may be an extremely educated opinion, but in this globalized society, it is one of many different educated opinions, and we're often unequipped to navigate these varying opinions, without also educating ourselves about the issue (and the people) involved. So this navigation is our empowerment; it's part of unschooling ourselves.

I'm not saying we shouldn't trust. Of course a certain amount of trust is necessary to live in peace. But putting too much trust in the opinions of one person or entity just leads to blindness. Unschooling is about learning to navigate a massive web of information and truths - life - many conflicting truths - and learning to follow gut instinct on this journey. Unschooling is about the journey. It's about all the beauty that unfolds from the pathways we find ourselves on; not the places they lead us to. It's about the surprises. After all, each new place is just the beginning of another adventure.

Big Adventures: YES
When I was 17, within a single week's time I graduated from highschool, traumatically broke up with my first serious boyfriend, and moved with my family out of my lifelong home and community and into a big farmhouse in a completely new-to-me part of our province. To say I was in shock would be putting it mildly, and I remember feeling unbelievably alone and terrified. So I asked my parents to send me to Holland. And I happened to ask them in front of my pseudo-uncle, Jon. Jon triumphantly exclaimed "Yes!" And I knew my parents' doubts and fears would be moot.

I went to Holland. I hung around with my beloved family, there, argued with my grandmother about how often was reasonable to wash my hair, got lost in Amsterdam with my cousin, and learned to ride on the back of a bike. I also took my portfolio to the Royal Academy of art, got accepted on the spot into second year, learned to get around a foreign city alone, watched my cousin perform the lead in an opera, and fell in love, to boot. These things were so distracting that I didn't realize until later that it was during this time I cemented my truly wonderful relationship with my grandmother. And none of these things were what I expected. I never saw any tulips. I didn't learn to speak Dutch (despite my young cousins' desperate attempts). But my life changed.

The next year I returned to Holland again (for that second year art academy entrance). I thought I would return three years later with an art degree and a fiance. Instead I returned two years later -- kicked out of art school, feeling like a failure, broken-hearted beyond belief... and with a rather unexpected fiance -- who is now my husband. Nothing was as I had planned. My parents were disappointed, to say the least. And that particular adventure was an unbelievable success!

Telling children facts or giving advice is like showing them a picture of a destination, with a nice little description beside it. That advice is not going to be what they remember, and it may not even be valuable to them. They have to make their own journeys, and while they're young, we have the privilege of tagging along for the ride.

So we learn to navigate. We learn to enjoy the journey. And we learn that we cannot teach our children by giving them advice. We can only take them on big adventures.

Oh... and didn't I say...
Our best predictions have nothing to do with the journey.
It all begins with and returns to the family.
Well here I am. My family has moved back to the property we left when I was 17. First I came with my husband and had children here. Then my parents returned, and my brother with his wife. Nothing is quite the way we expected it to be. But here we all are, three generations of humans living out our various divergent and convergent journeys, and glad to have each other to share them with.

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