Hellena Post - Creatrix

I've tried on so many uniforms and badges that now I'm just me - mother of 8 children and all that entails, flowmad, and human animal parent. Writer of this living book of a blog, philosopher, and creatrix of hand dyed and spun crocheted wearable art. I gave up polite conversation years ago, and now I dive into the big one's.....birth, sex, great wellness, life, passion, death and rebirth.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Our Natural Unschooling Philosophy











Allright. So we keep having the conversation with significant people in our lives about our children, and why they don’t go to school, and whether or not we’re ‘properly’ homeschooling them, and whether we’re damaging or neglecting their needs by unschooling them………. And I’m finally prompted to find other homeschooling/unschooling groups, parents, kids and ideas, and do some reading about what I know from instinct and my life experience is complete and total common sense. And I’ve been amazed at just how many contacts, and web pages, and resources, and groups, and camps, and books, and articles are available. But before I completely dive into the world of the radical unschooler or natural learner (which I suspect we’ve actually been for a very long time), I feel it’s important to clearly state my OWN reasons, experiences, philosophies and life learnings that have led me to this position I’ve taken, on keeping my kids at home and close to us and each other.

One of the biggest reasons is a philosophical thread that Currawong and I have been on for years now – and we called it the Human Animal Liberation Foundation – or the HALF movement, because we believe you’re only half alive unless you come to terms with the fact that you’re an animal……like the rest of the creatures on the planet. And if you’re tempted to instantly protest about how humans are different, how they are conscious sentient beings, or how they have souls, or how we’re at the top of the evolutionary scale, I have these things to say to you. Firstly, how and why are we different?? Don’t we have the same bits, needs and habits as other mammals?? And secondly about consciousness……modern science has pretty much agreed that consciousness exists in the frontal lobe, and guess what…..our frontal lobes are about 10 times smaller than whales and dolphins….which we kill and eat. And as for souls, who made you an expert on souls and who has them?? There is as much diverse discussion on what a ‘soul’ is as raindrops in an ocean, so if no one can agree, how can any decisions be made about who ‘has’ them?? Talk to any person who has an animal friend and try to tell them their friend doesn’t have a soul…..at best you’ll be very unpopular. And as for being at the top of the evolutionary ladder, just tell me what other species on the planet kills on such a grand scale for territorial or religious reasons, and which other species shits in their nest as badly as us? What may appear as intelligence on viewing human achievement, can just as easily be seen as completely stupid, as our earth damaging practices defy even the biggest head in the sand tactics. So back to my point, we’re animals like all the rest of the creatures on the planet – we eat, sleep, procreate, drink and decompose back into the earth like everything else. And not only are we animals, but we’re the most domesticated animals on the planet. We proudly farm our ‘domesticated’ animals, and monoculture wild panoramas out of existence, whilst in complete denial that everything we do to them, we do to ourselves. Except we do it more to ourselves than any other animal on the planet. No other animal in it’s natural state has to ask permission to shit or wee or do it in allocated places, follow road rules and school rules and council rules and government rules, give over power of their lives and children and days and nights to bosses and mortgages and ‘media’. Follow the prescribed paths like rats in a maze, and then lock ourselves into our own cages at night. I could go on and on as you may well gather, but I reckon you’ve got the jist of my thinking. Which brings me back to the whole unschooling or free learning concept. I look at conventional schooling, and then I look at all the other mammal babies, and I wonder why we insist on expecting so incredibly much from our younglings!! I often refer to our children as baby lions, especially when they’re rolling round wrestling and giggling, or running stampede like through a supermarket, or screaming for the pure joy of being alive…..and I wonder why so many people see this behavior and want to make them sit and be quiet, and cross their legs with their backs straight, and suppress their natural curiosity and desires, and talk only when spoken to, and perform a myriad of tests and rote learnings and parrot style education. Other young mammals are pretty much left alone to explore their surroundings and limitations, to explore what their bodies can do, to watch and learn from observation of their parents and packs, and follow their mothers around and learn about what they’ll need to do when they get bigger. When they get too annoying or in the way they get a swift bite or kick from whichever elder member they’ve pissed off, and they get the point, and go gamboll somewhere else. In comparison to human years, it’s only when other mammal babies get to their teenage years, that they come out of the observers seat and start to join in the adult occupations. Why can’t our human babies enjoy the same kind of freedom??

After watching my eldest daughter go through a myriad of wonderful and nightmarish schooling experiences, and also in watching my other 4 children when they have tried school and when they socialize in general, I’m very aware of how utterly exhausting it is for little people to socially interact. Our kids go to a park or play at a friends house for a morning, and they’re totally whacked. To see, perceive, adjust, perform, run, observe, guage a stranger’s emotions, read cues, and impress, takes a hell of a lot of their entire being, and they often sleep early and soundly after any social interaction. A lot more goes into these social interactions than we may realize or remember. I often watch my children change their behavior completely, depending on the expectations of the people (particularly adults) around them. For example, a person who has the opinion that they’re loud, noisy and annoying, will often co-create loud, noisy and annoying behavior in them. And someone who perceives them as intelligent and fun to be around will get that from them. What a huge amount of perception and behavior modification must go into that behavioural trait, to pick up on it for a start, and then to enact on the expectations they perceive. And again in my experience, I just think that expecting them to do this for 6 plus hours a day, 5 days a week, is just too punishing on little beings who are still working out who they are, and feeling their way into their lives. When my kids have gone to school, they’ve spent almost as much time debriefing from the experience as they have done experiencing it. Releasing the pent up emotions and the strain of interaction and the frustration at having to suppress parts of their nature before finally being able to relax and be themselves again….or at least what I expect as themselves….it’s worth pondering how much our expectations have an impact on our children’s behavior.

I see unschooling or natural learning as a continuation of the ‘continuum concept’ – whereby it’s far kinder, more life instructive, and easier on everybodies resources to see kids as passive observers at first, watching grown ups live, to work out how to do it themselves when they grow. And to be taught ‘real’ things, and concepts, and stories, and advice, rather than what we do to our kids in western cultures. We put them in artificial, plastic, brightly coloured fake environments, give them toys that usually bear no resemblance whatsoever to practical tools and everyday items, talk to them in stupid voices and give them dumbed down baby versions of reality, treat them like little princes, princesses and consumers, let them roam around the social environment with no boundaries and be little brats a lot of the time, and then all of a sudden, at an unannounced and unprepared time, usually when they hit their teens, we change all the rules completely, expect them to catch up instantly with ‘growing up’, tell them that they’ve got to make big decisions that will impact on the rest of their lives, and start telling them the ‘truth’ about stuff, that often leaves a youngun angry and frustrated at a hypocritical, betraying, parental and authoritative hierarchy. All at the same time as we give them over to the care of strangers for a large portion of their lives, and often give them the message that they’re ‘hard work’ and that huge and onerous sacrifices have to be made for them, usually at the expense of their parents life, liberty and freedom. And I haven’t even touched on the birth experience and what that sets up within an individual. There’s a beautiful quote by Anne Sullivan, who was the teacher of Helen Keller that goes….

“I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built upon the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think. Whereas, if the child is left to himself, he will think more and better, if less showily. Let him go and come freely, let him touch real things and combine his impressions for himself, instead of sitting indoors at a little round table, while a sweet-voiced teacher suggests that he build a stone wall with his wooden blocks, or make a rainbow out of strips of coloured paper, or plant straw trees in bead flower-pots. Such teaching fills the mind with artificial associations that must be got rid of, before the child can develop independent ideas out of actual experience”

Couldn’t have said it better myself. Which brings me to another point. In all our searching for the perfect ‘schooling’ environment for our children and us, we more often than not found in talking to other parents, the concept that they weren’t actually happy with the schooling version they’d opted for, but considering they could never deal with their children 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, had decided that a compromise for cheap or functional child care was worth the few worries. When did we collectively decide that the children we co-create in love and grow in our wombs are actually too much work for us, a hassle, and infringing on our lives?? For the majority of our species existence on the planet pre industrial revolution, when we were living agrarian, interdependent and survival based lives in close knit communities and family units, do we have records of the stress involved in child care, and the desperate urge of parents to offload their children onto strangers? Or do we have stories of cohesive, collaborative, co-operative family units that shared the tasks of survival and a close bond at the same time?? Do we maybe have so many ‘youth’ problems because they’re pissed off at feeling unwanted?? After being brought into life without consultation, being told that you’re a burden and a lode stone??

“The founding fathers in their wisdom decided that children were an unnatural strain on parents. So they provided jails called schools, equipped with tortures called education. School is where you go between when your parents can’t take you and industry can’t take you” John Updike

We actually really love our children. We love watching them learn things and be awed by insects and spider webs and birds in knot holes. We love the spirit and the creativity with which they approach life. We love the complete and total focus and absorbtion they show when we’re telling them something they’re REALLY interested in They go completely silent and still, and it’s like their whole bodies are open and taking the information in on all the levels available to them. And we love the hard, frustrating, angry bits between us all too, because they provide grounds for us all to learn how to get on with each other better, to think about other people, and to adjust our behaviours to improve our relationships. We love watching their independence emerge, and giving them the freedom to express whatever mood they’re in. And learning how to overcome our parents patterns and habits enough that we can become better parents, and set up healthier blue prints for our children to parent from.

But one of my greatest reasons and urges that leads me towards unschooling or natural learning is my own life experience, that has shown me time and time again, that lessons that I learn for myself, in my own way, and from my own experiences, are far deeper, richer, and connected knowings that keep growing and interlacing with my other knowings and being built upon, to create wider and deeper wisdoms and truths for myself. Or more simply, all the best things I’ve learnt in my life, I’ve learnt on my own, from my own experiences and comparisons. Time and time again, in groups of salespeople, or religious folk, or inspirational speakers, or teachers, when they’ve pulled out the ‘inspirational or educational’ story, that’s usually come from a manual or someone else, I’ve had a far better story from my own experience that happened to me and I learnt from. We’ve all been so disempowered by our own schooling and societal expectations, that we think our narrow western culture is full of choice, and forgotten the galaxies, universes and worlds that are yet to be explored if we only remembered they exist! We’ve been taught in a standardized, universal manner that there’s only certain realities and truths, that can only be accessed by certain people…..or as Ivan Illich puts it…..

“Schools are designed on the assumption that there is a secret to everything in life, that the quality of life depends upon knowing that secret, that secrets can only be known in orderly successions, and that only teachers can properly reveal these secrets. An individual with a schooled mind conceives of the world as a pyramid of classified packages accessable only to those who carry the proper tags”

A prime example of what I’m trying to convey is spinning. My mum bought me a spinning wheel as a birthing present when I was 30, sat me down, told me to spin one way, ply the other way, and learn when to stop. Then walked out. That was it. I sat, and I tried and fumbled, and sat up till 3 in the morning for a couple of weeks so no-one could see me look awkward, and I got it. And went off. I spun a lot and got a lot of fleece and started making hats and jumpers and totally delighted in it. Expecting from the stories I’d heard that if I went to the Spinners & Weavers Guild they’d fall over themselves in delight, I went along and was shocked to be completely ignored. Not only was I a bit ‘different’, but I was a new spinner who was bringing along big garments I’d made, had taught myself, and was doing stuff that THEY didn’t know about (yet). They were horrified. I didn’t fit the mold of the submissive supplicant begging their wisdom at all. So they ignored me for 3 months, then finally made friends with me, then learnt from me, then pretended that they’d learnt what I’d taught them themselves. But there were also a sizable group of other women, who did celebrate what I was doing, and admired my difference. But I just didn’t fit with the accepted paradigm. So I kept going my own way, and felt rejected and the like, and thought it was all a bit sad, till a few years later when we were travelling round the country selling my spun out, self taught wares, and sold a beautiful mantle from single ply mohair to a fellow stallholder at Eumundi. She got so inspired by me she decided she was going to learn how to spin, got herself a wheel, and decided to go to the local Guild in a few days. She asked me along, and I turned up a bit late with a suitcase full of single ply mohair creations that tripped them out completely, and only found out later that my friend had spent the first half hour before I’d got there, being told in no uncertain terms that you COULDN’T spin mohair on it’s own, it HAD to be blended, and there was CERTAINLY NO WAY that you could spin mohair single ply…… I realized then that it was really fortunate that I hadn’t been enfolded in the arms of a Guild, because they would have filled my head with rules that might have taken me years to unlearn. But I also need to mention that I did an introduction to spinning class, which taught me a lot of basics about staples and spinning and spinning wheels and fleeces, which I found interesting and still usefull. But I mostly had a purely personal, explorative and expansive learning experience, with no boundaries, and to this day, after much searching on the net I can say unequivocably that there’s nobody else in the world that crochets and creates like me. And the only reason that is so, is that I taught myself. Of course there’s a whole lot more to this story to furnish my point but that’s enough for now. I was fortunate to learn from my spinning experience what these great men found in their lives also…..

“The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education” Albert Einstein
“I never have let schooling interfere with my education” Mark Twain

“The only time my education was interrupted was when I was in school” George Bernard Shaw

But do you know the most profound result of my spinning experience, that has gone on to influence every single part of my life? In realizing that there were whole worlds to be yet explored from striking out on my own and following my own instincts, I also started comparing the rich and unlimited world I resided in creatively, with the societally accepted creative world. Most people when they want to knit or crochet, go to a wool shop, buy a pattern, needles and wool, and follow that pattern, that’s most likely a rehash of a pattern from the 50’s, which is a process that I engaged in many times before I learnt how to spin, but in comparison such an incredibly narrow paradigm compared to me spinning a yarn, creating a concept, weaving in feathers, beads or raffia, playing around constantly with the tools I use, and always making something different. And from this lesson, I started to realize that this is actually a pattern repeated throughout our whole society. We’ve been trained like lab rats to think that we live in a consumer led society full of choice and limitless possibilities, and we’re really living in tiny fishbowls. We think we’ve got housing choices because we can choose from the 5 different designs from a housing developer, and maybe if we’re radical we can choose between mudbrick and strawbale, but what about tree houses and caves and yurts and gypsy vans and ferro concrete structures and trucks and buses and cars made into underground grottoes and underground temples and hobbit homes and dogs piled on an indigenous woman for shelter? And all the other possibilities shown and written about in the incredible book “Shelter”. We think we have choice in our goods because we have a range of shops in those horrible super malls that are all owned by the same corporation, and have forgotten the hand made furniture, pottery, clothes, furnishings, rugs, shelving, bedding and artworks that are possible coming from the unlimited creativity of passionate artisans. We think we have a choice in food because we have so many ‘products’ and name brands available in our shops, and we’ve forgotten bush food, and home grown and made food and a huge range of vegetable and fruit heirloom varieties that have been lost to us because they weren’t attractive to mass production and supermarkets. We think we have a huge range of musical and entertainment options, when most of our music and media comes from corporations who have agendas to make profits, and have well and truly shaped and honed their musicians and movies before they are allowed into the mainstream, (incidentally, most movies obsessively display the ‘one man against the world’ scenario, over and over), and a lot of which has gone through the ‘appropriate’ channels of learning music and acting in ‘schools’. Most of these modern royalty are hugely wealthy, and we talk about them as if they’re our family, yet we’re never likely to meet them let alone talk to them. And we’ve forgotten the huge richness and community available in self taught musicians playing improvised music, local theatre groups performing self created plays, public gatherings of theatre sports, community get togethers around fires telling stories, and a myriad of other ways we can have music and entertainment on a local, real, handmade, inspired and improvised level. We think we have a large range of religions and belief systems, but in essence we have many varieties on similar themes, all of which are pre-packaged and have their resident prophets, mystics, messiahs etc, that followers are expected to follow and quote ad nauseum. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about ‘pre-packaged’ beliefs versus self taught beliefs or beliefs based on your own life experience. And it occurs to me that we are all multidiverse beings completely unique in our experiences, and anytime you purchase a pre-packaged belief there’s bound to be parts of you that don’t quite fit. Which tends to sit at the back of your head as a vague insecurity, and many religions solve this insecurity by trying to get as many other people as possible to believe what they believe, under the umbrella of the more the merrier, and the easier to believe you’re ‘right’. The basis of many of our world conflicts in fact is this urge to get other people to believe the same things so there’s strength in numbers. Which just smacks of insecurity to me. Whereas I have a spirituality and belief system that is a bit from here and a bit from there, and an experience here and a nice story there, and I know other people who are the same, and the remarkable thing about self made beliefs is the complete lack of insecurity. Because it’s a custom fit. None of the people (or me) who I know, who have self created beliefs, feel any need whatsoever to convince other people that we’re ‘right’. Because we’ve created our own, we’re perfectly happy to respect other peoples versions of spirit. There are no unfitting bits. Imagine how our collective spiritualities could grow, learn and expand if we moved away from pre-packaged beliefs and really worked hard towards working out our own ways. Imagine how much respect and true acceptance for other people could be felt. We think we have a huge range of philosophies and educational schools of thought and concepts and bodies of knowledge because that’s what we’ve been taught in schools and universities, but how much have we lost by subjecting our children to standardized education?? How many thoughts could be created from an ‘untrained’ mind, supported and allowed the freedom to range freely through an unlimited universe of possibilities??

And just before I move on, to take a bit of a side step into music, my soul mate Currawong has had a parallel journey with his self taught and improvised drumming, that I’ve had with spinning and creating. He began in a truly transformative and trancelike experience, drumming for the first time on a beach in front of a fire on new years eve, and he sank into his body and went into a trance and became the rhythm and was so lost to a blissfull reconnection with his innate rhythm within, that he felt like he became a snake. Many people that night were blown away by the fact that it was the first time he’d ever drummed. And afterwards, when the magic had dimmed a little, he kept drumming, and he drummed at the market we’d created with all the other drummers. In spite of being told to ‘stop that noise!’ and ‘get off your drum!’ and ‘you’re not a drummer’ and being told over and over to go and ‘learn how to drum properly’, he kept trust with his intuition and inner rhythm and kept doing his own thing. And in spite of a seemingly endless panorama of African trained drum rhythms and Eastern traditions and all the schools of ‘proper’ drumming, he kept going his unique way and kept trying to chase his own drumming. On our trip round the country he bumped into an enormous African man who had taught himself to drum on his mothers kitchen table while she danced, and had only had a real drum for a short time. This man was as fluid and expressive as all the other drummers I’d seen (apart from Currawong) were stiff and rigid. His hands danced over the skins and the energy he emitted was huge. Currawong was wrapped and absorbed everything completely, and finally felt supported in his own way. This man also told him to be who he was, and stay with his passion, and sit on as many drums as he liked and do it his own way. Which he has to this day. Regardless of coming across many other ‘properly trained’ drummers along the way, who, intimidated by his uniqueness and completely wild talent have kept trying to tell him that he’s untalented, and miss-timing, and ‘should’ be doing so much more, and keep trying to assert authority over him. Yet his untrained passion has taken him to places and met people and given energy to others that out surpasses any experience the ‘properly trained’ drummers can offer. And funnily enough, though they wont admit it, many of them have started modeling parts of their drumming on him and his improvised wildness. Another example in music, did you know that in the 17th- 19th centuries, it was considered an essential part of a composers repertoire to be able to completely improvise for 15 minutes in a performance? And if he couldn’t do this, was considered to be only half a musician?? And now we have classical musical training that has honed pieces of music hundreds of years old to ridiculous lengths, and most musicians, like trained monkeys, can play these pieces perfectly, but flounder when it comes to playing anything else, let alone improvise? Do you think we’ve gained or lost by becoming such ‘trained’ specialists??

Now we come to my personal experience of school. It was absolutely horrendous. I have no memories until I’m 7 when my father died and I started actively participating in my life and remembering things, but one of my first memories is being teased soon after my fathers death that my ‘dad was squashed like a tomato’. So I got ‘headaches’ every morning for a year, and thankfully my mother let me stay home. At one point, worried about what I was ‘missing out’ on, my mother went to talk to my teacher, who told her that primary school was mainly for getting childhood diseases out of the way, and learning the basics of reading writing and arithmatic. Most of which I’d taught myself anyway, and she said I was so far ahead I could probably miss out on two years and not suffer. She thanked my mother for teaching me to read, and my mother said she thought the teacher had taught me to read….in actuality I’d taught myself. School was full of teasing, harassment, fair-weather friends, moody teachers, sexual harassment, coercion, disempowerment, hierarchies, control….this list of negative words goes on and on. I was taller than most of the boys, had long socks and long skirts, was a fundamentalist Christian, wore think glasses, and had braces on my teeth. You can imagine how popular I was. Most of my schooling was spent in deep depression, and a kind of furze of waiting….waiting for it to be over. Of course there were happy times and the odd inspirational teacher and experience, but I’d have to say to this day that there is not a single thing I learnt that I’ve retained in my memory and use regularly. I take quite a bit of pride in the fact that I got through schooling and never learnt my times table. And guess what. I’ve never suffered from that fact. I did have one very clear moment of epiphany however, in year 8. I was walking the school grounds with a friend, and in a very clear moment of realization, told her that I reckoned that if you could put a baby in a bubble, and only ever feed it positive statements, and tell it how it could walk on water and fly and heal and read thoughts and any other wonderful thing that you could imagine, and made sure that all the negative statements and people who would say otherwise and tell them all the scientific ‘facts’ were kept away, that you could release them from the bubble and they would do all those things and more. Maybe I was on to something…..

At 14 I left home and went from school to school for a while, in a string of disempowering experiences where I learnt how hard it can be to try and crack your way into groups of children who have been subjected to standardized learning in static social groups. My life experience was already starting to outrun those of the other children around me – they were still living in their family homes for a start – and I found the patronizing manner of teachers expecting me to have led a sheltered life chafeing. So I left school. At the end of year 11. And decided to take the money that was the legacy of my father’s death and go backpacking and hitchhiking overseas. You have no idea how many people in my life told me I was an idiot. I should put a deposit on some land, or buy a car, or put it in a special bank account, or do a myriad of other more sensible things with my money. And leaving at the end of year 11?? How shortsighted, how stupid when there’s only a year left to go, and I was so nearly finished!!

It was the best thing I ever did. I learnt so much about me away from my family and friends, and about the world, and how differently and similar other people lived, and how every country comes up with their own words for other countries rather than there being only one descriptive word, and how to scull beer, and how to make friends, and how many ways of being there were in the world….at least in Europe.

And years later after many more independent learnings and experiences, I decided to try university. I realized that I’d always had a chip on my shoulder about university. I’d always thought I was clever, but deep down suspected that if I had to compare my brain to the university brain, I’d come up lacking. An attitude seriously supported by the majority of university students I met who had that “I’m the only one who knows the TRUTH because I’ve been to university, so don’t bore me with your folk wisdom” attitude. So off I went. Unfortunately (or fortunately more like) for me, I’d lived with my sister in the halcyon days of university when it was all free, and was what people did while they worked out what they REALLY wanted to do with their lives, and full of radicals, and artists and performers and delightful eccentrics. I walked into high priced modern university and was horrified by what I saw. There was a whole mob of serious 18 year old babies, who were sitting in their classes in the getting to know you sessions, and when asked about themselves and lives and why they were there, were stating they were there to be a such and such, and expected to earn so many thousand a year when they got out of university. All wearing conservative name brand uniforms, and all rather bland. I learnt very quickly that getting good marks in university was nothing to do with intelligence, and everything to do with how well you could read your lecturer, and give them exactly what they wanted, and reflect their version of the ‘truth’ with lots of quotes and references from university sanctioned books, which were written by other university students, who had got to the top and were allowed to publish ‘the truth’ as a reward for their years of study, sequestration, self denial, and parrotesque learning. Funny how after that they all agree……. I also learnt a lot when I sat in a philosophy class, and two young girls stood up after two sessions and told the class that they were pulling out, because they hadn’t learnt to ‘think like that’ at school, and to delve into these age old (and rather boring) arguments that were meant to stretch and tease the mind was just too hard. It struck me then like a bolt from the blue that school was basically a procedure that trained you mostly to follow orders and time schedules, shut up and be passive, and if you happened to fall through the net and enjoy your torture, you went on to university to continue it on a ‘higher’ level, and if you didn’t (which is actually probably preferred) you went on to be factory, business or military fodder. And when you did get to university, you had to be thoroughly enculturated and ‘trained’ before you were allowed to actually develop ideas and opinions of your own. It occurred to me that the greek and roman ideal of universities being places of unbiased, seeking, and independent thought was a crock of shit in the modern day. To my mind, universities are glorified TAFE’s, that are basically teaching job training in a self aggrandized and pompous way. I didn’t see any ‘higher thought’ going on.

“School is the advertising agency which makes you believe that you need the society as it is” Ivan Illich in his book Deschooling Society

I stayed for 6 months, did an essay in philosophy that answered dualism with a combination of animism, pan psychism, and quantum physics, and it was so deep that my tutor didn’t even understand it. She passed it on to the head of the philosophy department, who gave me a high distinction, and told her that the argument I put forth was one that was being discussed in the higher eschelons of philosophical and quantum physical realms, and that if I stuck with my argument I’d be able to do a doctors or thesis on it in the future. I had my answer. My brain worked. And it compared well to the university trained brain. I realized I was starting to use big words and get a bit arrogant and trying to bamboozle people with my vocabulary, and that my natural creative process was beginning to be changed, and I quit. Happy with what I’d learnt. And glad for the experience. As Noam Chomsky says….

“The whole educational and professional training system is a very elaborate filter, which just weeds out people who are too independent, and who think for themselves, and who don’t know how to be submissive, and so on – because they’re dysfunctional to the institutions”

“We are students of words, we are shut up in schools, and colleges, and recitation rooms, for ten or fifteen years, and come out at last with a bag of wind, a memory of words, and do not know a thing” Ralph Waldo Emerson

My partner Currawong had a maybe even more horrendous time at school. In kindergarten, when a boy was accidentally injured by a group of boys of which he was one, he was singled out and dragged before the class and screamed at and derided until he was a blithering mess. Welcome to school. Then there is another memory of writing letters in different colours, thinking that he was being really clever and creative. His teacher hauled him up before the whole class and told him what a stupid little boy he was, and how ridiculous it was to write letters in different colours. To this day, sometimes when he feels criticized, he feels again the unwarranted public drubbing he got in both situations, and slips into the defense mechanisms of an attacked little boy. And it was a very long time till he was an adult and used coloured pencils again, and when he did it was a cathartic and teary event. A part of him was killed on both those days. Then there was the day he and another boy were caught kissing little girls in year 4, and got hauled up in front of the older school and told they were dirty disgusting little boys. Another part killed off and another brick wall in place. Throughout his schooling career he fought for justice and respect for his difference (he discovered punk rock, which screamed the words of his anger and disaffection at an early age), and kept trying to be treated as an equal and with respect. As you may well imagine this attitude produced many clashes. At the age of 14 he had a similar experience to me, and was half living at home and half on the street. When being dealt with like the rest of the children who were still at home, he rebelled against the patronizing attitudes and disrespect of his life experience. When he left school to become a printers apprentice (he was one of the ones who became factory fodder), as a parting gift, his year level coordinator told him that he’d never amount to anything. He didn’t read a book until he left school, maybe as a stubborn resistance to being coerced. But when he did start to read, he read Dante’s Divine Comedy, and The History of The English People by Geoffrey of Monmouth. He discovered Breugel the elder and medieval art, taught himself to train and ride horses, and capably began the process of his real self education. The violence and destruction of creativity and confidence that was visited on him throughout his school life remained with him, and a legacy was angry tirades to new concepts, an absolute fear of failure and of looking ‘stupid’, and a fear of trying new things unless he knew he could do them and ‘look good’. Learning and creativity became associated with pain, anger and fear. But through his self education after school, falling in love and having a family, the discovery of his inner drumming style, and the confidence and determination to carry it out despite criticism, many of these traits have been healed. Now at the age of 38, he’s proud to say that he failed every year of high school, and never climbed the heights of standardized education.

“It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education” Albert Einstein

My eldest daughters experience of education has been a more modern and no less horrendous affair. Starting off at a suburban state school, I was advised to send her to an alternative school after she was talking to the teachers about organizing an anti-bullying group that could meet at her mums place. She’d informed the teachers that if they brought the cakes, her mum would do the tea and coffee, and we could all discuss how to stop bullying. I’d always treated her with respect and as an equal, so this was normal behavior to her, but a bit shocking to the teachers. They said that the other children just didn’t know how to relate to her, as she was so advanced. So we found a delightful, self directed learning private school, in a sprawling mansion, and we were very happy for a while – until she was stuck in a class with 3 girls and 15 boys and it stopped working for her. So we went to a state school, where she was horrifically bullied, and the principals solution was to punish both girls equally. It ended when the other girl slammed my girls head in a door, and the other girl was suspended, and we decided that we’d had enough. I still remember clearly our discussion as we sat outside one night, telling each other how much we hated school, and realizing that it wasn’t against the law to stop sending her, and that we could just let her stay home. This realization may seem simple now in retrospect, but it was a huge moment of going against the mainstream tide at the time. So she stayed home for a year, lay in her bed mostly and read books, and we just left her to her own devices, to do whatever she wanted. After a year, we bowed to pressure from loved ones, and started her at another state school. For the first quarter of the year she had a teacher who absolutely adored her and she thrived. Her year off had not done her any damage, and she quickly caught up with the rest of her class. We had a parent teacher meeting with us and my mum, and we were all in tears as her teacher told us how much he loved her, how special she was, and how if all students were like her he’d be out of a job. Not long after he had to replace the principal, and a relief teacher was brought in, who hated her as much as the other man had loved her, was cranky and divisive, and quickly split the once cohesive class into two groups and made them compete against each other for lollipops. And he was fresh out of teaching school. That was the end of that school. Then we found the Waldorf school, and we thought we’d found heaven on earth. She loved them, they loved her, and all seemed sweet. Till the newness wore off and the other girls who’d been together since pre-school started bitching about her and shutting her out, and accusing her of causing divides in their class. The learning methods were lovely, and she was loving it, but after 6 months she was already kind of over it, and wanting days off to stay at home and just be. So we took her out and went travelling round the country for 3 months. Boy did they give us shit and judgements about what we were doing. But we thought travelling was a far better education. When we got back, she decided that she wanted to go back to school and live with her oma (my mother) and have a more normal life than our transient one. So she did, and went back to the same school, where all the same bitching and cold shouldering was still there, and escalated into worse. The boys decided they hated her this time, and sexually harassed her mercilessly, telling her nasty things out of others earshot, drawing offensive graffiti on her pencil case, and generally making her life hell and destroying her self esteem. And bless her feisty socks, she had enough, left the school, enrolled in a open access internet school, and learnt from home. At the same time her oma bought her a grand piano, and found her a professor for a teacher, and she started coming ahead in leaps and bounds, having found her passion and realizing that playing the piano was the only thing she wanted to do. In 3 years of formal learning she got to grade 7 level, outsurpassing kids who had been learning since they were 5. And despite her open access music teacher telling her to forget about getting into the music conservatorium, and that she wasn’t emotionally ready for it, she not only got in, but based on her performance got into a level that she’d been told she’d never be offered. So guess what. All that pain and suffering and schooling was for absolutely naught. She’s found her passion, and she’s excelling at it, and will continue to do so, I’ve no doubt at all. And if for any reason it was to fall through, her substantial self taught talents of painting and writing will be an excellent reserve. She could have sat on her bed reading, instead of enduring all those years of torture, and would still have got the piano and teacher, and auditioned for the conservatorium, and got in based on her performance. As Grace Llewellyn so eloquently states….

“In the end, the secret to learning is so simple. Think only about whatever you love. Follow it, do it, dream about it….and it will hit you. Learning was there all the time, happening by itself”

Our children have had a very brief schooling career to date, and since writing this all down and realizing just how much thought and life experience we can contribute to the unschooling or natural learning movement, I’m hoping that it will also be their last. They went for two terms, my girl got hit by sticks, told not to sing popular rhymes, and loved her experience in general, and my boy got punched full fisted in the head three times, learnt how to tease and hassle and bully, and loved playing with the boys. The school had no policy for bullying, though it had a strict one for clothing, and I was very dissatisfied with the general attitude of ‘boys will be boys’ when it came to the incidents with my boy. I thought that the only reason boys were boys was because we all accepted and colluded with the pervading attitudes, and it could have been a good opportunity to do better. Currawong and I, with 4 children and 10 years of relationship under our belt, were asked more than once if it was okay with the officials, and if we’d asked permission to be physically affectionate in the school grounds. Shock horror, we held hands, hugged and kissed in front of children (I still wonder how those children thought they were conceived and born..) There was also a bit of a rebellion afoot, as a lot of other parents were not happy with the bullying situation, and not long before we got there, an official ban was made public on parents talking in the car parks, as it was fomenting dissent. Both of our children came home exhausted and stand offish from their school days, and both of them degenerated in their relationships with their siblings and us. Not to mention getting lots of sicknesses, the last of which was whooping cough, which is a whole other story in itself, and was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and caused us to take our children out of school for a period of time so we could all enjoy a long period of good health. 3 terms down the track from their schooling experience, I find it interesting that they can’t remember a single lesson, poem, song or experience at school apart from playing with their friends, even though the school they attended had a strong routine of rote, singing the same songs and rhymes every day in a repetitive manner, believing that this was the best way to ‘teach’. Meanwhile, they all clearly remember the first time they spewed, a huge amount about the natural world and animals, and every other detail of things they’ve been passionately and intensely interested in. Most of which predates their school experience.

“Nothing that is worth knowing can be taught” Oscar Wilde

“My grandmother wanted me to have an education, so she kept me out of school” Margaret Mead
At this point, I’d like to draw your attention to a man named Sir Ken Robinson, a professor and fellow of Oxford university, who talks all around the world about whether schools kill creativity. He points out that formalized schooling was developed around the industrial revolution to create workers for industry, and the whole system is kind of stuck in a rut, educating generations for a future that none of us have any idea about. There are no more ‘jobs for life’ as there were when formalized schooling was developed, and in a way we’re educating our children for a past that doesn’t exist anymore. He also points out that because of the way our education system has atrophied, it discourages art, creativity, dance and all the more creative arts. English, Maths, History, Science and Geography are still encouraged over music and creative pursuits. Even though there’s a glut of trained Mathematicians, Historians etc, who are incredibly well educated bar people and the like, there is still the push towards the ‘higher’ modes of education. Whereas if you look at cutting edge technologies and industries, often they are looking for eclectic people with varied skills, individuality, and creativity – that formal education often beats or bores out of children. He also talks about how many many creative folk are talked out of being musicians, artists, poets and the like, and told that they’ll never make a living from it, dissuaded from following their passions, and forced into more conservative occupations instead. I personally know of so many people I’ve met during my life, one of which who stands out in particular, who wanted to be an artist, and was told to stay with his skills in maths and technology instead. So he did. Got an incredibly high paying job in computers, and had everything that his skills and money could buy, and was totally miserable. For years. And thereby made his family completely miserable. For years. Till one day when watching “What The Bleep Do We Know”, he had an epiphany, realized that he really could create his own reality, and all he’d ever really wanted to do was art and play golf. They made the commitment to sell their house and move interstate to get away from family expectations, and never looked back. He played golf and got a job in a sports complex, and started going to TAFE to do art, and the culmination of all these experiences turned a miserable and bitter man into an inspired, emotional, happy family man. He even made a trip to America to attend an ‘Inner Coach’ workshop, which was basically a whole bunch of sporting coaches who’d independently searched the world and ideas for the best way to teach someone the sport they loved, and all discovered that you can’t actually teach anyone anything, and the key to success was in empowering people to FIND THEIR OWN WAY to do everything, and liberate their coach within. They’d all found each other and realized they were on the same trip, and run workshops now to try and help people unlearn what they’ve been taught, and honour their own internal instincts.

Another issue with formal schooling that Currawong and I have talked about for years is that of creating ‘age ghettos’. Totally unnatural in my mind, and something that is never again repeated for the rest of our lives, and also something that causes most of us huge amounts of misery and pain. Look around again at all the other mammals and creatures on the planet, and tell me if you can find any examples of them putting the young of the species of the same age in groups together. When animals are of the same age as babies, they’re usually competitive, racing each other, butting heads, testing their mettle with each other, which is a healthy thing, but they’re never left on their own with only the same age peers. There’s always other adults, older babies and younger babies, and all the other differentiating groups that give perspective. In my experience, Currawong’s, and our childrens, putting kids of the same age together in large groups is intensely competitive, creates a jostling for places in the pecking order, and usually involves many put downs as kids vie for status, supremacy and esteem. Our boy was in a class with 20 other boys the same age, and it was awful. Full of fighting, stick hitting, hassling, teasing, bullying, name calling, jostling, comparisons, put downs and punching. Yet I can guarantee you that if you took any one of those boys and put them in a group with older kids and younger kids, you’d see completely different behaviours in them. It extends them to try and impress and get on with older kids who they look up to, as well as gentle and modify their behavior to be with young ones. And the comparisons are less intense, as they expect to be at different Ievels with kids of other ages. I watch it all the time with my mob of kids, as well as in the huge variety of social situations that I’ve seen them and other kids in. I truly believe that sticking people in age ghettos is one of the most damaging elements of formalized education, that leaves the most lasting and disempowering legacies on our adult psyches.

And finally, we come to a natural learning or unschooling-esque precedent that is very close to my heart. A genetic and cultural legacy I’ve inherited, that gives me and my family a mandate for freedom. You see, Currawong and I both claim genetic inheritance from a very small and rare race of European – the Frisian. Me a bit more than Currawong, (some of my family are mormon and have traced us back for a very long time to Friesland), but enough in Currawong to mean that our children are almost full blood Friesian. It’s where Friesian cows, horses, and dogs all come from, who incidentally are all black and white, or in the case of the horses, black. It’s a tiny province in the top end of Holland, that used to be a lot bigger, and is not actually Dutch. The Fries are their own race. The Romans did a survey in 0 BC of all the tribes on the European continent, and the Friesians are the only nation still in the same place, speaking the same language. Incidentally, their language is the closest root language to English. Around the 11th century they had colonies all over the world, had a huge merchant navy, and many people’s traded in Frisian coins. In the 14th century, they had a very famous leader called Redbad, who was well known for killing any Christians that came into his land. It was a stronghold of paganism for a lot longer than in the rest of Europe. 700 years before the French Revolution, the Fries practiced anarchistic social autonomy. There was no ruling class, no monarchy, and no hierarchy – everyone left everyone else to their own devices, to believe what they wanted, and govern themselves. And respected each others truths and realities. I think it’s fair to say that Friesians were totally peacefull and aimiable, unless you messed with their freedom, and then they killed you. Simple as that. Montmarche annexed Friesland, and that was fine, until he sent in the tax man and the taxes were too high, so they killed him. But then being sick of being so small and being annexed all the time, they finally decided that Montmarche was the better devil that they knew, and as he was being besieged by the Danes, they went to his castle and killed all the Danes. As a reward, Montmarche rewarded them with a very long scandanavian law text that gifted them with freedom forever, and a promise by the Pope to excommunicate anyone that pissed off a Friesian. I’ve got an excerpt from that law text on a wall in my kitchen, and I consider it my mandate for freedom. It’s also part of the reason that it’s been said about the Fries that “All Friesian’s are born noble”. It goes like this…

“ That all Friesians would be fully free, the born and the unborn, so long as the wind blows from heaven and the child cries, grass grows green and flowers bloom, as far as the sun rises and the world stands…”

I love it. And just to finish off, there’s a little story that says it all. Somewhere around the 17th century when the Fries were annexed to Holland, Queen Beatrix brought out a decree that everyone had to bow down to her or they’d be beheaded. And within 3 months she had to change that decree to everyone but the Friesians. Because the Fries bow to NO-ONE! And she was beheading Fries after Fries after Fries. I’m proud of my heritage, and it’s been an innate instinct in both Currawong and I (and our children I’m realizing) to bow to no-one, no matter how much they may want us to. We instinctively seek justice, equality, and freedom, and have shaped our lives to contain large amounts, as well as share, all of them. Our family maxim is ‘Love, Respect, Peace and Freedom’, because we believe that when you get down to it, that’s all that us human animals really want.

I think that’s about all of it. This has turned into quite an epic, and I’m surprised at how easily it’s all fallen out. But again, not surprised at all, as I realize that this has all come out easily because we’ve talked about it so much and so completely over the years. I realize now that we have a very thorough and exhaustive philosophy about natural learning or unschooling our children, or rather to give them the freedom to become who they are, without expectations, competition, comparisons, disempowerment and societal mores pressed on them. And we feel that we’re the best qualified people to help them be themselves, find their own passions, nurture their innate talents and instincts, and make it to adulthood with their individuality and strong wills intact. I’d like to say again that we really love our children, and we feel no need to have time away from them, to purchase child care, or to give them over to anyone else to educate or care for, as we have more than enough love, inspiration, self education, willingness to explore, and intelligence for them all. At the same time, and with all that being said, we truly respect our children and their wishes and desires, and negotiate with them about nearly everything, so if at any time in their development they decided that they really wanted to go to school, we’d support them in that choice also.

This is our natural unschooling or natural learning philosophy, based on our conversations, life experiences, and learnings. Thank you for reading!

PS If you’re wondering about the anomaly of me stating that I was writing this philosophy BEFORE I did any research on unschooling and the fact that I have many quotes liberally sprinkled throughout – some of which are unschooling quotes – this is because there’s an unschooling site on Facebook that I joined that had lots of of quotes about schooling and unschooling in their profile. I simply picked out the ones I liked and used them in this document to give it some outside references to furnish my points……

46 comments:

  1. Love it! and you x Liz

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  2. Wow!!! Well said :)
    Do I get a prize for making it all the way to the end? :P
    I also learned to crochet in the way you learned to spin - only much later I had experienced crocheters telling me I was doing impossible things. LOL

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    1. And the prize is..........having read a bloody long post :) Congratulations on your self taught crochet skills!!

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  3. Hwow, shit I wish i'd read your post when my kids were out of school for a couple of years and I was trying to shove knowledge down their throats and play school teacher. I was and still can be incredibly insecure .it's scary how inspiring you are, ...very confidence building for someone with unschooling plans in the horizon. Look forward to chating in personxxSalma

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    1. Ah beautiful Salma, thanks for your feedback :)

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  4. Love you too Liz, and your tribe, and Majikfaerie - yeah I know it was a bit long, but I didn't want to serialise it (thought it would lose the flow), and I'm about as good at editing my work as I am at selling my creations.....ie NOT VERY!! I just couldn't work out any bits to cut. So I thought I'd just submit it how it was and hope for readers with patience and a good computer screen....and glad you had the same experience with crochet - would love to swap tips sometime:) And Salma - you're just gorgeous, and I find you absolutely inspiring too:) If you wanna talk unschooling I seem to have a lot to say at the moment! And learning more all the time......

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  5. I love what you are saying. Very inspiring post.

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  6. This was a great and informative post. It reinforced a lot of the ideas that I have had lately about why traditional education is not working for my 12 yo son. I'm definitely excited about him learning in his natural environment and looking forward to some changes that will naturally happen for our family. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to send me this comment!

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  7. Thank you so much for this post. I only got halfway, will read the rest another day. We are unschooling our children, basically they are grown up now and I have loved it all the way through. Of course there were some challenges,but isn't that how we learn. When I want to know something, I teach myself, so I have a great belief that everyone can do that. The problem is often that our children need to learn what society wants and not what they are interested in.
    I love how you have brought this to everyone's attention.

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    1. Thank you beautiful woman, and maybe if our children follow their interests, they can teach society about how many more things there can be to be interested in.....and to want a greater range of things.

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  8. Hi Hellena
    I have enjoyed reading your blog, and particularly admire your attitude towards your children. I came across this article and thought you might be interested - its about children who educate themselves. still, i like your way better! from Ali
    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/200808/children-educate-themselves-iv-lessons-sudbury-valley

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    1. That was a great article, thanks for that Ali :)

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  9. And for my 5th birth I had the penultimate ceasarean. I must admit that transferring to hospital, dry birthing, having a spinal and a ceasarean were my personal worst birthing fears before the experience, but having faced my fears, I can highly recommend the journey to anyone, especially if your baby is 10 pound 7, with a cord around his neck, and sure to die by any other birthing method.

    Thank you, your above comment is bringing healing to me already. I never thought of my unsuccessful VBAC as a way to deal with the fear I had of being put under or my fear of another c-section. That's a huge perspective swap for me. I think perhaps, I will be stronger when I face my fear of VBA2C (whenever that happens); that I have already overcome so many of my fears that are associated with childbirth is amazing to me. I am still hoping and praying for the perfect birth.

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    1. Isn't birth a veritable universe of potential learning? And healing.....

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  10. One word... wow. I love it, and i got to the end! Thank you for sharing this... i am a little 'speechless' at the moment and still processing it all in my mind. Im off to ponder a little more xx

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  11. Have just spent a couple of hours reading your blogs after following a link to your birthing stories for your two latest babies. Totally beautiful accounts of what must have had equal measures of joy and fear, and entirely different to my medicalised version of birthing twins. We also unschool, for want of a better word, since that term seems to conjure up all kinds of preconceptions, whereas in reality no two families are anything close to the same. Your words are inspiring. Thanks x

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    1. I must admit, since writing this, I barely ever call us unschoolers any more. People seem to take serious umbrage at the term, form all sorts of assumptions, and it just takes too much explaining. It's a bit of a finger up to the rest of the world. I'm more likely to call it natural learning or human animal parenting now..... And the birth of my twins was a total trip :)

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  12. what an amazing blog.. and thank you for sharing such a remarkable narration of what it's like to live, and let live.
    I am also a mother of twins they are only three now, and we have already had much thrown at us in this short amount of time.. I am inspired by your story. Althou the twins are my only and last kiddos.. I plan on "homeschooling/unschooling for many of the same reasons.. I just hope and pray i have enough support and strength to battle it out.. but hey we survived childhood cancer, so what's school? laughable!!

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    1. Wow....you've certainly had a full on journey! Twins and cancer!! Big times must have left a large impression on you. Thank you for your feedback :)

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  13. I had to ask my lovely family not to be disturbed for a little while I'm reading your blog! It took all my attention. So much care and freedom coming out of your stories.
    I checked your flicker and what an amazing work you do! I love, love, love your designs! I feel amazing freedom from your work and it is truly inspiring.

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    1. And I've got to say exactly the same back to you dear woman!! Love your designs and the freedom of the breezes you send out into the world. Thank you for enjoying it :)

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  14. I think your children are extremely blessed to have been bought into the world by you and your partner Hellena. You are so intelligent and inspiring and I have loved reading this post! Has really made my mind work and to think about education in a different light. I don't have children yet but when I do I hope I can find a way to offer them what yours have. Thanks for writing this blog, it's brilliant.

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    1. Thank you so much for your encouraging words! So nice to feel like I'm hitting a nerve for people.....and good luck with the making of children :)

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  15. Wow! You are an inspiration. Your children have done well to have chosen you and their father. Bless.

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    1. And we've done equally well in choosing our babies.......thank you :)

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  16. Home schooling can work for some children, some of the time, but it is not a given. Much depends upon how good the parents are as teachers. Few of us in this day and age have the knowledge to impart a sound education to our children which would enable them, should they wish, to take a university degree.
    This means any child who wishes to do so will have to participate in the school system at high school level. If their experience of school is painful at primary level it will be even more so then.
    While wanting to bring our children up in a certain way it is important that parents are cognizant of the society at large; the society in which those children will have to function.
    I have lived nearly two decades in various African countries and in India and seen first-hand how much damage can be done if children are brought up, or people are treated, in ways which do not relate to the greater society.
    You have to be careful that in treating one dysfunction you do not create another.
    And while you clearly have enough children to establish situations of companionship, interacting with siblings is not like forming relationships and friendships with strangers. We have to learn how to interact with strangers if we are to become psychologically functional. It does not necessarily come naturally and more so with some than with others. Relating to strangers, or those who are not family is often painful but this is how we learn.
    If life is too 'easy' for children, if life is made too 'safe' for children then they do not find the strength in themselves or learn the coping mechanisms they will need to make their way in the world.
    You are an admirable woman and I am sure mother but it is very, very, very clear that your wisdom, strength and flexibility is sourced in your experiences; experiences that were often painful. One would not wish such things on their children and as someone who came from a dysfunctional family I know that only too well. But I also knew that when my children suffered, mostly from moving - my son had had 11 schools by the age of 13 - that they were growing stronger. And now they are around the age of forty I can see the truth of that.
    Those who grow up with dysfunction have to be careful they do not work to create the 'sort of childhood' they wished they had; a fairytale fantasy where any sort of 'pain' is avoided at all costs.
    And the other problem with extended home schooling is that it sends the child a message that not only is the outside world dangerous but you do not trust them to cope with it! That is not a good message for any child.

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    1. Thank you for your honest and well thought out reply, and the points you make are salient, however the mainstream society in Australia is a bit of a sick creature at the present, with money, computer games, appearances and 'fitting in' taking precedence over life, sustainability, relationships and interconnection. Not to mention the pursuit of a healthy future for the planet. There are also numerous and attractive ways to pursue a university education without having to go to school.....unless they wish it. And I haven't given you a clear picture of what we actually 'do'. When it comes to forming relationships with strangers, we meet them every time we walk out the door (we're kinda hard to not notice). And if anything, our lives bring them into far more contact with society at large and a vaster range of people than they would be getting in a schoolroom with others while learning theories. As regular occurences they play with school kids on our community, and other home schooled kids, go to the Hari Krishna's for dinner, to markets and festivals, engage with us in numerous meetings with strangers on the street, soup kitchens for lunch, disco's on other communities, travelling for months, library interactions, learning expeditions, peaceful protests, funerals, and countless other experiences where they can bump into the world and strangers from all walks of life. If anything they're far more confident in all their interactions with people than their schooled friends, who often look at me like I'm an alien when I try to strike up conversation. Nearly everyone they meet is delighted with their manners, behaviour, compassion and maturity. They learn about life from experience, and have an appreciation of vastly different perspectives on any given topic. It is neither easy nor safe for them, as we live on little money in an affluent society, and value honesty and strong learning about consequences, and the greater ramifications of their actions. My children have also had their fair share of adversity, having moved many times and been through harrowing situations, and we all help each other to learn and grow from our experiences. And we certainly don't avoid any of the great or terrible experiences of life. And I must say, and on this point many friends and strangers alike agree, that our children are far more confident and conversant with the outside world than many of their schooled peers, particularly those that inhabit private alternative schools, and know they have our full trust to do their very best, and learn through honesty and connection. Also that we are always there for them when they're unsure of what to do, and that we'll try and give them as many options and perspectives on any given issue that we can. Blessings :)

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    2. Very well said Hellena. I made the comments only as something to 'tuck' away at the back of mind as your children grow because while in general this might work there is a goodly chance it might work better for some than others.

      Australia is no more sick than anywhere else. And perhaps even more sadly, having lived for many years in India and nearly 12 years in four African countries I have seen at firsthand that the desire for the sort of life you call 'sick' and the distortion of principles is far greater in the Third World than the First. I have also lived in Canada, the UK, Europe and spent long periods in the US.

      There is a fantasy that simple means 'better' but in my experience it doesn't. Money has always taken precedence in most societies throughout human history. It's not a good way to be but it is the way people have mostly been and in the Third World where they still are more desperately. Appearance and fitting in have also been with humanity from the beginning and the price paid for 'lacking appearance' or 'not fitting in' is far, far higher in the Third World where people are not as free as we are, than it is in the First World. You can die in India or Africa for 'not fitting in,' and people (and children) do all the time.

      As for computer games - like anything they need to be moderated. I grew up without television - until I was in my teens anyway. I made sure that in a world of television the amount my children saw was moderated. I also moderated their exposure to fast-food, sweets, soft-drinks, the movies and other modern developments which had not been a part of my life.

      My children and many of their friends now do the same with computer games, playstations, mobile phones etc. Australia as a society is less 'captured' by such things than others - the US for example. Having lived around Australia and the world (and my children went to school in Europe) I would say that Australia has one of the more functional and balanced societies and our school system is one of the best.

      Your children are lucky to have involved, sensible and intelligent parents but make sure they have a balanced view of the world out there - in the main it is very, very good. After nearly twenty years in the Third World I know without a shadow of a doubt that the First World, with all of its faults, is far, far better than anything else is or has been.

      Those who live simple lives in the Third World struggle and desire and demand in ways we have left behind. And they want what we have. Those who have the money to get what we have are more materialistic, in the main, more rapacious and self-serving than you would ever find in Australia.

      Perspective is all. Blessings to you as well.

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  17. So well put, love this... perceive, adjust, perform, run, observe, guage a stranger’s emotions, read cues, and impress, takes a hell of a lot of their entire being, and they often sleep early and soundly after any social interaction. A lot more goes into these social interactions than we may realize or remember.

    I was on my way to the duality post but you caught me, on your web thread here... and you make the points that I would make and more... I had a fairly radical and somewhat twisted upbringing and I say it was wonderful, blessed as rain in a desert, for all the things I got given, and not given, some that you are giving and not giving your children now, I kiss my parents feet for their deep and clever take on life...

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  18. Oh Starr I love you :) And your childhood sounds magical, like the dreams of gypsy's and pirates! I just hope that our children feel equally blessed as you by their rather unconventional experience. And hope that one day we can shimmy our kids together on a beach somewhere and revel in their abundant and loud expressions of their unique selves.....

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  19. With no rules, there would be chaos. We have laws against murder and child rape. Since you're against rules, should people be allowed to do those things if they feel "moved" to rape and then strangle the child for crying? Others don't like your kids "running stampede like through a supermarket" because it can result in the damage of property or the harm of others. You're a fool for believing that what you are doing can be possible on the large scale. You're setting your children up for a life of being beggars.

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  20. But we have rules, and there's complete destructive chaos, have those laws prevented such things from happening? I propose that in sinking back into our complete and total connection with the everything, we exist in the complete harmony of chaos in its uninterrupted form, where we'll become part of the fine balances that exist in every layer........and find that supposedly chaotic organisation of people was the perfect combination for a respectful and honourable wheel of community. And thanks for your concern, but you don't have to worry, cause though our children play joyously in supermarkets and just about everywhere else they find themselves, we've taught em to not run round corners, so you and the other punters are safe :) I'm definitely a Fool, thank you for noticing, embarking on the Fools Journey of wisdom tempered with innocence and trust. And with your insight and perception you've also intuited that we really are doing our very best to set our children up for a life as beggars at the alters of love, life, passion, purpose, self knowledge, spirituality, and connection. Thank you for your time and wise words......

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    1. You know... speaking of supermarkets. I am fairly sure that a "lifetime ago" (maybe 4 years?) when I was in a supermarket shopping with my son I bumped into your tribe shopping in Lismore. I am only now just thinking it must have been you guys... funny synchronicity and life intertwining. You and Currawong and your tribe were out shopping and I remember how beautiful it was to see you all... as a new mother of just one I was inspired by your lovely family and the blissful way you all shopped. You with a tiny baby on your chest, Currawong with a couple of bigger babies, one front and one back! And a whole bunch in and out of a trolley. Well, my main feeling was just to soak in the beauty of your family for a while and not to be in fear for my safety sharing the aisles with you all haha! There was no stampede!
      I remember walking out of the supermarket at the same time as Currawong ( at least i now think it must have been him) towards our car and saying hello and what a beautiful family you have and real feeling I wanted to convey transcended the inane comment. He grinned at me and said he had never thought he would have a large family but he loves it so much! And I think he mentioned something about being a stay at home family.
      We were such new parents and it was a brief moment that sparked catalysing choices in our lives. I am happy to say a few years on we have 2 little boys, and we too homeschool and have born our second at home and we are all together... in all we do we try and follow our most natural instinct to remain together. We are on our family journey together and many of our experiences and thoughts echo yours although in many ways it is also vastly different!
      <3 Much love to your family. <3

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    2. Thank you so much for popping in and brightening both of our days with your comment :) So lovely to know that the million little interactions we have with the rest of the world, are remembered and treasured by some as much as we do :) Actually the last time I was in the supermarket with all my kids, I walked in to find them taking up the entire foyer of the mall with playing with balloons. And a woman walked straight up to me and thanked me for bringing our kids there that day, and reported how many people she saw who smiled and played as a reaction to their boundless energies!

      Please make sure to come along and introduce yourselves to us at Nimbin Market when you get here! Would be awesome to hang out together and swap notes :)

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    3. When our lives find us back in Lismore... our hearts are certainly calling us there, we will certainly come make friends!

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  21. Hi Hellena! You gave me a lot to think about... I'm the eldest of 7 sisters, and the youngest is only six. I have been actively promoting their education and enrolling them in schools I chose based upon research I had done (my parents don't speak English very well, so it often falls on me to help them out). Now I'm totally worried about what I have done, and am thinking of trying a few of your methods over their 2-month summer break. I'm excited!!

    I just finished my university degree and I just feel like it was all just for a piece of paper that I need in order to qualify for decent work. I am still glad I went so I wouldn't think that I missed out, but I totally get what you are saying in this post. If I read this earlier, I would have probably not agreed with you as I was one of those people who loved going to school and learning, as I wouldn't have been able to in my family environment. So I appreciate it, and I learned things that enabled me to become independent, had some great teachers, etc. But in university, I completed assignments just to get a grade, and to pass a course so I could finish the requirement. There was no passion for what I was doing, no interest even. I felt that if I was reading the same material in my free time, I would enjoy it. But usually I was running out of time, and I had to finish to have something to contribute to class discussions and not be embarrassed. It was an utter waste of time, as I forgot what I read within a week! There are so many other things I could have done in the past four years, that would have been far more useful, and fulfilling... I had this suspicion for a while now, but I've been told so often the value of an university education, that I found it difficult to admit, even to myself. Thanks for your post, it gave me a lot to think about! Now, I can't take my sisters out of school as that would be the limit my parents can take of my bossiness, but I am going to strive to find a way to spend more time with them and my own children in the future instead of blindly trusting schools to raise them for me. All the best to you and your family!

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    1. You sound like such a loving and engaged and energetic sister! What care and thought you put into your family. They are all very lucky :)

      And thank you for so beautifully summing up the educational experiences of a lot of us. Walking in excited about 'higher learning', and leaving a bit disappointed about the drudgery they've turned learning into. All for the sake of grades that have little to no impact on any kind of survival skills, or future jobs for a society that is experiencing rapid change.

      If you type in valedictorian speed and unschooling into google, you'll come across a very intelligent young woman, who on leaving school said some very similar things to what you are saying. There's also a man called Suli Breeze who talks about refusing to be identified by his grades. And of course beautiful Sir Ken Robinson :) And Sugata Mitra, if you haven't heard of him yet, please introduce yourself to a most inspiring man.

      Thank you so much for telling me your story, and taking the time out to let me know, and even more than both of those, thank you for taking this into your heart and inspiring yourself towards taking more responsibility for your sisters and families freedom and inspired education!!

      Good luck to you all, and with an intellect and heart like yours, I'm sure you'll be making your own luck as you go.

      Thank you!

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  22. Really do not start to ask my how I found your blog...right now I'm sitting here on the floor in front of my sofa with the laptop on my knees, in bloody cold Leipzig, Germany, having a not so good day....
    I really enjoyed that post of yours. And I really liked the others I read as well.
    Isn't it funny how one can find another even when the whole world lies between?

    I've been to Australia and I've met al lot of people, both great in heart and soul, but I've never met someone quite like you or your man (:-)) I would have liked that. I come from a very protected family, from parts of society that are very anal about order, a 'proper' lifestyle and getting your life in order...if you now what I mean.
    I've never quite fit. I feel like I live in another world. That's why I really feel your article...and feel yo strongly about your journey and decisions. And I feel so much more which I just can't put to words because I struggle with that damn English writing. =)
    You great great woman. You are as alive and thriving as one could wish for themselves. Just keep doing what you're doing.
    Ah, I think I found your blog through homebirth.net.au..I'm living for natural ways of womanhood and womanlife and real femininity that's just where I'm 'home'.
    Well...looking plainly at those words I've written it seems like I'm a bit off track =) (as I sad the day has been really weird) and the comment doesn't have a point to it, but I want to post it anyway and hope that my compassionate feelings towards you come through...in a way. So just let your heart be open and feel it =)
    love and thanks
    Freya, Leipzig, Germany, 9.57 pm

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    1. Beautiful Freya, I'm so sorry I didn't answer this earlier! Get distracted sometimes, but this is such a gorgeous response that I'm sad I took so long :)

      I definitely feel the love, thank you so much, and so recognise that wish to connect with someone over the other side of the globe, who you 'feel' :)

      And I'm so glad my thoughts and posts resonated. And gave you something to read on a cold Leipzig day :) I so relate to having a family of anal orderists, and feeling like you never fit in. You just keep hunting the feels and the worlds that you love and that attract you! Cause eventually they'll be yours.

      And if you ever come back to Australia....please come and visit and hang out and play and talk and connect! That would be awesome :)

      Love and blessings and thanks for the love

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  23. http://aliciacumming.tumblr.com/post/96413296556/suppression-of-the-self

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    1. Sorry darlin, left it too long, and now there's nothing there :(

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  24. That read was a wonderful journey.

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I love your comments, and your feedback......it makes this whole blogging thing worthwhile. Peace and blessings to you!