Sunday, January 31, 2010

Unschooling = Unlimiting

Continuing with the recent conversations about the definition of unschooling, and about what terms people use for this educational style of learning through living, I wanted to post something I found here

[To the frequently voiced complaint that the word "unschooling" seems negative, this was written years ago and has not been bested:]
"Lots of people make this point, but I never see the negation as negative in a value-judgment sense when I use the word--to me unschooling is as positive as unchaining, unbinding, unleashing, unfolding, unfurling, unlimiting...

"All mean freedom and growth and vast possibilities to me."

-Suzanne Carter

And that, my friends, is a good part of the reason why I happily say unschooling.  To me, "school" is a negative word.  By unschooling myself, I'm setting myself free from the rigid constraints of schooling in all it's forms!


Friday, January 29, 2010

Unschooling Gatherings

It seems for many, quite possibly most, people, going into a new situation/group can be rather intimidating.  Perhaps especially for something like an unschooling conference, where you really care about being part of that community, learning more about that lifestyle, and meeting others who are following a similar path.  I've heard from a few people that they were worried they'd feel out of place, and from a few people who *did* feel out of place at their first conference!  I was worried about this, too.  And I've felt out of place as well.  But not anymore!

My first ever exposure to other unschoolers was Not Back to School Camp in September of 2008.  I was pretty nervous going there all alone, and when I arrived at the camp, there were what seemed like hundreds of people rushing around and yelling and hugging and being exuberant.  I just wanted to find a little hole to curl up in!  I got a cold nearly instantly, I felt pretty miserable and shy, and kept mostly to myself, so the week was kind of rocky.  It was only on the last day I realized that I had actually managed to make a couple friends, despite how much I'd hid in a corner!
Five months later, in February 2009, I went, along with my mother and sister, to the Unschoolers Winter Waterpark Gathering.  It was the first conference we went to!  Aside from a handful of people I'd met (but not hung out with much) at camp, we knew no one, and I found it pretty nerve-wracking.  There also weren't many people near my age, and although I'll just as happily befriend younger folk individually, I feel pretty out-of-place in groups of younger teens, so I kind of bounced between different people, older and younger, for much of the time.  I enjoyed a lot of talks, and *did* make friends with a few awesome people, though!

The Northeast Unschooling Conference in August 2009, was the last gathering were I felt out of place at all.  I really still felt like a newbie at first, and was really shy, but I quickly started to have a good time, got to know people whom I'd previously met better, and made new friends (that sounds strangely young and cute...  "I made new friends, mommy!" ;-)), and ended up having a really wonderful time!  By the end of the conference, I didn't feel like an outsider anymore.


Not Back To School Camp followed shortly after, in September 2009, and it was awesome!  When I arrived, to all the same yelling and hugging and exuberance as the year before, I was surprised to find I wasn't intimidated at all.  I cheerfully greeted people, new and old, chattered happily, and just felt really relaxed.  I kept waiting for the OhMyGawdI'mInAGigGroupIWannaHide thing to hit, but it never did!  I knew at least half the people there, at least by sight, and I got to know a ton of really awesome people that week.

For this years Unschoolers Winter Waterpark Gathering, it's been great feeling like we're really a part of the unschooling community!  A couple of people offered to share a suite with us (it didn't end up working in either case, sadly), and people have asked us if we're going to be there, because they want to see us.  We've asked if various people are going to be there, because we want to see them!  I'm looking forward to seeing old friends, and meeting many new ones.

Really, the point of all this is just to say that, to start with, going to unschooling events can be a scary proposition.  It's easy to feel like an outsider, easy to be shy, and easy to think everyone there has known each other forever (which often isn't true!).  But it really doesn't take long to no longer feel like the new guy/gal!  You'll undoubtably meet great people, and it really is a wonderful community to be a part of.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Curfews: Is there a better way?

Most of the teens under 18 who I know (not including unschoolers), have a "curfew", a time by which they *must* be home or face groundings, loss of computer time, or similar punishments.  It's something I've spent a bit of time thinking about. 

During the school year, though I don't really agree, I do understand why parents impose a curfew.  Kids do need to be up early the next morning to go to school.  Now, this often doesn't affect how late teens go to bed anyway, since they just stay up late at home, but I do see *why* the parents want them in earlier.  But in Summer?  Now that, I understand less.  The only reason, when getting up early for school isn't an issue, that I can possibly see making sense for imposing a curfew in the Summer, is worries about the safety of their kid.  But there are such better ways of handling it than a curfew, and groundings in some of a teens only free time in the entire year, when they miss that curfew!  Here's how my family handles things:

We like to know where a family member is when they aren't here.  We like to know how late someone will be back.  When Emi heads out, for instance (I'll use my sister as an example, since she's the one who's out late most often!), one of us will ask "when do you plan on being home?".  She'll give an answer, and our policy is that whatever time is given, you should be home by, or call by, that time.  That is the easiest possible way.  Whoever is at home doesn't worry, and whoever is out isn't resentful because they "have" to be home by an externally imposed time.  And in case you were wondering, we're all pretty good about calling to let HQ know where we are and how we're doing.  I also ask my mother and father that question when they go out at night, and I expect to get a call if they're going to be late!  This isn't just something for the younger people in our house.

If a ride is needed, obviously the driver has a big say in how late the person can be out!  Mum is a night owl, and she really doesn't mind doing late night driving most of the time (I think the latest Emi and I have called to be picked up at was two in the morning...  Maybe a bit later.  She'd known and OK'd the fact we'd be home very late, and cheerfully arrived to bring us home!), but when she does decide she's too tired, or really doesn't feel like it, neither Emi or I are upset or put out.  It's also a bonus that at this point, an increasingly large number of friends can drive, and some even have regular access to a car! ;-)

So much anger and resentment, so much fighting in so many families, over something that really shouldn't be a big issue at all.  Every time I hear of a kid getting grounded for days for missing their curfew by 15 minutes, I just shake my head.  There's enough things to expend your anger and energy on in this world.  Pick the things that are actually important!


Monday, January 25, 2010

The Term "Homeschooling" Sucks

I don't like the term homeschooling.  I really don't.  And it's always kind of bothered me that that's the default term used here in North America.  What we, and many others, have done bears VERY little resemblance to "schooling" of any sort!  So I figured I'd do a brief list of all the terms I've heard of, both for home education in general and more specifically for unschooling, that in my opinion are WAY better than "homeschooling".

Home based education, home education, independent learning, home learning, self-directed learning, life learning, organic learning, natural learning, autodidactism, worldschooling, child-led learning, student-led learning, delight driven learning.

And I'm SURE I'm missing some (probably many!) other terms.

Now, I've recently gotten into a few discussions about terminology, and about whether or not it was good or bad to have a "unifying" label for the self-directed learning style that's commonly known as unschooling.  And I do think that unschooling is a great unifying word for this philosophy of learning, and since it's becoming better known, being the term most commonly used in articles and on TV shows, I think it's become VERY useful, especially in recent times.  I also think it's great to pick whatever term *you* feel is best for you.  I just think it's nice to have a back-up word that's increasingly well known!

Oh, and feel free to let me know what terms I missed...  I'm always happy to hear new ones!


P.S. Can you tell I'm feeling better by the fact I'm actually posting?  I just hope I continue to feel better! *Knocks on wood* But, I am still sick, so if anything sounds off in this post, I'm blaming the cold I currently still have. :-P

P.P.S. I know I've been accused of nitpicking, and arguing about semantics when I talk about words I use, words I like and dislike, and all that.  But the fact remains, I find this subject both interesting and *personally* important, so I can't help but nitpick and complain about terms on occasion!

P.P.P.S. (Last one, I promise!) I added a "Share" button at the bottom of each post.  Opinions are welcome: is it useful or annoying?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Cold blues

So, life is looking pretty tiring at the moment.  My mom got a cold (or maybe flu?  Something that involves congestion and coughing and fever and weakness) a few days ago, then Emi got it a couple days after that, and now I have it.  Oh, joy!  So recent days in this house filled with tired sick people have included lots of reading of novels and watching TrueBlood

I'm eating healthy, staying hydrated, and hoping it'll go away soon.  But in the meantime, I just wanted to let you guys know that posts for the next little while will most likely be nonexistent, not because I have dropped off of the face of the earth, but because I'm a bit under the weather.  Yeah.

Wishing everyone lots of health!


P.S. There's a new poll in the sidebar.  Go vote! ;-)

Monday, January 18, 2010

On Being "Childish"

Have you ever heard someone be accused of being "childish", or been accused of that yourself?  You probably have, because that's an extremely common insult.  It's used when you have political opinions that other people disagree with (anarchy, for instance, is incredibly childish!), it's used when you dare to defy authority and stand up for yourself (don't be childish!  Just do it!), it's used when someone expresses their emotions openly (it's childish of you to be angry/hurt/upset!). 

This is so insulting to so many people, on so many levels!

When people use that word, when they say "childish", what they mean is that anything a child comes up with, any thought, opinion, emotion, is absolutely worthless and discard-able.  To be a child is to have nothing of worth to show for yourself.  It's an expression of ageism at it's very worst!

So when someone tells me that I'm being childish, they're not only insulting children everywhere, they're also telling me that my opinions are worthless.  That they're short-sighted, uninformed, unimportant, and simply not worth paying any attention to.

I think that's one of the things that makes me the absolute angriest when someone says it to me.  And I've heard it WAY more often than I'd like!

I've heard that the most marginalized members of society are the young and the old, and I don't have much trouble believing that.  Ageism and disrespect are so very common, that I find it seriously discouraging sometimes.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Canadian girl: thoughts on the two sides of the border

I've gotten a lot of hits from a couple of Australian forums recently, and I really want to thank the people who both posted the link to my blog, and who said such nice things about it!  I really appreciate it! :-) Just one thing I wanted to add: I'm Canadian, not American.  Born and raised just outside of the beautiful city of Montreal, in the province of Quebec.

This led me to thinking, and mulling a few things over...  Like the fact, outside of North America, it seems many people consider Canada and America to be practically synonymous (not saying this was the case on the Australian forum - it just made me think of other things I've seen).  I don't know if that's an accurate view on my part, since I've only ever seen this online: I've never been overseas myself!  But it does seem to be an idea out there...

Continuing in a similar vein, it's only in the last year and a half that I've done much real traveling in the States.  Before that all I'd done was go on the occasional day trip into New York state, and go on a road trip to Florida when I was about 10 (something I have fairly foggy memories of...).  I'd never really had any American friends before the last couple of years, either.  Without traveling there, I suppose that's pretty logical!  I should say at this point that whenever I go to a new place, I'm absolutely fascinated by finding the similarities and differences compared to my own home of Montreal.  How are the buildings different?  Do the people speak differently?  What slang terms that I use are understood, and which ones aren't?  I find these things, small as they may seem, to be really interesting.  So I've been very interested as I've met so many Americans in recent times.  The U.S. and Canada are so similar, yet so different!  One thing that I've found slightly odd is how much of a wall many Americans seem to find the border.  I don't know anyone in my area who hasn't been to the U.S., even if it's just for a shopping day-trip!  Yet in the U.S., it's quite common to meet lots of people who have never been to Canada.  And when talking about traveling, many of the Americans I've talked to don't seem to ever consider traveling to Canada! There definitely seem to be different ways of looking at North American travel depending which side of the border you're on. EDIT: Note that *most* (definitely no where near all, but most) of the American peeps I know live relatively close to the border.  I understand quite well why Canada isn't a popular destination for those in the more Southern regions of the U.S. :-P

One other thing that I find interesting: I've been told I seem "very Canadian", and I have no clue what "Canadian" is to the people who have said that.  Canada is a fucking BIG country.  Winnipeg, Manitoba (and the people who come from there) has little resemblance to Montreal, Quebec, or the Northwest Territories, or any other random part of the country.  I know what's generally considered to be "American" here (though I find that to come up with one view of what "American" is makes as little sense as coming up with one version of "Canadian"!), but I've yet to discover what being "really Canadian" is, so if someone can enlighten me, that would be great. ;-)

But anyway, I'm just rambling now, so I think I'll bring this post to a close before I can ramble any more. ;-) Oh, one more thing: for a while I've been planning on writing a post about my home Province of Quebec.  Even compared to the incredible diversity found in Canada, Quebec is VERY different, and has a very interesting culture.  So I want to share a bit of that, whatever I can get across in a few words on a computer screen, anyway, with as many people as I can...  So hopefully I'll get that done soon. :-)


P.S. The pictures interspersed in this post are just shots from the last time I took my camera with me downtown...

Friday, January 15, 2010

DIY Life Zine now has it's own website!

It's been several weeks since the zine came out, and I've loved getting such great feedback on it! :-) But it's occured to me that the info for it on this blog is very scattered and rather hard to find.  So, I gave it it's own website!  Go check it out here.  Please do.  I'd love to hear your opinions on the site, information you think I should add, and stuff like that.  This also gave me an excuse to play around with Wordpress, something I've been wanting to do for a while!  I've considered moving this blog over to Wordpress, since there are a lot of features missing from Blogger that Wordpress has, but so far I've decided not to.  Either way, I enjoyed setting up the site for DIY Life Zine!  The link to that site can now be found permanently on this blog in the list at the top of the sidebar.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

National Delurker Day

Taken directly from Stella's blog:

All you stalkers who always read, but never comment, today is the day to come clean! Give a little love- comment! It's National Delurking Day! Everybody loves comments! Even if you've never said a peep, I'd love it if you would introduce yourself!

So, yeah, what she said! :-P I encourage you to post this on your blog, and let readers know that it's Delurker Day! :-)


Emi and I giggle and talk about stuff

You may have heard of the channel SevenAwesomeNBTSCers before, but now there's a new kid on the block!  The YouTube channel AwesomeNBTSCers aims to get as many campers as possible vlogging at some point or other on their channel, instead of having a regular selection of vloggers like SevenAwesomeNBTSCers does.  Both are cool, just different. :-) But anyway, today Emi and I made a vlog for that new channel!  We giggle and talk about stuff.  I invite you to check it out below, or to go here if you want to see it directly on YouTube.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The worth of mud

I don't understand how some people can think that playing in the mud is somehow less worthy of a child's time than learning to read or do arithmetic.  The whole point of life is to live well, fully, and with joy.  Playing in a mud puddle, with the cool, smooth texture of wet earth squishing between your toes, the feel of mud as it dries on your skin, then cracks of and falls in dusty flakes to the ground...  The things you can make with it, and how good it feels in your hands.  The act of playing in mud is every bit as beautiful, in it's own way, as taking joy in a beautifully constructed story, or the flowing lines of a poem.  People need to get past seeing the world in terms of things that are "useful" and things that are not, and start seeing it as the collection of things, events, places, people, and pursuits that make life wonderful!

I came across a comment someone had made about unschooling not possibly working, because of how you could never learn anything worthy from just playing in mud (as if!), and I just had to write down my own feelings on the topic!


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Going to the UWWG!

It's now official: I, along with my mum and sis, am going to the Unschoolers Winter Waterpark Gathering in Sandusky Ohio at the beginning of February!

I'm doing the whole mixed-feelings thing right now, because last year, I had an okay time, but not a *great* one.  The Kalahari resort itself felt pretty icky to me honestly, with it's tacky decorations, and staff that seemed almost *subservient*.  It felt like I was in the heartland of consumerist privileged America.  It just made me feel icky...  That said, I did meet some awesome people, go to some great talks, and I finally started to really enjoy myself just as we were getting ready to leave. :-P I want to make it clear that my reluctance to go has nothing to do with the actual organization of the conference itself! Just a few issues with the venue...  If you want to find out more about my experiences there last year, you can read my write up, complete with lots of pictures, here.  As to why we're going this year, even though there are some other conferences I might prefer to go to, is that Emi is planning on meeting a friend she's known online for about 7 years now.  This friend is near enough that they can actually manage to get together if we go to the waterpark, which pretty much clinched the decision.

So now I'm switching gears, into one of focusing on the positive, thinking of all the cool people I'm going to meet (there are only a few people whom I've already met who are going to be there, as far as I know!), on the fact that I'm going to get to go to a talk by John Taylor Gatto, and on how much fun the slides and wavepool in the waterpark are. ;-) If you're going to be there, I'd LOVE to meet you!!  So if you recognize me, please do say hi, and if not, well, I just hope we run into each other at a talk or something! :-)


P.S. I really appreciated each and every comment on my last post, The Cons of Unschooling, and read them all happily and with interest, but right now, the thought of responding to all 17 comments feels a wee bit overwhelming.  Which is why I haven't yet.  But I'll *try* to in the next few days, and I want to thank everyone for making it such an interesting conversation! :-)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Cons of Unschooling

I think most people know how much I love unschooling by now.  I will happily wax on about how unschooling is the only type of truly *free* education, how unschooling has made my life better, and allowed me to become a truly authentic person, which I'm not sure I would have managed in school, etc. etc. etc.

But what about the downsides of unschooling (yes, you read that right)?  That isn't talked about much by unschoolers, quite understandably.  When you're trying to convince the rest of the world that unschooling is a good thing, you don't want to bring up the difficulties attached to it.  Because there are some difficulties.  Nowhere near insurmountable ones, but there nonetheless.  Note that this isn't the typical "homeschooling methods pros and cons" list: a balancing of the supposedly *good* and supposedly *bad* elements, so that you can decide whether or not this style is "right for you".  This is simply a few things that I've found especially hard to deal with, as an unschooler.

What I find to be sad is that every single *con* I can think of isn't really to do with unschooling per say: it's to do with how the world, and individual people, view unschooling!

So here are some of the things that I've found to be difficult to deal with, to do with unschooling.  Some of these things hold true for homeschooling as well.

Firstly, the constant questioning.  Constant.  As a young child, it's "do you have a PED day (the teacher's education days in Quebec, where the kids get the day off since the teachers are in class!)?" "why aren't you in school?" "do you know how to read?" and similar annoying things.  As you get older, the questions change.  It's "are you planning on going to school now?" tinged with severe disapproval.  It's ignorant comments like "I once met a homeschooler who had NO social skills!" while scrutinizing you to see if you're about to start exhibiting similar signs of lack-of-socialization.  When I was young, and we still just said we were homeschoolers, I'd simply answer questions as neutrally as possible, just trying to end the conversation as soon as I could.  As I got older and we started using the word unschooler, which was fairly recently, the reactions changed somewhat.  Mostly, the word "unschooling" is met with puzzlement.  After an explanation of what it is, it's often STILL met with puzzlement.  "No, my mom didn't teach me, I taught myself!" repeated patiently, as people struggle to grasp such a foreign concept!  If it is understood, it's often met with extreme skepticism and/or disapproval and/or outright horror.  Sometimes people are supportive, sometimes they're honestly curious and not trying to be judgmental.  But the point of all this is just to say that as an unschooler, you're constantly answering for the educational choices you've made.

Another thing I've found to be difficult is the lack of a support network nearby.  At this point, many, many places have homeschool support groups, homeschool co-ops, and similar things.  Unschooling, however, is still a small enough percentage that most places don't have that support for unschoolers.  Now, unschooling is, after all, basically a type of homeschooling (it's so different from every other type of homeschooling, that I often find myself forgetting that fact, but it is true!), so sometimes the local homeschooling groups can be great for unschoolers as well.  Sometimes, though, they're not.  I know that in my pre-teenage years, we were involved with a lot of local homeschooling groups and activities.  However, the people in these groups were mostly very Christian, and very school-at-home.  I didn't make very many friends through the homeschooling community (a few, but not many) and often felt pretty out of place.  The general mindset was just very different from my family's!

Doubts are also an issue.  Pretty much everyone has them, no matter what type of education you have, but I think it may just be even harder for unschoolers, at times.  When enough of the world doubts how "well" unschooling can work, it's quite easy to fall into the habit of doubting it yourself!

Not having a "graduation" or similar distinction that you're now in *adulthood* can also be difficult.  Some homeschoolers organize graduations, and I'm sure this is great for some unschoolers as well.  But it wouldn't mean anything to me.  What am a graduating from??  I'm still learning, still growing, as I will be until the day I die.  Having someone hand me an embossed piece of paper on a stage doesn't really mean much, for me!  So as an unschooler, it's quite likely you'll have to find that something special for yourself.  For some it will be moving out on their own; for others starting college; for some traveling.  I'm really not sure if I've found that special something for me yet.  I know that this blog has given me *something*.  Previously, the only people who read what I wrote were family and friends: people who were pretty much obligated to *like* what I wrote! ;-)  Getting validation for my writing, and just for *me*, from such a wide base of people has certainly meant a lot to me, and I'm sure has also contributed to my growth in confidence and self-assurance!  Come to think of it, I'm not so sure that this whole point really is a "con" after all.  It's probably better to find your own personal *graduation* than to have nothing more than a piece of paper saying you've "graduated"!

Unschooling often isn't n easy path.  Doing ANYTHING that isn't "normal" or "expected" often isn't easy, and if you're an unschooler, who believes in unschooling, you have no one to blame but yourself.  I think that may be one of the hardest things about unschooling, actually: the fact that you're really and truly the only one in control of your own life.

These are just a few thoughts: some things that have been bouncing around in my head for a while now.  I love unschooling.  I am SO grateful to have lived as free a life as I have, and I don't think any of these things are nearly big enough for someone to decide not to unschool.  But at the same time, I think people often minimize just *how* difficult it can be, at times, to live in a society that is so very far away from the lifestyle that you lead as an unschooler!

As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts. :-)


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Poetry project

I don't feel that poetry writing is my strong point.  However, I really enjoy it.  And I want to get better!  So I actually made a new years resolution that I really, really want to keep, and that is to write some poetry every day.  It could only be two lines.  The point is to make sure I write SOMETHING!  I have a pretty new notebook, with two pages, from the last two days, filled up already.  And, since I find that posting stuff online can be a tool for keeping me accountable in my personal goals, I'm going to be posting my daily scribblings on my poetry blog.  Now, I hesitated before mentioning it on this blog, because I really feel that most of the poetic stuff I write is crap!  But, well, I finally decided to mention it anyway... 

Now off to bed after a long night spent around lots of people, because I am truly exhausted...


P.S. While I'm on the subject of blogs, my blog Adventures In The Accumulation of Trash is, as I'm sure you've noticed if you've been over there in the last well, forever, entirely inactive.  I'm not quite ready to delete it, but it looks like it will remain inactive for the foreseeable future.  My book review blog, Frequently Magic has also kind of failed.  I may decide to resurrect it soon, though...  I'll see how I feel.  My photo blog 365 Awkward Angles should have more updates soon, as I attempt to actually complete the 365 photo a day challenge this year!