Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Parental Right?

Whenever I hear people saying things like "Unschooling obviously wouldn't work for everyone, but parents should have a right to choose what's best for their kids," or one of the hundred other variants on that same sentiment, I always feeling a niggling sense of unease.  It's never a statement I've agreed with.  But until recently, I wasn't entirely sure why it bothered me!  I mean, there's the obvious in that I believe unschooling can work for anyone, as unschooling is really free choice in education, so a child could choose something very structured, like their parent teaching them with a curriculum or going to school.  But there was something more than that bothering me, and I only realized yesterday what it was.

That type of statement puts the focus on parental rights.  "It's a parents right to educate their children however they choose!"

But to me?  Unschooling isn't about parental rights.  It's about children's rights.  A childs right to choose their own path in life, with the support and assistance of parental or other care-giving figures in their life.

Me and my sister, playing on the beach. (I needed a picture of kids, so why not one of my sis and I?)

In a society where children are truly an oppressed class, denied the rights given to older people, I suppose it shouldn't be surprising that something I see as potentially majorly liberating for children, the right to take control of their own education, is couched as being a parental right instead.  For sure, I think it's important for parents to have the right to make decisions about their children's care, instead of the government or other powerful institutions, but in talking about a "parents right to unschool," I feel like we're taking away the power, in words at the very least, and words to a large extent shape thoughts, from the children themselves.  And that's definitely not something I think anyone should be doing.

Am I, once again, just quibbling over small details in the language used?  Perhaps.  But when something unsettles me, even if it seems like just a small something, I feel it's important to examine why, and I often just like working out or sharing my reasoning here on the blog!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Trips and Ukuleles and Anarchists, Oh My!

I do believe this marks the longest time I've gone without blogging since I started this blog almost three years ago.  Part of me feels like I should apologize, but a much bigger part of me is down with the whole blogging without obligation idea, and even more importantly, realizes that I've been mentally/emotionally not really able to blog.  I just haven't been in the right head-space.  I've been dealing with some pretty high levels of anxiety and stress, and have felt a strong need to retreat from more public areas of expression and instead focus on spending time with friends, meeting new people in real life, and otherwise trying to maintain and build my community.  I'm not sure what most of the things I want and need to change in my life are, though I'm well aware that some changes need to be made, but I do know that having a strong community and network of friends is one of them.

So now that you know a bit about how I've been feeling, I figured I'd update you on what I've been doing since last I posted anything here.

Near the beginning of this month, my sister and I went to a small NBTSC gathering in New York state.  A friend swung a few hours out of her way to pick me and my sister up, and we had a nice little roadtrip through the mountains to a small and really lovely town.  There we stayed, with a handful of other people, at the house of the friends who were hosting us.  And what a lovely house it is!  Which for me, someone who absolutely ADORES old buildings, was quite a big plus. (I didn't take many pictures, so I'm afraid the few I have aren't so hot)

A skatter of instruments and luggage.
I think this shot is "atmospheric," but some might say it's just "dark."
How come new houses don't have awesomely long hallways?
Emi has a ukulele!

Part way through the gathering, Emi picked up a ukulele, and asked her friends to teach her some chords.  Then she proceeded to not put down a ukulele for the rest of the time we were there (except for brief breaks to use the bathroom and sleep)!  In three days, she went from having never played a stringed instrument to knowing several songs on the uke well enough that she could sing along with them as she played!  I'd say that's passion driven learning at it's best, and yet another example that passion driven learning is the best kind there is.

On the day we left we stopped at a music store, and Emi picked out and bought her own ukulele before we headed out of town, so we were serenaded frequently on our drive home.

Her playing has become less frequent in the couple of weeks since we got home, but we'll still hear the sweet sound of the ukulele at least once a day, so it seems to have become a real part of daily life.  So I decided to record her playing, and singing, one of my favorite songs in her repetoire, Over The Rainbow:

Over the Rainbow on ukulele from Idzie Desmarais on Vimeo.

Now, a few years ago I heard about Couchsurfing.org (at my first year of Not Back to School Camp, I believe), a website that is "a worldwide network for making connections between travelers and the local communities they visit."  Things I love about this site is the sheer size of the network it provides (it's the biggest and best known site of it's kind), the fact there are multiple safety thingies built into the site, and the fact that it's free.  As in, the hosts don't charge their guests, just offer a spare bed, futon, couch, or floor space to travelers because they WANT to meet cool people from all over the world!  I also really like that you don't set up an account as *either* a host or surfer, and that most people on the site seem to both host and surf.  So anyway, I think the idea is really cool, so I got an account as soon as I was able to, which was at 18 (I could have just lied about age as everyone does on most sites, of course, but since there's real life verification stuff involved, and I wasn't planning any couchsurfing adventures just then, I figured I'd just wait!).  But then for a while, it just sat there.  The traveling I was doing was to conferences and the houses of people I already knew, and no one contacted me through CS about surfing, so I pretty much forgot about it.  But in the new year, I actually started getting contacted by people through the site, though not many and nothing worked out, until something did work out and we had our first couchsurfer here for the Montreal Anarchist Bookfair, which was just this past weekend!

I find it really cool that though she found me through couchsurfing, she's a former unschooler and NBTSCer (Not Back to School Camper), so we already had friends in common!  We hit it off really well, and for the five days she was here, I had a great time. We wandered the city, helped set up for the bookfair, ate yummy food, chattered through long bus rides, hung out at the bookfair a bunch, met lots of cool people, bought some cool shit, lay around in the sun, went to a seriously awesome punk show...  Photos would probably make things look more interesting, but I have none.  Anyway, a very good time was had, which is good, because I was really looking forward to the bookfair this year, and also really looking forward to my first couchsurfing hosting experience, so it's lovely that everything actually met my expectations (which doesn't happen as often as I'd like)!

Sadly, after that week of partying (around people bringing germs from all over the continent, no less), I got sick.  So I've had a sore throat for a few days now.  Seems to be getting better, but even just a few days of not being able to talk are hard for my chatterbox self!  I think that's what finally spurred me to actually write a post, really: if I can't use my voice, I'm forced to "talk" in other ways!  Even then, this post took me three days to finish.  Like I said, I haven't been able to easily write publicly lately.  Right now, I feel like I might be ready to write a bit more on this blog again, but I'm not sure whether that feeling will change or not.  Lately, hell, for months really, I seem to be swinging between "yay I love my friends, I love the world, life is great!" and "everything sucks, I really suck, I can't handle anything except basic hygiene, maybe a bit of time with people, and reading fantasy novels."  So I suppose time will tell...

I hope all my readers are doing well, and I want to let you guys know how much I appreciate you all, the support you've provided over the years I've been writing this blog, and the fact you stick around even when I go long periods without writing much or at all!