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Learning in Freedom

Welcome to Learning in Freedom, a blog all about the learning adventures (and mishaps) of the Allen family. My four children are unschooled, following their interests and passions every day and living the lives of their choosing. The purpose of this blog is to share our every day lives (and my not-so-humble opinons) with anyone interested in stopping by. We hope this will give a glimpse of how natural learning unfolds from day to day......

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Location: Jonesborough, Tennessee, United States

I was born and raised in the far north of Fairbanks Alaska where the moose trample your garden, northern lights dance and darkness rules the winter. I adore raspberries, tea, body painting, lazy nights watching movies and drinking wine, hiking, gardening, beekeeping, writing, creating art and traveling. I live with my husband Keith (the brilliant human behind Keith Dixon Studios) and the five children we brought into our relationship. My current career is in makeup artistry/body painting where I get to meet interesting people and paint diverse faces and bodies.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Inspired by the Good Morning America piece

So my friends Christine and Phil were on Good Morning America this week. It was a clearly biased bit of "reporting" in which the reporters should have been embarrassed to air the piece it was so poorly done. That's a risk I'm not willing to take anymore...to put ourselves out in the media spotlight and the piece was a good reminder why I won't do that any longer.

To GMA's credit, they brought Chris and Phil to their studio and allowed a true discussion to take place (short though it was) and cleared up some of the misconceptions about unschooling and in particular, about their children Kimi and Shaun. It was a much better look at unschooling even without video footage of children in action.

Two things are really sticking with me; 1) the whole notion that one must spend 13 years of drudgery in a classroom in order to be prepared for college or "real life". 2)That children need school to be "exposed" to lots of ideas/activities they would otherwise not have access to

First of all, I admit my bias against school when labeling it "drudgery". That's what it is for most kids. I love talking to parents who are convinced their children LOVE school and "it works for them" and on and on. But when you chat with the child they hate school, they want to leave, they wish they could have other options.

I'm not saying this is true of all children...no. But this has happened enough in my life to wonder how many parents are really in tune with their children's needs and desires enough to even notice how much they detest going to school each day....most of the time.

To address the college issue....I'm not sure I can anymore. I'm so over this assumption. I honestly don't see how school prepares you for college at all and if the typical college student is an example of a "well-prepared" adult then I hope my children are not prepared for college at all. I hope they're not prepared to hand over years and years of their lives for a thin sliver of hope at a job they'll despise. I hope they're not prepared to go into debt for that which does not feed their spirit, bring them joy and ignite their passion for learning. I hope they can't do mindless recitation of facts that mean nothing to them. I hope they're not prepared for anything less than exactly what they love.

I DO hope they can see many, many options for getting where they need to go in life. Options like apprenticeships and working part-time to fund travel adventures and self study and on and on the list goes. I hope they trust themselves enough to know that college isn't some mystical and fearful place, just another option in an endless list of options.


So far it's worked out pretty well. Trevor is 20 now and is choosing to study the CompTIA A+ certification material on his own, rather than pay big money to take the class. He's assisting a DJ part-time and looking forward to continuing that after he finds a computer tech job. If college became important to him, I have no doubt he could easily prepare for that (have you seen the material in the A+ book? Ouch....college prep should be EASY after that!!).

I could list the very real people I know who are attending college as adults, who have entered college after being unschooled all their lives and are successful, or unschoolers who are following other paths that are more fulfilling than college. I could, but I won't. Because no matter how many poster children there are for unschooling, closed minds won't get it. I don't want them to anymore...I just want to live my life.

On to #2....the notion that children need school in order to be MORE exposed to activities and ideas. In some families school may very well be a good option for that. Sure. If people homeschool in order to isolate and separate their children then school may very well be a better option for those kids. Not my choice to make.

I met Christine, Phil, Kimi and Shaun not long after they'd left school. In St. Louis to be exact, during an unschooling conference at which I spoke. Kimi and Sierra became friends and over the years we met up with them at various locations in the U.S. for gatherings or conferences. They travel in their RV a lot so they get around! Kimi and Shaun are engaging, bright and interesting young people to chat with. I've always enjoyed their perspective and time with the entire family. It's obvious their children are not sheltered and are being exposed to FAR more than the average child their age.

But how is it that children, who detested school, who watched that clock ticking away the minutes and hours of their lives, who prayed for the weekend to come so they could get out of school...just HOW do they become adults who believe it is the best option for their own children? How is it that a person leaves school and takes years to recover, to find their own passions again, to learn the things that are actually useful for their lives, look back and see school as a crucial part of that journey? I don't believe it IS for most people.

But I'm out of energy folks...I have no more defense for unschooling. I'm too busy living my own passions and trying to help my children follow theirs. I hope you find your passion too. Instead of describing what we do, what my children are exposed to precisely because they DON'T waste a bunch of time sitting in school all day, instead of using my energy in that manner, I offer you a few snapshots of our life. That's all I have any more. My camera and very few words.

I don't want to defend unschooling or cut down school. Even though I have strong opinions about it all. I know that children in school are loved and growing and learning just like the rest of us. The difference is that their lifestyle is accepted...they don't have to explain their choice over and over and over again to well-intentioned but ignorant people. They don't have to try and explain how they'll get into college (because they're in school and ALL schooled kids can get into college right?) or what they're being exposed to all day (because what happens in school is all so smarmy-marmy wonderful for children right?). No, they don't have to do that but neither do I.

I leave you with a few pictures of our recent explorations...because that's all I have left now. No more words, just images. And I hope that unschoolers will realize that they don't owe the world any explanations or defenses. That they don't need to convince the ignorant or close minded. That we just need to live our lives and get on with the joy of living and learning together.

It's what we do best you know. :)

Do these people look like they're missing out on "real life", on being "exposed" to choices? Would a classroom enhance our experiences? Perhaps, but I leave that choice to the individual. They're perfectly capable of making that choice....when and if it becomes important to them.































22 Comments:

Blogger Frank said...

You tell 'em, Ren!

1:45 PM  
Blogger ~Kimberly said...

Loved the post Ren!

Kimberly

1:48 PM  
Blogger denise said...

well said.

2:03 PM  
Blogger Jessica said...

Awesome post, Ren. You touched on something that is so important and that is the fact that school kids get the assumption that they are doing something legitimate and unschoolers are not! It takes being in this to really get it so I don't talk about it much unless someone asks very specific questions. I also have a fear that too much light on the subject will bring unwelcome "reform" in the world of home education. I respect the very articulate, honest words spoken by the GMA family and wish for more open minds.
Cool bee pic! The new queen is at work! Jess

2:03 PM  
Blogger meredith said...

I used to be one of those kids who "loved school" and even I knew it was drudgery! And it certainly didn't broaden my world - it left me feeling backed into a corner, hating the world. No thanks.

3:07 PM  
Blogger sbrehill said...

Very eloquently said! Ren I wish I could have met you when you were still in Pensacola. I joined the group right after you left. I think we would have hit it off marvelously!

4:29 PM  
Blogger Ramona said...

Beautifully written Ren! You said it all, thank you. Ramona

4:50 PM  
Blogger Lynch Family said...

Yup! I'm with you on the "done" part. We are living our life and you know what? People are paying attention. That's fine, we're still just livin'

6:11 PM  
Anonymous vertpaix said...

Love you ren! Keep rockin it out!

6:44 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Well said! It was an astonishing piece, both for the clear bias expressed by all GMA team during the interview and for the editing which leaves viewers with the impression that this family is out of their minds (as judged by the flurry of comments that followed the airing of the piece). Because I know the prevailing attitude in the society around us, I don't discuss the radical nature of our lives. Everyone who knows us knows we homeschool, but we've not allowed many to know just how deeply we've rejected formal schooling. I don't feel as though I should have to defend myself, my husband, our children, or our choices to anyone not intimately involved in our lives.

7:34 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

I was just thinking that ignorance is making assumptions without adequate information; ie, not educating yourself on a matter and then coming to a conclusion. That is what has been demonstrated in the recent coverage on "unschooling". Obviously their educational experience taught them exactly what was intended. Think like the crowd, question nothing and go with the flow....

10:26 PM  
Blogger boysmomma said...

Beautiful post! In addition to parents being so disconnected from their kids, there is this weird, passive acceptance of their kids hating school. As if it's to be expected and accepted as part of growing up. I once had a mom tell me that she had always hated school and her son hates school because he's teased every day, but she couldn't possibly homeschool. Crazy.

11:11 PM  
Anonymous Cheryl said...

My daughter starts crying when the school year ends. That's how I know that when she tells me she "loves school" she is speaking the truth. She just loves it!

12:53 AM  
Blogger Ren said...

And I hope that all children who do love school, have parents who are not making grades or other school related issues important. I hope that all children who love school can change their minds at any time, without any pressure or judgment. I hope all children who love school will be able to see it as just one tool in a world full of tools and options and not judge their own worth on how the school and grades judge and compare them.

12:37 PM  
Blogger Alisha said...

I completely agree with your article. I have gone through schooling my whole life and I wouldn't trade it for anything, but I believe it isn't for everyone. I have seen so many kids drop out and then not do anything with their lives because they have never had that choice before. Hopefully people will realise that you can learn and live life without requiring institutionalized learning....someday. :D

8:17 PM  
Blogger Karen McLaughlin said...

"I hope they're not prepared for anything less than exactly what they love." ~ beautifully put, and truly the essence of why we chose to unschool our boys. I love that my guys *expect* joy and freedom and passion in their lives, I can't imagine them every "settling" for some crappy, boring, soul-sucking job! Man, they sure have taught me a lot :)

10:00 PM  
Blogger Carletta said...

Looks like a wonderful life to me! Bravo!

11:11 AM  
Anonymous Lissa said...

Excellent post, Ren, and those pictures are a treasure. What a rich and happy life!

3:54 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Thank you so much for responding Ren. Very eloquently and respectfully written.

5:18 PM  
Blogger Julie said...

great post- am glad to discover this blog! love from asheville, julie

11:11 PM  
Blogger laurie l. goodman said...

this post makes me wanna stand up and cheer! i'm sure i will read it again and again.
you go girl!
thanx for articulating what so many of us are thinking. :)

7:55 AM  
Blogger laurie l. goodman said...

this post makes me wanna stand up and cheer! i'm sure i will read it again and again.
you go girl!
thanx for articulating what so many of us are thinking. :)

7:59 AM  

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