The pieces of my life's mosaic are many.... family, parenting, unschooling, social justice, community, faith, ethical issues and the environment. This blog will reflect a bit of everything, I imagine, all mushed up together, just like life is. The "glue" in my mosaic is the bit that's not always visible, but definitely holds it all together: the love, joy, peace & faith without which life would pretty much fall apart. The spiral signifies the ebb and flow of life around a central point, which for me is God.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Unschooling Conference Day 3

I can't believe the conference is half over! It's going so quickly, and I'm enjoying so many wonderful conversations with some incredible people. So much so, that I was quite late leaving at the end of the day today (and the session went late as well) so I ended up waiting for the bus in the dark amongst swarms of mozzies! And having to walk home from the bus stop in the dark too, which wasn't much fun (although I found a safer route to walk which was good). It's been great to have conversations with people about topics as broad as research into natural learning, bringing teenagers home from school, getting into Tafe or uni without high school, learning to read naturally, and even... dreadlocks! :)

Anyway, down to business lol.......

First session of the day was a bit of a different one, and it pushed the envelope a bit for me I must admit. The session was led by Quinn Eaker and it was called "Life as a Radical Unschooled Child: An Adult's Perspective". Quinn was raised without school and with a lot of freedom, and he has some fairly different views on life and reality than I do, but it was interesting to listen to him nonetheless. And it was certainly a wonderful thing to see his self-confidence and unfettered enthusiasm for life! For the purposes of this blog, I will just write some of the talk here, together with my own reflection on it.

He said that we are all born fully connected with what is important to us, and we are also born with the capability to achieve it. We adults have so much to learn from the perfection of a newborn baby, who comes into the world so pure and innocent, so authentic and vulnerable. We adults are products of lives where we have been disempowered from a young age by not being always honoured, listened to, given what we need etc. In our lives we have experienced stress upon stress, and feel discontent, always searching for that which will fulfil us. This started from the first time we went looking for the nipple to suckle, or woke up alone in a dark room. A child's priority is very simple: to be FREE! (I would also add: to be loved) Free to do, to be and to go wherever they want. Children who have freedom to self-design their life are very focussed, capable, responsible, conscious.... They really don't need much "looking after".

Parents often make the mistake of loving their child "so much" that they do so much for them & protect them so much, that we actually cause them to become incapable. They become incapable of knowing what they're capable of, because we take their capability away by acting out of fear! He gave some great stories from his childhood where he was climbing very tall trees at a young age, cutting with sharp knives etc, and learned to be capable because his mother didn't put her fears onto him. She recognised that her fears had come from her own life, being told she wasn't capable, and having fears put onto her. So she didn't do that to her son.

It reminded me of a situation from when we were living in Bourke. We were having lunch at our house with a family who'd not long moved to Australia from the highlands of PNG. We looked up and noticed that their 4 year old son was sitting right up at the top of our very tall gum tree, like a baby koala. The first thing I noticed was the wire fence directly underneath the tree, wondering what would happen if he fell. We commented to the parents, "Wow, you can tell he's used to being wild and free and climbing tall trees all the time". "Oh no", they replied, "We don't have any tall trees at all back home, just little scraggly ones."!! Yet he was so confident. And so were they. And he didn't fall.

I was also reminded of the tales told by friends who live in a wild jungle in the Philippines. They speak of the native children running barefoot in the jungle with machetes, and alongside deep rivers. The parents do not fear for their safety. And they are safe. How different our society is!

Children don't need rules, judgment, manipulation (they can be very easy for us to manipulate, because they want to please us), or control. They need connection and freedom. Freedom to self-design their own lives. Children love us as their parents, not because we're "good" parents, but because they are our child. (This would explain why children can have pretty terrible parents, yet still love them.)

Mistakes are essential. What's dysfunctional is when we repeat our mistakes. It's the difficult times that dictate our life. When life is easy, it's easy. When it's hard, what do we do? When we are stressed or angry, what do we do? These are the choices that affect our child. And ourselves. Children WILL forgive us, but don't take that for granted. When we make a mistake, we need to evolve. Life will be better than it ever was.

Quinn's family's motto of home education was: if the children aren't interested in learning something, then for them, at that time, it isn't worth learning. We always learn what we want and need to learn when we want or need to learn it. Let your children decide for themselves in true freedom. If a child is playing video games for 12 hours a day it's either because life is seen as boring because we haven't provided enough stimulation and opportunities, or it's what the child needs to be doing in that moment. If a child has exposure to opportnity, and chooses video games, then it's right for them. (There's nothing wrong with a parent asking their child if they want to do something else, but it only really works if it's asked without expectation or manipulation.) Quinn spoke of the year he spent playing one particular video game for about 12 hours a day every single day. He said it was the best year of his life. He's rarely felt so alive, and said he learnt SO much in that one year from engaging in the game. And this was after he'd experienced a major spiritual enlightenment, and travelled the world having all sorts of wild and wonderful adventures!

If we are treated with respect, we will treat others with respect also.
If people around us share with us, we will share with others also.

If I believe judgement is bad, then that's being judgmental lol. It's not the words we use that matter so much as the perception of those words in the hearer, and the intent in the speaker.

Anything is possible, and this moment is all we have. Something is only a mistake if we don't evolve and grow. Every moment is an opportunity to re-tune, to consider, "Why am I doing this? Does it feel good?"

There was much more that he said. Some of it was so new to my ears that I don't feel equipped to try to rewrite it here. And some of it didn't sit right with me, so I'm choosing not to repeat it here. It's my blog after all. :)
Beverley's session today was on
She started off by spouting out a whole stack of various and interesting tidbits of information. Here they are in a seemingly random order! Hopefully something will jump out that is of interest.

Children often live in the "bliss moment", whereas we have to work to get back there. It is so important to watch our children and how they respond to us, and to examine our own motives. Empathy is so important to help us really hear and know and understand our kids. Parents are often very egocentric, building our houses and our lives to suit ourselves, developing our lives to feed our own passions. Sometimes the choices we make won't suit our kids at all. What would it be like if we included them in some of those decisions?


It can be very helpful to look at our environment, and to remove the things that make us and the kids feel hassled, and to bring in more of what brings calmness and harmony. We need to NOTICE what our child is attracted to... drawn to. Is it nature? Personal space? Technology?

Play is still so underrated. Their family operated on a play/work ethic: work to play & play to work. Children thrive if given the opportunity to do real work. It's why kids love cubbies, and mini plastic lawn mowers, and kid-size brooms etc.

BE PRESENT. This is a recurring message at this conference! There is no need to hover over our child, but if we're in the room and our kids know we're available, they will come to us if needed.

Learning is active, not passive, and mistakes are simply learning opportunities.

It can be very helpful to incorporate mindful techniques into our lifestyle: meditation, being together in nature, sitting and talking quietly together.

If your child is interacting with the real physical world, they are doing maths. It can help them to pick it up if we think our own mathematical processes out loud. It might just be something going on in the background of their life, but it becomes part of their learning.

Instead of thinking of our children (or ourselves) as having strengths and WEAKNESSES, think of them as strengths and LIMITATIONS. A weakness implies a permanent problem. A limitation implies a fence. You can put a gate in the fence and just move on through it!

It is very helpful to use "I can" statements, rather than "I can't". Train yourself to reframe your negative thoughts.

Interest = motivation. What does my child love to do? What do I love to do?

Don't make assumptions about what your child needs. Ask them! Would you like this? Do you want my help? What do you need?

We use all of our senses when we learn. Some use more of one sense than another. For instance, a "visual" learner uses more vision; an auditory learner uses more sound, a kinesthetic learner uses more touch etc.

If we want our children to be lateral problem solvers now and later, we need to PLAY! We adults also need to learn to play again. instead of sitting inside the fence of limitations feeling frustrated, we need to look for the gate or just build one. It's easier to find the gate if we're in the flow of "bliss energy". We don't have to aim for happiness, though. We just need to know we can EXPAND if we want or need to.

Playfulness isn't childlike, it's human-like!
Being "in the flow" builds co-operative behaviour.
A bright child isn't a smarter child; it's a child whose eyes are sparkling with enthusiasm for the world around them.

Wow, we fit a lot into today! Next up was Dayna and Quinn, talking about "LIFE WITHOUT LIMITS".

OK, today was the controversial day, alright? So hopefully there won't be too much offence caused. My disclaimer is that I'm just writing what was shared today. The opinions expressed herein are not necessarily the opinions of the editor. :)  (Although they might be!)

I walked in about 5 minutes late for this session and they were deep in discussion on one of the big heavy topics: Is it bad for kids to watch "violent" TV or play "violent" video games etc. It was said that it's judgement that breeds perversion. The judgement affects their self-image, because if the game is deemed by the parents to be "bad" and the child loves the game then the child assumes they also must therefore be "bad". It's control and judgement that causes violence, not the playing of the game itself. Devin (Dayna's son) says that free expression in the virtual world means that he has no need for it in real life. Dayna describes him (and I've found him) to be an incredibly gentle child, and yet he really loves the more "violent" video games. He says he enjoys being able to do stuff in a game that he'd never want to do in real life.

This type of life, with children being free and capable is age-old, but most "experts" are living in the traditional paradigm of judgement, limitations and fear, and we need to stop looking to them for the answers. The answers are within ourselves, and within our children who by their nature are usually totally authentic and totally in touch with their own personal needs, and what they are (and aren't) capable of.

One of the dads there talked about his son, who often plays video games "above his age level" that people would describe as violent, because he has older boys come to visit, and they want to play. The boy started to get really into guns. The Dad ended up taking him hunting, and the boy really enjoyed shooting at targets, bottles etc, but had no interest at all in actually shooting or killing or harming animals.

Be your child's partner, not the wall, between them and what they really want. If they want something and you don't have the money for it, be honest and real about it, and partner with them to dream of ways of earning the money to buy it, or to be open to other ways that that thing can come into the child's life. Dayna spoke of her daughter, who desperately wanted to have a big pink toy car. She was so excited about it, and dreaming of driving it around with her dolls in the back of it. She asked her mum, but they couldn't afford it (it was about $300) so her mother suggested that they think of it and dream of it, and lo and behold, three days later Dayna received a phone call from a long lost friend, inviting them for a visit. When they went there, the friend was showing them something non-related in the garage and when she raised the door, there was the exact same pink car Tiffany had been dreaming of. Some comment was made and the lady was like, "Oh, that old thing. Do you want it? My daughter outgrew it years ago. :)  Money isn't the only means.

There was much more said, but this blog post is very long already!!

This session was a biggie!! I will try to keep it brief.... The basic tennet of the conversation was this: forced learning doesn't work on kids, as we know, but it also doesn't work on our partners, or the kids' grandparents, or our friends....

The best way to educate your partner about this way of living is to truly live it! The problem comes when we try to help our partner parent the way WE want to parent. If they won't read a book we recommend, we need to BE the book!

What happens is that one person in the partnership, usually the wife, gets insight into the harm done to kids by parents with a controlling mindset and we see examples all around us of this scenario, so then when we see our partners parenting this way (the same as they always have), it suddenly isn't "good enough" any more. We've often been thinking and reading about this for years, but our partners are playing catch up and usually too busy with work to read up about it as much anyway. And when we keep sending them links or books to read, it can actually be a means of us trying to control them, to make them agree with us.

With our children, we don't focus on their behaviour, but on the needs underneath the behaviour. It is really helpful to do this with our husbands as well.

We create stress and tension when we criticise our partner, or try to tell them how to parent. No husband like to be told what to do by their wives!! Our kids observe this tension, our partners feel it and so do we. We will often then blame our partner for the tension, but it is mostly there because we made an issue out of the way they are parenting, trying to encourage them to do it our way. This comes from a wonderful intent, of wanting to share the excitement about a new and better way of doing things, but it is unhelpful.

We are all better off, and there is more peace, if we can allow our partner to walk their own parenting journey. BE the change you want to see in your family.

Our children need to have their own relationship with their father. If we step in when it's nothing to do with us, we can create tension that is harder for the child to cope with than the actual way their father was parenting them in the first place! Dayna told a story of a time when Joe, her husband, was getting really angry at Tiff and "not handling it very well". Dayna intervened, saying something along the lines of how he shouldn't talk to her like that and TIFFANY, the daughter, cries out, "Mum, stop!" She was more upset by her mother's effort to bring peace than she was by the angry way her father was dealing with her.

In the same way we respect our children and their capabilities, interests, etc, we need to respect our partners for where they are in their parenting journey, rather than judging them and trying to "help".

Re messy houses, Dayna said that her mother's house was like a museum, but Dayna's is more like a "workshop of their interests"! It is NOT always perfectly tidy! She calls it the "love mess".

One of the other mother's talked of a friend who has four children, and when her husband comes home he gets excited to see the evidence of all the fun they've been having throughout the day, and he truly delights in it. He whips around, tidying up a few things, before relaxing to play with the kids.

We need to find our balance of tidiness, and what works for our family, taking into account the different members and their needs. But don't ever put your own needs for a clean house before your kids' needs to spend time with you!

There was also a conversation re grandparents, extended family and friends. When Dayna used to visit the her parents-in-law with the children, she would over-advocate for the kids. If her mother-in-law insisted, for instance, on the children saying please before she would give them the salt, Dayna would say something like "Don't force them to say please. They will say it when they're authentically ready!" But it never went down well lol!! And the funny thing is that the children weren't even particularly aware of the things that were upsetting Dayna. It was just "Grandma". Dayna was tending to focus, with her kids, on seeing them in a victimised role, which really wasn't helpful.

We don't have to force people to embrace this life. Don't focus on what you do differently, but on your commonality. When we focus on our judgement of where people "get it wrong" our kids can also tend to become judgmental. When we focus on our commonality, and just get on with the relationships, our children also will tend to be more open to people. We can inspire more people towards this life by just living it and by focussing on our commonality and unconditionality with them.


  1. Forcing anything never has a good outcome. How many times have things been broken due to force.
    Did you sleep at all last night?
    I am still not comfortable with things of a violent nature but I can see the point that you make.
    So much info to take in. yowser!
    You have done a marvellous job reviewing the day. I'd love to hear IRL when you have time to breathe more about it. You might have to get a bigger head before the conference is up! Take care

  2. Can't wait to sit down and have a chat with you about some of these sessions - especially about what made you uncomfortable!