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book

my sister sent this via post for viv and ida moons ago. we unearthed it a few days ago – it had literally been buried and not seen since it’s arrival. as a result, we had not yet realized how great the book was!

i now believe it’s immediate disappearance was the work of some benevolent force – one that knew we were not yet in need of it’s contents. this book came to the surface three days ago – april fool’s day! however, we did not read it right away, we waited a whole 24 hours.

coincidentally viv spent the afternoon/evening of april 2nd until midday on the 3rd wanting to return to school. her desire came through a flood of emotion and tears – we listened – we were ready to adjust to accommodate her – it was the first time this had happened since we decided to stay home. since we had been having an amazing time (from my perspective) i was shocked and felt like i had missed something completely – so i acted right away and emailed her teacher and head of admissions from the charter school she attended….out of curiosity was her spot still available, had it been filled?

that night in bed i leaned over to the night stand and grabbed randomly from the sea of books – a beautiful red and iridescent UNBORED. this was totally unintentional for i knew not what it contained. i just started to read – we were all tired and a bit sad. as the words spilled out, i could not believe how perfect the book was for the moment. a sort of manifesto for unschooling. i was a little self-conscious of pressing this on viv, so i stopped and asked if we should read something else. no, she definitely wanted me to continue. we read from page 10 to page 31.

we woke up the next morning and viv was still thinking about returning to school. still determined to have her way. i took her very seriously and continued to adjust mentally and offer my support. we waited all morning for a response from the school – nothing. just after 3pm viv came to me again, really wanting to talk. one of her closest friends was over, so i was a bit surprised she wanted to talk. we found our own space to do so and she told me she had changed her mind. she said that the reason she had been feeling this way was because she felt like the only one who was not in school. she felt “weird” being the only one. we talked about how neither choice was perfect. we also talked about how it can be difficult doing things differently than everyone else. she remembered out loud what she did and did not like about school. in the end, she realized that she was choosing once again to stay at home.

i do not base her entire decision on the book. i know she is actively getting to know who she is and what she feels. she is learning how to decipher and decode all the input and put it into a language that makes sense to her. that said, UNBORED offered us yet another reminder about how important it is to have a strong foundation in the way you live your life. this book speaks to how i want to live my life. i can only hope that my girls will feel the same: “explore the world, test your limits, dare to be different, have fun, get unbored” and “use the world or the world will use you” – among other things.

it also introduced me to another family who has paved the way for us – helen cordes and eric selbin – i have put a link to their manifesto under my influences. their daughters are now in college. they chose to keep them out of school for reasons quite similar to our thinking.

language is such an important part of community. this book reminded me of the community i belong to. while not necessarily tangible day to day, very easy to access through the written word. (thank you sister!)

at dinner last night we heard from the school. there would be room in the class next year for second grade and she could get on the waiting list. i told viv.

“nope. no way. i am an unschooler.”

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“Next to the right to life itself, the most fundamental of all human rights is the right to control our own minds and thoughts. That means, the right to decide for ourselves how we will explore the world around us, think about our own and other persons’ experiences, and find and make the meaning of our own lives.”

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“By “doing” I do not mean only things done with the body, the muscles, with hands and tools, rather than with the mind alone. I am not trying to separate or put in opposition what many might call the “physical” and the “intellectual.” Such distinctions are unreal and harmful. Only in words can the mind and body be separated. In reality they are one; they act together. So by “doing” I include such actions as talking, listening, writing, reading, thinking, even dreaming.”

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“…we are very unlikely to learn anything good from experiences which do not seem to us closely connected with what is interesting and important in the rest of our lives. Curiosity is never idle; it grows out of real concerns and real needs. Even more important, we are even less likely to learn anything good from coerced experiences, things others have bribed, threatened, bullied, wheedled, or tricked us into doing. From such we learn mostly anger, resentment, and above all self-contempt and self-hatred for having allowed ourselves to be pushed around or used by others, for not having been smart enough or strong enough to resist and refuse.”

“The physical landscape is baffling in its ability to transcend whatever we would make of it. It is as subtle in its expression as turns of the mind, and larger than our grasp; and yet it is still knowable. The mind, full of curiosity and analysis, disassembles a landscape and then reassembles the pieces – the nod of a flower, the color of the night sky, the murmur of an animal – trying to fathom its geography. At the same time the mind is trying to find its place within the land, to discover a way to dispel its own sense of estrangement.”

from Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape  – 1986

“As to his pedagogical theories, (Francisco) Ferrer drew heavily on both precursors and contemporaries, from Rousseau, Pestalozzi, and Froebel to Kropotkin, Tolstoy, and Robin. He was in the direct line of an educational tradition which, rooted in eighteenth-century rationalism and nineteenth century romanticism, involved a shift from emphasis on instruction to emphasis on the process of learning, from teaching by rote and memorization to teaching by example and experience, from education as preparation for life to education as life itself. With “freedom in education” as its watchword, this tradition aimed to do away with the formality and discipline of the conventional classroom, the restrictions and regulations that suppressed individual development and divided education from play. It cultivated physical as well as mental development, crafts, and arts as well as books. Hostile to dogma and superstition, it emphasized reason, observation, and science, as well as independence, autonomy and self-reliance. Anitcoercive and antiauthoritarian, it stressed the dignity and rights of the child, encouraging warmth, love, and affection in place of conformity and regimentation. Among the key words of its vocabulary were “freedom,” “spontaneity,” “creativity,” “individuality,” and “self-realization.”

“I am convinced that constraint arises from ignorance, and that the educator who is really worthy of the name will obtain his results through spontaneous response of the child, whose desires he will learn to know, and whose development he will try to further by giving it every possible gratification.”

“Education is not worthy of the name unless it is stripped of all dogmatism, and unless it leaves to the child the direction of its powers and is content to support them in their manifestations.”

“I am not a speaker, not a propagandist, not a fighter. I am a teacher; I love children above everything. I think I understand them. I want my contribution to the cause of liberty to be a young generation ready to meet a new era.”

-Ferrer quoted in The Modern School Movement by Paul Avrich