(More Thoughts on) Life Lived Freely

I posted the other day about my Life Lived Freely plan.   To recap, I am taking TheGirl out of school at the end of this year, at her request.  I plan to home school her and, ultimately, open up an Alternative School / Spirit Center.  Instead of a pre-designed curriculum, my goal is to focus on allowing the child's own intuition and inner voice to pave the path.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I believe that the motivation behind the current school model boils down to a lack of faith in each individual's ability to navigate successfully through their lives.  And my belief is that this lack of faith results in the systematic erosion of our ability to connect with the wisdom and guidance of our Higher Selves.  When our intuition is repeatedly validated and encouraged, and we allow ourselves to problem-solve in a more natural, less structured setting, I believe we are in a delightfully solid position of power and self-confidence. But before I continue on with my thoughts about the Spirit Center, I want to take a step back here.  After I wrote that initial post, I realized that in my attempt to bolster my position, I made generalizations that I don't really believe.  (What can I say - sometimes I dazzle myself with my flowery wording so much that I don't stop to think big picture about what I'm saying.)

In retrospect, I made it sound in my original post as if I believed that the only path to enlightenment is through freedom of spirit. But that is not true.  In the context of school, there is no "wrong" answer, no "wrong" school, no "wrong" model - for two big reasons.  First, the term "wrong" is subjective.  Where one child recoils, another child might thrive; it all depends on the individual.   Second, even a situation that is not "positive" for the individual can help ignite a spark in them that reverberates infinite goodness.  We need to experience darkness in order to appreciate the light.  We have all heard of spiritual masters who have come from quite the opposite type of background and learned to rise above their situation in spite of, or even becauseof their upbringing.  Jesus comes to mind.  From what I've read, "personal liberties" were not highly regarded back in BC, but did that stop him from tuning into his Highest Self and inspiring world populations for centuries?  No.  Another great and even more extreme example is Viktor Frankl (author of Man's Search for Meaning) who endured torture and the loss of his family during his time in Auschwitz and other concentration camps.  One could argue that it was this very suffering that opened his soul to the revelation of “the last of the human freedoms” that his captors could not take away.   Based on this premise, there is no "one" path to enlightenment.  In fact many believe, and I agree, that every path is a path to enlightenment.

{Photo Credit: Reinventing64.com}

Now that we've established the baseline that each path has it's own merits by virtue of being a path, and that everything is happening exactly as it should, I want to clarify that just because this path feels right for me, that doesn't mean it is or should be the right path for other parents.  Something else wonderful and magical is in store for other children by the mere fact that their parents have chosen precisely what they have chosen.

And in my own life, I do believe that this winding road of my life has lead me to what I like to refer to as Enlightenment-In-Training.  I know that my past (both the experience of it and the act of working through it) is what has brought me to this point.  But although the axiom might be true that Adversity Breeds Character, I don't believe that the intentional infliction of adversity is a necessary component of childhood.

My daughter has been telling me since she started preschool 3-1/2 years ago that school was not for her.  At first, I trudged along, listening to "experts" like teachers, school directors,  parenting websites, and my own rationalizing.  But it didn't change.  The girl wants to be with her Mama.   What kind of society have we created that a child's desire to be close to her loved ones, is a quality that should be trained away?

It may be commonplace, it may be something most kids don't mind, but a mother in essence forcibly requiring her child to be apart from her parents is not natural. 

In many ways it reminds me of a subconscious equivalent to Fraternity Hazing.  I went through it, I survived, I am proud of my ability to make it through to the other side, so you should do it too.    I absolutely agree, struggles can build great confidence.  But who is to say that life will not present our children with their own set of natural struggles?  Why do we feel the need to force struggles prematurely in order to toughen them up?   Why not arm them instead with an arsenal of Unconditional Love and Acceptance so that they might be better equipped to endure the natural struggles that come their way?

You might point out, that this is easy for me to say, having the option to quit my job and keep her home with me.  I agree.  Many people do not have that option.  In our current corporate model, children are not welcome.  At all.

We extricate children from society; we separate them from the "real world" where they are not just quarantined as a group but very specifically by age.  For the most part, they do not intermingle at all.  We think they are best served by spending the majority of their days with people who are of the same linear age, learning in a hierarchical setting where their lessons are prescribed with great detail.  We assume that they will best learn about the Real World, no, not from actually living in the Real World, silly, but by learning about it off to the sidelines.  By learning about it in a vacuum.  We believe that they will not best learn how to live in the Real World by observing their parents living their lives on a daily basis or (even more controversial a topic) working and contributingalongside their parents on a daily basis.

Why do we do that?

Some of you have asked about my plans for TheBoy.  For the most part he loves school.  He's good at it, he's an incredibly thoughtful and fun-loving friend, his teachers adore him, and he is very happy.

But lately, there are a few things I start to notice that are just a little bit off.

Like when he broke his arm this past winter.   He received a ton of well wishes from his classmates, beautiful drawings and sweet messages.  But instead of being able to embrace the love and care sent with each card, he fixated on the spelling and grammar.  He couldn't help it.  We talked about the difference between being "right" and being "kind" so at one point, he saw a misspelling and just smiled at me with SMH-disappointment.    At first I tried to figure out what I had done wrong in my parenting to instill such a demeaning, uncaring quality.  I'm sure I've contributed to that, no doubt, but then it hit me: one of the things I've done is send him to a place where - for 7 hours a day - this is the paradigm: if you get it right you've done a "good job" and for each answer you get wrong, you're that much further away from a "perfect score" or "perfection."

I toured a Democratic School up in the Bay Area a few weeks ago and, during the Q&A, a student who had recently graduated from the program spoke about her experience.   She said she came from a traditional school, where she was quite shy which was compounded by the fact that she was really "good" at school and became a bit of a teacher's pet.  She then said something that really struck me.  She said, that because of that school construct, she thought that her aptitude made her "better" than the other kids.  It was something she had to unlearn as she moved to a model where there's enough success to go around for everyone.


Last week, on the suggestion of our Head of School, I started taking TheGirl out one day per week to give her a taste of what she will be experiencing next year.  That morning I overheard TheBoy & TheGirl arguing over what would be going on that day.

TheBoy: "Mom, is TheGirl going to be having fun or is she going to be working?" Me: "Well your question assumes that it's not possible to have fun while working.  We'll be doing both!" TB: "No, I mean like Math or Reading.  Will she be doing that?" Me: "Well when you do something like cooking you use math to measure the ingredients..." TB: "No, I mean like worksheets." Me: "No, we won't be doing worksheets."

I could tell he was confused.

But just like last year, when TheGirl came to me in tears, confiding in me how sad she was that I had revealed to her that Santa wasn't real, I wasn't sorry that I had told her the truth; I was sorry that I had ever told her the lie to begin with.  I'm glad he's questioning Who Moved My Cheese? now, instead of 50 years from now, trying to unlearn all the things he was taught were important throughout his schooling.

TheBoy told me the next day that when he has kids he isn't going to send them to school.

My plan, for now, is to respect my boy's wishes and keep him in school, with his friends and his love of solving all the educational puzzles that are presented at school.  But, once we have shifted Life Lived Freely from Concept to Reality, I suspect his curiosity will be piqued.   When he's open & ready, he can continue on with his love of learning in a way that allows him to fully own his Education and his Life.