Monday, May 13, 2013

May 15, Freedom (NOT AN EASY TOPIC!)

Okay... This topic is a hard one.

I'm going to quote the whole page from The Big Book of Unschooling. Please read it before the chat and think about problems you've seen with too much focus on freedom.

A discussion came up in which someone asked about "True Freedom" as though it were a concept central to unschooling. I'd never come across the phrase, and discussion ensued.

It's just musing and analysis of the ideas of freedom, which unschoolers do tend toward in lots of things, but in ALL things? Maybe, maybe not.

I think what some families call "freedom," I call "choices." In the discussion referred to above, I wrote:
Just like getting lots of gifts instead of one big one, if you say "sure," "okay," "yes" to lots of requests for watching a movie late or having cake for breakfast or them playing another half hour on the swings and you can just read a book in the car nearby, then they get TONS of yes, and permission, and approval. If you throw your hands up and say "Whatever," that's a disturbing moment of mom seeming not to care instead of mom seeming the provider of an assortment of joyous approvals.
The bold face print in the quote below came from something Danielle Conger wrote. My responses are indented. It's at the link below.

After reading Sandra's words, I realize that my kids come to me, not because I say they have to, but because they use me as a sounding board.

Maybe they're coming to you as a font of "yes!"

That's a cool thing, if every time they want something loving and positive, they run to mom, huh?
Asking permission becomes a way of gauging their own sense of right and wrong because they know that I will explain a no and help them come up with better alternatives.
My big guys still ask little things, like "Can I have this last soda?" What that means is "had you dibsed it?" or "Is this perhaps NOT the last soda, so I'll feel better about taking it?"

If I say "Sure," they're drinking a soda I gave them, and I bet it tastes better than one they snagged knowing they had "the right" to drink it, but they wanted the blessing.

From the linked webpage, (and there's more there):

"Freedom," and unschooling
In December, 2011, a mother whose daughter had been court-ordered to go to school created a facebook page called "The death of an unschooler." I went expecting to hear about someone dying, as Hannah Jenner did of leukemia, or as Sam Wilkinson did of falling through ice into a lake.

No. It was the story of a divorce, and of a judge ordering that the child should go to school, because the father wasn't in favor of unschooling. I objected to the name of the page, there, and the mother responded with these statements, and others.

"Unschooling is freedom."
"I have always told her she does not have to do anything she does not want to do."
The definition of unschooling is not "freedom." No parent has so much power and freedom that she can assure her own child she doesn't have to do anything she doesn't want to do. No parent has the power to choose to do nothing she doesn't want to do and guarantee her own freedom from incarceration.
I think good unschooling needs parents who aren't in jail, and children who aren't removed by the government or ordered into school. And while none of those things are guaranteed, there are many easy steps to take to avoid jail and court orders.

So for purposes of this page and radical unschooling as our family lived it, and as I am familiar with it in very many other families, unschooling involves learning and choices, LOTS of choices, but is not absolute freedom.

I think since the beginning of human existence there has never been anyone with total freedom. Living in a group comes with restraints and restrictions. It's just the way it is. Cave men, Bible days, feudal society, pioneers settling the Wild West... all end up answering to other people about what they're doing, how, where and why. And when. "We're trying to sleep; get QUIET!"

While there is a great deal of rhetoric, slogan, poetry and art about freedom, the author of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" owned slaves.

SO. Unschooling. There are many arbitrary rules, expectations, school-related goals and milestones and competitions and rankings that unschoolers can ignore. A family can choose to be free of those.

There are many cultural expectations and traditions—what food is for breakfast, but never for lunch; what time is too late for a ten year old to be awake; what music is for children and what is for adults—that parents can opt to disregard within their own home and immediate family. They cannot, though, by making those choices, cause anyone OUTside their home to think it's a great idea, nor to impose their new freedoms on friends or more distant relatives. If I let my children stay up late in my home, that doesn't even begin to give them the right to stay up as late as they want in any home on earth.

I think that's where unschoolers get confused. They think they're replacing a set of rules with another set of rules. And partly it might be English. The idea that you can "give someone freedom" can seem whole and absolute to someone else. If my child looks in a happily full fridge and asks "What can I eat?" and I say "You can have anything you want," the context suggests that I mean he can have anything he can find in the house, and perhaps something I could prepare upon request. It doesn't mean I will take him to any restaurant on earth right then and buy him anything. It doesn't mean he can go to the grocery store that's a few hundred yards out the back gate and eat off their shelves.

The foregoing explanation sounds goofy. It seems I'm explaining something that was so absurd that no one could possibly misunderstand it.

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