Miro and I are traveling as a lifestyle choice.
We are also unschooling.
And my role is in both of these scenarios is the parent and the ‘unschooling facilitator’.
I perceive my role as a parent as the greatest honor, entrusted with the most precious gift ever, raising Miro. As an unschooling parent, I take that role seriously, understanding I play an active role in facilitating my son’s learning experiences. And that’s important. And we’ve changed our thinking surrounding education, shifting our paradigm.
However, it’s difficult for me to distinguish where one role stops and another begins. Just as it is impossible for us to define where learning ends and just life begins. Both Miro and I agree wit the idea that we are all ‘life-learners’. Therefore my role as a parent and my role as an unschooling mom overlap, allowing us to approach our lives more holistically. Whew.. add traveling on top of that, and we’ve got a rich life for sure!
Ok, after giving it some thought, I wanted to share with you what I am committed to , what I take on as my role as a life-learning, unschooling, traveling parent:
I allow Miro to discover his own interests without judgement or criticism. I know Miro has a passion for zombies and cryptozology and I encourage those things. Other parents, may not find value in his choices, but I am proud of the discoveries he’s made surrounding these two topics. And the key is not to criticize those interests, but to encourage further exploration to see where those discoveries take him.
I help Miro’s natural curiosity by challenging and asking questions about his topics of interest. When he’s talking about mining in MineCraft, I ask questions about mining ore, smelting natural materials and alchemy. I’ve asked many questions he doesn’t know the answers to, but within the context of his interst, he’s inspired to find the anwers and on many occasions, we look up those answers together.
Through our travels, I’ve reignited my own passion for learning. I have realized I have a deep interest for archeology, cultural anthropology, ancient traditions and beliefs. I have awoken my own passion for learning and I know Miro is influenced through this example.
I have understood what it means to be the facilitator of Miro’s interests. As a parent, I had to be engaged in order to know what materials he may need in order for him to pursue his own interests. For example, Miro knew he loved Mythology, but he had never heard of The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology nor as we were traveling, would he have the ability to find it in a library. But when I presented him with a copy of it (as I arranged for one of our friends to send it from the States), he was so excited. Likewise, when Miro expressed the interest in learning a martial art, I had to find him a teacher. I have become a liaison between Miro’s interests and the outside world.
I encourage Miro to read. (But honestly, he doesn’t need much encouragement, since he loves to read). That is one of the things I am willing to blow our budget on, BOOKS. However, now with the ability to download many books at a time and find lower cost books and ebooks through kindle, we’ve been very lucky and have not ran out of things to read.
Both Miro and I are very social. (Thankfully.) When traveling, we’ve had the opportunity to meet people of all ages, educational backgrounds, social status and economical situations. We’ve met people from indigenous cultures, old women and children from the street. We’ve met travelers, scholars, philosophers, artists, cooks, farmers, drifters, former criminals and garbage collectors. Everyone has a story to tell and there is always something to learn. And we benefit from engaging.
I expose Miro to a broad spectrum of experiences and I try not to shelter him from the realities of the world. (It goes without saying I do not put him in harms way in order to have these experiences.) We’ve traveled through former war zones where the country we are from was responsible for the death of many innocent lives. We have seen prostitution, homeless people and seen children in the street begging for food. We talk about economical disparities throughout the world, poverty, and human rights issues. Miro has got a sense of morality since these things are part of his reality. But it’s not just the perceived negatives either, it’s exposure to all of it. I trust he can handle the realities in front of him and respect that this awareness becomes another learning experience.
I always tell Miro I had a child so I would have someone to play with. We put on silly hats, chase each other around, make crazy sounds, and play. We play, play, play because it makes us both feel good. Who cares that I’m a 45 year old woman and he’s a 13 year old teen? We play legos, play games, play cards and play. This allows us to share precious time together being light, enjoying ourselves, and it reminds us that we can express our playfulness together. (I hope this is a quality he NEVER looses, with or without me.)
And there’s laughter, which goes right along with ‘play’ of course. When Miro was a new born, I made him a promise that we would laugh every day of our lives together. And we do. Humor, jokes, silliness, stories, (and play) are one way we enjoy each other’s company and I’ve noticed, laughing encourages each other’s creativity. Win- win!
I have always encouraged Miro to talk about his feelings from a young age. Now, we talk about each other’s feelings. I share what I am feeling as often as he shares his feelings. We honor all of it, from anger, frustration, to fear and love. It’s all there, and there’s always time to talk about what we are feeling. This openness has given us the foundation to have a safe place to address feelings that are sometimes confusing. Welcome teen-age years. I’m ready for you.
I listen to Miro. He tells me about the games he’s playing, the books he’s reading and other things that come up in his life. I listen. I (try to always) listen actively. I listen to things that at times that have very little interest for me, like details of some of his video games, like how he built his mine cart rail, powered by red-stone in MineCraft. But I listen and try to stay engaged. And when I cannot, I let him know that too. I often ask questions, and try to honor him. (I don’t always succeed, mind you, but I truly try. )
I give Miro choices. I empower him to make choices that guild both of our lives. Big choices. Planning choices. (Not all of the choices though.) Like, shall we go to this town or not? Like, shall we move? I know choices empower him to make choices and I know this fuels initiative in other avenues of his life.
Because I empower Miro to make choices, I must be willing to compromise. I never say “We are doing it this way because I am the parent” or any such nonsense. But I am prepared to compromise what I want, at times because he wants something different. And I insist he does the same in other situations. Through our ability to compromise with each other, we build, earn and give respect to one another. That’s a good life lesson.
I support Miro. I support him when there are things that are difficult, things he is afraid of. I support him in getting him what he needs. I support his decisions, even when I’m not sure it’s the decision I would have made. I support Miro when he is challenged with his own perceived limitations. I support him unconditionally and… (see #15)
Because life learning is experiential, I must give Miro permission to make mistakes. This involves taking risks and through these risks, discovering a thing or two about one’s self. And it’s easier to make a mistake, fall on your face when you know you have support.
I praise Miro for the person he is. I remind him what an incredible human being he has become, and how precious his perspectives are. I praise Miro for being in the present, for being insightful, for being anything else he sets out to be in that moment. But what I try to stay away from is praise based on ‘doing’. In other words, if he completes a book, I don’t say ‘good boy’! But through conversation about the book, I would rather say, “ I am so impressed with your insightfulness about that’s character’s struggles.”
I don’t pressure Miro to do or learn anything. One of the keys to unschooling, I’ve found is empowerment. (see #12) If I empower Miro some of the time and pressure him to learn the other times, it’s not really a clear message, nor does he have real ownership over his learning. So I don’t push, pressure or demand he does anything in terms of learning. It’s his choice, and I support him. (I do insist he showers every now and then and brushes his teeth regularly, but overall, I don’t pressure.) For me, this means, I as the unschooling parent, need to be OK with lazy days too. And I am.
I encourage Miro to have an open mind. With an open mind, there is room for all possibilities. I encourage him to always question everything, always ask ‘why’. Look at the paradigm that we call reality and see if there are alternatives. If we are taught to believe one way, don’t just blindly accept it as the truth. Question it. Look for alternate paradigms of understanding and consider it too. Make room in your understanding for all possibilities Expand your mind, keep it open and always question everything!
I have taught Miro to listen to his intuition and inspiration. Those are two of the things that guide our lives. We talk about how it feels to have in inspirational thought or feeling. Then we go with it. Intuition is the thing that keeps us safe. If we are told by a little voice in our head not to get into a particular taxi, we don’t. We listen to both our intuition and inspiration as part of our daily practice.
I accept and love Miro for who he is.
Lainie and her son Miro are living a location independent lifestyle, slow traveling around the globe and living in the present moment. Lainie writes about staying inspired, participating as a global citizen, volunteering, unschooling & natural learning. Lainie and Miro are both following their interests on the road, as the planet has been transformed into their classroom. Often you will hear Lainie say “we are blessed to be accidental world schoolers” and has become and an advocate for “life learning” at any age. Lainie & Miro have taken this philosophy to heart and are producing a series of family & teen oriented retreats in called Project World School.
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