Name: Lainie, aka "ilainie"
Posts by ilainie:
Archaeology Inspiring Art
Edvard Munch and archaeology aren’t two names you’d normally find side-by-side in an article. Right now, the art world is abuzz combining the two, re-examining the origins of inspiration behind Edvard Munch’s iconic piece ‘The Scream’. Apparently the inspiration leads straight here to Peru, a place Miro and I find highly inspiring. It is believed ‘The Scream’ was inspired by a mummified Chachapoyas warrior, frozen in time with a look of terror.
Writer Arthur Lubow, in an article for the Smithsonian, describes Munch’s iconic piece ‘The Scream’:
“Munch defined how we see our own age — wracked with anxiety and uncertainty. His painting of a sexless, twisted, fetal-faced creature, with mouth and eyes open wide in a shriek of horror, re-created a vision that had seized him as he walked one evening in his youth with two friends at sunset.”
Is is possible ‘The Scream’ is indeed inspired by Peru’s archeology?
In college, I studied the art of many contemporary masters including the works of Picasso, Munch, Kandinsky, Klee and of course Miro. Many artists drew inspiration from the naïve art of the past including African sculptures, native textiles, and indigenous ceramics to create many of the world’s top modern sculptures and paintings known today. But I had never read of any significant works being directly influenced through archeology. Once again, I am reminded how the world isn’t broken into subjects and through exposure to the richness of life, inspiration can come from anywhere.
One of the reasons I’m such a supporter of natural learning (unschooling or worldschooling) through travel, is the opportunity to be exposed to a variety of stimulations including environmental, cultural and traditional nuances that become life-long inspirations. You just never know what will inspire. Who would of thought that an ancient Peruvian warrior would become the inspiration for a popular seminal art piece?
A Popular Mummy
‘The Scream’ is now one of the most reproduced and most iconic pieces of art in the world, and art historians believe it was based on the mummy of this warrior which was discovered 130 years ago. The mummy was found near the Utcubamba River and then taken to Paris where it was displayed at the Ethnographic Exchange Museum in a popular exhibit.
Wayne V. Anderson, a renowned art historian, declared that the mummy had inspired the French Post-Impressionist artist Paul Gauguin, which was later confirmed by Stefan Ziemendorff, an investigator who discovered a number of sketches of the mummy. Robert Rosenblum, also a respected art historian, then suggested that Munch’s famous artwork was also inspired by the mummy.
So there you have it.
Edvard Munch was born in Norway in December 1863 and was the son of a doctor who served in the military. He is known for his disturbing Expressionist paintings, and an artist who incorporates bold colors and brush strokes into his work. Munch revealed that the inspiration behind ‘The Scream’ was based on a past event in his life when he was walking with friends. The piece of art is based on the anxiety he felt this day when he saw that the sky had become engulfed in fiery red flames, which triggered feelings of panic and despair in him. Astronomers now believe that the red sky was the result of a volcanic eruption on the other side of the world. Debris thrown into the atmosphere from an eruption in Indonesia caused the sky to turn angry and red throughout Europe in late 1883 and early 1884.
It is now believed that Munch was inspired by a mummy that he had seen at an exhibition in Paris. The artist used the mummy as a way to recreate the feelings of fear and dread that he felt when the sky turned red. Since his death, ‘The Scream’ has become one of the most famous paintings in art history, and one that still triggers debate today. This piece of art has also influenced Western popular culture, most notably in the movie Scream, where the mask of the killer is based on the frightening image in Munch’s work. Other works painted by Munch include ‘The Dead Mother’, ‘The Dance of Life’, ‘Self-portrait with Burning Cigarette’, and ‘Ashes’. ‘The Scream’ was on display at the New Year Museum of Modern Art until April 2013.
Chachapoyas in located in Peru, near the Amazon river, and is famous for its ruins of the Kuelap Fortress and several mummies of powerful warriors. Miro and I have not visited the site yet, but it’s on our must-see list for 2014. Now, we have another reason to visit the Chachapoyas region, to see one of the warriors that is now thought to be the inspiration behind ‘The Scream’, the painting that continues to fascinate and frighten people from all over the world.
Something wasn’t right.
My normally close teenage son was checking out, snapping at me, being unhelpful and bordering on being a little “mean”. Miro was clearly agitated and despondent, a state I was not accustomed to witnessing. But I recognized that his frustration and behavior were certainly a symptom of something else. But first, we had to get there, through the behavior to uncover what was really going on. Clearly it was my job not to fall into reaction mode in response to his behavior, or nothing would ever be resolved.
For the first few days, I managed to stay accepting, calm and loving, biting my lip, trying not respond to his nastiness. But as some point, I failed, I reacted in response to his mood questioning “what the hell was wrong is wrong with you?” As soon as I lost my composure, I knew that we couldn’t wait any longer to address what was really going on.
That evening, Miro and I talked about his recent the behavior. Miro was remorseful about the way he had been acting towards me and luckily didn’t take a defensive stance. For that I was grateful. Throughout Miro’s life, we have been practicing non-violent communication and had learned about what triggers both of us throughout the years.
During our conversation, Miro and I both agreed that the “behavior” wasn’t really the problem, rather the result of something else, a symptom of what was really bothering him. Together we sat, both filled with emotions and I listened, held space for him to explore the things he was feeling deep down inside.
At 14 years old, I recognized Miro’s body, blooming, filled with all sorts of conflicting emotions, even hormones running amok. I assured Miro that I honored and recognized all he was going through. I listened with compassion and recalled how difficult my teen years were for me too.
Miro spoke his truth. He said was unhappy, feeling depressed, feeling alone and isolated.
With tears flowing from my eyes, I listened. He talked. Together we talked for hours.
After our conversation, I wondered if this lifestyle was the cause of his feeling of isolation. I wondered if I was responsible. I wonder if we had chosen a difference path if he would be experiencing this.
Our lifestyle isn’t easy. It certainly isn’t not easy being an outsider in a foreign country. Nor is it easy being a teenager. All I could do is sit with him and allow him the space to feel what he was feeling and let him know it was very real. It was not my place in that moment to solve the problem but I assured him that together we seek out a solution over the coming days.
Feeling what we are feeling should not involve shame under any circumstance. I know this intellectually. But emotionally I still fight my own demons surrounding loneliness. I feel shame when I admit I am not that strong super-woman I try to live up to and I do want to find a partner to ride this wave with us. Knowing how intense feelings of loneliness can be, I have assured Miro he is not alone. I get it. I really do.
He is the person I want to protect. He is the person I want to experience and share the world with. He is the person I am trying to build a future with (and for). He is the person I desire the greatest things for. And as you can imagine, my heart breaks as he goes through his struggles and feels his own loneliness.
And yes I realize, that experiencing intense feelings are an important part of Miro’s own personal development. But still, it’s not easy.
When we lived in the States, Miro didn’t really have a huge network of friends before we left either. To be fair, he was 10 when we left. But even then, Miro’s greatest complaint was that he felt so different than most of the other kids his age. I think of the connections he has made through his lifetime and realized he always made friends easier with older kids. (I too, was the same growing up. ) Through our travels, most of the schooled children in a variety of different countries do seem to have a “different state of mind” than him. He had a group of friends in Mancora, in the north of Peru, which prompted him to write this post called Why I dislike Children. Among other reasons, Miro finds the schooled children he came across to be less creative, less interested in intellectual explorations, and less articulate about their personal interests. Miro wrote this article called My First Conference Rocks in which he explains “finding his tribe”.
But still, I wonder, has our lifestyle, my support in Miro’s unschooling journey helped lead to further isolation?
The next day, Miro and I talked about finding some solutions together.
One of the ideas that came, perhaps spend a couple of months with his father in Ohio? We thought, maybe that would provide the opportunity for Miro to connect with others his age. Miro said he was willing to try, so I contacted Miro’s father. But a week after putting the idea out to his dad, I still have not received a response one way or another. I am Miro’s custodial parent. Unfortunately, I do not receive support from Miro’s father either, neither on a financial nor on an emotional level. That being our reality, we need to work this out on our own.
Miro and I talked about hypothetically moving to the States. (A possibility, I am not fond of.) We recognized that if we were to take on that option, we would still have the challenge of connecting with other home schoolers or unschoolers to create community. We certainly would be closer to other potential “communities” but then there would still be the challenge of making friends.
But it’s the US…
Then my blunt question to Miro, “do you want to return to the United States and go back living a conventional life?”
His answer, a clear emphatic, “No.”
Miro does not want to go back to the US to live. He’s clear about that. Equally, Miro does not want to go to conventional school. He’s clear about that too, as he says over and over that he loves unschooling. And he assures me, he likes the freedom of traveling.
Next, I suggested to Miro that we reach out to our community, online. I am a member of many homeschooling and unschooling groups on both facebook and yahoo groups. I am also the member of many other groups that support families who travel. I figured if they all had children there would likely be some that were at home too, maybe even some around Miro’s age. Perhaps some of them might even be interested in some of the same things as Miro is. Maybe some might be willing to connect online as well. At least it’s something.
And so I put the message out there. Again, I had to remind Miro (and myself) that there is no shame to share our desires as part of the human race. There is no shame in wanting connection. There is no shame in saying we desire “community” either. There is no shame to seek support in order to learn and be supported. There is no shame in asking for help.
So we asked.
The community response was amazing. Miro added about 8 new friends on facebook. Although he’s a little shy, he hopes to connect and create a circle of friends across the world. I hope he finds some connections this way. For now.
Being a single mom is not easy. Choosing our lifestyle is not an easy path. And if we hadn’t chosen this lifestyle, I would almost guarantee we would have a different set of problems, no better, no worse than the ones we have now. The beauty about our lifestyle is the ability to choose what we want to experience every day. We have the freedom to choose something else if it is not working.
“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”
So we are looking at lots of different possibilities now, open to where the world will lead us. We both love traveling and are feeling the itch to explore some more, new and exotic places. But we also are committed to stay here in Peru for another 6 or 7 months. Together, we are producing a project we both believe in so deeply, called, Project World School Peru. It is no coincidence really this project is about the very thing we are both struggling with right now: community. The project focuses on having learning experiences together and building relationships as an integral part of the process.
So for the next half year or so, we focus on building our vision and fulfilling our dream. Hopefully our passion can keep us fueled during the next few months and we both can find our way to combat loneliness while we explore options for the future.
On November 22, Miro and I gave a presentation at the Global Education Conference. It was a virtual conference, hosting speakers and participants from around the world. The conference was geared towards to global educators so in essence we were speaking with an audience of teachers. We were so honored to be selected to participate in this conference as we believe global education is so important..
Miro and I shared the vision for Project WorldSchool Peru (formerly Project “Unschool” Peru) and shared some our discoveries from our pilot program.
Below, you will find the video presentation of the talk Miro and I gave. The presentations starts at: 4:55 and runs through 26:38. The Questions and Answers portion runs through 26:40 to 43:00
Title: Global Education: Travel as an alternative form of education- Forming communities and intentional learning.
Lainie: We are really excited to be here with you tonight at the Global Education Conference. I’ve sat in on many sessions and am so inspired by the wealth of creativity and ideas to help promote a global state of learning. Hi, I’m Lainie.
Miro: And I’m Miro. Thank you for joining us. Our session is called “Travel as an alternative form of education- Forming communities and intentional learning.” We are aware, most of you are educators, working directly with students. We are coming to you from a different perspective in hopes that we may inspire you in your classrooms across the globe. My mom and I will will speak for about 30 minutes, then open up the session for Q & A as our hope is that we can inspire you in some way. We will share links to our global education project at the end of this presentation and invite your comments and feedback. Also, if you happen to be watching this as a recorded version, feel free to contact us via our site, if you have questions.
Lainie: We are not educators but we do have experience with Global Education as we’ve been inspired to produce an international-temporary learning community project here in Cusco Peru, where we currently live. Today we are going to share with you some of our discoveries from hosting this learning experiment, in hopes that some how you and translate some of our findings into your classroom.
Miro: Since this conference is focusing on global education and all that surrounds it, we felt sharing a real-life instance of Global Education would be beneficial to you as educators. As most of the talks we’ve listened to so far are seeking a way to bridge the gap between geographical limitations between classrooms in order to provide a global conversation. But for us, we are living a global education through complete immersion.
Lainie: Before we get to our presentation, we wanted to share a little about us first. We are a mother and son who sought out a different way of living our lives. We are worldschoolers. Over the past 4 and half years, my son and I have been traveling through Central and South America and made some brilliant discoveries in regards to our commitment to learning. We stumbled upon a lifestyle in which we discovered we were learning effortlessly, completely engaged in our lives and having a lot of fun doing so.
Miro: My mom and I left the US in July of 2009. I was 10 when we left, and we thought we were leaving for one year of traveling. As we start on our fifth year on the road, we’ve discovered so much about the power of travel as it relates to learning.
Lainie: When we left the States, I had no idea we’d still be traveling today. Somehow I believed that traveling for one year would be a sufficient education for my son, so I didn’t think about curriculum, to supplement his learning, as I knew intuitively he’d get a lot out of the travel experience.
Miro went to a public school up until the fourth grade. I’ve always been a single parent, I ran my own branding agency for many years and had never even considered anything outside the conventional education path for my son. But now, we’ve been on the road for over four and a half years and many things about learning as a global citizenship has unfolded for us. Our learning style is labeled as “unschooling ” or “natural learning” but that will not be the subject of today’s talk. However, it’s important to note, and it’s through our global learning experience that has transported us here.
Miro: When we got to Peru we were stunned with how much we were learning. We were learning about cultural practices, history, archeology, agriculture, music, art, language, mysticism, politics, economics and so much more. But most of all, we were connecting those lessons to our own lives, our own experiences, as a way to expand our relationship to the world. That is the ultimate purpose of global education or global citizen centric thinking.
Lainie: Besides the new “content’ we were putting into our knowledge base, we were exercising critical thinking skills, practicing empathy, listening and exploring, and connecting with people in a way we had never done so before in our lives. We were learning through full immersion and we were doing so effortlessly.
Miro: The first time my mom and I visited the Sacred Valley here in Peru, I looked at her and said, we should bring a group of unschoolers here to learn the way were learning. And so our vision for Project Worldschool Peru was born.
Lainie: We realize that the majority of you here are formal educators, and our approach to learning is contrary to most of your professional approaches, but we hope that through our explorations, that you can find some take-away value. Let’s face it, we are all committed to providing optimal learning experiences as the bottom line and we all agree there are tremendous benefits to adapting a global learning perspective, or we wouldn’t be here. As we said, we are not experts in anything other than our own experiences, and what we are sharing with you are our personal discoveries in regards to our commitment to “learning”.
I have been writing about natural learning on our blog and have shared with and inspired many many families along the way. In many respects, we’ve become a vocal advocate for “world-schooling” and in many respects we are all concerned about the same thing, connecting globally through education. Today I’m really addressing learning versus teaching, so we are coming at it from the other end. Since I am not a formal educator, I look at my role as facilitator within the learning process. We apply that to our form of “world-schooling” which is the foundation of our project.
Here are the 3 principles of world-schooling adapted from a natural learning or the unschooling perspective.
Miro: 1. Learning happens naturally.
A learner absorbs, learns without effort when supported and encouraged. Interests lead the initial pursuit but many new avenues can flow from there.
2. The world teaches, based on stimulus, and environmental inspiration.
Lainie: The world becomes the classroom, and can’t help but to teach us. To the degree a person is engaged in the world around them, they are matched with equal learning opportunities.
Miro: 3. Community is vital to learning.
Community provides the support needed to profound learning though feedback loops, expansion of ideas and safe investigation. What makes travel so different than a formal educational setting where learning is passive, travel immersion is participatory by nature. When a group of two or more are having the same experience, it invites the opportunity to process the experiences through conversation, which reinforces a deeper learning. Some formal education removes the experiential element from the learning process. Travel adds it back.
Lainie: With those three elements in mind, we designed an interactive learning experience that would create community.
Miro: Based on these aspects of learning, our desire was to create a project here in Peru, where people from other countries can learn from the endless inspiration we felt here. Here’s what we came up with:
Lainie: We co-created a temporary learning community in Peru’s Sacred Valley, inviting dynamic home-schoolers from around the world to participate. Our pilot program only involved around 10 people for just under 5 weeks. For the next “retreat” we hope to build a temporary learning community of at least 30 participants for 2014.
Miro: Remember we said the world teaches?
We utilized the region’s inherent offerings, investigating history, archeology, permaculture and the arts to start the conversation. Then from there, we encouraged our individual interests to direct deeper investigations.
Lainie: My role was that as a facilitator, versus a teacher. I’m going to share what that means a little later in this presentation. But in essence, as a facilitator, I encouraged the participants to reflect on our similarities and diversities and develop new connections to each other, thus forming a stronger community. Through culture, mysticism, science and traditions we discovered our individual and collective relationship to humanity.
This is the philosophy in which the learning community was created and agreed up by all participants:
Miro: We hold the vision sacred to co-create a “Learning Community” through the participation of all attendees, of every age, nationality, role, and walk of life during this “retreat”. The main philosophy is to engage a collective learning experience allowing inspiration to flow through unlimited natural learning channels. The environment and community encourages new grounds to explore, stretching our comfort zones, and exploring new interests. We support and are supported, with a commitment to dignity and respect. In the broader picture, we are excited to witness uncharted dynamic learning experiences that will help to expand our individual and group identities within a cultural context, serving to empower our own creative human spirit. The goal is to engage with each participant through multidisciplinary reflection, dialogue, vision-building, experimentation and exploration.
Lainie: Probably one of the main differences between this learning community experience and a traditional classroom setting is that all the students or learners were there voluntarily based on their desire to participate. This assured the complete buy-in from the get go, an obstacle we did not have to overcome. I’m sure there are many creative educators out there can achieve this in a formal setting, however.
Next we define what a temporary Learning Community is:
Miro: “A learning community is a group of people who share common emotions, values or beliefs, who are actively engaged in learning together, from each other, and by habituation. Such communities have become the template for a cohort-based, interdisciplinary approach to higher education. This may be based on an advanced kind of educational or ‘pedagogical’ design.
Community psychologists such as McMillan and Chavis state that there are four key factors that defined a sense of community: “(1)membership, (2) influence, (3) fulfillment of individuals needs and (4) shared events and emotional connections. So, the participants of learning community must feel some sense of loyalty and belonging to the group (membership) that drive their desire to keep working and helping others, also the things that the participants do must affect what happens in the community, that means, an active and not just a reactive performance (influence). Besides a learning community must give the chance to the participants to meet particular needs (fulfillment) by expressing personal opinions, asking for help or specific information and share stories of events with particular issue including (emotional connections) emotional experiences.”
Lainie: So, in order to create a learning community, we had to consider the aspects that had to be in place in order to nurture natural learning. For me, this was an investigation, since again, I’m not a formal educator. Here’s what we discovered:
- Learning happens based on needs determined through personal goals and personal accountability
- Learning is developmentally appropriate to the individual
- Learning becomes a memory that charged through emotional experience
- Learning is effected by the learners’ emotional intelligence
- Learning is supported by the learner’s support systems ( parents, family and community, past, present and future)
- Learners excel individually to different learning styles (tactile, experiential, passive and active)
- Learning is powered through personal motivation and personal empowerment
- Interest drives learning
- Environment inspires learning
Miro: Next we wanted to share with you some of the factors we noticed that contributed to the project’s success. Hopefully as educators you’ll find a way to adapt these to your classrooms:
- Buy-in / commitment
- Full cultural immersion
- Contextual learning (effortless learning)
- Exploring POV’s
- Problem definition
- Creative problem solving
= Global Learning
Lainie: Stakeholders For this project, we identified 4 main stakeholders, all whom had needs which needed to be managed.
1. Students / Learners
First, consideration were meeting the needs of the learners . Because there was complete-buy-in before the retreat, they were there by choice, even in some cases had to raise the money to be there, we did not need to overcome the participation aspects, But we did work together with each participant to define their expectations before the retreat. In addition, we held each learner responsible for leading a session or two based on their individual interests.
Miro: 2. Parents
Parents also had a set of expectations which we had to meet. Most of those needs evolved around the safety of their children, which is understandable.
We were guests in a host country. The key was respect, empathy and compassion. We interacted with local musicians, farmers, shamans and mystics, families, artisans and drivers and cooks. Everyone presented a learning opportunity. Everyone had value to offer.
Lainie: 4. Facilitators
The team involved in facilitating the retreat were not teachers, rather they were there to share their knowledge. We did have those who were experts in their field share their knowledge like yoga instructors, hiking guides and improv teachers. As a team we all agreed to take on the attitude that we were sharing some skill with the group, rather than teaching, which shifted the energy to a more equal community-like feeling.
We want to talk about the facilitators for a moment. It is clearly a different role than that of a teacher.
Facilitator role includes;
- ask questions that promote out of the box thinking
- maintaining the community vibe
- offering support
- take cues from the learners to suggest secondary interests
- provide suggestions for resources or other avenues of explorations
- offer support and encouragement
- facilitate problem solving among members, (but not solving problems)
We were conscious that each of these stakeholders need’s were met, at all times.
How we structured the retreat: We broke the weeks down by theme. Unique to Peru’s Sacred Valley, we were able to engage the local community for most of these activities.
- ethnobotany -sacred plants / plant medicine
- permaculture & agriculture (organic farming)
- artisan workshops– weaving, ceramics, jewelery
- humanity & consciousness
- archeology & anthropology
- UFOs / aliens
- Andean mysticism
- Machu Picchu
Lainie: Most days we divided the activities into 3 sessions.
- group meditation
- morning hikes
- short discussion group
- participant led sessions
Day Sessions: Normally started after breakfast: workshop, day hike, visit to ruins or other activity. The Day session usually lasted between 5-6 hours.
Evening Sessions: Every day, just after dinner, we come together for the day’s decompression. We’ll discuss any business from that day and make announcements about the following day’s sessions as well as open up a time for sharing and feedback. Then we’ll break out into the evening’s activities, depending on who signed up to run the evening’s session. Here’s some options:
- brainstorming sessions
- discussion groups
- participant led sessions
Miro: So we just shared the basic content that we explored during the retreat, but we noticed there were incredible interpersonal skills being exercised too, like:
- Tolerance & acceptance
- Practice patience
- Contributing to group efforts
- Becoming adaptable
- Real world problem solving
- Negotiate group dynamics
Lainie: So that is our version of Global Education. Our vision for the next retreat is to build a temporary learning community for up to 30 learners at a time. Eventually we’d like to develop these temporary learning communities throughout the world, but we are standing at the dawn of this vision.
The last thing we want to do is leave you with some images hopefully to inspire you.
Thank you for spending this time with us. We hope you’ve enjoyed our presentation. We’ve added our links to the end of this slide show and we invite you to visit us at our web sites anytime. We’d like to open up the forum now for questions. Feel free to type them in the chat box, of if you prefer to ask us a question via microphone, let us know that too and we’ll open up the mic for you. Thank you again, for joining us here today!
Global Education Conference:http://www.globaleducationconference.com
Project WorldSchoolPeru: http://projectworldschoolperu.com
There will always be critics.
I have read many accounts of unschooling parents being accused of being lazy. Even neglectful.
But is it true?
It is hard not to generalize, but I can understand from the outside how this might be a standard perception about unschooling parents. After all, we don’t teach our children lessons, follow a curriculum or demand testing.
We must be lazy, right?
Many critics believe that unschooling parents are actually usurping their roles as parents all together, as many conclude that unschooling is a form of “unparenting”. (I actually wrote a post called unschooling is not unparenting if you wish to pursue that thought. But this post is really addressing the relationship between unschooling and laziness. )
I have read the comments by critics on multiple posts about the unschooling lifestyle, more times than I care to admit. Fortunately, I’ve never been accused of being lazy or neglectful to my face… but still I wonder…
I have witnessed so many false assumptions surrounding “unschooling” and have overcome some of my own old beliefs surrounding “being lazy”, I thought it might be beneficial to explore the links between the two concepts in this article. Although I have no particular credentials within the field of “education”, I speak from the heart, as a parent living an unschooling lifestyle and do not speak for the unschooling community as a whole. I respectfully offer my perceptions and experiences as I write this post as I was inspired to do so.
Let’s first define a few labels.
As many are aware, the term “unschooling” is coined by the late public school educator John Holt in the 1970s. Unschooling is often considered a subset of homeschooling. However, unschoolers are philosophically different than traditional homeschoolers who advocate some form of conventional schooling in the home.
Unschooling adapts the philosophy that every child learns naturally. And when the child is empowered to make their own choices they will “learn” as a result.
Miro and I identify with the label of “unschoolers” as our defined approach to education. On many levels, we also identify with the sub-group of unschoolers called “radical unschooling”. By definition radically unschooling became a subset of “unschooling” in the 1990s whose philosophy brings the empowerment and freedom of choice into other aspects of the learner’s lives. For example, I don’t impose rules about bedtime, food choices, study or other personal choices upon Miro. Instead I empower him to make his own decisions and support them and help him understand the consequences of his decisions.
As I mentioned, there is much controversy over this approach as many assume that a child or teen will make the absolute worst choice for themselves. Obviously, I disagree with that belief. After four and half years using the “radical unschooling” approach, I’ve seen no evidence that Miro will make significantly bad choices for himself. Instead, he’s always thorough with his investigations into the consequences, thoughtful and reflective.
But again, I can only share what works for us.
I often use the terms “unschooling”, “radical unschooling”, “natural learning”, “autodidact” and “interest-led” education. But I also use the term “world-schooling” to describe our commitment to Miro’s education.
Whatever term a person uses, the main point is our commitment to “learning” and in our case, learning without school. We are clear, our journey is focused on the “learning” aspects and we’ve discovered that “learning” is distinctly different than “education”.
Yep, we do that.
And that has become our focus on our journey.
There’s a brilliant article discussing the foundations of learning, including the nine principles that guide what they call “optimal learning”, all points of which I adamantly agree:
1. There are needs which motivate and affect learning.
2. Optimal learning is developmentally appropriate.
3. Memory affects learning.
4. Emotional intelligence affects learning.
5. Parenting style affects learning.
6. Learning style affects learning.
7. Motivation affects learning.
8. Interest should drive curriculum.
9. Environment affects learning.
(For more, visit the article here. )
We are integrating all of the aspects above into our learning experience. Unschooling has given us the freedom to do that. But for those that are not involved in this style of learning, one needs to look closely to see it, since unschooling removes the testing, scoring and evaluating aspect from “education” which really has nothing to do with the concept of learning.
But what about being lazy?
I’m getting to that….
For those that are new to the concept of living without school, we really have to focus on the overall goal.
It’s all about “learning”.
In general, we have so many core beliefs that hold our old paradigms in place. For example, the baseline belief that: 1.) a person must be taught in order to learn, 2.) a person must attend school in order to get an education and 3.) a person must be tested in order to prove they learning something, are all baseline beliefs that hold the conventional “education” paradigm firmly in place.
If one believes in the educational paradigm as described above, the logical person must draw the conclusion that the “unschooling” approach to education appears to be inactive (in the absence of schedules, curriculum and tests), therefore unschooling must be passive and by that definition is lazy.
There, we finally got to that word, “lazy”.
Now, let us dig right in here….
When people first learn that Miro does not go to school we usually are bombarded with questions. For those new to unschooling and do not have any hands-on experience with it, they immediately draw the conclusion that unschooling is lazy because it appears to be an inactive, passive form of education.
It is logical, and I get it. After all, with the foundation of the baseline beliefs as stated above, it would be natural to think that no school, no rules, no curriculum, the unschooler parent must be a lazy parent.
But let me assure you, the unschooling parent is hyper-engaged in their child’s life. They have to be. Anyone who chooses to educate their child at home, could NOT be lazy since it requires the parent to be engaged with their child, on a full-time basis.
Within the unschooling paradigm, the parent’s role is that of a facilitator. It means sharing an interest in their child’s interest, listening for cues, making suggestions on the fly and being present with interest, and encouragement. In other words, acute attention to our children as unschooling facilitators requires a great deal of energy. And this, my friend, is not for the lazy person. (One could argue that sending children to an institution for 8 hours a day is the “lazier” approach, but I won’t go there….)
But there is something deeper I wanted to explore here.
Laziness in our culture is viewed as a negative trait.
Let’s look at this a little closer. As we were talking about baseline beliefs above about education (IE: 1. a person must be taught in order to learn , 2. a person must attend school in order to get an education and 3. a person must be tested in order to prove they learning something) there are cultural beliefs about the concept of laziness too. In fact, let’s look at this belief and ask yourself if you recognize it: “laziness is bad, productivity is good”. We don’t really think about that. We generally just accept it. If that is one of our baseline beliefs, then it must mean that laziness is the enemy of the “American Dream”.
Let’s face it the American Dream is based on a paradigm that includes that baseline belief that laziness is bad and productivity is good”. If we didn’t believe that, the American Dream would not work. But if our culture didn’t have the baseline belief “laziness is bad and productivity is good” we could freely talk about how opportunities are different for different Americans and how they result in social and economic inequalities. But that exploration will be for a future post…
Back to unschooling and learning…. I can understand why the idea of an alternate approach to educational might be challenging to many people who have not challenged the baseline belief about laziness and productivity. It is really a charged issue. I suspect it’s easier to deal with the concept of unschooling, a person new to the idea who is still believing that “laziness is bad and productivity is good” simply won’t be able to see the merits of learning in an unconventional manner.
“I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”
I too grew up believing “laziness is bad and productivity is good”.
One of the things I had to do was learn to be lazy. Not sure if that’s a bi-product of the freedom found with unschooling. Or maybe it was our new traveling lifestyle or not working full-time for the first time in my adult life. But whatever the reason, laziness was a state of being I was not comfortable with prior to this journey (insert baseline belief here). However at first in our travels, learning how to be comfortable with being lazy was a challenge for me.
We have visit these places, go to these attractions, travel to this many countries, always be on the go…… so happy those days are over….
Then, suddenly, I experienced the value of down time (also known as being lazy and doing absolutely nothing). I discovered the value of doing this during travel. I discovered the value of combining this with learning. Being lazy actually allowed the “learning”, experiences, new stimulus time to become integrated and processed into my mind.
Only then could I look at my baseline beliefs about “lazy people” I wondered why “performing” “achieving” or “producing” was the only thing I had once valued? I remembered that long ago, my mother taught me that valuable people are productive people.
I have personally learned so much through being an unschooling-traveling parent. I have been challenging all the base-line beliefs that are constantly running in the background for me and I have the power to decide, no longer ring true in my life.
Now, I can proudly say, my son & I are (sometimes) joyfully lazy.
And that is perfectly fine with us.
Miro and I receive a constant stream of questions from our readers, and more than half of them are directed at Miro. We talk about many things on this blog, from long-term family travel, archeology, Peru, inspiration, how we make a living and of course, natural learning (unschooling). The majority of the questions aimed at Miro are in refernce to his education. So along those lines, we decided to create a feature called “Ask a Traveling Teen Unschooler”.
I know the label “unschooling” is off-putting for many, but there really isn’t one word that describes our approach to education. We do employ the values of unschooling, which included self-guided-interest-led learning pursuits, but I have to add, Miro’s education includes another level than just that.
Travel is unique for anyone, and especially the natural learner. Even when the learner’s interests do not guide the learning, by virtue of providing new stimulus in terms of geography, culture, traditions and customs, one “learns” through engagement.
So, as I said above, we decided to launch a feature this month, called “Ask a Traveling Teen Unschooler”.
Do you have questions specifically about natural leaning through travel as a legitimate form of education? He invites you to submit your questions. Please either leave your questions in the comments box of this post, or sent them to us directly at hello [at] raisingmiro.com
“The only time my education was interrupted was when I was in school.”
~George Bernard Shaw
I am a product of the public school system in the United States. I attended public school from 1971 to 1983. (Yep, I’m that old.)
But with the many passed years and being a parent to a school age child myself has given me the opportunity to take a deeper look at my relationship to learning.
According to wikipedia, learning is defined as acquiring new, or modifying and reinforcing, existing knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preferences and may involve synthesizing different types of information. But what I find discerning about this definition is that “engagement” has been removed from the learning equation. (Come to think of is, so has “interests” and “empowerment” which I’ve come to learn through the unschooling process is vital to learning.)
Acquiring knowledge seems to be the priority within the traditional school system. According to my memory, the content itself was the focus rather than the exchange of energy that is defined as engagement. The content was valued at all costs even if it turned off children from authentically being engaged with learning. Today I think it might even be worse with the current regulations on curriculum and the failing governmental program called No Child Left Behind. It seems now, many view the public schools as a form of prison.
Digging a deeper into my own past, I take a look at how “learning”and “content” were imposed on my life, masked as something called “education”.
I recall learning about the Constitution of the United States when I was Miro’s age. I even memorized the Preamble(much of which I can still site to this day). But it was a “forced learning” and in all honesty, I learned the lesson that learning was a chore and it impeded on my personal freedoms. (Ironic, huh?) Most of the information I learned in elementary school is long forgotten or at least locked away in a stored vault in dusty corner of my neural network.
I also remembered being in a science class as a young teen and being forced to dissect a frog’s tiny body. I identify more now with the cliché of that lesson but cannot recall a single thing I was supposed to have learned other than my utter dislike for being forced to do something that revolted me.
Elementary, junior high and high school were equally a bore to me. And once I figured out I had the gift of short term photographic memorization, I breezed through without much effort. I skipped many classes, zoned out, drew, read books (even smoked pot). But I performed well when I needed to, only required reading the material the night before the test to ace the questions with the correct answers. Then, magically the information faded to black, dissolving into tiny particles never to be though of again.
I realize now, the information that was being spoon fed to me as a child, forced into the spaces in my mind, preoccupying my consciousness was not my choice. Some of the information now I learn was simply false, in terms of history, science, etc, designed possibly to keep me complacent. That content was programmed for me, for a generation and in my best estimate, this practice is still in effect today through our mandated curriculum. I suppose whether that content was meaningful to shaping me into the person I became is unknown. But the dictating what topics were placed into my mind did prompt me into into a rebellious, non-conformist and open minded adult I find myself today.
And “conversation” and “engagement”?
In my public school experience more resembled rote learning versus critical thinking of any type. There were those who excelled in this system, even identified or loved the academic topics and performed well.
Performing well in school though is not really learning in my experience.
With my own son, we talk daily about intellectual topics that interest both us. For example, we have been exploring the history surrounding the plagues of the world. Our conversations last for hours and both of us end up learning more than we knew going into the conversation.
I am convinced that true engagement surrounding a topic is one of the most basic elements of learning.
In the case of history surrounding the plagues of the world, our conversation was spawned from a video on youtube Miro watched by Vsauce.
The video explored the role Cordyceps played in spreading many of the plagues,which flowed into a discussion about the Black Death (bubonic plague). Coincidently, I had just read an article that morning addressing the possibility that bacteria and microbes enter the earths’ atmosphere via meteorites including the possible birth of the Black Death. Two points of view on the same topic. The conversation was centered around our interests and through an truly engaged exchange, we both left the conversation with a deeper sense of learning.
Did either of us study the topic because it was forced through a lesson?
I truly think there are different styles of learning. I’ve never learned a thing by opening up a book to read chapters 6-8 . (However I aced the tests the next morning by doing just that.) For me, if I have no interest in the topic, I will not learn. I will not retain. I will not engage. Additionally, the “open the book” assignment offers a forced passive learning experience which taught me to resist that kind of learning. However when I opened a book because it was on something I was interested in, the learning flowed naturally and gracefully as I recall reading many books on the life and art of Joan Miro when I was a child.
But my son Miro is learning very differently and I recognize that. He doesn’t have that built up resistance to learning itself that I had for many of my childhood, teen and adult years. Miro’s relationship to learning is fluid and learning through inspiration sparked from experiences in the world is a unique gift.
Walking down this path with Miro has taught me too, to once again to engage and love the flow of learning.