Monday, May 25, 2009

I've been reading Guerrilla Learning: How To Give Your Kids A Real Education With or Without School by Grace Llewellyn and Amy Silver (authors of The Teenage Liberation Handbook). I think this is perhaps the best book I've read in regard to unschooling despite the fact that it isn't really an unschooling book. The target audience is parents whose kids are still in school and will most likely remain in school. The authors are trying to help those families understand that school is a resource for learning, not the whole of learning as our society would have us believe. The ideas suggested to parents to extend learning beyond the classroom and into the world are captivating as well as clarifying for me.

The topic of freedom has appealed to me most because as a new unschooler this has been the most difficult thing for me to balance. I want my kids to have the freedom to be themselves but as members of a family and citizens of the world they also have responsibilities that can't be ignored simply because they aren't fun. Yet everytime I intterupt them to clean their room or help with the dishes while they are engrossed in an activity I feel guilty; as if this interupption is going to inhibit them somehow and I am interfering with the natural flow of their day. On the other hand if I let them continue indefinately with their own pursuits I feel reduced to the status of the maid and become resentful and impatient. I knew there must be balance to this issue but it was somehow eluding me. And then on page 131 of Guerrilla Learning I found the answer.

The authors describe freedom in the following way:
(italics are the authors, bold is mine)

Freedom is not the same as mere liberty to follow our desires and impulses. The person who automatically follows every impusle is not free at all but is a slave of desire. Freedom, as some philosophers have described it, is essentially the freedom to commit oneself, and that's what interests us: the freedom to choose and to commit... [T]he freedom to do and be what we can be, more so than the freedom from rules and limits.

The others go on to describe the role of parent as "choice coach" and discuss the importance of helping children understand that "[F]reedom is not inconsistent with obligation." In other words we all have things we must do and have little choice without serious consequences (paying the electric bill for example; if we choose not to do this we choose to have no lights, computer, tv, etc.) Furthermore when we do have a choice we still have consequences; if I choose to learn a new language then the consequence will be the time, effort and money needed to truly learn this; and this will result in less time, effort and money available for other things that I may also feel are important but not quite as important right now as this goal.

This new perspective gives me pause, helps me see some areas I have gotten it right with my kids and other areas I really need to reevaluate. The fact that I'm still learning to be their mom after all this time is a true testement to the power of learning independently when things are important to us.


Mary Alice said...

I'm 'following you' in more ways than one, Hope. I really admire how you think and how you parent.

sunnymama said...

This is really interesting. I've seen this book on Amazon and had thought it wouldn't be relevant as we are unschooling already, but it does sound as if their are some interesting perspectives discussed. Maybe I should add this to my wishlist after all :)

Hope said...

Mary Alice, I take that as high praise coming from you, someone I've admired from the moment we met.

Hope said...

sunnymama- I wanted to add that I read this book in conjuction with a book that has NOTHING to do with education, Malcolm Gladwell's latest, Outliers. I hadn't paired them on purpose they just both happened to arrive on the same day and I never imagined a connection but there it was. I usually read several books at once and I kept confusing these two, I would be reading one and thinking about a passage from the other.

Perhaps I just have unschooling on the brain, lol.

sunnymama said...

Oh, that's interesting. I really loved Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point. I'll have to look out for this one. Thanks :)