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Jan 14, 2013

Unschooling and my yoga path

A little over a year ago my husband, my child and I decided we wanted to live part time in Mexico for the next phase of our lives together. We committed to the vision by buying a small condo right at at surf break. We knew we were stepping outside the norm of education when we made this decision - as we haven't found a school with a drop-in policy yet. We all like to ski and ride bikes and surf. Because I can work from anywhere, and my husband has a reliable manager for his business, we are location independent.

As we were making this decision - to live our lives outside of the norm - I was researching the unschooling philosophy. I was reading John Holt, and following Sandra Dodd's unschooling blog. I was repeatedly struck by how similar the ramblings on unschooling were to the cutting-edge teachings of Craig Hamilton's Integral Enlightenment Academy for Evolutionaries course I was a year two student in.

I began to "unschool" myself from the myths of modern education. I began to see my own life history in educational institutions in a new light. Many yoga teachers and Ayurvedic practitioners ask me why Yogahealer has always been a success business for me. The answer to that lies in this same vein. I decided to listen to my inner voice as the leading authority in my life. I made this choice in my mid-20's. I sense I can raise my child to listen to her inner voice as the leading authority in her own life from a much younger age. I'm not anti-school. Indy will probably attend many schools in her life. But I am pro life learning above all else.

For those wondering what the heck I'm talking about, here is a passage from Sandra Dodd's blog:

an anyone explain to me "unschooling"?

It's like "just say no."

Just say no to school years and school schedules and school expectations, school habits and fears and terminology. Just say no to separating the world into important and unimportant things, into separating knowledge into math, science, history and language arts, with music, art and "PE" set in their less important little places.

Most of unschooling has to happen inside the parents. They need to spend some time sorting out what is real from what is construct, and what occurs in nature from what only occurs in school (and then in the minds of those who were told school was real life, school was a kid's fulltime job, school was more important than anything, school would keep them from being ignorant, school would make them happy and rich and right).

It's what happens after all that school stuff is banished from your life.

Interview with Sandra Dodd on Unschooling

Sandra was gracious to grant me an interview, and we've begun to plan a follow up. What strikes me most about Sandra is her desire to liberate families and children from the confines of structure above the freedom of learning. The term "life-learning" is more apt than unschooling in describing this way of living. When you meet someone who is engaged in their own learning ... in the process of discovery, connectivity, in pushing an edge in their own awakening or intelligence, or perhaps even pushing the edge for culture, humanity, the planet .. you'll notice they are alive.

The engagement in learning and the aliveness can't be separate. Just like depression, disconnect and disinterest also can't be separated. The drift I caught from Sandra is to be available to the opportunity of learning in a natural state. That for some of us humans, we're ready to move beyond the confines of structure, grades, rewards, and simply engage in what most deeply interests us. The rest can be a distraction or even a roadblock.

Evolutionary Child Rearing

As a self-described evolutionary and a deep wisdom teacher I'm quite curious about what evolutionary child rearing looks like in the here and now. I engage in conversations, like this one with Sandra, to how others are living into this edge. A few reoccurring themes arise. The biggest one is availability. Simply being available in an open state, without pre-conceived notions of a desired outcome. If this sounds exactly like meditation, then I'm right on. Of course there is the secondary element of engagement. Available and ready to engage.  I'll come back to this in a future post with my friend Denise Ackert on a blog post of this title.

So, besides available and ready to engage, my sense is there are real life skills worth passing on to my child. My top 3 are:

  1. How to take care of your body so it will last
  2. How to make money doing what you love and contributing to the evolution of the cosmos
  3. How to be open and intimate in relationships with loved one

Your top 3 may be different. Right in the comments what your top 3 are. I didn't learn 1, 2 or 3 in preschool through college, or the majority of my waking hours between ages 4-22. That is a fair chunk of my life, and an unfair chunk of what influenced how I developed. Not to point fingers or victimize my experience. Just to point out - the top 3 real life skills I value enough to pass onto my child were not found in my top-notch upper middle class 18 year education.

Giving Thanks to Teachers

That said, I know there are amazing schools out there, and teachers out there and that unschooling doesn't and can't work for most people. I'm not even advocating it to work for most people or even you. And I do want to deeply give thanks to all of those helping raise the next generation. Sandra and I talk about this in the podcast, and talk about who unschooling works for.

And I also invite you to engage in reflection of what you have learned that has served you most in this life. What is worth being a representative of to youngsters in your life. What assumptions are held in culture that are worth challenging? And what are you deeply and curiously most interested in? This is the beginning of unschooling.