Tag Archives: trust

Freedom, Fear, and Unschooling

After I left school and started unschooling,  I had freedom, I put my trust in myself, and  I did a lot of healing work. Still there was a fear inside me that took me years to be fully aware of and make the choice not to let it control my actions.

Recently I rediscovered a poem I wrote during my second year of homeschooling/unschooling in high school, when I was about 17 years old that surprisingly addresses this fear.

In the beginning of the poem I say:

But once the song’s over or the race is done
I’m just me again:
Scared shitless
Living heartless
Terrified of investing myself
In something or someone else

(You can read the whole thing here.)

I had trouble convincing people about unschooling, freedom, and their ability to direct their own lives partly because of my own emotional wounds regarding the subject. But I realized years later I also had a fear of being effective, fear of success, in talking to people about freedom and unschooling. There was an element of self-sabotage involved.

There was a part of me that knew it was possible I could very effective in talking about these subjects: I could help inspire people to leave school, or let their children leave school, have freedom, be trusted, and pursue their dreams.

That would be a truly wonderful thing and have so much meaning to me. For some reason, I think because of, not in spite of, that fact it’s also very scary. I’ve found that:

The more meaning something has to a person, the scarier it can be.

The more meaning something has the more painful the disappointments can be. You can feel pressure and new responsibility. With real success your life can change. And I always try to remember when I feel anxious:

Change, even if it’s good change, can be scary.

Writing these blog posts about unschooling, freedom, trust, diversity, and healing, then hearing how some have connected with them and been appreciative of them has had so much meaning to me! I’ve also definitely felt some fear and anxiety: I’ve heard from my toxic voice as my uncle Robert Gerzon calls it.

But the other thoughts that have come to my mind are:

“I love my life!” and “I feel free. I feel like writing is setting me free.”

More and more I’m letting parts of my true self come out and be heard. And it feels good! It feels like it’s taken years and epic journeys to get to this point, actually.

I guess it’s good to remember that when I feel disappointed or frustrated that there aren’t more people trying to learn and live in freedom or pursue what has meaning to them when they do have freedom: it takes time and is challenging.

Still, I hope that in talking about my own experiences it encourages others to make the choice to be free, the choice to use their freedom, the choice to follow what has meaning to them, and finally, the choice to do what has meaning to them regardless of fears that may stand in their way.

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Filed under adult unschoolers, change the world, freedom, homeschooling, lifestyle design, unschooling, worldschooling

Welcoming Diversity at Unschooling Conferences

We live in a society in which racism and its wounds continue to play a big role. While I think unschooling has solved so many problems, it seems the issue of racism still needs special attention in order to welcome diversity at unschooling conferences and in the scene as a whole.

Over the last few years I’ve been to several huge (700 people plus) unschooling conferences around the country and have noticed a real lack of diversity. Much more upsetting I’ve heard stories of seeming racism.

Honestly, I think the racism has mostly been subtle exclusion that comes from a fear of trusting and welcoming diversity and what it might bring. I don’t think it’s hateful bigotry. Nevertheless, it has a sad effect.

Last year at the Northeast Unschooling Conference, near Boston, Massachusetts, Erika Davis-Pitre led a session about diversity. Erika is an African-American mom of four unschoolers, now 16-30 years old, and one of my favorite unschooling speakers: she’s both hilarious and profound when she talks about following your joy.

At the diversity session she talked about how the first year of the Northeast Unschooling Conference there appeared to be a lot of diversity among the hundreds of homeschooling families. But many people noticed the following years there was less and less.

Erika explained she can’t speak for everyone but gave an example of why that might be:

Earlier at that conference an African-American boy, about ten years old, wanted to take part in an activity, but was stopped by the unschoolers running it. They said he had to ask permission from his mom first and they pointed to Erika.

He said, “That’s not my mom.”

They said, “Yes, she is.”

Erika said it’s not the original assumption that bothers her.  (“There’s a black child and a black woman: they must be related.”) It’s continuing to insist after the child has said otherwise.

Unschooling is about trust and this child was not trusted, first of all to participate in the activity without permission from a parent (which is unheard of at an unschooling conference), and then not trusted about who his mom is!

“It’s not a big deal, but it is a big deal.” That’s how Erika Davis-Pitre described it. Nobody  really got hurt, Erika stepped in and said that she is in fact not his mother and was believed. But it is that type of thing that may drive people away.

Rethinking Education is an unschooling conference in Texas and clearly does something right because it’s the oldest in the country and seems to be the most diverse. But an incident of apparent racism occurred when I was there in 2007 that certainly felt like a “big deal” to the mother involved:

An African-American boy about eleven years old was accused by a security guard of breaking something. The mother of the child was upset and scared, so she tried to grab an unschooling mom for help and support. She explained to the unschooling mom that her child said he didn’t do it.

The unschooling mom said, “Well, sometimes kids lie when they get in trouble.” And she walked away.

Eventually, another unschooling mom came to support them and a child who witnessed the whole thing came to the boy’s defense. But the incident had a lot of negative meaning to this mother of a child who had just left school and entered the unschooling community.

She wasn’t so upset about the security guard, he wasn’t part of the unschooling community, she was upset about an unschooling parent not trusting her child and not supporting them: throughout the conference she and other African-Americans wondered if they were really welcome and included in all this talk of freedom and empowerment.

My point is not to villainize the people who displayed what seems like racism. I’m trying to bring to light the fact that we all have deeply ingrained fears and distrust of which we may not be aware and yet negatively affect our actions and keep us from doing what we truly want.

Most unschoolers have realized rooting out their own fears so they can really trust their children and themselves has amazing results: we may need to make a special effort to do the same with people who appear different than us.

Just like when you start trusting your children or yourself, this may take time, fears may need to be faced, and wounds may need to be healed. But trusting and welcoming diversity will be a great service to those families and will be a great service in enriching the unschooling community and, I believe, the whole world.

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Filed under diversity, race, trust, unschooling, unschooling conferences

My Unschooling and Trust Journey

In my last post I talked about how trust is key in unschooling. To learn to be free we need to trust ourselves even if things start out rough, and they certainly did when I started unschooling!

Decompression” is what unschoolers call it when you start unschooling and “do nothing” for awhile. My first several months homeschooling I hardly left the house (following that stereotype about homeschoolers!) and had only ultimate frisbee and cross country running as organized activities: nothing resembling school or academics! But honestly, more than that, I was just an angry and unhappy guy.

It’s kind of like cleaning up a big mess: often things get messier before they get nice. There’s a lot that comes to the surface and needs to be sorted out: things to decide to keep or throw away. Sometimes it’s very hard to throw things away! And it takes a lot of trust in the process when things look pretty bad on the surface.

Many people thought I was making a bad choice when I left school. Sometimes my reaction was very strong against this, but ultimately I thought, “I’m just going to try doing this myself and see how it goes. If I need to, I’ll go back to school, but I’m gonna try relying on myself.”

Underneath my initial anger and defensiveness about homeschooling and unschooling, I had doubts, fears, and insecurities all along the way; still do. I’ve been humbled from the beginning with the mistakes I’ve made after I left school and even more while I travelled the world!

But by the end of that first year of unschooling things were getting a lot better: I was working on an organic farm, going to a wilderness survival school, then even taking great courses at a community college and going  to homeschooler classes that people organized. But my real education came from all the healing work I did sorting through things and healing wounds that were stopping me from doing what I really wanted to do.

Through unschooling and exploring the world around me, worldschooling, I’ve come to honestly understand what my strengths and weaknesses are. I’ve learned to accept the wise and caring guidance from others when I need it, reject the false fear based pressure from some, and follow my bliss and inner knowing and learn from my mistakes.

Despite my insecurities, in the end, with my actions, I put my trust in myself. Looking back, I am so thankful for that journey I started a decade ago. Again, when I wanted to run my own business and I was reluctant to go to college, some people weren’t sure it was a good idea: I decided I’d see how it went. Including some ups and downs, it continued to go well, so I continue to put my trust in myself.

I still have more worries and fears but they don’t stop me from continuing to learn and grow. They don’t stop me from shining my light and loving my life.

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Filed under adult unschoolers, grown unschoolers, homeschooling, starting unschooling, trust, unschooling, worldschooling

Unschooling and Trust

Unschooling is about trust.” This is what I often hear unschoolers say. Sometimes I put it this way: “Unschooling is about having confidence in freedom, or free people’s ability to guide their own lives.

The most basic meaning of unschooling is to homeschool without using a pre-packaged curriculum and instead the students follows their own interests. (Read more about the basic meaning of and difference between homeschooling and unschooling here.) But behind unschooling is this concept of trust in the individual.

On the other hand, school is really about trusting schools and the government in the case of public schools, the church in the case of parochial schools, and a strange guy from Germany who lived a hundred years ago in the case of Waldorf/Steiner schools, to guide the lives and education of hundreds, thousands, or millions of children.

Many of these organizations and people have some valuable wisdom to offer but most people would agree these entities are not necessarily trustworthy when it comes to directing the individual lives and education of children. People’s insistence on school may stem more from their fear of the alternative: trusting children, families, and communities (which is exactly what’s done in homeschooling and unschooling).

Peter Kowalke is a grown unschooler/homeschooler who made the Grown Without Schooling documentary about grown unschoolers and has spoken at many homeschooling conferences. I’ve been to a couple of his speeches and he often starts by asking the audience:

Everyone raise your hand if you here think your child is evil? I don’t mean sometimes naughty or bad, I mean really, just evil? Please, don’t be shy, you can go ahead and raise your hand if you think so.”

And of course no one raises their hand, because most people don’t really think their children are fundamentally bad. But behind our need to control so many aspects of children and people’s lives in general is an often subconscious belief that there’s something wrong with them and a fear that they can’t really be trusted with freedom.

Of course, there are so many examples to support this viewpoint: children and people in general are constantly doing things that we don’t like and don’t think they should be doing. Unschooling has a lot of wisdom regarding this.

First of all, much of what we think is a problem is not actually a problem at all. (I have to say: Thank goodness for sitting around, playing around, and getting into trouble: so much of the good things in life directly or indirectly come from them!) And a lot of people’s behavior that we might find problematic in a given situation is a natural reaction to oppression: a lot of times we do things simply because we’ve been told not to!

But maybe the main thing is when you’ve never been trusted by others to manage your own life, you yourself can lose trust and confidence in yourself. It’s also possible you simply haven’t developed certain skills because you’ve never had the opportunity to do so. It’s atrophy: you’re not going to have the strength to lift heavy objects if someone is always lifting them for you; and you’re not going to know how to plan your future if someone is always planning your future for you.

People will see these inabilities and weaknesses and argue that they or others can’t handle certain freedoms. Of course, just because someone doesn’t have the strength or skills to do something now doesn’t mean they can’t over time: do some lifting, tear some muscles tissue, get sore, and soon you’ll be able to handle the heavy stuff; start managing your life and education, make some mistakes, freak out every once in a while, and soon you’ll have the ability and confidence to direct your own life.

It is a challenge: in some ways it’s easier to have someone else manage things, but what a wonderful joy it is too: to direct your own life and education.

More about my personal experience with unschooling and learning to trust myself more in the next post.

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