I’m in the first group.
I feel the need to post a coherent statement about my experiences at the Rethinking Education Conference in Dallas, but the reality is that I’m not done digesting it yet.
In one way, everything I experienced resonated with deeply held beliefs that hadn’t yet been validated by anyone outside of my own mind, with the exception of those books I read such a long time ago.
Years ago, I read everything by John Holt, Magical Child by Joseph Chilton Pearce, the Continuum Concept, the Teenage Liberation Handbook, everything by John Taylor Gatto, and they definitely influenced my parenting. But this was over 10 years ago, when my oldest was a baby, and at that point, the only practical skills I could have come away with were babywearing, limiting the amount of crappy toys in favor of real things, not duplicating a classroom in my house, and the intention of one day not being such an idiot when it came to my kids.
So, ten years have passed and the deeply held trust I had for babies and toddlers has lent itself well to my family, and my total ignorance about the older child development has made me an idiot when it comes to my kids.
It was really nice to be in an environment of adults whose beliefs were so similar to mine that it allowed me to challenge myself based upon my own logic. I couldn’t have predicted many of the issues that I’d be “rethinking” and education wasn’t even one of them, much to my surprise. But “Rethinking-Everything-You-Thought-You-Knew-about-Human-Existence Conference” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
The talent show was fantastic. It had all the passion and creativity of the fireplace performances in my house, with none of the contrived parent-led recitations of other kid group performances I’ve seen (I’m not naming any names.) The Thriller Dance was great, the little girls who retold the story of Atlas with interpretive dance, totally sweet, and all of the dancing and singing. One little girl, I don’t know how old she was, said “I’m going to sing a lullaby, but I don’t want you to go to sleep. It’s a song my mother sings to me” and proceeded to serenade us all. Then, there was the entire room singing Pink Floyd “We don’t need no education…” My absolute favorite performance was by some little boy in a green shirt, I don’t even know his name. He was the lead singer in a rock and roll band. He handled the microphone like a real spirited rock star jumping around saying “yeah yeah” and when he told everyone to put their hands in the air, they did.
My stand-up comedy thing was fun. I didn’t have the stage-fright I thought I’d have. The environment was so loving, accepting and fun that I really felt safe and comfortable, like I was in a room full of friends. The sound system was a bit of a challenge, it threw me off a little. I forgot the whole 2nd half of my little act but I backed off before it became an embarrassment. I don’t know. I wonder if anyone filmed it. Eek- I don’t know if I want to see. I guess I can check that one off the bucket list.
The little reconstructed action figures were adorable. I loved how creative the kids were chopping up the Happy Meal toys and rebuilding them into more imaginative things. My favorite was the Tasmanian Devil coming out of the My Little Pony’s butt. Because I’m 12 that way.
toy from Rethinking Education Conference
I made friends. It’s been years since I’ve been in the company of adults who share these beliefs. It was really really nice. I haven’t felt so relieved and relaxed in so many years. I like knowing real life people that I can learn from. I like hearing their similar perspectives and learning from our differences. I like the supportive environment that comes from everyone helping bring out the best in each other.
So what happens? I come home to a house full of angry kids, and an angry husband. In an effort to please me with an immaculately spotless house, my husband used the skills he learned as a child to get the kids to help clean. One nice way to look at this is that I’m grateful for new insights that will allow us to work together differently in the future. Another advantage we have is that he’s open minded and once he gets past the emotions of everyone hating him for the events of the week, I am sure that he’ll be a happier guy.
One thing I learned was the value of appreciating people for where they are on the path. I don’t have to go there, but knowing why someone ELSE is there helps me respond better. My kids, accustomed to questioning authority and teamwork, didn’t buy the whole “Because I pay the bills” business. There was a revolt. I’m glad I wasn’t here for it. I’m glad it happened.
Yesterday, the girls and I started making altered books. Today we’re taking the sewing machine to the repair shop, so we can work on a few sewing projects we keep meaning to do. Each day we plan to spend time creating stuff together. I have an owl purse to copycat and an article to write that involves scrap booking supplies, so I’ll have to go buy some (unless one of my readers is a vendor who wants to donate in exchange for a review/ credit in a major mainstream parenting publication)
So we’re chugging along. I plan to share the “social world of unschoolers” with the rest of my family at the Life is Good Conference in Vancouver, WA next Spring. I’m enjoying the “back-to-my-roots” feeling and I’m not enjoying the consequences of having strayed for so many years. We’ll be OK, though. It’s a process, right? You can’t just be crazy like this overnight.