The Black Flag

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My mom called an old family friend today.  The friend said that after Trump was elected, her family flew a black flag in their front yard for six months.  When I observed that I wish we would have thought of that, my mom said “it’s not too late.”  Unfortunately, she’s right.  We’re stuck with “Old Trumpie” (that’s what my dad sometimes calls him) for another 23.5 months.

In spite of that, however, loving vibes are floating around:

My mom bought some kelp from a man who collects it himself.  When it arrived, there was a note that says this:

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Unschooling As an Alternative to School Reform

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Although reform has been attempted many times over the years and may be what American schools need most, until reform is successful, encouraging children to quit school and self-educate may turn out to be most beneficial for some children and America.  Self-education, or “unschooling” as it will be referred to here, can be described as unstructured homeschooling where children pursue the subjects they are interested in at their own pace instead of being forced to learn the things schools think they should know at a pace determined by the schools.  Even though this type of alternative education may sound dreamy and unrealistic, unschooling encourages, among other things, independent thinking and responsibility.

Unschooling: Benefits for Children

Although many unschool because traditional schools seem less like nurturing places to learn and more like places of coercion, containment and conformity, many more worry that unschooled children miss out on proper socialization: How will kids be socialized if they spend all day at home?  Sociologically, socialization is the process by which children are exposed to and learn their society’s cultural values and norms (Giddens, Duneier, Applebaum & Carr, 2018).  Using that definition, some unschooling advocates argue that part of school’s purpose is to socialize children into norms of conformity and confinement, in large part, so that the transition to conventional employment in adulthood will be easy (Llewellyn, 1997, p. 57).  Unschooling, however, can, by providing an alternative to education as an unpleasant, stratified game of monopoly, lead children to a different (and as some would argue, more enjoyable) sort of life and career than that for which traditional school prepares them.

First and foremost, unschooling frees children from the often unhealthy environment of school.  In his book Instead of Education, alternative education advocate John Holt (2004, p. 7) was addressing a “minority of people … who believe that children” will learn, live and “cope with the world” in a “better” fashion when their interests are encouraged and their education environment is not one of a contest or race.  Moreover, Holt said of the power structure of schools: “bow[ing] to superior force … makes us resentful and vengeful.  We can hardly wait to make someone … yield to us as we were once made to yield” (Holt, 1995 p. 92-93).  Because their interests are encouraged and they are allowed responsibility over their education, unschooled children tend to feel less oppressed and therefore less vengeful and more at peace.

In addition to freeing children, unschooling lets them have control of their lives and education.  In his book Free to Learn, Peter Gray argued that schools, which were “originally developed to indoctrinate,” have deadened children’s curiosity, desire to learn and ability to “direct their own education” (as cited in McLaren, 2014, para. 7).  John Holt elaborated on that sentiment saying that when children’s lives are “full of the threat and fear of punishment … [t]here is no way for [them] to grow up, to learn to take responsibility for [their] life and acts” (Holt, 1995 p. 92).  By allowing children to make “all the decisions” in their education, unschooling lets them take responsibility “for their own success or failure” (as cited in McDonald, 2018, p. 7).

Unschooling provides an environment with fewer distractions.  Away from the peer pressure and the rewards/punishment system of school, children can focus more on the experience of learning itself and less on their grades, the latest fashions, etc.  Similarly, John Holt related his observations that once they receive rewards for reading, children stop reading for enjoyment and read only to get rewards (1995, p. 230).  Once rewards are gone (as happens when children graduate from high school or college), children tend to stop reading completely.  Unschooling, however, can establish an outlook of life-long learning by not putting a time limit on when one must have finished attaining an education stressing instead that it is never too late to learn.

Besides providing a healthier environment for learning, unschooling lets children learn at their own pace.  While traditional schooling “may convince you [that] life is nothing more than an institutionalized rat race” (Llewellyn, 1997, p. 77), unschooling helps children learn at their own pace and in what tends to be an overall healthier environment.  Holt conveyed that education as a race can be problematic because once a child is labeled as a “loser” it is difficult for her/him to have the self esteem needed to learn anything (1995, p. 224).

Additionally, unschooling lets children pursue the subjects in which they are interested.  Speaking of their sons’ time spent in public school, groundbreaking homeschoolers David and Micki Colfax found that, during their years of homeschooling and homesteading, their sons “had learned how to use their time as they saw fit and necessary” (1988, p. 28).  School, however, “interfered with what they knew was important.”  In short, although, in some cases, children who are allowed free reign over their education may lack some important points of knowledge, unschooling advocate Grace Llewellyn felt that instead of learning a small bit about a large number of subjects, children should be encouraged to acquire more “quality” knowledge about a few subjects in which they are truly interested (1997, p. 133).

Furthermore, unschooling can be necessary for children who want to focus on a particular interest, such as dance.  “I had to practice six hours a day in order to be a ballerina, which I couldn’t do if I was in school.  In a homeschool, I could put my energies into dance.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t do anything else.  When you have so much free time, you are inspired to learn and grow” (as cited in Llewellyn, 1997, p. 218).   Ultimately, having the flexible schedule of unschooling can enable children and their families to live whatever life they want to live instead of waiting until after they are liberated by graduation.

In addition, unschooling lets children learn any place and any time, and “‘allows an individual to meet (and learn to communicate with) a wide range of people rather than being largely restricted to [one’s] peer group” (as cited in Llewellyn, 1997, p. 141).  Although learning happens naturally every moment in life, most schools have confined it to a building saying that learning can only happen when teachers are present (Llewellyn, 1997, p. 53).  David and Micki Colfax illustrated that children learn through actively being involved in the work of a homestead (1988, p. 5).  “Clearing the badly damaged land provided lessons in ecology, and the construction of a house and outbuildings show the boys relevance of seemingly arcane subjects such as geometry.”  In essence, unschooling lets learning become encapsulated in every experience one has.

While the adults in traditional schools tend to treat children as ignorant inferiors, in unschooling, as one young person said: “‘the line between kids and grownups is almost not there’” (as cited in Llewellyn, 1997, p. 144).  Moreover, because an unschooling parent’s job is mostly that of supporter, parents and children tend to be “allies” (Llewellyn, 1997, p. 91).  Additionally, unschooling can provide fulfillment for both child and parent.  One homeschool mom stated that she “win[s] by being fulfilled and so does [her] kid” because by subtly positioning her child to “have important learning experiences,” she achieves what she wants as a parent (personal communication, October 14, 2018).

Despite these benefits of unschooling, in a 2012 article, Dana Goldstein argued that instead of taking their children out of school entirely, critics of traditional schools should “flood [schools] with [their] kids, and then debate vociferously what they ought to be doing” (as cited in McLaren, 2014, para. 19).  Although the reasoning that parents will be more invested in trying to reform a system of which their children are a part might seem sound to some, should children who do not learn well in the structure of traditional school be forced to stay in it while their parents work for reform?

Unschooling: Benefits for America

While traditional schooling tends to perpetuate existing social inequalities by “teach[ing] students an uncritical acceptance of the existing social order” (Giddens et al., 2018, p. 424), unschooling tends to encourage independent and creative thinking.  In fact, many families choose to unschool because they “recognize the ways in which compulsory mass schooling can halt creativity and deter originality in the name of obedience and conformity” (McDonald 2018, p. 6).  As independent thinkers, unschoolers may come to reject and challenge the existing social order and its inequities.  Speaking of what would happen “if we encouraged teenagers” to be creative and nonconformist, Grace Llewellyn said “democracy would get a boost, but the powers of mass production and rat racing consumerism would take a dive” (Llewellyn, 1997, p. 70).  Consequently, for those who believe that the United States overproduces, over-consumes and needs more creativity, unschooling could, indeed, be seen as beneficial for America.

Besides encouraging responsibility and independent thinking, unschooling provides fulfillment and allows children to pursue their passions, learn from any experience and live the life they want to live.  Because traditional schools in America tend to be unpleasantly structured as compared to unschooling, school reform efforts would do well to include plenty of the “principles of free play and self-directed learning” (McLaren, 2014, para. 20).  Perhaps unschooling American children will create enough non-conformist, independent thinkers to finally be successful in the school reform America always seems to be seeking.

 

References
Colfax, D. & M. (1988). Homeschooling for Excellence. New York, NY: Warner Books, Inc.
Giddens, A., Duneier, M., Applebaum, R. & Carr, D. (2018). Introduction to sociology. New York, NY:      W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Holt, J. (1995). Freedom and Beyond. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishers
Holt, J. (2004). Instead of Education. USA: Holt Associates, Inc.
Llewellyn, G. (1997). The Teenage Liberation Handbook. Rockport, MA: Element Books, Inc.
McDonald, K. (October 2018). Don’t Homeschool Your Kids, Unschool Them. Reason.
McLaren, L. (2014). ‘Unschooling’ is a luxury for the wealthy. Toronto, Canada: Globe & Mail,             http://www.globeandmail.com

The Intentional Poor and How One Teenager Lives Her Life

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The life that many modern people live seems to me to be both monotonous and futile.  That type of life may work well for some people, and I’m sure that for some there is no alternative.  However, I would not survive very long in the cramped cement and noise of a city.  I would probably fall into terrible depression if I had an office job with nothing to show for my work but money.  Instead of living the more lucrative but high speed life of many Americans, my family chooses to be intentionally poor.

We live on a farm in the country.  I am an introverted teenager, and living in a quiet place is important for my mental and emotional wellbeing.  When I visit the city, I always crave the quiet, slower pace of the country and begin to realize just how important the rhythms of nature and the farm are to me.  Every morning starts with chores: feeding the goats and chickens and then making breakfast while my parents milk our cow.  Without the noise and distraction of city living, we focus on everything we do and get satisfaction out of it all.

My mother has a pottery studio and is an artist which allows me to experience how rewarding and delightful having lots of time to create is.  When I make a pot, I am creating a vessel that will live with and serve someone (hopefully) bringing joy into her/his life.  Drawing, on the other hand, lets me look closer at the things around me and appreciate each detail, and I am quite sure that I draw better in the quietude of the country.   Additionally, I love watching part of me come into being outside of my own existence when I’m journaling or writing down the characters and worlds that I see in my head.  Although being an artist is not often a lucrative profession, all of these creative things and acts give purpose to my life and help me to reflect and make sense of the world.

While I do love bringing my own ideas into the world, I also love enjoying other people’s creations.  I am an only child, and books have given me the opportunity to understand and experience deep friendships and the joys of having siblings.  Through books, I go on journeys with characters I would not have met otherwise.   I am a world traveler without the carbon footprint, and in spite of being more of a calm routine person, I love the thrill of reading adventure and action stories.  Through their art, I can truly see how a writer’s mind works.

As an introvert, I enjoy and crave the solitary, peaceful and meditative pursuits that I think are more available in country living.  I need to be away from the speed, noise, hard surfaces and constant social interactions that are a part of city life.  I believe that everyone should try their hardest to find the way of living that makes them the most content.  In intentionally not participating in the lifestyle of many Americans, I have found mine.

A Letter to My Senator: A Poem

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The following poem was written by my friend, Eleanor. 

If

I die

in a school shooting.

will you tell them

will you bother them until they listen.

If you have to

will you scream.

I shouldn’t have to say this but

will you burn their all their money to the ground.

and throw a bundle of funeral lilies

onto their feet and shake them by the shoulders.

scream every beautiful thing I’ve done

Into their beetle-black eyes.

and muffle their needle-sharp lies.

you cannot let me or my friends or my brothers or my sisters

be only a statistic

for people to pull from their pockets

when they are sending nothing but prayers.

I shouldn’t have to write about this.

but do they know what it’s like

to wake up in the morning with your heart beating fast and slipping through your throat

on the first day of school thinking

guns and death and oh my god and oh my god does anyone care about us at all.

they never listen when we say

YOU ARE KILLING US

 

-Eleanor, a teenaged political activist.  

Climate Change, Global Warming and Going Zero Waste

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The following post was written by my friend Grace.  

Something that has been very important to me lately is the environment. I’ve always been very aware of climate change and global warming but it wasn’t until this past fall that I’ve actually decided to do something about it.

We were driving home from camping, where we had been out of cell-phone service and had no idea of anything important that had happened, but we noticed a ton of smoke in the air. We didn’t know what it was from, but I was thinking along the lines of construction tearing down the forest in a cloud of pollution and I was getting madder and madder.

Later, I found out that the smoke was from the fires that have burned down much of the forests in the west coast of America. Still, with the climate being hotter, global warming did and has been affecting the fires. So I made a video to share my opinions about climate change along with posters and my own blog. But as the months went on I still didn’t feel like I was doing enough. I was telling people my thoughts, but not changing many of my own actions. So I decided that for the summer I was going to go Zero Waste.

Zero Waste is when you eliminate all the non-recyclable or compostable trash for your life. This meant hardly any plastic, buying most thing second-hand, and buying what we used to buy packaged in bulk. It was a complete life change for me, since I used to do things like grab a bag of chips from the store and now I wouldn’t buy them at all. Going zero waste was healthier, saved a ton of money, and also made me feel positive about myself, since I really was making a difference in the world.

Now that summer is over, I stopped being super strict about Zero Waste since at times it was stressful, but I don’t think I could ever go back to buying plastic/waste. I feel better about my life when being thoughtful about the environment, and I love inspiring others to do the same!

                                                       -Grace Broughton

#Never Again

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I am slightly ashamed to admit that I hadn’t heard of the Never Again movement until last week.  I knew there was some sort of movement led by students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after the February 14, 2018 shooting there, but I didn’t know what it was called or even the names of the students involved in it.  Then my dad brought home #Never Again by David and Lauren Hogg, two Parkland survivors and members of the movement.  I read the book in three days and couldn’t stop thinking about it for several more days after that.

Besides having an immense amount of respect for David and Lauren, I wanted to do something to help.  I knew that I wouldn’t be able to handle the stress of putting myself out there like they are doing, but I still wanted to do something.  First, I started wearing a safety pin again (see this previous post for more on the safety pin movement).  Then, today, as I asked some friends of mine if they’d read #Never Again, I realized that by simply reading the book, recommending it to others and asking them to spread the word to their friends, I was contributing to the movement albeit in a small way.

#Never Again, by siblings David and Lauren Hogg, is an account of their experience at Stoneman Douglas before and during the February 14th shooting.  The book tells how the Never Again movement took shape and began to grow.

Please read it.  Read it for those 17 people killed in Parkland.  Read it for the many others killed in school shootings.  And please, never forget.

neveragain

Warning: Strong political opinions stated in the below post.   

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I was not old enough to vote in the 2016 presidential election.  If I had been old enough, I would not have voted for Trump.  To me, this means that Trump is truly not my president.  I feel like I am being falsely represented by the president of my country.  Other countries are meeting with him or hearing about what he’s doing.  What if they think that we all voted for him and that we all like what he’s doing?  I love the United States.  I love my country.   That does not mean I love my country’s president.

I wish I could let all the other countries in the world know that even though Trump is representing the US, not all of us Americans support him.  Many of us weren’t even old enough to vote in the 2016 presidential election at all, and we are the ones who are being shot.  Those school age Americans who were shot in the many school shootings since Trump’s election weren’t old enough to vote in 2016.  Trump is promoting the very weapons that are being used to shoot these kids.  They are some of the victims of his presidency.

I want the rest of the world to know that even though Trump is our representative, some of us stand separately.  Please do not think we all voted for him.  Please don’t dislike our country just because of the things our president is saying and doing.  Some of us stand separately.

So I say I feel that I’m being falsely represented.  Trump is excluding people from my country.  Trump is promoting the ownership of weapons and is not working to stop the school shootings of my fellow minors.  Trump is not defending my friends.  Trump does not care about us.