Reverb, Day 29

Can you believe it’s December 29 already? 2011 is so close! Is anyone else excited about the odd year to come?

Prompt: Defining moment. Describe a defining moment or series of events that has affected your life this year.

One moment that really stands out for me is the time I saw the unschooling “news” piece done that raised such a controversy this year. Until then, I was reluctant to call my family unschoolers, even though that’s essentially what we do. Sure, we have a couple of workbooks and I’ve bought a Waldorf pack of activities here and there, but we don’t do them unless Wood Sprite wants to. Instead, what we do each day is follow her lead (though she does like it when I throw in surprise activities, such as snow experiments, field trips, etc.) and learn about what she’s interested in. Each day’s topics are so wide and extensive that it would be difficult to cover them all in a school setting.

Anyway, until the reaction that people had over that piece made the hair on me bristle, I didn’t really want to claim that word. I’m still not a huge fan of it, as I don’t think it truly describes what we do, and I hate labels anyway; I like “self-initiated learning,” and terms like that, I suppose, that seem more specific. “Self-taught” definitely describes me in many respects.

After that video came out, I sort of came out, too, as an unschooler. I found myself writing hundreds of words defending the parents in the video, though I still was wishy washy about whether we were unschoolers or not. (And I think the distinction is that we are not radical unschoolers; our daughter doesn’t get to choose whatever she eats, for example, though she gets to make choices about which vegetable, which cereal, which snack, etc. from those that we buy.)

That moment resonates with me because it was when I started to realize that in order to embrace “alternative” learning, a progressive lifestyle, and anything against the norm–from commercialism to raising our own chickens to using photovoltaic cells and all of our dreams–I was going to have to face this extreme ridicule and misunderstanding. We’re not going to be able to fight it in many cases; and when we do, it’s going to have to be with much more compassion than that we are given, which is also hard.

But it’s the only way we’ll be able to live happy, healthy, ethical, “us” lifestyles without letting society dictate who we are. Nonconformism is, apparently, about much more than just sticking it to the Man. It’s about sticking to your choices and ethics even when it’s so hard and when everyone around you doesn’t understand and translates it through fear and criticism rather than questions.

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