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Why Words Matter

In the last few days I have had several conversations about words, definitions and how they are used. It seems to me that some people feel a need to redefine the content of words to make them fit what they want them to mean.

I am of the exact opposite – I think words are important. I think definitions are important. If I do permaculture I don’t use tarp or a propane burner to kill weeds, I try to find another solution to my problems. If I unschool I don’t expect my children to learn certain things. If I Radical Unschool I don’t set limits to screen time or sugar intake.

Why is this important? It is important because we use words to communicate and tell the world what we think and feel, and when we change the meaning of the words we make communication far more difficult.

In my time in the attachment parenting community I have heard so many many people bend many many words and it has always frustrated me. I have heard of schools that use “natural learning” and “positive discipline” – while requiring the kids to be inside and “work” 4 hours a day and not let them outside and play at all for those for hours, these same schools used a “silent chair” where the children could “meditate on their actions”, while claiming to be “respectful” and “non-punitive”… I have heard people being “peaceful parents” while using “cry-it-out”, people using “baby lead weaning” while spoon feeding from 4 months. And I have even heard people say that they “unschool in the summer holidays” What is that anyway? Like you allow your kids to play in the summer without expectations about learning? Or does it mean that you put a whole lot of “learning” into the summer holiday so that your kids don’t even have that time to rest and play? When you point out to people that this isn’t actually what the words mean, then you are usually met with a comment about how judgemental you are. I also hear teachers talk about “offering children opportunities to read”, while the fact that the children don’t have a choice in reading is brushed over.

This is not about being judgemental, it is about communication. It is also very much about taking responsibility for your choices, and the consequences it has. Eg. I used to call myself a Radical Unschooler – but recently I have chosen to limit my children’s access to sugar and gluten, because I can see that we all thrive on a diet without sugar and gluten. I don’t say “we are Radical Unschoolers except for food”, because that isn’t completely honest. Honestly I don’t feel that I can be responsible as a parent if I let my children eat what-ever they want. This might have something to do with my connection with them (which has a lot to do with how I used to eat and how I felt when I ate that way), but it doesn’t change the fact that I have a fear that they will not get the nutrients they need or that their teeth will rot, and I simply would not be able to forgive myself if that happened. That – right now – is more important than their freedom, and much much more important than whether I can belong to a group that I think is super cool.

Fact is that the genuine Radical Unschoolers I know, are some of the coolest people I know, and their relationship to their kids is the relationship I would most love to emulate with my kids. So I am greately inspired by Radical Unschooling – and most parts of our life is Radical Unschooling. But I cannot right now take the step to be there, and feel OK, so I choose not to use the label, because that is not who I am.

I can’t help but wonder if someone feels limited by definitions, why it is that they feel the need to use the words that limit them. Is it not more liberating to just say “that’s not me, so that isn’t what I do”, instead of saying saying “I am an unschooler – but”? I don’t understand it actually.

Experimenting With My Own Health 2

Two months ago I wrote how we had started experimenting with changing our diet. The diet we had chosen to try out were the AIP diet. Essentially the AIP is a paleo diet ex. nightshades, seeds, nuts and eggs. The reason for choosing this was that going paleo helped me a great deal, but it made my eczema flare – so I knew that something I was eating more than usual was problematic for me. My primary suspects were nuts and eggs, but I really wanted to have this process be as quick as possible, so I wasn’t willing to try one thing at a time and wait and see it out. Also – I am allergic to potatoes – or at least I am allergic to raw potatoes sometimes… so much so that an allergy Doctor once told me that I probably shouldn’t eat potatoes at all because you cannot be sure that they are completely boiled through and I definitely shouldn’t cut or peel them. I am allergic to nuts, and I didn’t mind trying to cut out the seeds for a while. Eggs were a definite suspect, because I have eaten A LOT on the paleo diet – and thinking about it, it probably isn’t healthy to eat the same breakfast every day – even if eggs are a “superfood”.

So during the first month on AIP I discovered that I would react to sugar – any sugar. Have and apple or a date and I would start sneezing like mad. Drink home made Horchata (tigernut milk), which supposedly should be primarily non-digestable starch, and my eczema on my legs would flare, same thing with sweet potatoes. I cut out more and more carbs, and  I felt better and better. I started waking up refreshed at 5-6 o’clock in the morning, like I also did last time I started paleo. I didn’t crash at 5 o’clock but could go on until 9:30 PM, where my body would send a clear signal that “now it is time to go to bed”.

It is a big challenge to keep this diet on a full term basis – because I really cannot eat out – not with friends nor at restaurants. I can technically eat at a restaurant – but the food I get is usually quite boring – esp. since Spanish restaurants all serve the same boring salads and most of the greens they serve in there come from a glass with citric acid, and/ sugar etc. So I will often end up eating a piece of grilled fish (fine) with iceberg lettuce and a few onions … not very interesting. If I am lucky they have fresh beets and carrots in the salad…

Along the way on this diet my appetite decreased significantly and I talked to my therapist about trying a fast, for a whole lot of health benefits including lowering insulin levels. At the same time my dentist recommended that my husband did a 3 day fast prior to a tooth extraction, and I was supposed to do the same when I have my wisdom teeth extracted, so I thought I would try the fast with him. So I did the three day fast, and when he finished after his tooth extraction, I continued another 2 days and felt even greater – the very last little bit of eczema disappeared, I was complimented for my skin, I lost weight (I’ll get back to that later in this post), and strangely enough I even felt that my left “lazy” eye was less lazy… (it is a really strange feeling, and really hard to explain since I am functionally blind on that eye).  I will definitely try that again.

Along the way I heard about the Wahl’s protocol, and started looking into that. I kind of bothered me that there seemed to be a split in the paleo community – on one hand were the keto people who seemed to be almost promoting and Atkins diet, many of them with very little vegetable, and on the other were people who kept saying that carbs are important, but they need to come from fruit and sweet potatoes. Now I really do think that we need to eat A LOT of veggies, just as firmly as I believe that healthy animal products are good for us, but my body was telling me that the carbs were not good for me – at least for now… So I needed to come up with something else. Enter Terry Wahl’s MD, science based, healed her own Multiple Sclerosis – not a whole lot of non-scientific BS there. I bought her book, and I am now trying to follow her Paleo Plus, which is a keto diet, but with a minimum of 6 cups of veggies and berries a day – 2 cups of leafy greens, 2 cups of sulphurous veggies, 2 cups of strong color veggies/berries (max 1 cup).

3 weeks ago it was my son’s birthday – and my husband looked at me and told me that we were not going to be those kinds of parents who would not allow sugar and wheat for their child’s birthday party, which I accepted – none of them are celiac or diabetics after all. And my son looked at me and asked me to please have a piece of his birthday cake, and I did. I was coming down with a cold of the day of the party and was pretty ill the next day – there was plenty of leftovers, and the thought of cooking something that was good for me was too much… I didn’t munch on cake though, but some bread and falafel and humus, and a few days later we left for England for 10 days. By the time we left for England I was noticing a little bit of a flare on one finger – but so very little I could almost ignore it.

So since July 2nd I have been off diet untill july 17th – 15 days. I did eat a very healthy diet in England by most accounts – kale/mushroom stir-fry for breakfast with a little bacon and an egg and salad for lunch most days (we would shop in either M&S or Pret-a-Manger for lunch), and then out for dinner most nights. I had one pizza in the beginning of our holiday, which sent my hart razing (though not as much as it would have prior to my fast), and at the end I allowed myself an English muffin and the last night a Tiramisu – again hart razing not pleasant feeling, don’t really want to do that again anytime soon. Even before the muffin and Tiramisu my eczema on my hand was flaring – ie. not carb or wheat related (except if it was the pizza?), my guess is eggs and cheese. The muffin and Tiramisu made the eczema flare on my legs, but it was gone the next day. By the time we got home the skin was peeling off of one finger – it was completely inflamed and the scabs and skinless patches had reappeared… I was also tired tired tired (but that could be all the traveling and site seeing). My joints were feeling swollen and stiff (I had a hard time closing my hands for all the water retention in them).

I have been following the Wahl’s protocol for a week now (combined with the AIP except I drink coffee and have a little bell pepper in my salad), and I still have a little eczema on my hands, but the inflammation is visibly less, the skinless patches are gone and the scabs too (so it is mainly just red). I am considering cutting back on the coffee – just for this week and the bell pepper, just because I know that I will heal completely if I am 100% AIP. My fatigue has not gone away completely – I wake up at 7 and I feel tired in the afternoon (but my son has also been sick and I have slept poorly the last week because of that), I still fell “weird” around my lazy eye… so I am not 100%. I am not retaining water in my hands anymore. One thing that I noticed is my waist circumference: During my fast I lost 5 cm around my waist. When I came back for England, those 5 cm had ALL come back – which has been one of my problems: I had to be completely orthorectic with my diet, because cheating just a little would send me right back where I started. I know that dieticians will tell you that you cannot gain 5 kg from eating one piece of cake – but that has happened to me many many times. Yes mostly water, but fact is it would take me weeks to get those 5 kg of water off again. But this week on the Wahl’s protocol, the 5 cm that I gained in England, has all come off! My guess is that the weight fluctuations are due to inflammation in my tissue, and water retention from that – ie. not fat, but not good either. It seems that I am now able to rid myself of that water retention in less than a week.

The funny thing is that I was doubting wether the whole eczema healing was just because I had used some new creams – I have made a coconut/beeswax cream and a moringa-oil/beeswax cream that my son and I use and we really like. But we brought both of those creams to England and still my skin flared. My son’s skin did not flare – actually it continued to heal while we were in England – which makes me think that what he is reacting to is something completely different than me (well – he didn’t have cheese and eggs, since he is IgE allergic to both…).

I will definitely continue this way of eating for the next long time, I will try to reintroduce foods once I am completely symptom free, but I will also have to figure out what to do in social situations. Currently I bring my own food, and let the kids eat what ever is served, and with the extra energy I have that is not really a big problem. But I do feel inhibited when I am out and I would like to be able to go to a restaurant and enjoy it with my family. I want to find a good balance there.

Experimenting With My Own Health

These last couple of years I have been experimenting with my own health. I have been sickly most of my life – a real weakling, but never so seriously ill that it warranted massive medical attention. Frequent ear infections as a child (and thus frequent antibiotics), atopic-dermatitis, hay-fever etc. My mom took me to the Doctor and also to numerous different alternative practitioners, but none of it helped (well the Doctor prescribed antibiotics and antihistamines, but that does not solve the problem). So I grew up sceptical of alternative medicine – paying €100/h (that is the cost in Denmark) and leaving with massive herbal tinctures and homeopathic this that or the other – all sold by the lady prescribing the treatment and thus making her more money… and none of which helped… I did seem like snake oil was being sold to us. The final straw was when a kinesiologist told me that I weren’t harmed by smoking… (I had just started smoking back then). So I grew up believing in medical science and shunning all things alternative.

Fast forward a few years and I have a M.Sc. and I work in the medical industry – 3 things happen.

One – I get tendinitis in my hands and I am referred to a physiotherapist by my Doctor – I go every week for a year, but nothing she does helps more than a few days. At some point I can’t hold a knit to cut my food. My friend refers me to “her guy”, whom I thought was a chiropractor, but turns out he uses a kind of body-SDS (the name escapes me right now), which is very alternative and he fixes me in 4 session. He does the same with Marcus’ headaches – which he had also been seeing a physiotherapist for – it takes a little longer – but just like me he had been seeing the physiotherapist for around a year with no results. I would have never seen him had I known he was “alternative”.

Two – my son gets sick, with allergies and dermatitis, but much worse that what I have ever had, and we seek medical advise. We see a horde of Doctors in the coming years – none of which agree on anything… and they also disagree with the general advise given by the health authorities in Denmark. One says that my son definitely has allergies, the other that allergies are “hocus pocus”. Health authorities says that rare cases of allergies may react to traces of what the mother is eating in her milk, others say that that is “hogwash”. I end up reading and reading and reading (working for a medical company I had access to all the medical journals I could want), and knowing more than most Doctors on the subject. The “your google search does not compare to my medical degree” phrase has been spewed at me, until the realised I was quoting medical journals that they didn’t have time to read anymore. After 2 years of fighting, my avid reading sent me to THE allergy specialist in Denmark and finally my sons allergies were properly diagnosed and the fact that I told them that he was allergic to the hormone cream was taken seriously, and he got another hormone cream that we used for one week and not again for years.

Three – I had a massive stress reaction to all of this – and had sick leave from my work for prolonged periods of time. My employer payed for a psychologist to see me – and he suggested at my first visit that I get anti-depressants, I refused. His reaction to this was that it was funny how none of the employees from “that company” would take their own medicine (we produced anti-depressants). That made me think really hard about what I was doing, if I didn’t believe in the medicine I was developing…

As I have said before on this blog, I have depression symptoms on and off, mood-swings, PMS, brain-fog and extreeme fatigue. I am ower-weight even though I eat healthier than most people, and probably also move more – and two years ago I also started having severe pain in my feet – actually my entire leg and lower back was giving me issues. I thought maybe it was hard work here on the finca that had off-set the last thing, but actually the more sedentary I was the worse it was. I have also had far worse allergies that ever before, and my eczema flares in a pattern we had a hard time determining what was.

I kept reading and reading and reading,  – that is my thing, and everywhere I kept running into “gluten” as a possible culprit… so I decided to give gluten free a trial. At the same time my lower back completely locked and I saw a very good physiotherapist I know down here and she gave be a good massage and gave me a small ball to use to massage my feet every day. I used it for a couple of days and then my daughter played with it and I got lost. I was annoyed for a few days but then forgot about it – until a few months later when I found it behind the couch. I realised that the reason I had forgotten about it was that I wasn’t in pain anymore! Neither my legs nor my back nor my feed was hurting! Also my brain-fog was lifting, and my mood-swings and my PMS. My hardest problem was staying on the gluten-free diet. This is one of the things I work with my psychologist about – actually believing that I am important enough for me to do this work to feel good in my body!

Since then I have tried different things – it turns out that dairy really makes my seasonal allergies a lot worse, so I was paleo for a long while last year, and also on the ketogenic diet. But keto made me feel really really awful, and the vast amount of nuts and eggs made my eczema flare up worse than ever – the skin was literally falling off my hands – not to reveal more dry skin underneath but with oozing skinless patches. So I dropped it – all of it, and went back to a regular Real Food diet. Except even if I eat only organic, home-made sourdough bread – I still have mood swings, and my feet start aching. Not as bad as when I eat the RoundUp infested crap from the supermarket – but certainly bad enough. So now we are back on a diet – all of us – and this time more radical than ever: The Autoimmune Protocol Paleo diet – which is the paleo diet, plus no eggs, no seeds (incl. coffee and chocolate) and no nightshades. After a week I am feeling a lot better – still on and off, but improving every day. I am really curious to see what this will bring me, us as a family. I have a little eczema on my hands and none on my legs, my seasonal allergies are receding, the pain that came back in my feet is also declining. It is an extremely hard diet to keep, because there is no snack food, nothing that I can just grab and go – and since one of my problems have been fatigue, preparing a whole slew of foods that we can just grab on the go has not really been an option. So right now we are on veggies (sans legumes and nightshades) and meat and nothing else, and I prepare a warm meal three times a day, plus make bone-broth – but snack foods are veggies and fruit only, nothing that mommy has been preparing in advance.

My entire family is on this too – Lucas has his allergies, and his teeth are also problematic (we are seeing a wonderful dentist to help him with this), Miriam has started having tommy-aches when we eat store bought bread, and also has started reacting to peanuts and wall-nuts. Marcus has seborrheic dermatitis and his sinuses clog up all the time giving him headaches (different from the headaches he had before). It is quite an endeavour – but I do hope that it will help us in the long run. I do wish that I could find a Doctor to help me – but it seems that people are either in the applied kinesiologist camp (complete hogwash IMO) or in the “just use steroids on that and come back in a week”. Finding something that is scientifically sound and outside the realm of steroids is really hard… I wish I could find a really good functional medicine practitioner nearby who could take me by the hand and show me the way. But I can’t so I continuing the experiment of N=1 (actually N=4, but who is counting?).

What A Week!

Man this has been a little crazy! I promised myself to write something every week – but we have just been up to our ears in a tummy bug all week, so it will be short.

We have guests from Denmark – lovely people whom we have met on Facebook, fellow unschoolers and homesteaders. I expected that we would be digging in the garden all week, but the first day they were here Lucas came down with “something” and threw up at night and was tired all of Monday – next came Miriam and then me, and now our guests are sick too… so all week has been spent with sick kids and ditto grow ups. 

We are leaving for Denmark tomorrow (our guests will house-sit for us), and it was my birthday Wednesday, so that makes for a bit of a crazy week all in all. 

I did however want to plant my elder-bush however – it needed to be done before it set flowers and it was very close to doing that… I would have done it last year but allergies kept me in bed all spring. 

So this was the year!

Wednesday – on my birthday – I accuriered the help of two little helpers, or guest’s children – and we dug a hole on the terrace where we have had a small stream running all winter and planted it. 

Elder is only borderline suitable for this climate – USDA says zone 10 is the warmest, but I have seen it grow in Granada, next to a stream, so I hope that I can keep the it alive here, maybe with irrigation, in the shade of the carob tree. I have kept it alive in a pot for 2 years – my mother gave it to me for my birthday 2 years ago. It is the only thing that I miss from Denmark that I cannot buy in the stores down here. Except actually I can because IKEA has elderflower cordial and the Danish herbologist in Fuengirola has organic elderflower cordial – but the is not the same as making your own. I miss making my own. It is just so intrinsically linked to spring in my mind. Hopefully I can make it thrive and grow here – enough for me to produce a batch once a year.

A Surge in Creativity

These days I am knitting like mad! I have hardly knitted since we moved to Spain – lack of knitting friends (eg. and carpal tunnel syndrome made me stop. Then we moved here and we didn’t have electricity most nights, which was when I had most time to knit… and it died down.

Well – my daughter started ballet classes and wanted to have a blue outfit – she loves Elsa from Frozen. Blue ballet outfits are not easy to find, but I managed to find one leotard in a dance shop in Malaga (I am amazed by how many dance shops there are in Malaga – way way more than Copenhagen, but most of them mainly sell flamenco dresses). The rest we bought in white promising her that I would knit the rest for her in blue. First of all we needed a hairnet for her ballet bun.

Hair net ready for ballet class tomorrow #frozen #ballet #diy

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And inspired by the Japanese tradition of repairing broken porcelain with gold (Kintsugi), I have started fixing my old winter jacket by adding embroidery on the sleves. I will also add some flowers later, to make it a little “Desigual” inspired. I like the idea of upcykling and fixing old things, it makes me feel frugal and creative at the same time.

Fixing my old winter coat before trip to Denmark #reducereuserecycle

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I have also started drawing again – that is one of the side effects of starting to be creative to me – it all just comes in and I can hardly keep up with my ideas – I have more projects in my head than I can possibly finish (that goes for the land around here too).

The Blue Ravine #blackpaper #carandache

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A few years ago I was less aware of the fact that my ideas were far far too numerous for me so I had an idea that I would actually be able to finish them all – or at least most of them… so I bought yarn, loads of yarn (it is most knitter’s addiction, not knitting but yarn…). When we moved here, and I stopped knitting, well it just lay there, but that didn’t stop me from buying… because now I couldn’t get any good yarn here in Malaga, I “had to” buy in advance whenever I was in Denmark – and then the bugs moved in, and I found wholes in knitting I hadn’t finished… and some that I had finished… and some yarn that had been left un-used would fall apart when I started winding it.  So I froze all of it last summer – to kill the bugs. When the rains came this winter the yarn was still in the freezer and the water got into our freezer (it stands out side the kitchen door), and soaked all my yarn, and froze it be solid (so now the moths should be dead!!). So I have had to unfreeze the freezer, and the yarn, and now I have yarn hanging to dry all over the house (this is only the reds…).

Drying yarn – after the rain… #knitting #knittersofinstagram

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Very inspiring indeed! And that leads to me… wanting to buy more! Shoot! I have this plan – that I want to make a sweater for my son: He has a favorite jacket, that he wears everywhere, including indoors. It bugs me… I know that is about me and not him, but it still bugs me. So  I want to make him a sweater that is like the jacket, but is a sweater, because it won’t bug me as much. But – I don’t have the yarn for it: I have two scraps, but that isn’t enough for a whole sweater, so I “have to” buy more yearn. Well … not have to … I need to take responsibility for my addiction right? I want to, and I will buy more yarn – tomorrow I think (we now have a Norwegian yarn store in Fuengirola, and I am going to Fuengirola tomorrow).

Designing next project #knitting #knittersofinstagram

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I am using some leftovers however – I am learning to steek (the art of cutting your knit fabric without ruining it), which of course led me to want to make socks out of this yarn – well actually I want to make a sweater, but I don’t have enough of these yarns, and – or is it shall? – so socks it shall be:

And some leftover merino yarn that I bought on sale a lot of years ago to make my daughter a poncho. My daughter does not care to get dressed, clothes are overrated. But the house is cold these days – it has been raining a lot this winter and it does get cold here, so she walks around the house with a blanket, and the blanket gets dirty, and she knocks things from tables etc. So when we found this load of pink and red chunky yearn that I bought when she was a baby, I decided to make a poncho for her. I also finished a pair of legwarmers that I promised her – for her ballet outfit (not yarn from the stash… I bought this – but only 100g – controlling that addiction).

Leg warmers done – poncho started! #knitting #knittersofinstagram #ballet

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That brings us full circle – great how fixing that one jacket can make me feel frugal right? You know – even being crafty can make me feel frugal, even if it is where I have a shopping gene! I feel frugal, and thus I feel that I can afford to buy good quality stuff – thus my sons sweater will probably be €50-100 in materials. That is way more expensive than any clothes I would normally buy for him… Good thing that is the only place where I feel a need to shop. Good thing that I am aware of it. Good thing that I have a hobby that brings me happiness.

I hope the rains have more or less stopped now. I think I will get out into the garden this comming week. We finished the rabbit cage saturday, but I think we will wait with a buck untill we come home from Denmark.  I took strides towards starting another keyhole garden. I want to plant my elderbush before it sets flowers (and I am almost too late to do that…), I want to plant sunflowers beans and spaghetti squash. I want to find a solution to my dog constantly digging out my keyhole garden… I want to plant something next to my garlic. I hope that this year I don’t get hayfever – because I can feel the energy of spring getting me ready to go out and get going. At the same time we have more playdates than ever before – I am almost never home… Which is the down-side of homeschooling while living in a rural area… I whish there were more homeschoolers here on our mountain. It is actually a great feeling – that feeling that I don’t have enough hours in the 24 hours there is in a day, to do all the things that I want to do! Compared to a year ago – where I hardly felt like doing anything at all – not even get up in the morning 🙂

And we have water!

I promised someone that once we had water – before the whole water nightmare became ancient history I would write the story – a story that at times seemed like a course. And it wasn’t – because we have water now. Or maybe it was, it was trial, where we could show our perseverance.

When I wrote the last post 3 months ago I thought that when Marcus came back from Denmark we would get water in a few days. We didn’t.

Actually we didn’t get water untill 2 days ago.

So the generator was broken, and we had to get it serviced. We bought another one and we hooked it up to the pump – but it wasn’t strong enough. The motor was 3 kW and the generator was 3,5 kW so we thought it would be fine – we took it back to Bauhaus and they would not return it – because we didn’t have the box it came in. They said that “everybody knew” that a 3 kW motor needed at least 6 kW generator – well I didn’t, but then I also all but flunked circuit theory at Uni… and it never came up in secondary school – I’ve never been off grid before, so no I didn’t know that. So we bought a 6 kW generator tried that – still no water. At this time we had hired two guys to do all this work for us, because I was not able to do it alone and if we were to wait for Marcus to get off work in the afternoon, this thing would take months (well it did so…). So we took the motor back to the fontaneria where we bought it and they proclaimed that off course it did not work – it was too small for the depth of the well! This time our Spanish friends were doing the negotiations and they looked deep in the eyes of the technician that had recommended this motor and said “and you will switch this one for a stronger motor, without any extra cost – they just payed us two days work for nothing, because you sold them the wrong motor!” So he did – and they did. But we had to wait for the fontaneria to get another motor so two days later I went to get it. And they installed it and nothing…

So Marcus did alot of measurements and it turns out that the voltage is too low, so we get a thicker cable (we call the fontaneria and they say 2,5 square, but we buy 4 square to be sure – or something, as I said I all but flunked circuit theory – my mind goes blank when they talk voltage and watts etc), aaaand still no water. So now we go back to the fontaneria and we are like – “what the f***?” And they put a professional well digger on the job, and promises that what ever he recommends, they will cover. He comes back and says that we need to buy 10 square cable or another motor and another generator. Remember we are now up to 3 generators on our little farm… The fontaneria exchanges the motor with a 3 fased one and we go buy a 3 fased generator. Unfortunately it is too small (our bad – totally), and since we bought it through the yellow pages it is not returnable. 4 generators, still no water.

Finding a larger generator, 3 fases is not easy, but finally we find one – the guys bring the pump and the motor all they way to Marbella to check that it actually works. It does, they come back to install it friday, only to find out that we are out of tape to seal the electrical connections to make them water tight. So Marcus goes to Bricomart to buy that, by the time he comes back, it is late, it is getting dark – they are going home. They promise to be back Saturday morning to get the whole thing installed. But the night between Friday and Saturday it is raining cats and dogs (and we do not get up to turn on the generator – otherwise we could have collected some 4000 L I think) and their basements are flooded. So they aren’t coming, and then they show up Monday, Marcus bought the wrong thing – or something – and we go down to our local hardware store to order it, and it will be two days. Thursday, one of the guy’s daddy is sick (and one guy can’t lower the pump alone) so they wont be here till friday (we had run out of water the Friday before and lived off of the water we had collected over the weekend some 1000 L). Friday – two days ago, 20 minutes before the guests arrives for Miriam’s birthday party – they announced that now! we have water!

Well – we have water on the top of the mountain, because we are missing a connector thing for the tube.

But now we have water 🙂 And this weekend Marcus managed to get our hot water heater going, so we even have hot water!

And we have finished the living room, and almost finished my office, and we have put an order down with a local carpenter for a kitchen. And this place is beginning to look like a real home! And feel like it.

In the months where we did not have water from the spring and our guys were working on the well we have been able to buy 8000L of water and put into our cistern. We’ve done so about once a month. So that is an expense more shaved off the budget – and once we have cleaned the cistern, we will be able to drink the water from the well – and loads of plastic bottles will not not be bought every week. The cistern is leaking – our big carob tree is growing into it. Since we don’t want to fell the tree we will have to find another long term solution for water storage. We have been using about 8000L/month these last few months – incl. irrigation excl. drinking water. We have not been showering as much as we would have liked to. It is about 65 L/pers/day – which is about the amount that we have been planning to use. So it is very obvious to us that we need to not be irrigating (except that which we are irrigating with greywater). If we irrigate we can’t bathe, simple as that. We also need 40-50.000L worth of storage – because except for that one little rain on Sct. John’s it hasn’t rained since the day we ran out of water in the spring.

So we have learned a lot – and a couple of trees have died!

We need to plant trees, from seed, that can survive without irrigation – or choose to irrigate a small area for a while, using well water – but to stop once the trees are established. We are considering which or if we will do both.

We are also taking more shortcuts, accepting that sometimes we need to pay people to come do stuff in order to get it done – and that it is OK. Marcus’ salary will still pay for a lot more work than he can put in after hours himself. We are also have more “generator evenings” as the kids call them – nights where we turn the generator on and watch a movie: We need that! And it is OK!

I don’t think I would have survived a week in 1890. But we are surviving and thriving here – and I need to learn how to change a tire 🙂

And we now have two generators for sale, if anyone is interested!

Socialization 2

My aunt wrote me a follow-up question to my previous post on socialization, and I will try to answer her in Danish first, and translate my answer in English below (NB – to save time I have used Google translate and only edited a little to weed out the most obvious mistakes).

Spørgsmål: “Nu blev jeg lidt klogere på jeres liv og unschooling. Og ungernes kontakt og samvær med andre børn. Jeg har et par tillægsspørgsmål: Med grupper/team tænker jeg på mange ting, fx turtagning (ved samtaler, spil m.m.), at lytte til andre børns oplevelser/tanker, hensyntagen, men også sammenhold og fælles sejre. Uden mor i nærheden. Er I adskilt fra børnene ved nogle af disse sammenkomster? Med tolerence tænker jeg lidt i samme baner: at holde ud, at andre også skal have plads, uanset hvordan de er. Også de besværlige, sære, stille, hurtige, langsomme, dominerende, småt begavede, dem med ADHD, autisme….. At være fælles om, at også de skal trives. Får unschoolede børn udfordringer på det område? Uden for forældres domæne? Er der mulighed for tøsefnis, prinsesselege, spejlinger, bedsteveninder uden mor og bror er med? Det sidste med læring på markeder osv adskiller sig vel ikke fra alle børns læring, skole eller ej? Når mine børnebørn opdager en vrimmel af børsteorme i fjorden og fanger dem i net, medfører det automatisk, at vi undersøger, hvad børsteorme egentlig er for nogle fætre, hvorfor der er så mange i et par uger, hvem spiser dem, kan de bide – osv osv. Og den viden er langt mere spændende og sidder bedre fast, end hvis der var læst en halv side om dem i en skole eller ikke-skole. Hvori mener du, forskellen er?

Rundboldkamp eller fodbold, det fælles grin og de sjove oplevelser kan fås på mange forskellige måder.
Og så lidt om mistrivsel: jeg regner med, vi taler om børn, der trives med eller uden skolegang. Mistrivsel skal der naturligvis altid tages hånd om, men det er efter min mening en ganske anden snak. Nogle forældre har desværre ikke ressourcer til at tackle deres børns mistrivsel, og vil være ude af stand til at unschoole.
Jeg synes, det er så fedt, at du til enhver tid vil efterkomme børnenes ønsker, hvis de vil i skole. Så jeg er slet ikke bekymret over deres kommende teenageliv. Er der nogle i jeres grupper, der IKKE vil acceptere, hvis børnene vil noget andet?
Det frie valg svarer vel en smule til, at jeg hverken er døbt eller konfirmeret, men det har altid været en mulighed, hvis jeg ville. Og ligesom du altid skal forklare, hvorfor dine børn ikke går i skole, har jeg altid skullet svare på, hvorfor jeg ikke er kristen. De andre får sjældent spørgsmålet, hvorfor de er medlem af folkekirken, hvilket de fleste aldrig har overvejet.
Et lille PS: Du skriver, at timerne er kedelige OG at børnene mobbes – lige efter hinanden. De sidste kan vel ikke være dem, som elsker kammeraterne?”

Jeg vil denne gang skrive et lidt mere sammenhængende svar, fordi dine spørgsmål stikker mere dybt IMO – og jeg tror at vi her helt grundlæggende er uenige.

Sagen er nemlig den at jeg f.eks. ikke mener at børn har brug for at være uden deres mor før de selv har lyst og er klar, jeg mener ikke at børn i skolen “får lov til” at være uden mor, eller “får lov til” at lave gruppearbejde – de bliver ikke spurgt, det er bare sådan det er. Det kan være godt for nogen – men det er sandelig også rigtig skidt for mange andre. Min baggrund for at sige det er, lige som i artiklen omkring min holdning til folkeskolen – at jeg kender mange af de børn der bliver taget ud af folkeskolen af utilfredse forældre (her taler vi naturligtvis om stærke middelklasseforældre), fordi de ikke trives, og jeg kender til en del af de børn der bliver nød til at blive i folkeskolen selvom de ikke trives gennem min mors arbejde (ikke så tit middelklasseforældre).

Jeg har en personlig grundfilosofi omkring frivillighed – og den bunder i at jeg ikke tror på at nogen i denne verden lærer noget godt af at være tvunget til at gøre ting de ikke bryder sig om. Man kan godt vælge at gøre noget man ikke bryder sig om, fordi gevinsten er større end “smerten” (som ex. når jeg tager opvasken hver dag selvom jeg ikke gider, fordi jeg hader hvordan her ser ud når jeg ikke gør det), men det tror jeg helt reelt kun man kan gøre på en god måde, hvis det er frivilligt. Nu er jeg godt klar over at der er mange børn der er glade for ex. deres kammerater i folkeskolen, men mange af dem er så ikke glade for timerne, nogen er glade for timerne men ikke kammeraterne… Og så er der nogen der er midt imellem. Nogen hader nogen fag, andre hader andre – meget få elever elsker det hele, men de skal deltage uanset hvad. Meget af den tvang der er i et skolemiljø fører til mobning – jeg mener faktisk at børnene mobber fordi de mistrives og ofte er skolen i lige så høj grad årsagen som hjemmet. Den tvang der er i skolen ville ingen voksne accepere i deres eget liv – alligevel forventer vi at børnene skal acceptere det i 10 år og så undrer vi os når de slår ud efter hinanden eller lærerne. Jeg personligt hadede idræt og oplevede ingen sejre i hverken rundbold eller fodbold – jeg vidste at når mit “team” vandt, var det ikke pga noget jeg havde gjort, nærmere på trods – det samme vidste jeg om de elever som jeg lavede danskopgaver med, som var blevet sat i gruppe med mig fordi jeg var god og kunne “hjælpe” dem. Jeg hjalp dem ikke – jeg lavede bare opgaven. Med mindre folkeskolen har ændret sig radikalt er det stadig i høj grad det samme.

I et ægte team har man brug for hinanden, eller også er man sammen fordi man er bundet sammen af noget andet – venskab, kærlighed. De teams der er i en skoleklasse er kunstige – og de eksisterer kun fordi læreren har bestemt at de skal eksistere. Eleverne har derfor ingen anden motivation for at samarbejde end den læreren kan give dem. Regler som at vente på sin tur til at tale etc er jo til stede i det almindelige liv – det behøver man ikke en skoleklasse for at lære. I en arbejdsgruppe på arbejde har vi brug for hinanden – de andres viden, arbejdskraft etc. I venskaber vælger vi at overse svagheder og fokuserer på hinandens styrker, fordi vi kan lide at være sammen, det samme gælder familien. Dette er kun til stede i meget heldige tilfælde i en gruppe i skolen. Det fører mig frem til hensyntagen og tolerance. Jeg tror ikke mine børn ved hvad det betyder – og det er ikke fordi de er intolerante, men fordi de simpelthen ikke er klar over at flere af deres venner er “diagnosebørn” eller “etniske” – de kan lide at være sammen med dem og det er hvad der gælder, de er sammen med dem når de har lyst og kan vælge dem fra når de ikke har lyst. Igen af os behøver lave om på vores jul for at tage hensyn til muslimske venner, med mindre vi har lyst, for de vælger bare at lade være med at deltage hvis de ikke bryder sig om festlighederne – og hvis de deltager er det som gæster, som vi behandler høfligt med den gæstfrihed der nu forventes til gæster, ellers ville vi jo ikke invitere dem. Det samme gælder børn med ADHD eller autisme – så Lucas’ ven der har en ASP diagnose, jamen han er vildt god til alt muligt med tal og computere, hyperfokuseret på at finde alle detaljer om alle de mennesker han er sammen med – til gengæld tager det ham mindst et døgns samværd før han slipper sin Nintendo DS og kigger på de andre børn, og han kan ikke rigtig finde ud af andre “børnelege” end dem der foregår i poolen eller på compteren. Lucas har aldrig bemærket at han er anderledes. Hans ven der har en ADHD diagnose mødes vi med på legeplads, fordi det går som regel galt hvis vi er indendørs. Men på legeplads er der plads til hans energi og han er ikke en gene for nogen – og hvis han er, så er der plads til at han kan trække sig, eller de andre børn kan – bla. fordi mor er med til begge børn og kan tage sig af deres særlige behov. De andre børn bemærker dårligt nok at han er anderledes – for vi er alle anderledes og det er bare sådan det er. Deres anderledeshed griber ikke ind i de andre børns behov for at trives eller lære. De er ikke til gene. Så – måske man kunne vende det om sige at det er skolemiljøet der skaber et behov for at lære tolerance?

Mor er med og mor støtter i det omfang det enkelte barn har brug for det. Det er en stor forskel fra et skolemiljø og ikke en dårlig en mener jeg. Behovet ser forskelligt ud fra barn til barn. Jeg har ét barn der gladeligt taler med fremmede, når jeg er ved hans side, men som ikke vil overnatte hos nogen med mindre han virkelig føler sig tryg. Han vil ikke engang passes et par timer hos venner, med mindre det er nogen han kender godt og har det rigtig godt med. Et andet barn der under ingen omstændigheder taler med fremmede, men som derimod næsten blindt stoler på folk så snart de er over tærsklen – således har min søn i en alder af (næsten) 8 år 2-3 venner han har overnattet hos uden mor, medens min datter har været på “camping” med 2 af vores frivillige og overnattede hos en ny veninde 24 timer efter hun mødte hende første gang (vi kendte forældrene). Så ja de har mulighed for at være uden mor – hvis de har lyst. Det har de ofte ikke skal siges og det er helt OK. Det er ikke noget vi tilstræber, eller noget vi opsøger – det sker bare. Skolebørn bliver nød til at lære at klare sig uden mor, fordi det er realiteten i deres liv og læreren kan ikke tage sig af dem som deres mor ville. Unschoolede børn vælger selvstændigheden når de er klar. Personligt mener jeg at det sidste er langt sundere, men det er jo op til den enkelte familie at finde ud af hvad de mener.

Du mener at mine børn vil savne venner når de bliver større, eller synes at det er fint at de i det mindste kan vælge skolen når de bliver større. Jeg kan ikke lade være med at smile lidt – for antallet af teenagere jeg kender der er massivt skoletrætte, men som ikke får lov til at forlade skolen af deres forældre er enormt. Til gengæld kender jeg efterhånden også en del unschoolede (danske, spanske og amerikanske) teenagere og når jeg spørger dem om de savner skole eller venner så kigger de på mig som om jeg er idiot… De har alle et rigt socialt liv, kan gøre som det passer dem 90% af tiden, studere når de vil, spille guitar når de vil og være sammen med vennerne når de vil. De ved hvad skole indebærer og ikke ret mange af dem er villige til at opgive deres frihed for et kunstigt socialt fællesskab (som de fleste af deres venner tørster efter at slippe fra), slet ikke hvis det indebærer at voksne skal fortælle dem hvad de skal lave hvornår og hvordan. De er meget stærke og sunde unge mennesker – og de fleste har ingen teenageoprør ifht deres forældre (jeps jeg siger ingen, der er intet at gøre oprør imod). Så om mine venner ville lade deres børn gå i skole hvis de valgte det? Mange af dem ja, nogle få nej – men antallet der er villige til at lade børnene vælge selv er langt højere end antallet af forældre der ville lade deres børn vælge skolen fra hvis de ikke gad den 😉

Det bringer mig så tilbage til det du skriver om dine børnebørns læring når de er hos dig og det de laver dér – hvordan er det forskelligt fra det jeg laver med mine børn? Ikke ret meget, faktisk slet ikke – hvilket jo også er grunden til at middelklassens børn generelt klarer sig så godt i folkeskolen og underklassens børn ofte ikke gør det. Problemet er at når først børnene begynder i skole, så er der ikke ret meget tid til den slags. Problemet er også at børnene i skolen lærer at de har brug for en lærer og en lærebog for at lære noget. En del af dem lærer også at læring er kedeligt og langsommeligt (spørg de fleste børn der forlader folkeskolen og gymnasiet om hvad deres mening om et eller andet fag er). Det fører blandt andet til at børnene ser ned på “nørderne” – fordi de ikke har mistet deres barnlige nysgerrighed for naturfag. Unschoolede børn kan udforske et emne når de er klar – det betyder at de lærer det på ingen tid, der er ingen spildtid – resten kan bruges til socialisering 🙂 Jeg har en lille historie til dig som eksempel (min danske hjemmeskole-veninde Luna leverer):

Luna: Hr. Tilsynsførende; hvad mener de om et barn på 10 år der ikke kan læse?
Hr. T: Det er jo bekymrende og må der gøres noget ved. Det går slet SLET ikke
Luna: Hr. Tilsynsførende; hvad mener de som om et barn på 10 år der læser Shakespeare?
Hr. T: Det er jo imponerende, fantastisk. Sikke et dygtigt barn
Luna: Hr. Tilsynsførende; det er det samme barn, med nogle måneders mellemrum

Dét er forskellen! Drengen her ville ikke have fået lov til at vente til han selv var klar, skolen ville have lært ham at det var et problem at han ikke læste tidligere, at det var svært og evt også kedeligt at lære at læse, evt også kedeligt at læse – og han ville nok ikke have læst Shakespeare som 10 årig. Til gengæld ville han være overbevist om at han ikke ville have været i stand til at lære at læse hvis det ikke var for skolen…

I unschooling kan vi vente på de der vinduer af læring børn har, når barnet spørger “hvorfor kaster vi skygger?” eller “hvad ville der ske hvis vi slap en prut ud i verdensrummet?” Eller “hvad rimer på vandmelon?” Vi prøver ikke at proppe viden i hovedet på børnene før de er klar. Det at lære at læse ex. er i den sammenhæng som en tidevandsbølge, der kommer igen og igen og bliver højere for hver gang – og til sidst har de knækket koden, ingen har lært dem det, ingen undervisning har de modtaget – det er en organisk process. Den process griber skolen – ødelæggende efter min mening – ind i. Det er ikke lineært, ikke nødvendigtvis målrettet og ikke altid noget der sker i fordybelse (men det kan det også gøre, når lysten melder sig). Det bare er – altid, i alting.

English Translation:

My aunt wrote me a follow-up question to my previous post on socialization, and I will try besvare here in English first and translate my answer into English below.

Question: “Now I am a little wiser about your life and unschooling. And the kid’s contact and social interaction with other children. I have a few supplementary questions: With groups / teams I think of many things, such as turn-taking (by conversations, games and more) that listen to other children’s experiences / thoughts, but also the unity and common victories. Without mom around. Are you separated from the children at some of these gatherings? With tolerance, I am thinking a little along the same lines: to hold out that others need space, regardless of how they are. The too cumbersome, strange, quiet, fast, slow, dominant, mentally retarded, those with ADHD, autism ….. Being in common that they too must thrive. Do unschooled children get challenges in this area? Outside the parent domain? Is there a possibility for girly giggles, princess games, reflections, best friends without mom and brother being with you.

Last – because learning in markets etc it hardly differs  from all children’s learning, school or not? When my grandchildren discovers a swarm of worms in the bay and catch them in nets it results automatically in that we examine what kind of dudes these worms are, why there are so many in a few weeks, who eat them, do they bite – etc. etc. And the knowledge is much more exciting and sit better than if it were read half a page about them in a school or non-school. Wherein do you think the difference is?

Softball or football, it is common laughter and the fun experiences can be obtained in many different ways.
And a little on children who don’t thrive: I figure we are talking about children who thrive with or without schooling. Children who don’t thrive should of course always be taken care of, but it is in my opinion quite a different story. Some parents have unfortunately no resources to deal with their children’s failure to thrive, and will be unable to unschoole.
I think it’s so cool that you will at all times comply with the wishes of the children if they are going to school. So I’m not at all worried about their upcoming teenage life. Are any of your groups will NOT accept if the kids want something else?
Free choice corresponds well a bit that I am not baptized or had any faith confirmed in church, but there has always been an option if I wanted to. And just as you always have to explain why your children are not in school, I always had to answer why I’m not Christian. The other rarely question why they are members of the church, which most have never considered.
A little PS: You write that the lessons are boring AND the children being bullied – in a row. The latter may well not be those who love comrades? ”

This time I want to write a little more coherent answer, because your questions protrudes more deeply IMO – and I think that we fundamentally disagree.

The fact is that I don’t believe that children need to be without their mother before they have the desire and are ready, I do not think that children in the school “allowed” to be without mother, or “allowed” to do group work – they are not asked, it’s just how it is. It may be good for some – but it is indeed very bad for many others. My background for saying it is, just as in the article about my attitude to school – I know many of the children are taken out of school by disgruntled parents (here we are obviously talking about strong middle class parents) because they do not thrive, and I know some of the children who will have to stay in school even if they do not thrive through my mom’s work (not often middle-class parents).

I have a personal philosophy of voluntarism – and it stems from that I do not believe that anyone in this world learn anything from being forced to do things they do not like. You could choose to do something you do not like, because the gain is greater than “pain” (as f.ex. when I do the dishes every day even though I did not like it, because I hate how this looks when I do not), but I think quite effectively you can only do this in a good way, if it is voluntary. Now I am well aware that there are many children who are happy with their friend in elementary school, but many of them are not so happy for classes, some are happy for classes but not for classmates … And then there are some who are in between. Someone hates one subject, others hate others – very few students love it all, but they must attend no matter what. Much of the coercion that is in a school environment leads to bullying – I actually think that kids bully because they don’t thrive and often the school just as much the reason, as the home. The coercion in school no adult would accept in their own lives – yet we expect the children to accept it for 10 years and we wonder when they turn around and hit each other. I personally hated sport and saw no wins in either softball or football – I knew that when my “team” won, it was not because of anything I had done, quite the opposite – and I I knew that the students that I shared group with in Danish classes, whom had been placed in a group with me because I was good and could “help” them. I did not help them – I just did the job. Unless the school has changed radically, it is still very much the same.

In a real team do you need each other, or you are together because you are bound together by something else – friendship, love. The teams that are in a class are artificial – and they exist only because the teacher has determined that they must exist. Students therefore have no other motivation to cooperate than the teacher can give them. In a workgroup at work, we need each other – other people’s knowledge, labor, etc. In friendships we choose to overlook weaknesses and focus on each other’s strengths, because we like to be together, as does the family. This is only present in very fortunate circumstances in a group in school. That brings me to consideration and tolerance. I do not think my kids know what that means – and it’s not because they are intolerant, but because they simply are not aware that several of their friends are “diagnosis children” or “ethnic” – they like to be with them and that is what is important to them, they are with them when they want to and can select not to be with them when they do not want. We don’t need to change our Christmas to take account of Muslim friends, unless we want to, they just choose to not to participate if they do not like the celebrations – and if they attend it as guests, we welcome them politely with the hospitality which would be expected with guests, otherwise we do not invite them. The same goes for children with ADHD or autism – so Lucas’s friend who has an ASP diagnosis, well, he’s crazy good at everything with numbers and computers, hyper-focused on finding all the details of all the people he’s with – but takes it him at least one day together before he escapes his Nintendo DS and look at the other kids, and he can not really figure out “child play ” except those taking place in the pool or on the computer. Lucas has never noticed that he is different. His friend who has an ADHD diagnosis, we meet with in the playground because it usually goes wrong if we are indoors. But on the playground there is room for his energy and he is not a nuisance to anyone – and if he is, then there is room for him to resign, or the other children can – among other things. because the mother is helping both children and can take care of their special needs. The other children hardly notice that he is different – because we are all different and that is just the way it is. Their differences don’t interfere with the others need to thrive or learn. They are not a nuisance. So you could turn it around – maybe it is the school environment, that creates the need too learn tolerance?

Mom is there and mom and support to the extent that each child needs it. It’s a big difference from a school and not a bad one, I think. The need looks different from child to child. I have one child who gladly talks to strangers when I’m by his side, but will not spend the night with someone unless he really feels safe. He will not even accept being babysat a few hours with friends, unless it’s someone he knows well and feels really good about. Another child that under no circumstances talk to strangers, but almost blindly trust the people as soon as they are over her threshold. So my son at the age of (almost) eight years has 2-3 friends he stayed without his mom, while my daughter has been “camping” with 2 of our volunteers, and spent the night with a new friend 24 hours after she first met her (we knew the parents). So yes they have the opportunity to be without mom – if they want to. Often they don’t and that’s perfectly OK. It’s not something we strive for, or something we seek – it just happens. School children will have to learn to cope without mom, because it is the reality of their lives and the teacher can not take care of them like their mother would. Unschoolede children choose independence when they are ready. Personally, I believe that the latter is much healthier, but it is up to each family to find out what they think.

You think that my children will miss friends when they grow up, or think it’s fine that they can at least choose the school as they get bigger. I can not help but smile a little – for the number of teenagers I know who are massively school tired, but not allowed to leave school by their parents is huge. On the other hand, by now I know quite a few unschooled (Danish, Spanish and American) teenagers and when I ask them if they miss school or friends they look at me like I’m an idiot … They all have a rich social life, do as they please 90% of the time, study whenever they want, play guitar when they want to, and hang out with friends whenever they want. They know what school entails and not many of them are willing to give up their freedom for an artificial social community (that most of their friends craves to get rid of), certainly not if it involves adults to tell them what to do, when and how. They are very strong and healthy young people – and most have no teenage rebellion against their parents (Yeah I said NO, there’s nothing to rebel against). So if my friends would let their children go to school if they chose it? Many of them yes, some no – but the number who are willing to let the children choose for themselves is far higher than the number of parents would let their children choose to quit school if they don’t not care for it 😉

It brings me so back to what you write about your children children’s learning when they are with you and what they do there – how is it different from what I do with my children? Not much, actually not at all – which is also the reason that middle-class children in general are doing so well in school and lower class children often do not. The problem is that once children start school, there is not much time for that. The problem is that the kids at school learn that they need a teacher and a textbook to learn something. Some of them also learn that learning is boring and slow (ask most children leaving primary and secondary education on what their opinion on any subject is). This leads among other things to the kids looking down on “nerds” – because they have not lost their childlike curiosity for science. Unschoolede children can explore a topic when they are ready – this means that they learn it in no time, there is no wasted time – the rest can be used for socialization 🙂 I have a little story for you as an example (from my friend Luna – after a meeting with her supervisor):

Luna: Mr. Supervisor; what do you think a child of 10 years who cannot read?
Mr. T: That’s a concern and must be addressed. It is certainly not, NOT OK.
Luna: Mr. Supervisor; what do you think of a child of 10 years who reads Shakespeare?
Mr. T: That’s impressive, fantastic. What a clever child
Luna: Mr. Supervisor; it is the same child every few months apart.

That’s the difference! The boy here would not have been allowed to wait until he was ready, the school would have taught him that it was a problem that he did not read earlier that it was difficult and possibly also boring to learn to read, perhaps too, boring to read – and he probably would not have read Shakespeare at the age of 10. In return, he would be convinced that he would not have been able to learn to read if it were not for school …

In unschooling, we can wait for the windows of learning children when the child asks “why do we throw shadows?” or “what would happen if we threw a fart into space?” Or, “What rhymes with watermelon?” We’re not trying to cram knowledge into the minds of children before they are ready. Learning to read ex. in this context like a tidal wave coming in over and over and getting higher every time – and eventually they crack the code, no one has taught them that, no teaching have they received – it is an organic process. The process school interferes with – devastating in my opinion. It is not linear, not always goal oriented, and not always something happening in contemplation (but it can also do that). It just is – always, in everything.


What is my problem with public school?

One of my friends asked me on Facebook – what is your problem with public school, and what do you base that on?

Now – this is not so much an post about Unschooling, as it is about school, and it has been hard for me to write, because I promised I’d keep this series of posts in a positive spirit. I know many of my friends have their kids in public school, and many of them are happy about it. I don’t have a problem with that (politically I have a problem with paying for it – but that is a completely different post). What ever way people choose to raise their kids is no business of mine, as long as they and the kids thrive. All I ask is that the same courtesy is extended to me.

First off – what do I base my opinion of public school on? As I haven’t had my kids in Danish public school (which is what we are talking about, and it is a lot different than public school in other countries), I can’t claim personal experience, because it has been some 20 years since I left (and several reforms of both the schools and the teachers education since).

But I have lived in Denmark for all those years, and I have family who are public school teachers, and I have friends who are public school teachers and I have friends who’s kids go to or have gone to public school. I read the papers, and I do very very much have an interest in children’s education – actually I have been studying learning and child psychology for the last 7-8 years or something along those lines (no not in University, but reading most anything I could get my hands on about the subject). My mother has – as a social worker, and psychotherapist, and as a temp. in public school, been very very close to the kids who fail in the system – that has been my reality for most of my life, knowing the ins and outs of the kids who fail in the system.

And that is where my problem with public school lies: With the kids who fail, the kids who don’t thrive in the system… I think that the schools fail, when they fail to help these kids.

Let me explain: When ever we talk about Unschooling, or child-led learning like Democratic schools, Sudburry Valley Academy, Summerhill etc. someone will always come along and say “Yes, but that is all very good, but these kids all come from a middle class background so that proves nothing” (in terms of how children learn) or “We need the public schools, because not all parents take care of their kids like you do” – or something along those lines.

But the problem is that the kids who don’t thrive at home don’t thrive in schools either. Even the soft Danish public school. When I was in school, the kids from the worst homes, were the ones who fared the worst in school – and it is the same today as it was then. It hasn’t changed – school reform after school reform, and the kids who come from the least resourceful homes are the ones who fail in school.

I had  a discussion online with a school principal online about a year ago – about the latest school reform. She was pro the “Whole day school” (Danish kids are now to go to school all day instead of going to after school day care) as the minister had proposed. Her argument was that we were loosing big chunks of every generation, because they simply did not learn anything in school. Research shows this too. The majority of these kids ends up the same place as their parents – a few make it through and are better off, but my argument is that school actually hurt more of these kids than it helps – and that is my problem.

What do I mean? I mean that schools simply caters to the middle class and that kids who don’t thrive at home often are made to feel stupid in school – even if that is not the intention of the teacher. So many of these kids leave school hating all things academic (heck that even happens to a lot of middle class kids), thinking they are stupid and can’t learn anything. My argument is that many many teachers, in their effort to help these kids, sends them a message of inferiority, which makes it even harder for the kids to learn, which then makes the teachers help them even more – it is a vicious circle. Many examples show, that if you simply take these kids out of school and let them grow a garden, or work in a garage or sail a ship – they thrive, and they learn all the things schools have taught them that they can’t learn, and more…

So why don’t we do that? Why keep them in school? And why – if research shows that all kids learn brilliantly without curricula, without schedules – why do we keep doing this? I think we are doing the kids a disservice, and in that we perpetuate a myth that this school-system is needed. I honestly think that the school-system does more to uphold the social structures with a perpetual underclass, than any other system in our society – and it gives us all the idea that if you just work hard in school, you can break the social inheritance – which makes many many people think, that if you are stuck on wellfare it is your own fault – more or less – because society gave you the chance and you did not grab it.

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