Homeschooling and Permaculuture

In a recent thread in the Cider Press on http://www.permies.com there was a question as to whether Homeschooling was a part of Permaculture. At the time I had not earned enough apples to answer with my thoughts and by the time I had I couldn’t find it. I have been giving it a lot of thought though, and thought I would write an blog post about it.

First of all – homeschooling is not mentioned in the Permaculture Designers Manual, not even in connection to Social Capital and People Care, so technically homeschooling is not part of permaculture per se.

Yet I feel very deeply that maybe it should be – for several reasons. This doesn’t mean that people who don’t agree with this or who doesn’t want to homeschool shouldn’t use permaculture in many other areas of life, I am as always open to everyone finding the way that works best for their family – even if I don’t agree, it is not really any of my business.

First of all growing up in the care of your parents and learning from their work is the natural way of learning for children. Relationship matters, attachment matters – which is why Homeschooled children of even poorly educated parents do better than their schooled peers (cf. Gordon Neufeld TEDx – Relationship Matters). It is the way children have grown up all through history, it is what they are hardwired to do. In Permaculture we work with nature not against it – and taking children and putting them into class rooms away from the real world and teaching them about the real world is in my view akin to monocropping (esp. if those schools maintain the custom of the industrial age of age segregation). Children learn by doing (don’t we all?) and there is very little doing in a school, and when ever there is doing it is artificially set up to meet the learning goal of the teacher – there is very little room for detours into other areas, when those glorious moments happen, the teacher is often forced to bring the kids “back to subject” because they have a curriculum to cover. The organic learning situations where you talk about one subject and bounce of to the next have very little space – and in todays test oriented schools there is less and less time for these ventures. The way we learn when we have those organical talks, shows us that everything is interconnected, and that indeed is also what permaculture teaches us.

My second objection to schools in relation to Permaculture is that it teaches children to fit in, which also teaches the children to be far more materialistic than they necessarily need to be. In my opinion the whole sickness of “keeping up with the Joneses” is founded in school – it comes mainly from peer pressure, which stems with children spending a disproportionate amount of time with other children and not with parents, grandparents etc. Peer orientation is described in the excellent book “Hold On to Your Kids” by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté. I have many friends who have struggles with their children around which stuff is OK to buy or not – struggles that I don’t have… my children have very short wish lists for christmas and birthdays and they have always worn second hand clothes, and not once have they complained about it. We learn in school that we need to learn things that we find boring because that is the only way to get a “good education” which is the only way to get a “good job” (which usually means something that isn’t manual labour, which also means something that makes more money than manual labor, even if it is never explicitly said that way). So we suffer through drudgery, to someday be able to make more money than the next guy… more or less. And in our jobs we then again we suffer through drudgery. The better we are at accepting the suffering, and the better we are at parroting the teacher, the better grades we get and the better grades we get the better schools/universities we can get into later on in life. This is exactly the circle we are trying to break in permaculture. Many many people in permaculture have stopped the race to the top, stepped off the corporate ladder to only God knows where, to take their own life in their own hands. I think it would be wonderful to raise children who do not see that as the only possible future for them.

Before I close of today’s rant I want to plug this little video Schooling the World – White Man’s Last Burden which is about how the western cultures have pushed our values on indigenous cultures across the world, among others by schooling them. I saw this and many many pieces of a puzzle I had been working on in my head fell in place. A few years earlier I had read a book by a Danish pedagog  Erik Sigsgaard “Er Opdragelse Nødvendig?” (Is Upbringing Nessesary?) where he questions whether parents really need to teach their children anything, and one of his points in the book was that the Danish nobility were talking about the peasants and their ways of raising children, saying that those peasants were always talking about “what the child wanted”, and off course, when the first schools were introduced by the nobility, they promised the parents to treat the children as well as they would be at home – one letter even promised that off course they wouldn’t hit the children! A few decades later it was of course quite a different song, and even today schools complain that parents spoil the children so that they haven’t learned to bow to the collective in the class. When public daycare was introduced in Denmark in the 60s and 70s the pedagogs there would talk about how the children were “protesting institutionalisation” when they cried while being dropped off by their mothers in the morning, today they claim that the children are simply mirroring the mothers mixed emotions about dropping them off (blame the mother always…). This paired with the John Holt book “Escape from Childhood” and Sugata Mitra’s TED talk about Self-teaching made me realise that school is the experiment, not unschooling. Unschooling is what children have done always, schooling is a new thing. It hasn’t just been shoved down the throats of the indigenous people’s of the world – it has been shoved down the throat of the working peoples of the West too – to serve some very specific purposes to some very specific people. That is not a goal I want to continue to contribute to. And I realised that even if numerous reformers have tried to change schools from within, they have never really achieved the one thing that schools cannot do: Let children learn in their natural environment, which is the family (and the tribe), among people who love them unconditionally. To me homeschooling is the ultimate people care. To do that we need to trust children, and to trust parents, like we trust nature.

Children learn what they live, and if we want them to learn permaculture they need to live permaculture. For my children composting is the most natural thing in the world, finding edibles in nature normal, reducing consumption hardly a thing they think about, they just don’t consume very much, reusing resources and recycling is not something they learn with big posters and flyers – they live it every day. Not perfectly always, but who is? That is why I think unschooling and permaculture go hand in hand – we are trying to create a better planet for our children, but we also want those children to grow up and be responsible stewards of the land – and that we cannot teach them by putting them in buildings of concrete and steel and teaching them about environmentalism.

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World Schoolers For The Win!

This week on our little finca we have had visitors – a Danish/Norwegian world schooling family who is traveling Europe for a year came by to visit us.

A few months ago I joined the Facebook group World Schoolers because friends of mine told me it would be a great way of connecting to other home schoolers across the globe and maybe make connection with expats who home school down here in Spain – make connections with people travelling through the area. After a short while in the group I offered up my place as a possible stop for people on the road. My conditions were: You can “camp in my garden” for free if you clean up after yourself, you can stay in our house for free if you participate in chores, and we will pay for food too if you participate in projects (if we have any projects going on at the moment). The response was overwhelming! I received tons of response to my post and I received numerous PM’s from people asking if they could stop by.  This week our first visitors arrived.

A family of 5: Mom and dad, two boys around my sons age and a girl a little younger than my girl. They had told me in advance that they would love to participate in any projects we had going on. Since they would only be staying a couple of days I decided to ask them to help me finish our rabbit colony, so that we can finally move the rabbits out of our house.

The twos days they were here the kids played and played and played, and we went for a long walk up the mountain, and we talked and talked and talked, and we cooked A LOT – and while I was gone on errands in town they put netting on the rabbit cage – I did not participate at all (Marcus did a little when he wasn’t working).

It is one of those times where the gift of our lifestyle just shines: The kids could play for hours on end, they didn’t have to worry about bedtimes or school (even our 1,5 hour art class on Wednesday felt a little disruptive to the whole flow of their play). The boys played with LEGOs for hours on end, and then video-games, and then outside in the sun, and then back to LEGO, and then some more video-games. The girls would dress up, and put on makeup, and make blanket forts on the terrace, and listen to a grown-up reading Astrid Lingreen stories, and jumping on the trampoline – and really only sit down when they were too tired to play anymore. That we can just do this without having much planning around it, that we can just get this help with the rabbit cage, that the kids can just meet other kids from the other end of Europe and play non-stop except for sleeping and eating for two days straight is such a gift. And once again my children shared their toys and their room with complete strangers and there was no conflict to speak of. It is something that I have become accustomed to, even something I expect when my children meet other children, but that other people point out to me: These kids play for hours on end with practically no conflict, and if there is any they are usually able to solve these conflicts themselves, through negotiation. Mostly the grownups are only needed if someone falls and hits themselves, or when hunger and fatigue hits. This of course also means that we are more needed when the guests have gone home – because the attachment needs of the children don’t go away just because they have friends over for two days – so after they left we spent a few days reading stories and snuggling on the sofa. But the fact that having friends over doesn’t mean more work for us, actually less – we can easily have adult time, and carry adult conversations, is such a gift.

(I finally decided to delete my facebook account – I have long had concerns about privacy but this article finally did it for me: http://www.salimvirani.com/facebook/ – the result though has been that I lost the pictures our hosts took of all our children playing – so you will have to imagine those for the time being. Hopefully she will send them to me on e-mail).

Why don’t I Believe in School?

Right now I don’t know what to write but I promised myself to write 30 mins a day and it has been 3 weeks since I did that last… One of my new ways of “getting things done” is doing a little every day. Well it is not a new thing – it is actually something I have promised myself to do, many times over – but I fall off the horse. Well – I have also learned from many smart people, that it is not about the number of times you fall off a horse, but how many times you get back up – essentially you succeed by getting back up one just one more time than you fall off.

So I am back on the horse. Writing – I like writing, I’ve always liked writing, enjoyed it. I was actually offered an internship once at one of the biggest newspapers in Denmark… Decided to become an Engineer instead. My Danish teacher in school told me that I was a good writer – but that my stories weren’t interesting, so she thought I should stop writing fiction and stick to the factual analytical writing… that sort of killed my dream of becoming a Novelist – one of the many dreams I had as a child. I also dreamt of becoming a professional dancer on Broadway – that wasn’t spoiled by a teacher though, but by reality – meeting people who were far more talented than me. I know that some research shows that talent is 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration – I did not have the 10%, just wasn’t there. Dancing turned me from being a clumsy nerd into … someone not quite as clumsy. But elegant? Never! No matter how many hours I would train I could not. So it wasn’t for me. My perfectionism stopped me from drawing – I wanted to be better than I were, but I weren’t willing to draw and draw again – I wanted to be there yesterday.

I was good at school – and it earned me a great many “stars” in the eyes of the grownups – I was set up as an example of how to be… Always prepared, always knowledgable etc. Fact was – I wasn’t – it was so easy for me, that I didn’t have to prepare – ever. Not even at University… I didn’t go to most of the lectures, only handed in compulsory work, only did enough to land me a B+ – the extra work needed for an A wasn’t worth it – I mean I could get a B by writing an essay in the early morning, never fact-checking and correcting spelling and grammar – why put in more to get an A? Once I’d convinced the teacher/professors that I was smart, I could bluff my way through the rest – essentially I could raise my hand and they’d think I had the answer… i.e. never asking me. I did this al the way up to university level – even my Masters Thesis… I regurgitated a lot of text-book stuff, just put it into other words, but more or less copied what it said – often didn’t understand what was going on… Who cared right? The professor seemed to like it. What mattered was the grade – not my deeper understanding.

I once had a discussion with a friend – because I said that I was sorry that I had passed Thermodynamics, because now I would never understand it. He asked my why I didn’t just sit down and study it now? I couldn’t see the point – you study to get a grade, I had passed (albeit with the lowest grade I ever got in any subject), so why study it again? He was mortified… That was not what studying was about…

But it is… or that is not what the “Principle of Humboldt” is about – that is about apprentice ship, about understanding your subject. But the way the university system is, that is not what is communicated: Pass your subjects, get good grades, get a good job. Whether you actually understand what the subject is… doesn’t matter – you’ve got good grades – most of what you learn at university/school is never used again anyway. I actually got an A on my High School exam in Physics – A-levels, the highest grade in the class. I studied Applied Physics for three years – I’ve got a Bachelors in Applied Physics – again with an A on my thesis, but honestly – I think in many ways I don’t understand physics, and frankly it doesn’t interest me that much. I once got a A on Newtonian Mechanics – and one of my friends who knew that I didn’t get it was furious, because he got an A too. But it doesn’t matter – because on paper, I’m just as good as him. And I never looked back and I never had to use it again…

In the meantime – I learned to write html, PHP, CSS – because it was fun, and I could make money doing it. I haven’t done it for years now – but it wouldn’t take me long to relearn, because I have internalized it. I learned to read before I started school and I spoke English better than most of my teachers. Since school I have learned a lot about breastfeeding, enough so that people rely on me to give them answers when they have problems – ie. a real life applicable skill. I have learned about allergies, causes, effects, treatments (allopathic and alternative), child psychology, learning, permaculture (and I still don’t have a diploma), because I needed it. Economy, politics, history, philosophy – just because I wanted to. I have started writing again, knitting, sewing, drawing. Real life applicable skills. Math maybe, is the only thing I learned in school – but once I got it I didn’t need school anymore. That was in 3rd grade… It was one remark, from one teacher “It doesn’t have to be hard Dawn, if the way it works in your head works for you, then go with it” – after that I read math like other people read music. If someone had pointed me to a curriculum that would take me to university level math, I’d have been able to get there much much sooner than I did… Funny thing is though – I never use math above 3rd grade level anyway, didn’t even use it when I worked as a statistical programmer…

Why don’t I believe in school? Because anything worth learning, that I have ever learned – I have done on my own accord. I have found the people I needed to learn from and learn what I needed to learn. I don’t believe in school, not because I failed at it, but because I was so good at it, that I know that no real learning takes place there, and that learning isn’t the purpose of it.

When is the last time you used what you learned in school?

Permaculture, Unschooling and Voluntaryism

I’ve long thought that this blog may seem to be a mishmash of things – some Permaculture, some Unschooling, some Voluntaryism. To me the three are closely linked: To me the three is all about being the change I want to see in the world, it is about taking personal responsibility. In the Permaculture Design Manual Mollinson and Holmgren writes something about how we shouldn’t try to fix the problems in the institutions of the world, but rather turn our backs to them and build our own – if ours work, people will gather to them – that is how we prove that a system works.  In the Voluntaryist world this is called Agorism – if we ignore the current systems as much as we can and build our own, we will gradually render the current systems obsolete. Mollison and Holmgren also writes about how we should have one final committee meeting to abolish all committees, because nothing but personal resposibility works.

I know many many permies who march against Monstanto, or for a better wealth distribution, or to move the politicians to do something about Climate Change, they also want schools to teach permaculture – esp. permaculture ethics. All the while – the social economics chapter in the Permaculture Design Manual teaches us how to avoid paying taxes… How to initiate a gift economy, a barter economy – or even make our own currency (like Permacredits).

Why is that? Who will protect us against pollution if not the state? Who will educate our kids? Who will help the poor? Who will end Monsanto?

We will!

I don’t know how much you pay in taxes – but imagine that you could decide which parts of the state administration you wanted to contribute to? Like – OK, I want good public schools, I want good hospitals, I don’t want to pay for the war in the Middle East, I don’t want to pay for the salary for politicians in the EU or for border control, immigration “services”, toll – that keeps third world products out of our markets – or farming subsidies. Wouldn’t you like that? But you can’t – you are forced to pay for the war in the Middle East – which by now has lasted most of my adult life… You are forced to pay for border control that prevents Mexicans from coming into the US and Africans from coming into the EU. You are forced to pay for farming subsidies, which in turn, pays the bills to Monstanto for the farmer… If you could chose what to contribute to – it would not be government, but a Voluntary society.

I am forced to pay for a school-system, which I think is teaching kids to accept this system… it is actually written in to the law of schools that they shall raise kids for democracy. This, the school system, is the foundation for this lunacy to go on. If I want the world to change I need to let my kids be free – also to make decisions I don’t agree with. I need them to question everything – including me. I will have to not teach my kids to take orders from a stranger, just because this stranger has a title – but teach them to listen to their own morals and reason. But what if I am labelled a “anti-government terrorist” (politicians in the US and the UK are trying to get laws passed that would label me as such) – could they be taken away from me? How safe am I really? How safe are they? Am I allowed to raise my kids not to believe in Democracy? I Germany they say no, here in Spain they try to say no – in spite of their own constitution saying that I have the right to raise my kids in accordance with my own religion, ethics and political convictions. Even in Denmark the free school law says that kids shall be raised to democracy.

I want to raise my kids not just do as the politicians says just because they have written it down on a piece of paper and calls it law. To not just do as I say just because I am a grown-up. To not just do as the police says, because they are police, and the politicians have written words on a piece of paper, and calls it law, and says that the police has “authority” to tell them what to do. To not just do what a teacher tells them because they have the title teacher. I want them to follow moral and reasoning, not learn to take orders.

How many poor people could we help? How many mommys and daddys could stay at home with their kids if they wanted to? How many ideas could we come up with to help single parents get by, without being forced to send their kids into a public daycare and school-system they don’t support? How much money would we free up to make permaculture projects that rock? How much could we do by voluntary means if we were not forced to contribute to this system?

Instead of begging politicians to give us the things we want, or to help the people we want them to help – how about we refuse to pay for the things we find immoral? How about we start taking personal responsibility?

We have to realize that these western democracies that we pride ourselves with, are the most destructive forces on earth right now. Now we may have the “right to free speech”, but “we” – through our tax-money – are supporting horrible dictators in the third world. “We” may have windmills and solar-panels – but most of the pollution going on in the third world comes from our consumption. Eg. Denmark who prides it-self of being so so green – has one of the highest carbon footprints in the world – because of the import of soy, which has been grown on felled rainforest, to feed pigs. Pigs that lie in their own dirt all day, pigs which have penicillin resistant bacteria, which kill people – and then we want the politicians to outlaw Foie Gras…

But what about Monsanto? They are killing the bees! Yes, and your tax money contributes to that. Instead of trying to get laws passed that make this one neonicotinoids illegal, stop paying taxes that support farmers and industries that use these neonicotinoids. Get bees, support bees, plant flowers that will feed the bees, buy organic honey. And stop supporting the system. You will never ever get as much power to influence the politicians as Monsanto has. Never! You get one law passed, they get ten new that works for them.

How about Global Warming? We need to stop it! Do you realise how much oil is used on these perpetual wars? And then you are asked, not not asked, forced, to use low quality lights in your house to save a little energy? Seriously? Your tax-money contribute every day to F16s, F14s burning more oil than you could use in a year! Government is not stopping any pollution – government is racket for pollution.

How about the super rich? We need to tax them! So who owns the factories, that produce the air-planes and the bombs that you pay for? Who owns Monsanto? Who owns the banks that your tax-money helped bail out? Do you really believe that there will ever be a system that can prevent this, as long as people are forced to pay for government solutions they don’t agree with? So long as the children are taught that it is their duty to support this system?

We may have “human rights” – but our money killed 150.000 civilians in the last war against Iraq. Our boycott of Iraq in the 90’s is estimated to have killed 500.000 civilians – for lack of food and medicine. This is what your tax money is used for. We used to support Assad remember? Then we supported the rebels, and now we are fighting ISIS – I say we, because as long as you and I are paying for it, we are participating. Now I am not doing this voluntarily. I am only contributing because otherwise, men with guns would come and take me away from my kids.

How about you?

Permaculture is a way of opting out – if I can grow my own food and produce my own energy – I no longer have to contribute to an immoral system – or at least not as much. But setting up trust-fonds and using bartering and alternative currencies – I am actively taking my support away. I will do everything in my power to make sure that my life, my energy does not contribute to this system – or contributes as little as I can possibly get away with. I will do everything in my power to build new voluntary options – where people can help each other, voluntarily – without the threat of violence.

How about you?

Unschooling is a way of opting out of this system: To not put my kids into an institution where they have to ask permission to speak, permession to go to the bathroom, permission to go on holiday. To not put them into a system where they have to do as they are told, just because the teacher says so. A system where they are not allowed to quit if they don’t agree. Instead I will use my time to make options for kids to learn all they want, when they want. To socialize all they want, with whom they want, in the way they want. Where they can influence what they learn and from whom and how – and where they have the right to quit if they don’t like it. So that they learn to listen to them selves, to their own moral compass, to say no if something is not right. To cooperate voluntarily, and not accept majority rule.

How about you?

Voluntaryism, or anarchy, means to accept that I have no right to rule you or tell you what to do, as long as you do not agress against me. Democracy agress against me every day, when it forces me to contribute to wars against people who have done nothing against me. Democracy agress against me every day when it forces me to contribute to co-operations who pollute all over the world. Democracy agress against me, when it forces me to pay for police, that can force me to put my kids into schools, where they will learn that this system is just and good. I will not agress against the people who believe in Democracy, they can have it, but I refuse to support the system anymore.

How about you?

Unschooling Math – again

The other day one of my friends told me that she would have to be very firm and persuasive regarding Math if the supervisor (from the local public school) ever asked her about it: Her boys are not interested at all, she said.

I was surprised because her boys are very intelligent and play loads of computer games, most of which are logic based. So I asked her if they knew basic math – addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Her answer was yes, but they didn’t know the multiplication tables or anything, and she though a supervisor might have problem with this, as her boys has no interest in learning this.

See my son is in many ways the same – I’ve tried to introduce math for him, like Kahn Academy, and he is generally not interested … Yet in my eyes he is brilliant at math. How is that? Well I know he asks me questions and I can tell that they develop over time – that is how a lot of unschooling works here – not by me asking him questions but by him asking me questions. Sometimes he goes back to old questions, but generally he has moved forward. So when he was 4 years old the questions would have been: What is 1+1,1+2,1+3 – now it’s more like 2+2,4+4,8+8,16+16,32+32,64+64,128+128 or 3.490.120+2.340 – and he get’s a kick out of seeing if I can do stuff with bigger and bigger numbers and keep them all in my head. He does the same with multiplication and division – “Mom what is 3.000.027*3 -2.045*2?”

But here is the really cool deal: he learns more math playing computer games, than any other activity he does. And that is the reason I don’t believe that my friends sons don’t get math – they just don’t know that they are using it. The most explicit experienc I have in this realm is “Plants vs. Zombies”, which he and I have played a lot – at first he could be like “yes that plants costs 300 sun and I only have 125 so I need to collect 175 more” (he would be like “mom what’s that number 75 called?). Next he started saying stuff like “well that plant is 125, so if I want three then I need 375 sun (still having trouble with 75 which is hard in Danish). Or 5 double sun-flowers equals 2-4-6-8-10 normal sunflowers. Next thing is if one sun equals 25 sun points and one sunflower costs 50 then I need 10 suns to buy 5 sunflowers. He does all of this in his head, and no one has taught him this – but he learned from experience. All kids who play computer games do this – because if they cannot predict how and when to power up, or level up – the motivation for playing disappear.

One thing I have been very good at strewing in my sons direction is logic games – both board games, card games and computer games. The reason is that training logic trains you in the kind of thinking that you need to solve complex math problems. I have never forced any of this, there is no need, playing “Perry the Platterpus” or “Where’s my water?” Soduko, Set or other logic games is something we
Both love and love to share. I actually just have to put it somewhere were he sees it or ask him if he wants to play and he is engaged. My primary reason for doing this is off course our shrewd love for it, but I was convinced that I was on the right path do this saw a High School Teacjer give this talk on TED: Why Math Instruction Is Unnecessary ).

I’m going to go even further – and claim that even the basic math instruction is unnecessary provided the kids have real life possibilities to explore, and maybe a parent/teacher next to them to help explain it. See addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, along with basic basic fractions and percentages is something you meet in real life and learning at your own pace – when it makes sense, will make instruction and learning faster and easier than you would ever imagine. In “dumbing us Down” John Taylor Gatto says that it can be learned – all the math they teach in school – in about 100 hours, and less if you just wait until the child is ready – because they will have learned most of it intrinsically on their own.

I finish off with a story about my daughter. She just turned 5, and she still can’t name the numbers up to ten (sometimes she can and sometimes she can’t). Yet she understands basic addition and multiplication. See when you don’t know the names of all the numbers up to ten, but need to use them – and you do when you are five – you come up with creative ways of talking about them in terms you do know: 7 is “four and three”, 8 is “two fours”, 10 is “two fives”.

Playing LEGOs, making a cake, calculating how many weeks it will take to save up to the toy you want, drawing, building tree houses etc etc is all you need to learn basic math. And the rest is unnecessary for 99% of the population.

Socialization

My aunt wrote me this message on Facebook – I’ll answer her in Danish first, as her English is not excellent, and then I’ll translate below.

Min moster har sendt mig denne besked på Facebook – jeg svarer først på dansk, da hendes engelsk ikke er så godt, og oversætter så nedenunder: “Ja, jeg er jo en af dem! Har dog aldrig heller spurgt Jytte eller Marcus. Og nej, jeg har ingen spørgsmål til det fagfalige. Også skolebørn lærer mest i fritiden. Det er det sociale, jeg er nysgerrig på. Hvor ofte indgår jeres børn i grupper/team med andre børn? Hvor ofte møder de andre synspunkter/kultur/livsholdning? Har de prøvet at spille en fed rundboldkamp? Bliver de udfordret på deres tolerance? Jeg synes, Summerhill er et spændende projekt, der vist har overlevet de 100 år. Også dér sker læring i eget tempo efter behov og nysgerrighed. Men eleverne er sammen med andre børn. Sikkert et smalt udsnit af befolkningen, men alligevel. Hvad når de bliver teenagere? Kommer de til at omgås andre end deres mor og hhv søster og bror? Dawn, jeg tager hatten af for dine synspunkter, og alt tyder på, du og dine børn trives med unschooling. På sigt kan de måske komme til at savne dagligt samvær med andre børn. Spørger du et skolebarn, hvad der er det bedste ved skolen, er svaret som regel: kammeraterne og frikvartererne! Kram herfra:)”

Jeg vil prøve at svare på spørgsmålene et for et

Hvor ofte indgår dine børn i grupper/team med andre børn

Jeg er ikke helt sikker på hvad du mener med grupper/teams? Kunne godt tænke mig at du uddybbede – især hvis jeg misforstår. Mine børn ser andre børn 1-4 gange ugentligt. De sidste par uger har det været 1 gang ugentligt – det har Lucas netop meddelt er for lidt, så nu sætter vi det op igen. Helt konkret kunne vi have legeaftaler hver dag hele ugen. Vi har flere hjemmeskolegrupper her i Malaga: En der består af børn der både går på alternative skole og hjemmeskolede børn (ugentlige møder), en ren hjemmeskolegruppe (2 møder pr måned), en for hele Andalusien (en weekend pr. kvartal) og en der primært består af udlændinge (en weekend pr mdr). Dertil har vi vores egen lille gruppe her i vores “landsby” (ugentlige møder). Og flere taler om flere møder – for at være helt ærlig ved jeg ikke hvordan jeg skulle få tid til at være sammen med mine børn – uden venner omkring os, hvis vi skulle tage til dem allesammen 🙂 Oven i de faste møder er der alm. legeaftaler, fødselsdage og spontane udflugter. Marcus var overrasket over hvor lidt jeg var hjemme lige da vi flyttede herop på bjerget – han havde troet at jeg ville tulle rundt og lave have med ungerne. Det havde jeg ikke tid til. Vi har pt. prioriteret at det skal der være tid til – så vi tager ikke ud mere en 3 dage pr uge.

Men arbejdsteams – hvis det er det du mener – vil mine børn indgå i når det giver mening for dem. Jeg har ikke noget mål om at de skal lære at arbejde i teams – forstod aldrig pointen med gruppearbejde i folkeskolen… De er i et team – vores familie er et team, vi arbejder og lever sammen.

Der ud over har vi planer om at lave Permakultur kurser for familier og børn – fordi mange af vores venner på kurset i Barcelona savnede deres børn og synes at det var meget at være væk fra dem i to uger i træk. Dér vil de komme til at lave noget der ligner skole med andre børn, men – som alting her på gården – det vil foregå på 100% frivillig basis.

Hvor ofte møder de andre synspunkter/kulur/livsholdning?

Hele tiden! Altså jeg kommer til at tænke på at hvis mine børn var kommet i skole – enten i Spanien eller i Danmark: De ville ikke komme i folkeskolen, fordi det simpelthen ikke ville komme på tale (heller ikke hernede efter vores møde med den spanske skole). Så i Danmark ville de have gået på en eller anden lille friskole, men primært akademikerforældre af den intelektuelle slags – nok også det samme hernede (de ville enten gå i Montessoriskolen her i nærheden eller på den danske skole).

I hjemmeskolegruppen i Malaga er der (forældrebaggrund): Spaniere, Englændere, Amerikanere, Argentinere, en Araber, en Palestinænser, Danskere, Svenskere. Der er atheister, kristne, muslimer, agnostikere (de enester der mangler er faktisk katolikker). Der er socialister, konservative, liberale og anarkister. Der er overlæger, lærere, tømrere, ufaglærte og ingeniører.

Og det er bare hjemmeskolegruppen. Vi har også venner der er “helt almindelige” – danskere eller spaniere. Hvis børn går i skole og som har fast arbejde og betaler skat (nogen endda med glæde). Vi har venner fra Permakultur, vi har frivillige der kommer forbi en uge, to eller tre – og de er lige så forskellige som hjemmeskolere – det eneste der er ens i den gruppe er vores holdning til miljøet (og selv der er der store meningsforskelle).

I vores familier er det ikke forbudt at diskutere politik eller religion – og vores børn hører diskussionerne, husk på de er en del af vores liv hele tiden. Vi diskuterer mad og miljø, politik og religion hen over middagsbordet, hen over malerpenslen – hele tiden. De eneste der ikke er velkomne i vores hjem er folk der ikke kan respektere andre.

Har de prøvet at spille en fed rundboldkamp?

Nej – og det har jeg heller ikke. Jeg har gået i skole i 21 år – og min mand og min mor har heller aldrig prøvet det. Men skulle de få chancen vil jeg ikke stille mig i vejen for det, hvis de har lyst til at deltage – frivillighed er nøglen her.

Bliver de udfordret på deres tolerance?

Det ved jeg ikke? Jeg ved heller ikke om de ville blive det hvis de gik i skole. Jeg tror ikke børn er intolerante i udgangspunktet, det er noget de lærer fra de voksne.

Hvad når de bliver teenagere?

Hvem ved? Måske har de lyst til at gå i skole? Måske får de deres sociale behov opfyldt ved at spille fodbold? Eller gå til musik? Jeg kender mange der tager deres teenagere ud af skolesystemet hernede fordi de ikke har tid til andet en skole – og folk synes at deres sociale liv lider under det. Jeg kender mange der tager deres teenagere ud af skolen i Danmark fordi de ikke vil være med til at de skal gå i skole hele dagen. Igen – frivillighed. Det finder vi ud af når vi når dertil. De vil også lettere kunne tage sig af at håndtere deres sociale liv selv i den alder – kunne tage bussen eller cykle til landsbyen (m. 40.000 indbyggere), de vil kunne få et job, de vil kunne tage et år på efterskole eller bare tage til Danmark og bo hos venner i en periode. Mulighederne er uendelige og jeg vil støtte dem i det de vælger.

Kommer de til at omgås andre end deres mor og hhv søster og bror?

Det gør de allerede, og når vi er oppe og køre med permakulturcenteret kommer det til at være i endnu højere grad – allerede nu har vi gæster (frivillige, venner og familie) næsten uafbrudt. Vi har diskuteret at vi nok på et tidspunkt skal sørge for at der er lommer af ro – så vi også bare kan være os.

Spørger du et skolebarn, hvad der er det bedste ved skolen, er svaret som regel: kammeraterne og frikvartererne!

Jeg er ked af at sige det – lovede at jeg ikke ville fornærme nogen – men jeg tror det siger mere om timerne end det siger om kammeraterne og frikvartererne… Antallet af børn der bliver mobbet i skolen taler sit eget tydelige sprog synes jeg. Børnene kan ikke vælge det fra hvis de ikke trives. Mine børn kan vælge at gå i skole hvis de vil – og jeg vil prøve at hjælpe dem med at finde en de vil trives i hvis de vælger det, ikke bare hælde dem ind i en spansk folkeskole hvor jeg ved de vil mistrives. De vil også have styrken i at vide, at hvis det alligevel ikke er noget for dem, så må de gerne vælge det fra igen. Men jeg vil gøre mit bedste for at det sociale er mindst lige så godt for dem, som hvis de gik i skole – for jeg synes ikke de skal vælge skolen fordi de keder sig herhjemme.

Jeg tror bekymringen omkring de sociale kommer af manglende viden om hjemmeskole. Folk tror at hjemmeskole foregår derhjemme. Det gør det også – men hvor skolen primært foregår i skolen så foregår hjemmeskole overalt hvor vi er. Hjemmeskole er også når vi er på markedet og hente mad til hønsene og møder en mand der skralder mad til de hjemløse. Hjemmeskole er også når vi er på stranden, eller møder to damer og deres hundehvalp nede i landsbyen – eller når Lucas oversætter for sine engelsktalende venner så de kan lege med hans spansktalende venner. Når vi møder gedehyrden og taler med ham, vinbonden på toppen af bjerget, der tidligere var bankdirektør. Og vi har tid til at tale med dem alle sammen. Unschooling betyder at vi lever vores liv som om skolen ikke eksisterede. Vi skærmer ikke vores børn fra verden, vi deler den med dem.

English translation

“Well yes, I am one of them! Haven’t asked neither Jytte nor Marcus though. And no, I haven’t got any questions regarding the academics. Schoolchildren learn most in their spare-time too. It is the socialization, I am curious about. How often do your kids experience being a part of a group/team of other kids? How often do they meet other points of view/cultures/values? Have they ever tried to play a really cool softball game? Is their tollerance being challenged? I think, Summerhill is an exiting project, and I think it has survived for 100 years. There learning happens at your own pace too, according to needs and curiosity. But the pupils are with other kids. Probably a narrow representation of the population, but still. What when they become teenagers? Will they socialize with anyone but their mom and brother or sister resp.? Dawn, I applaude your points of view and it seems like you and your children thrive with unschooling. In the long run they might miss daily socialization with other kids. If you ask a school child, what the best part of school is, the answer is usually: The friends and recess. Hugs from here 🙂

I will try to answer the questions one by one.

How often do your kids experience being a part of a group/team of other kids?

I am not exactly sure what you mean by group/team? Would appreciate it if you could elaborate on that – especially if I misunderstand. My kids see other kids 1-4 times a week. The last couple of weeks only once a week – Lucas just told me that he doesn’t think that is enough, so we will increase the frequency. We could have playdates every day of the week. We have several home school groups in Malaga: One consisting of children from free schools as well as home schooled kids (weekly meetings), a pure home school group (2 meetings pr. month), one for Andalucia (one weekend pr. 3 months) and one which primarily consist of foreigners (one weekend pr. month). On top of that we have our own little group here in our “village” (weekly meetings). And several people have mentioned more meetings – to be honest I don’t know how I would find the time to be with my children – without friends all around us, if we were to participate in all of them 🙂 On top of the scheduled meetings there are ordinary playdates, birthdays and spontaneous outings. Marcus was surprised how little time I actually spent at home when we moved up here on the mountain – he had imagined that I would tootle around and do gardening with the kids. I didn’t have time for that. At the moment we have prioritized that I need to have time for that – so we won’t go out more than three times pr. week.

But work teams – if that is what you mean – will be something my kids will experience when it makes sense to them. I don’t have a goals to teach them how to work in teams – I never understood the point of group work in public school. They are in a team – our family is a team, we work and live together.

Aside from that we have plans of having Permaculture courses for families and kids – because many of our friends in our class in Barcelona missed their kids and thought it was tough to be away from them for two weeks in a row. There they will experience what it is like to do something that resembles school with other kids, but – as always on our farm – participation will be 100% voluntary.

How often do they meet other points of view/cultures/values?

All the time! I can’t help but think of how it would have been if my kids had been in school – either in Spain or in Denmark: They would not have gone to public school, it would not have been even discussed (not down here either after we’ve met the acquaintance of the Spanish school). Så in Denmark they would have gone to a small free/alternative school, primarily with well educated intellectual parents – probably the same down here (they would either go to the Montessori school close to us or the Danish school).

In our home school group in Malaga there is (parent’s background): Spanish, English, Americans, Argeninians, Arab, Palestinian, Danes, Sweedes. There are atheists, christians, muslim, agnostics (the only group missing is actually catholics). There are socialists, conservatives, libertarians and anarchists. There are doctors, teachers, carpenters, unskilled laborers and engineers.

And that is just the homeschool group. We also have friends who are “quite ordinary” – Danish or Spanish. Who’s children go to school, who hold down regular jobs and pay tax (some even gladly). We have friends from Permaculture, we have volunteers who come by a week or two or three – and they are as different as the homeschoolers – the only common denominator in that group is our attitude towards the environment (and even there we have big difference of opinion).

In our family it is not forbidden to discuss politics or religion – and our kids hear the discussions, remember they are part of our lives all the time. We discuss food and environment, politics and religion over the dinner table or over the paintbrushes – all the time. The only people who are not welcome in our house, are people who cannot respect others.

Have they ever tried to play a really cool softball game?

No – and neither have I! I have been to school for 21 years – my husband and my mom has never tried it either. But should they get the chance I will not get in their way, if they want to participate – voluntary participation is the key here.

Is their tollerance being challenged?

I don’t know? And I don’t know if it would be if they were in school. I don’t think that children are intolerant to begin with, it is something they learn from grown-ups.

What when they become teenagers?

Who knows? Maybe they will want to go to school? Maybe they will fill their need for socialization through soccer? Or play music? I know many people down here who take their teenager out of school, because school doesn’t leave them time to do anything else – and people think their social lives suffer from it. I know of many people who take their teenagers out of school in Denmark, because they will not accept that they have to go to school all day. We will cross that road when we get there. They will be able to take care of their social life them selves much more then – take the bus or bike to the village (w. 40.000 inhabitants), get a job, go to continuation school in Denmark or just go to Denmark and live with friend for some time. There is no end to the possibilities and I will support them, what ever they choose.

Will they socialize with anyone but there mom and brother or sister resp.?

They already do, and when we are up and running with the Permaculture centre they will do it even more – already now we have guests (volunteers, friends and family) almost non-stop. We have discusses that we might have to make sure that we have pockets of calm – where we can be just us.

If you ask a school child, what the best part of school is, the answer is usually: The friends and recess!

I am sorry to say this – I know I promised not to insult anyone – but I think that says more about the classes than about the friends and recess… The number of kids who experience bullying in school speaks for itself I think. The kids cannot choose not to go if they are not thriving. My kids can choose to go to school if they want – and I will try to help them find one in which they will thrive if they should choose it, not just leave them at some crappy Spanish public school where I know they will not thrive. They will also have strength in knowing that if they find that they don’t like it, they can change their minds again. But I will do my best to ensure that their social life is at least as good as it would be had they been in school – because I don’t think they should choose school because they are bored at home.

I think people worry about socialization because they lack knowledge about homeschooling. People think that homeschool is school at home. That is also true – but where school usually happens in school, homeschool is everywhere we are. Homeschool is also when we go to the market to get waste for our chickens and meet a guy who search the trash for food for the homeless. Homeschool is also when we go to the beach, or when we meet goat herder and talk to him, or the wine-farmer at the top of the mountain, who used to be a bank manager. And we have time to talk to all of them. Unschooling means that we live our lives as if school did not exist. We are not shielding our kids from the world, we are sharing it with them.

Hugs from here too 🙂

Unschooling math

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The other day I came across this app – DragonBox – it is a really cool little game that teaches primary school algebra all the way up to 9th grade (at least that’s the level we had when I went to school in Denmark). I wasn’t very expensive and Lucas liked it. He played for 2-3 hours and he was done! Now – the last couple of chapters were a bit hard for him and he couldn’t play them without me or his dad by his side. But that goes for some levels in Plants vs. Zombies too, or Lego games for that matter. I thought well maybe €4,5 is a bit much for a game that lasts 2-3 hours, but what would a math tutor cost? Not that he’d need one like ever – what with his mom having a M.Sc. in Applied Math an’all 🙂

But then I discovered something interesting. Some one on an unschooling group I follow said that unschooled kids don’t need to to algebra at all – they already think algebra – and that when they start college, they don’t understand why the other kids are struggeling so much. Hmmm… I thought – what’s that about? And then I remembered a scenario from two days before I bought the DragonBox game.

Lucas’ favorite game these days is Plants vs. Zombies. He likes it so much that after he finished it he created a new profile and started over. Marcus and I like it too – and play with him as often as we can. So the other day he sits there while I play – and I’m planting double sunflowers (one of the plant in the game) and he counts 2-4-6-8 – “Four double sunflowers is the same as 8 normal sun flowers” – I look at him and smile “yes it is honey”. Then he goes on “you need four big suns to buy a pea-shooter, and a three-peter costs the same as 3 peashooters”. He does these calculations in his head all the time. Like – a cob cannon is 500 sun, and you need two kernel-pults at 100 sun each before you can plant a cob-cannon, so a cob cannon is 700 total. He does it in his head – no pen an paper needed. To him it is just as natural as counting, it is just something he does.

I have friends who says stuff like “I could never teach my kids how to read” or “I’m soo bad at math I could never home school” – but mind you, if I should sit down and teach Lucas these things, I’d be horrible at it too. I tried with reading, and it totally backfired. What unschooling does it not setting the parent up as the teacher, but giving the child the space to learn what they need to learn.

A loveley lady recently told me that a 3 year old aborigine child should know how to read the gras and the dust to find animals to hunt. And they learn through play. In our culture we need to learn how to read and do math and if we let our children learn through play, they will never discover that it is hard, they will just play. And I am not talking about “learning through play” games that the adults set up like DragonBox – though they can be fun and entertaining if the kids like them – I’m talking about free play, including computers and TV.

Food freedom and screen time

These two subjects are at the hart of Radical Unschooling – not because radical unschoolers necessarily find freedom in these areas more important than any other, but because we have been brought up to believe that kids cannot possibly handle freedom in these areas.

I have thought the same – that has actually been the main reason I did not consider myself a radical unschooler. But then a year or so ago my husband and I discovered the non-agression principle – and the more we thought of it, the more we realized that we could not enforce any rules on our kids for their own sake. I’ll come back to discussing the non-agression principle, as it applies to unschooling. It will suffice to say, that I can enforce rules, for my sake – that we are not allowed to encroach on each others freedom in this house – but I cannot, without feeling very immoral enforce encroach on the freedom of my kids.

That is one part of it – but there is also another. I don’t want to force my kids to eg. play outside – not even force them through bordom. I don’t want to force my kids to eat healthy food – not even force them through hunger. I want my kids to do things that feels good for them, and I want them to discover how wonderful it is to use their bodies – without coercion. I want them to discover that healthy foods are yummy and feels good. That swimming is fun and using your body and learning new things feels great. Not because mommy says so, but because they want to.

Well then – how did it go this freedom? Not so good…

Actually we tried it before we left for Spain – both with food and with TV – but mainly because I believed that some how my son would “self regulate” on both. And he didn’t – he ate more and more crap food, and watched more and more TV. Not just that – he wasn’t thriving. And we weren’t thriving. I was increasingly hard to get him anywhere, it was increasingly hard to engage in a conversation. It was just.not.working. So I stopped, pulled the strings and called the shots. I.was.the.mommy.person.

When we moved to Spain we had a period of time, where we were really busy and stressed, and the kids were watching a lot of TV again, and again – Lucas was not thriving. We had conflict upon conflict, he was miserable and shouting and angry. I blamed the TV. Pulled the strings and called the shots. Peace found it’s way to our home… almost…

Because we still had conflicts about the TV – daily conflicts – and then came the time when we discovered the non-agression prinicple and we realised that a ban on TV was like … a ban on cannabis or coke – something we imposed on him for his own sake, just like government imposes the other bans on us for our own sake… it felt immoral, wrong. But how could we deal with it? At first we made “agreements” – and he fought against them every inch of the way – because really, the agreements were me calling the shots.

Then my mother in law got sick and frankly the constant fighting was just too much for me. So I let go – again. But this time was different: Because this time I made sure to spend time with my son – even if he choose to watch TV all day every day. And magic happened: He did not become grumpy, aggressive and distant. He still watched a lot of TV. But the negative reaction that I had earlier ascribed to TV, simply was not there.

But frankly – watching TV bores me – I hardly even watch it with my husband (and when I do he will tell you that I fall a sleep like 90% of the time – the other 10% is because I end up picking up my phone and browse Facebook). So if watching TV is the only way I can engage in my sons life – I’d go bonkers. So I have to find a way to engage him without TV. So I make a list – if I ask him “would you like to go to the pool?” 90% of the time he will turn of the TV and get his bathing trunks before I can get dressed. Same with playing LEGO, or board games, or computer games, drawing, playing with play dough and doing logic puzzles, going to the zoo and playing with friends. And if we do “stuff” toghether every day – the negative effects of TV are not there? And on days where I am too tired to do stuff – I could opt for cuddling on the sofa and watch TV, because as long as he has that time to connect with me – the negative effects are not there.

The same goes with candy and junk food acutally – he would eat and eat and eat – and have stomach aches, but keep eating. But then I noticed something – if I do my best to make sure that we have food in our house that he likes, like really yummy healthy stuff, and I serve that – for breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus as a snack – then he will eat it. He will eat it and not even ask for candy. But I have to be pre-emptive. I have to be interested in what he likes, what he eats. And he is not different from many other kids his age: He likes raw vegetables – the fresher the better, he doesn’t like foods that are too mixed (with a few favorite examples), he likes rice and pasta, and ketchup – but he doesn’t mind if the ketchup is home made, or the rice is boiled in home made chicken stock. He loves green things – he could eat two kilos of fresh peas a day when in season.

But aren’t you just catering to his every whim? Aren’t you just spoinling him? I don’t think so. I think that I am showing him the same respect I would show my husband. Yes – but kids are so picky sometimes! Yes – and so are some adults, my self included. We respect it with adults – I have just decided the extend that respect to my kids as well.

Why has my daughter not been mentioned in this? Because she has had most of these freedoms most of her life – and she has never had a problem with it.

Unschooling math

We haven’t done math in a year… I mean – we haven’t done workbook math in a year. Schooly math – none. Since those unfortunate 5 weeks in school Lucas’ love of workbooks and worksheets have dissapeared, so we haven’t done it. And I haven’t tried to teach him any other way – he did 2-3 weeks last year in a workbook – morning to night – late night actually – and he progressed from being able to count to 20 to knowing the numbers from 0-100, addition, subtraction – and a little multiplication and division, some basic algebra. In three weeks – when they are ready they are ready.

But there is loads of math in life, says the applied mathematician 😉

And he is far beyond 1st grade level, says the somewhat puzzled mom 😉

And both is absolutely true. He often asks me “what is 2+2” – 4, I answer – “and what is 4+4” – 8 – “and 8+8”? and we go on until he gets tired (he has a million different variations on this). I never use it as an opportunity to teach him how to figure it out him selves. Primarily because it makes him back down – he does not want to be taught, secondarily because I cannot know what he is using the knowledge I give him for – what system he is building in his head, and trying to teach him my system, might disturb his process.  A while ago we talked about the multiplication table – especially because he was frustruated that he kept messing up 50, 60, 70 and 80 – in Danish it is quite hard to learn the difference (also 60 and 70 sound almost the same in Spanish), so I told him that if he repeated the multiplication table of tens in his head – he would be able to figure it out until he had it memorized (he knows the multiplication table of tens because we “jump it” when we go swimming). We also talk about negative numbers because we use an elevator down to the parking lot underneath Plaza de España here in town. Last week he was sitting with a piece of paper where he had written “1000+1=” and he was looking at me – puzzled – “Mom, that equals 1000?” And I explained the concept of ones, tens, hundreds and thousands to him. “Ha – that’s easy he said” and wrote “1001” on the paper.

Yesterday he wanted to buy a LEGO Batman figure. We went online to see if would could find it second hand – and we found one for 95 kr. for a minifigure… And I told him “that’s 100 kr for one minifigure” “No it’s not!” He said, “it’s 4, no 5 less than a hundred” (we agreed that it might be a little too much).  And we got out his piggybank and counted all his money. I took his danish money and distributed the 20s and 10s in one pile, the 5s, 2s and 1s in another, and the half coins in a third. I told him – first you count the tens, and he took all the tens and counted “10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 – theres 70 here” and I pointed to the 20 “and there’s 20 more, how much is that?” “80, 90” he said and smiled – he got it! and he knew! Then we counted the ones there were 4, with two 2s and a 5 and it summed to 13 (all calculated in his head). So I explained how he could ad the ten first, and he did, and then the ones – which first came out to be 300, but then we wrote it down and he quickly saw that is equaled 103. He had two half coins – so all in all he had 104 DKR. All this understanding of And he spent it on something he didn’t really want, because he couldn’t afford what he wanted – but his daddy assured me that that was also OK, and all part of learning.

I’ll just ad – that when ever I have tried to “make” him count his money, he has backed down – yesterday were the right time for him, he wanted to learn this or experience this, and he did it. Any other time it would have been teaching. This was pure learning.

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