Monday, March 16, 2009

Authentic Family Living

I admit it, I got caught up in labels. In my quest to explain to other parents how we raise our children, I called ourselves "unschoolers." I didn't start this way. In fact my life has been one of evolving thought and action.

We started as private schoolers. Then we moved and became public schoolers. We started homeschooling in the middle of my son's 2nd grade year and I discovered right away that I was not leaning towards a structured homeschool life. I created a group for Independent Homeschoolers and for the first time, I loved the moms and the kids we were meeting. All of our children and us moms became like family (and still are) and we grew into a beautiful group. (These are the friends in my children's book!) One good friend and I spoke about how we were unschooling as we didn't seem to care about curriculum. It made sense and I have thought of myself as an "unschooler" ever since. We moved again and now my boys both have best friends who are very nice schooled children from our neighborhood.

Until yesterday. I was told by a popular advocate for the unschooling community that I was not, in fact, an "unschooler." Here is why:

My children do not have the choice to not brush their teeth.

I call it a "non-negotiable" in our home. For this word I have chosen and this rule, I have been told I am not who I thought I was. Hmmm....

I know I am definitely not a "radical unschooler." I love to hang out with them and I love to talk philosophy, as they will always welcome a talk about philosophy. I do belong to a radical unschooling community website. It floored me when this unschooling advocate (and good friend) told me this. I literally sat on the floor and didn't know what to think. After all, I am speaking at 2 unschooling conferences. What am I to do?

So I decided to have a conversation with my oldest son. I asked him what he thought and asked him how many non-negotiables do we live by. He told me he thought he was an unschooler and that there were 3.

1. Do your chart in the morning by 11am (this is brush hair, brush teeth, get dressed and make bed. The only non-negotiable is brush teeth however... the other issues are really their choice unless they want to play with their friends... well most days...)
2. Eat most of your dinner (not all) if you want dessert. (since we had cake for breakfast yesterday, I am thinking this isn't a true non-negotiable all day, but I guess for dinner it is mostly true.)
3. Get off of the computer when we ask. (well... again... most days and when they finish their game or whatever else they might be up to...)

I thought about these rules, defined by my son. I asked him how he thought about them. He said he didn't mind them, except for the computer. He wished he could have more freedom with the computer. My son and I had a beautiful talk. We talked about possible ideas to grow, our philosophies and what brings us joy. He is simply amazing and I love the way he processes and thinks!

When I checked in with myself how I felt about these parameters and the one true non-negotiable of brushing teeth, they felt good, though I am thinking to shift and expand the computer parameter.

The label "unschooler," because I have used it as a label for myself in public, has become a bigger deal than I cared about than when I first took the label on. People truly care about this label and defend it, by letting me know when I am leaving the boundaries of it. Labels make it easy to explain to others what you are doing.

The problem with labels is that they begin to build walls, foundations and structures of who you are.

I don't want to ever feel I need to defend my choices to anyone. The choices our family makes are well thought out, talked about with everyone in it and work for our family lifestyle. Most importantly these choices are all consistently EVOLVING. Right now, I am 100% in alignment with where we are.

I realized when my unschooling friend said I wasn't an "unschooler" she was actually setting me FREE from my label structure that was being built!

I ask you, "What labels do you have that have built structures of who you are that if you were truly honest with everyone or even changed your mind, would tumble and fall?"

So who are we? I spoke to a good friend about my thoughts and out of my mouth was Authentic Family Living. She was excited and we are going to start a community of parents and children who are ready to say YES to their own choices. No experts needed, just open family conversations where we practice to trust our own judgment and intuition.

Authentic Families:
  • have no rules or parameters about who is in and who is out. You choose. You choose if you want to practice living Authentically.
  • If you are in alignment with your ideals or are evolving towards it, you are Authentic, mistakes and all!
  • Perfection is not part of our reality! Being human IS!
  • Being honest, evolving and creating joy along the way are the families we are looking for!
  • You can be an Authentic Family whether you school, homeschool, or unschool. Together we can learn ideas from each other and choose what works best for us.

Are you ready?


Tiffany said...

I also like many aspects of the unschooling lifestyle and I would say I have adopted certain radical unschooling elements but I cannot in good concious go as far as many do. I remember joining a radical unschooling group about a year ago and at the time they were discussing how one unschooling family had stolen money from another family. MOST of the people in the group felt the victim family should let it go and not pursue the return of their money because OBVIOUSLY the family that stole the money NEEDED it.

Another unschooling mom relayed the story of how really "mean" people "punished" her by turning her in to the police after she left her infant alone in a car for 20 minutes while she checked out books at the library.

That really turned me off for a loooong time to unschooling. I guess it is safe to say I should just stay away from the ones who believe that anything goes.

Rain Fordyce said...

Thanks for your comment, Tiffany. I also love your style, Natural Family Living. Yahoo!

I am open to ideas and like most RU philosophies, I am just not open to having to follow other's rules to be considered part of a group.

I am all about free to be You and Me!

(un)relaxeddad said...

One might argue that the moment you put "Authentic" in bold type, you're a) creating a label and b) implicitly suggesting that there is such a think as in-authentic family living. It's very hard to avoid making walls, foundations and structures, even in the form of a kind of 'negative' - and is it possible to build any kind of self without them?

Rain Fordyce said...

Your response became so long, I made it a new post.

I hope you enjoy it!