RT @genderfork: You are free to express

RT @genderfork: You are free to express yourself in any way you see fit, and no one should hold you back from that


Wonderful unschooling blog

To learn a bit more about other unschoolers and the unschooling philosophy itself, check out Idzie at I’m Unschooled. Yes, I Can Write. She writes wonderfully about the philosophy and practice of unschooling. It’s a very informative blog. Recently, I participated in an exciting, ongoing series of interviews Idzie is doing with grown unschoolers.

Right here, is my interview with her. And two others, Hannah Thompson and Anna J. Cook.

Be sure to check them out!

I’m trying to figure out how to add other bloggers sites to my page, but for now I’ll add them to blog posts. I have lots of other great unschooling bloggers I’d love to share with you as well as my own thoughts and experience. I’ll post them soon.

High School is Optional

In reading Globe And Mail article on First Nations’ education ‘First nation’s quiet revolution will begin in the classroom’, calling for education reform among schools on reserve to address the social and economic problems within native communities through high school graduation. The ideas are complex but a few seem clear. More cultural influence, consistent reports on students progress, a new prescribed structure, and more comprehensible pathways to higher education and employment will increase likelihood of high school graduation, therefore the betterment of social and economic life.

One of the problems I find with this theory of bringing change within First Nations communities is the assumption that the success we need, or even seek, is economic progress. If the goal of a group is not economic progress but resurgence of traditional cultural values and principles, where does high school completion fit in?

Economic progress appears sound in theory with bringing in more material wealth but it is ultimately destroying diversity, both eco and ethnic, the world over through its homogenizing and destructive nature. It seeks a monoculture among people and among the planet. The compulsory education system used by Western countries is no different.

Yes, youth need to be more involved in culture. But how can schools still maintain the values of indigenous peoples when schools are inherently violating the rights of autonomy for children? And it doesn’t just go against the philosophy of education indigenous peoples and nature hold, but with the emerging understanding of business. It’s an outdated model of education and business. (http://ow.ly/3uyyH http://ow.ly/3uyzC)

The idea that high school is essential is a damaging idea that is pushing people who haven’t finished high school away from their dreams and goals. Separating education from completing high school and allowing more space for other options is what we need. Increasing funding for education is needed but the means to the ends is going to be different because we as a group are looking for a different end.

Most importantly, we need to discuss this ourselves. We need to ask our community members, is progress within Western economy really what we need? Is it aligned with the values of our ancestors and traditions? What are our goals?

It feels strange and full of inaccuracy when I see reports on high school completion being the right and normal way when my life and so many other unschoolers are contrary to the fact. These are just a few thoughts. I’ll post more later.

What inspires me

TheOrganicSister always ends her monday posts with, ‘What inspires you?’

What inspires me these days is the realist, landscape painter Robert Bateman.

Inspiration is magical. It comes in many different ways and these days my inspiration is for painting and art.

When I was in grade 3 I went on a school field trip to the Artist For Kids gallery where he had an exhibition. He was one of the art patrons, supporting art programs for kids.

At the time, I wasn’t interested in anything. The trip was boring all I want to do was go home and sleep, but art is better than being at school so I didn’t complain.

For those of you who don’t know Robert Bateman an introduction.

Robert was born in Toronto, Ontario in the early 30’s. Most of his living area was surrounded with forests, creeks and other communities that animals called their home. He’d venture off, bird/animal watch, draw the creatures he seen.

It developed into a deep respect for nature and all it’s inhabitants, including a heavy involvement in environmental and conservation organizations. All of this is represented in the subjects he chooses to paint.  One called Vancouver Island Elegy really represents that for me (click here to see painting.)

Last week, I found two treasures of his on the couch. Two biographies of his left there by my uncle’s girlfriend. I don’t know what instinct made me stride towards them and pick them but I soon found my self opening them up.

Even though the subjects he paints are all around me. They still hit me strongly. His paintings capture something else. Something I fought not to put a name to but I have to. The words float in my head like fairies and I have to capture them to words. Their dust is getting in my eyes.

Robert’s paintings capture a different world. His paintings are intimate as though the subjects of his paintings are his long friends and we’re getting to see them in a moments we never would see.

When I see his paintings, I see respect, every stroke, line, mark is appreciation for the subject of his work. In seeing his appreciation, I being to take on my own appreciation for the life around me, seeing the trees, sky, shrubs as works of art in their own right. Seeing the light that emits from them, their gentle way of being alive in the world. In a way, Robert Bateman’s work has reminded me of what is important to me. The way I feel about the land that I live on, the creatures that I live with.

A few of my favourite paintings of his:

The Challenge – Bull Moose – The Retrospective Tour 2003

Rhino and Oxpecker – Tyson Gallery, London 1975

Vulture and Wildebeest – Tyson Gallery, London 1975

Sheer Drop – Mountain Goats – Smithsonian Institution Washington, DC 1987

I hope you enjoy Robert’s work as much as I do and in closing a quote by the man himself:

“I can’t concieve of anything more varied and rich and handsome than the planet Earth. And its crowning beauty is the natural world. I want to soak it up, to understand it as well as I can, and to absorb it… and then I’d like to put it together and express it in my paintings. This is the way I want to dedicate my life.”

– Robert Bateman


Talking about unschooling

I find talking about unschooling really hard. I don’t do it often. When I bring up my education my mind goes blank, numb. ‘I don’t want to talk about this.’

I do anyways, ‘I homeschool,’ I tell the inquirer. ‘Oh,’ they say, ‘cool.’ The image of me sitting at home in front of a computer, bored, floats above their heads. Their eyes glaze over, so do mine.

I don’t intend to have conversations this way. I just forgot how to bring up the subject with the same passion, gusto and zeal I once had. I now either  confuse people when I bring up my education or more people know about unschooling and self-directed learning more than I thought they do. Questions usually end.

This lack of interest in talking about unschooling is not shame, definitely not shame at all.

I feel unschooling has become so much of my life, movement and thought I don’t have to tell them about it. I just have to show how passionate I am about the subject I’m talking about at the moment to see. Which is really a much fancier way of saying, read my mind!

That in itself feels enough for me. But it also feels like it doesn’t.

If I’m feeling up to the topic, then I tell them, ‘No, not distance education, a different type of homeschooling. It’s called unschooling but basically self-directed, interest-driven learning.’

That one word seems to take up a lot, or I allow it to take up a lot, ‘self-directed learning.’ I don’t like making assumption but I do it all the time anyways.

I’ll try and go further, ‘Instead of doing high school I follow what I’m interested. I read the best books on the subject, follow blogs about it, volunteer, work and usually attend conferences based around the topic. I follow my interests.’

Which is all of what I did to get where I am today. (A moment of pride shines through me, self-conceited? I’m trying to figure out a healthy balance of self-confidence and egotistical behaviour. I get far too happy about who I am.)

The common question after this is, ‘Oh, so do you get a diploma after all this?’ ‘No, unless I need it to get a job that I really want and there’s absolutely no other way around it. If that’s the case, I’ll get my GED.’

Going over the script in mind, I’m recognizing I don’t give unschooling the light it should. Everything I do is with passion. Every goal, job, or project I take on is something I love/want to do. I don’t know why talking about unschooling shouldn’t be the same for me.

And in many ways, unschooling philosophy is the reason I’m in this place. Talking about unschooling in the manner it deserve is also a way to help out people who don’t understand or who feel hopeless about youth, children and the current education system that’s wholly damaging.

I’m also leaving out the incredible human-mind component of it as well. People asking questions deserve a proper answer too. Questions are often looked upon as annoying, pesky things that only ‘nosy’ and ‘bothersome’ people ask. When they aren’t that at all.

Talking to people about the thoughts going through your head about humanity, politics, air, space, food, art is incredibly essential to life. Most of the time we learn from asking questions. I know I do. And so much of my unschooling/education is talking to friends, family and strangers about things that are on my mind.

I’ll leave you with a question and I would love to hear from readers about it:

What’s on your mind?


A fork in the road

A change of winds indeed, I’ve come to a crossroads in my life–the first of many, my friends tell me–an unexpected, but interesting job offer in my own territory and an acceptance letter from a gardening program I dreamed of getting into. Both overlap in time, both are things I’ve always wanted to do.

The first is a job with a fisheries research company in Squamish: a town I’ve always dreamed of living. I’d be counting the young chum in the spring time, full-time, for four months. I’ve also planned helping a friend with her field work for her Master’s during the same time; taking a Skwxwú7mesh Language class; learning more about our traditional native plants, salmon– our main food source– and the territory of the Skwxwú7mesh people. Not to mention the canoe journey that will hopefully take place again in 2011.

There’s also the opportunity of working with other First Nations youth who are doing restoration work on the island, as well as educational funding to get the proper training to work in fisheries–besides going to Outdoor School when I was in school, I know barely little about salmon and rivers.

Downside is, I don’t feel super excited about squeezing into some neoprene coveralls every morning. I felt uncomfortable and anxiety was super present when I wore them. And feeling is everything to me. I have a lot of them.

The second is Linnaea Ecological Gardening Programme on Cortes Island. I applied in October, honestly thinking I wasn’t going to get in, until the day after I came back from a job shadow of the position I’d have with the research company, I got the acceptance letter in my inbox. I was shocked I got in.

Last year, when I read Derrick Jensen’s Endgame and Taiaiake Alfred’s Peace, Power and Righteousness, I started thinking about what kind of life I wanted to live, especially in terms of my career. I felt gardening was the best choice when I began to think about our dependency upon oil and industrial agriculture. After I applied, I read Jared Diamond’s The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race (http://ow.ly/3k7XV), which completely changed my mind about agriculture and gardening. It got me thinking about my values and what I wanted to do with my life, once again. Linnaea didn’t seem, or feel right after that but now it seems like I’ll have one of the most exciting experiences of my life there. I’m utterly excited for living on Cortes Island for 8 months, growing vegetables, tending to cows, and picking fresh mushrooms for grilling. I’m excited for learning and eating, as well as living with 11 complete strangers and getting to know them.

I just don’t know if I should. If agriculture, even small-scale organic permaculture is destructive to the earth as Jared Diamond’s argument is then it would go against my values.

I also didn’t get the funding I thought I would get. I will have to work my butt off in the next four months to pay for living expenses and the program itself. And it is super expensive. When I come back, I’ll be broke and homeless– without a doubt, my room at my place will be gobbled up by some other relative as soon as I leave, which in ways doesn’t bother me.

Either way I choose there will be other opportunities out there for me. One of the things I like about the business class I was taking was the tools it gave me. Most of them could be applied to everyday life, like the idea that even if you don’t come to an agreement on something you wanted, there’ll be another opportunity in the future. A few were slightly manipulative and things I wouldn’t use in my personal relationships, or at all. But there was a lot of good ones. That’ll be a post!

I also know I could easily learn gardening without going to a fancy program. It will just be harder work because that program is a package deal. And sometimes harder just means more fun.

That’s my life right, now. I’m off to my friend’s clown birth, which is not as my mother though a woman giving birth with a clown in the room. It’s a graduation from clown school! Yippie!

Post more soon!


My three tips for writing NaNoWriMo (or at least having a good time)

This month I’m writing the NaNoWriMo, or the National Novel Writing Month. A semi-contest challenging writers and amateur writers to complete a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I tried last year to complete this with not so good results. I learned some tips from last year that may help you with your novel this year.

My three tips for NaNoWriMo (or at least having a good time):

1: Write with friends!
Let your friends know, writer and non alike that you are writing a novel. It helps with support when you’re feeling like you can’t finish the challenge plus it’s fun. Plan a writing get together with just one friend or a few. Even go to the Write Ins at local libraries, universities and local bookstores. You can find the ones in your region at nanowrimo.org. The key thing in completing this lovely project is environment, who you choose to be surrounded by is crucial. Do the folks you surround your self with support and respect the things you do? How do they make you feel about yourself? Great, not so good? Make sure the people in your inner circle make you feel good about yourself.

2. Know yourself
Either way you’re going to learn more about yourself by embarking upon this contest. It takes a lot from you to write 1,600 plus words a day for an entire month. Know how you learn, what time of day you write best at, whether or not you need to have food in your tummy. There is usually that one thing out there that will just flourish your mind. Find it out. It’s not too hard. After a week or so, patterns will start flowing out and bingo, you’re on the roll.

I learned I work best at night, on a full stomach and after a good pep-talk from a friend. The prospect of going to a write-in as well as writing with a friend this year makes me feel like I can actually finish this novel. I didn’t have the support last year making the task a bit lonely. I was also shy about the fact I wanted to write a novel. Even worse I felt, it was a Sci-Fi novel, inspired by the T.V. show Heroes with a mixture of Residential School. Who would accept me know?! My mind screamed. Which brings me to my third tip.

3. Take Risks
Keep the ideas coming, try things out you don’t think would truly work, take the risks anyways. You’ll never know what might make a good novel. Sometimes the simplest things do, sometimes the most eleborate things do. I no longer think my idea of writing a sci-fi novel set around youth with super powers who were being round-up by a non-super powered culture as something to be embarrassed about. It is an idea. It didn’t really work, mostly cause I never elaborated on it. Which reminds me of a fourth tip, bonus tip perhaps.

Bonus 4th – Take your ideas seriously
Breathe your idea, the one you choose to run with and marry it. It is your life now for the next 30 days. Make sure you know it well.

Anyways, I hope this helps you as much as it helped me. Now I want to know what you do to help you write. What methods help you out when writing?

– Cheyenne :)