Category Archives: unschooling

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 It’s an outdated model of education and business.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.

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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?

 

Sometimes I don’t feel like a unschooler

Sometimes I don’t feel like a unschooler. I worry about what other people think of me. I mostly worry if I’m doing the “right” thing. I don’t understand the concept of “right” though. How do you know what is right for you?

I know it all comes down to trusting yourself and believing in your abilities to learn from you past and know what you need and want right now. But I hear beliefs from other people about their own way of living and become convinced so easily. Never questioning much further than face value.

It appears right for me means to be there person that pleases everybody.

I’m at a crossroads in a way,  of want I want to do and what I need.  I want to be a gardener, a circus performer. I want to travel and learn other languages. I want to learn about the land and teach the people once again about what it’s saying. I want to learn my culture, our language, and connect with my people. I want to abolish the system our people have been locked in.

But my need for affections runs deeper. And I see a route to getting affection as being the person that agrees with you. Cause that’s what I want, someone who agrees with me. Conflict is scary in ways that mean no more affection at least that’s what I learned from childhood experiences. Even though that’s far from the truth. I buy into it. Rather than saying what I’m feeling and being honest, I’ll hold it in. Afraid of the consequences of speaking my mind. It also comes into play that I’m just a really sensitive individual.

This is where being able to self-nurture comes into action, books tell me. The ability to be gentle with yourself, not to criticize too harshly and to love yourself unconditionally.

I didn’t grow up in a household where love was given unconditionally. It was rarely giving out, except in moments that left you questioning your self-worth. We didn’t know how to talk with respect cause we were never shown respect. Whispering or ‘inside voices’ were unheard of. The preferred mode of talking was as loud as you could be and an inch away from your face.

My parents were never around. My mom was working full-time and my dad was only in the picture until I was around 3 years old. I feel like a leper in the unschooling community because of this. I left school without telling anyone but my brother. I live in a house with my mom’s family (4 in total, 5 on the weekends) and her brother’s family (4 in total, 7 on the weekends). On the weekends there’s 12 people living in this four bedroom house.

Leaving school in first nations community is so shameful. I was questioned and lectured from left and right. I didn’t leave my room for the first month or year. Everyone had something to say about the stupid decision I was making. My mom even gave me an ultimatum, go back to work or get a job. And I also had to read Eckhart Tolle. She does strange things when she’s upset.

She’s still a bit iffy about me not being in school. It’s not something she likes to talk about. But in a way she did give me consent to leave in that she didn’t kick me out. Or lock me in my room. We just argued for the first year and a half.

Even though I faced a lot of opposition I never went back to school. I wanted to just never enough to do it. I kind of see that as hope that I can make ‘right’ decisions for myself. If only I could apply this to other areas of my life.

My Unschooled Life

I haven’t gone to school since I was thirteen years old. With that sentence, it’s usually assumed I’m lazy, stupid and well on my way to homelessness. The fact that I’m a young native woman only makes this judgement even more harshly assumed. I’m writing to defy that stereotype. I’m an indigenous youth and I left school to learn.

School will always be a subject rooted in pain for the native tribes living within any Western country, with the advent of schooling marking the end of our culture and the beginning of assimilation. Canadian Indian Residential schools opened in 1840’s until the 1960’s with the majority of them closing, the goal of ‘killing the indian out of the children’ was largely accomplished, my people were without a culture. Children growing with their language and teachings beaten out of them had begun to have children who grew up only knowing colonial society. The only way of life they knew were the teachings of the Western people, the exact opposite of the indigenous ways of life.  Western teachings are you have to get a job to live, but to get a job, a good job, required having a high school diploma (now having a bachelor degree). With high school being illegal until the 1960’s and our knowledge of how to live off the land lost, we were in a harsh poverty before 1960s. We needed to have money to live and support our families. School was the key to life. Being a student, a learner, meant being in school.

 With that history of schooling, it would come as no surprise the resistance and opposition I faced when I left school. I was doing exactly what we were taught not to do. At first, I felt ashamed, guilty and depressed. I was thirteen years old, just started high school which is like a coming-of-age ritual of our society, and my grandma had passed away. It was during a time of change for me. My brother was the one who brought unschooling to my attention. Perhaps the catalyst for all my change. He left school the same time I did but being four years older and having seemingly being unschooling for most of his life. He and I were at different places in life. I was pushing on my own for most of the time in my journey. But I persisted. Through all the shame, guilt and confusion, I started to learn more and more about my culture, our traditions and teachings. Unschooing suddenly became a way for me to live more similar to how my ancestors lived. It had opened me up to learning the traditions, songs, dances, and language of my people. It had brought to my attention the situations people, animals and life worldwide are facing because of Western teachings.

Sometimes called deschooling, homeschooling or dropping in/out, unschooling itself comes in many different colours, flavours and sounds. Yet it follows a few underlying principles that are found in any unschooling home or practice. Living and learning are the same thing. People are instinctively curious and avid, adaptable learners, and not every method of learning is suitable for everyone, everywhere. I used to refine my definition of unschooling over and over again in my head when I first left school. It definitely has changed over the years as I’ve come to experience the meaning of learning by living. One way I see it is as a form of decolonizing. It is to break down the colonial system that has imprisoned my people for over one hundred and fifty years. It is the same philosophy that my ancestors followed, that all indigenous people have followed since the beginning of time, that there is no difference between being a student and being alive. Unschooling has opened me up to allow my culture to come. I’m writing this blog to give insight into the life not usually talked about the life of a unschooling, young native woman.

This my life. Welcome to my blog.