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.