Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Finding Joy

I am on a roll here, clearing out the archives of my past work. Must be I needed to re-read these! This one would have been published in Live Free Learn Free if the editor had kept it going. I miss that magazine. :-(

My daughters have a beautiful puzzle that is really a set of square wooden tiles with fragments of a scene painted on them. A piece of sky, with sun or rainbow, here, a window, door or roof there, various animals, people, and plants as well. There is no correct way to put it together. You start with one piece and add on, as you like. Each finished picture is different, but they are all beautiful. Four tiles, ten or thirty, it does not matter; each is a complete scene.

I like to think of life and the learning that happens as like a puzzle with no edge pieces. There is no limit to what you can learn and no set time frame for how long you have to learn it. Each piece you find will fit somewhere in your own personal puzzle of life but it does not have to connect to any particular other piece. You build it as you fancy it. And it all adds up in the end because it is YOURS. It does not have to, and really should not, look like anyone else’s picture. Our present method of educating our children is to hand them the standardized puzzle pieces and tell them they have 13 years to complete it. And that they will be failures if they don’t complete it or if their puzzle looks different from everyone else’s or if they reject the standardized picture altogether.

Unschooling is honoring that individual picture of a life in each child, even that picture in ourselves as well. Respecting that we each have a picture of our own choosing to create. Trusting that we will “finish the puzzle” because in each given moment it is complete. Knowing that all the moments leading up to the present moment create a finished life. You never know which moment will be your last. Why not live each one as if it IS your last?

When people first start learning about unschooling, they think it is a method of homeschooling. You know, throw out the curriculum, pretend you are on summer break, and watch as your kids’ learning takes off. But what a lot of them find along the way is that unschooling is so much more. It tends to change the way you see the world and how you live in it. In profound ways that are hard to describe to the uninitiated.

It all boils down to the meaning of life. No, really. No simple matter, but the crux of understanding unschooling requires a shift in your beliefs about what life is all about. I’m sure most of you have heard about the idea of living in the present moment. Well, that IS unschooling. Pure and simple, but oh so very difficult for those of us brought up to live for the future, which is just about everyone out there. From the earliest times in life, we are encouraged to focus on what comes next, to prepare for the future, to put aside momentary whims for more important pursuits. What else is school but a preparatory course for “real life”? So they say, anyway. No playing now, you have to learn to read, so you can get good grades, so you can get into a good college, so you can get a good job, so you can make a lot of money, so you can be happy. All that time and effort and wasted joy. All for a promised moment of happiness, in some distant future you might never live to see. And who says money makes you happy anyway?

You see, that moment when you wanted to play but could not because you had to do something for the future was life wasted. Joy sent packing. Peace disrupted. What kind of foundation for a joyful life is that? Finding joy is the meaning of life. Discovering what your passions are and pursuing them is the meaning of life. Choosing your purpose and fulfilling it is the meaning of life. Unschooling is how you find joy, pursue passions, and fulfill purposes. How does that work? Live in the moment.

Yes, I’m going in circles. You’ll find life is like that when you slow down enough to see that life is NOT a straight line drawn out for you by someone else, about which you have little choice. Learning does NOT have to happen in proper scope and sequence. One thing does NOT necessarily follow the other. Life is meandering; it builds on the past, but not always in a linear fashion. Each new piece of life adds to something that was already there, deepening the meaning, polishing the theory, bringing each bit more into focus. You start in the center of your model of the universe and add on to the edges as you live and learn. Very much like that wooden puzzle of my daughters’.

Copyright 2004 by Miranda Demarest


Annette said...

Another gem - beautiful! Thanks!

Tara @ TheOrganicSister said...

oh wow, miranda. i needed this too.

i can so easily get wrapped in the future and plans and goals. i need to remember to slow down and learn from zeb how to follow my passions now.

Keely said...

I've really enjoyed reading your last several posts! Hope all is well and you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Niki said...

Beautifully said.

Whimspiration said...

Beautiful & simple. Inspiring! Simply beautiful.

Thank you!