Sunday, January 17, 2010

It's a Small Small World

Let me first apologize up front if my post title has you singing that song for the rest of the day! I wanted to get back to the idea of a shrinking world and how to reconcile that with unschooling. Oh, wait, I don't know how to do that! OK, so I will tell you my thoughts and maybe we can sort this out together. Most of my thoughts come in the form of questions, by the way.

How many of you who are aware of the big issues facing us, and unschoolers to boot, ask yourself daily how playing video games now will help your child navigate a world where most of us won't be able to afford electricity to power the Wii? How will a life of leisure and freedom prepare them for a world of considerably more toil and far limited options? Will giving them a childhood full of play and fun set them up to fail in "the real world"? I'm not talking about the "real world" as it exists in the minds of people today. I'm talking about the possible future "real world" where life really is much harder and you really do have less choices. A life where survival really is the focus most of the time. I'm not saying we need to break our kids arms to prepare them for a future possibility of a bone fracture. I really don't think the answer lies with anything that drastic. But what level of guiding them to learn what I fear they will need to know is too much and a hindrance to the relationship I prize above all else?

How much should I support maintaining friendships with kids across the country, rather than getting out there and meeting and strengthening friendships here, when they might never see these far flung kids again? A certain level of maintaining contact is right and good, but not at the expense of developing local relationships that have a greater chance of serving them in the future.

If there really is going to be a drastic reduction in the ease of travel, wouldn't my efforts be better spent helping my children explore their local environment, deepening their sense of place, here, rather than filling their heads with thoughts of world travel and seeing the world outside of National Geographic magazine?

I go back and forth between thinking that I should show them as much of the world as I can, while I still can, and feeling like I should block out the majority of what they will lose, so they don't have to lose it, after all. You can't miss what you never had. Will they treasure the single taste of the tropical fruit flown in from across the globe, for example, or will they pine for it once it is no longer available? One of a mother's jobs is to protect her children. But another of my jobs is to show them the world. How big a world do they really need to know? How much protection is too much? Especially since I don't know how things will play out, don't know the timeline.

The worst of what I fear might not even come to pass in my lifetime. It might be something only my grandchildren will really have to deal with. But shouldn't I help my children learn what their children will need to know? Wouldn't that give them the advantage and make life easier for my grandchildren? I know reinventing the wheel is not much fun for me, so if my grandchildren are brought up living a low energy lifestyle, it will be second nature for them. My girls are not going to get that, since half of their childhood has been lived a high energy lifestyle, and my efforts to power down are going very slowly. They might be out of the house before I finally get us to the level I am sure my grandkids will need to be.

One thing I am certain of is that the school system as it exists now is so far from being able to prepare the children of today for the potential future, it is laughable. If it wasn't so scary. I mean, I have nieces and nephews and cousins and friends in that system and I worry about them. They are all still young and, so far so good, but I can't even imagine what a full 13 years of government run education will do to their chances of learning what they will really need to know. Bottom line, what they will need takes time to learn, and school sucks up all that time, trying to teach them things that they will have no need of in the future.

But, back to unschooling, it is not like I am sitting my kids down everyday and going through Pioneer Living 101 with them. I am not actively teaching them what I think they need to know, either. I am trying to learn it myself, and model it to them, and make it look fun and fulfilling (and it is!) so that they want to learn it. And they are learning. It is just that when the sand in the hourglass seems to run faster and faster, and I fear they are not ready yet-hell, I am not ready yet-that is when I worry. Will unschooling give us enough time?

But then I ask myself, time for what? Time to be ready to live life? Ultimately, how can any of us know that we are prepared for life? Just when you think you are all set, life usually throws you a curve ball and asks you to stretch and learn something new. And that is good and the way it should be. So, maybe I don't need to worry about it. Maybe they really will learn all they need to live, as they need it.

No doubt about it, the world will shrink for our children and grandchildren. I don't even think that is a bad thing, not really. Simpler is good. It is the transition that could be tricky, will be tricky. I just hope and pray that unschooling gives us the flexibility and time and worldview to make the transition as smooth as possible. And I have to believe that the memories of a larger more complex world will be remembered fondly by my girls, and that those memories will be told to rapt grandchildren, who will wonder at the thought of flying from one side of the country to the other in a few hours!

So, what do you all think about this stuff?


Sandra Dodd said...

I think your fears are the worst thing in your life right now. Imagining a bleak future won't help with sleep or digestion or peace today.

In the 1960's and early 1970's when I was an impressionable teen, we were assured that the population could NOT keep growing, and that already even if the population were to be arrested, there would be NO FOOD by 2004 or some such definite number.

I was pretty sure that in 1984 the government would be different and all futuristic. Then 1984 came and went.

Marty is prepared for the apocalypse, as his dad has always been, too. I've told Marty how to use catalogs for toilet paper. My father told me. You don't wipe with a piece of paper straight out of the book. You rub it back and forth in your hands to soften it up, THEN wipe.

Tell your children!!

Then don't worry. 1984 and 2004 came and went and the end of the world has come and not come at all several times in my lifetime. Remember what happened when 1999 rolled over to 2000? Nothing, except that Prince song was as dated as Orwell's 1984.

Heather said...

If you are helping your kids learn how to learn what they need when they need it (or when they are interested in it) they will be far better prepared should something happen in their time then the majority of people, and will the people others look to for help. My brothers and I weren't homeschooled but our parents were fascinated in many things and were constantly learning and we learned how to do that, using whatever resources were available. My youngest brother and I (he is 18 and about to graduate from public school) often spend time researching and working on projects that most people wouldn't even think of these days, and my kids (who ARE unschooled, video games and all) love to join in and help. And despite the video games they are just as likely to research how to do something in a book as they are online. The fact that your girl is interested in learning to do herbal remedies is a perfect example (mine is too and often helps me make things that she can use as she is allergic to most over the counter anything). We can't predict what the future hold s but if we help our kids learn how to learn and be content regardless of their circumstances and focus on the next thing at hand then we can know that they are well prepared for life, regardless of what the future looks like.

Tara W. said...

Well, I know you already know all this and are really just posing the question for others to chew on, but here's my two cents.

Maybe we're wrong. As Sandra said, it wouldn't be the first time. And yes, the science now is probably more accurate and we do know *something* will be or has to be changing...but we don't really know what. Or when. How can we prepare our kids for the unforeseen? Just like schools preparing children from technology that is outdated within two years, it's pointless. We simply can't.

The best we can do is support our children as they find their own values. When we have kids that think for themselves they will easily see when things begin to transition. And if we've done all *we* can, they will at least know where to turn to for help learning more - either from us, the communities we've built or the books we've accumulated on the subject. ;)

This really is no different than preparing our kids to go out and find jobs. We have no idea what they will want to do, so unlike the schools we don't try to force them to learn a bit of everything. We simply don't get in their way.

Just growing up in a mindful home will be HUGE for their future success. There will be things they are learning that you won't realize until one day they just do it - just like reading! It happens virtually by osmosis! (I would never let my mom teach me to sew; no I didn't pick it all up but there were things that I did pick up just by seeing her sew. And eventually, when I had enough interest - and less fear of the needle - I learned it. Teaching isn't the only way kids learn. ;)

The other thing I think is that when circumstances demand something different (like in grid-down situation when the video game can't be powered), it simply IS and kids will understand that - they won't be used to things happening "because we said so" so they'll trust when we say there really is no other option. Better that they had those experiences and happy memories to pull them through some potentially hard times, than to look back and feel as if they missed out while they had the chance.

When we were on our (shortest ever) maiden voyage, Zeb had brought his laptop to play games on the road. I won't say we weren't disappointed and afraid he wouldn't want to hike, etc. But when we broke down and knew it was electrical but didn't know what it was, we were concerned about electrical surges so he unplugged. He ended up needing to turn it off because the battery wasn't going to last as long as we would be out there. He wasn't upset - the situation made it important to do so and he did it. But if we had MADE him not play or leave his laptop behind, boy he would've been PISSED.

Happy, blissed-out kids roll with the punches. They are flexible. They aren't rigid and tired of things always being demanded for no substantiated kids in school who are told "You might need this some day" and are forced to learn it. I remember thinking (don't remember if I ever said it out loud) "If I need it I'll learn it then!"

And just think, we continue to learn and grow, even being a product of public education. Your nieces and nephews will have the opportunity to break out of the mold and find passion for learning again - especially when it becomes a necessity.

Okay, I've written enough. Hope some of this blabbering made sense. It's too early for me to think this hard. ;)

Tara W. said...

Oh my goodness! I wrote a freaking book! Sorry!

Stephanie said...

Unschooling means they are learning how to learn. Which means that anything that comes up in the future that our kids don't know, they'll be able to figure it out. Your kids are already way ahead of the curve just by virtue of living under your roof and being your daughters.

As for future prediction, I honestly feel like any big changes that occur are going to be gradual, so that one day, fifty years from now we look up and see that our lives are completely different. Human beings are adaptable. Whiny, but adaptable.

Not that things don't ever happen quickly, but when catastrophic overnight changes do happen, you do the best you can with what you've got and sometimes there's nothing you could have done to prepare. Again, your family is way ahead of the curve on that score and by virtue of having grown up in your household, your kids will be way ahead of the curve when they grow up too. And I'd like to think mine will even though we haven't made a lot of huge changes as of yet.

Will their grandchildren, if things were to remain somewhat the same until then? Maybe yes, maybe no. I tend to think yes, but that might just be something you (general you) don't have any control over anyway.

I guess the bottom line is that there is absolutely no way to know for sure what the future will look like exactly, so you do the best you can with the knowledge you have now to prepare, but you don't deny the existence of bananas now just because you feel they might not be available later. You don't steer them away from video games or skype today just because it may not be there tomorrow. You can guess about the future but you can't know.

So, it's not "live in the now" but it's not "live with one foot in the future and one in the present" either. Just put a couple toes there. Or, well, you can put your whole foot if it's just your foot and you're not straddling the line. :P

Stephanie said...

"Just put a couple toes there."

Um, "there" being the future. Probably obvious but I didn't write it well.

Miranda said...

Thanks for the comments you guys! I hope you are right, Sandra! I do know that most likely things will move slowly and I do know that our awareness of the problems is the first huge step. And, Tara, since you have so much faith in me, I am going to have some of that faith in me, too. I am not losing sleep or getting heartburn over any of this, just thinking a lot and wanting to know that the people I care about are at least aware enough to adapt. Where are those lemons? I want lemonade!

HB said...

For some reason this brings to mind Lisa, who had to leave her two girls behind to live life without her. I saw her less than a year before she died, and at that point I am pretty sure she wasn't doing anything specific to prepare those girls to live without her- as she was tired, but had no idea of what lay ahead. Perhaps she did in the few months when it became apparent that she was very ill- though there was very little time for that.

In any case- The first time that I saw those kids after Lisa died, I was absolutely amazed at their resilience and their ability to continue to enjoy life. It gave me real hope that unschooling can prepare kids for ANYTHING!

There are no guarantees, and no one knows what lies ahead. Kids can become seriously ill, or loose you, and not much we can do could prepare them for what that is really like. You could imagine what it might be like in an apocalypse situation and THINK you are preparing for it, but it might be completely different and require a completely different set of skills than you imagined.

The world is changing so rapidly and in such unknown ways- I think it is impossible to prepare kids for what it will really be like when they grow up. Often I think it is the technological skills that are preparing them the most for the future- their comfort with and ability to figure out new technologies and interfaces with minimal assistance is pretty incredible- compared to my mom for example who calls me when her mouse doesn't work.

Some of the really important things I see happening at my own house are learning and discussion about decision making. Learning about making choices, and about dealing with just plain old stuff that comes up in your own mind and between people, is a huge huge bit of it for us. I think this is one of the more important being prepared for anything lessons they could get.

My kids may not have much interest in fixing plumbing with my husband or gardening with me - but just the fact that we have done it will let them know it can be done. I know my parent's interests in organic gardening and doing things for themselves had an impact on me- though as I grew up I was minimally interested. And all my husband's incredible skills in building and maintaining homes and every system involved have been picked up since I met him- well after college years.

And the world very well might be getting bigger, not smaller!

loveroferic said...

My husband and I believe as you do- that our future does not look "bright", and that my child's and grandchildren's world may get smaller...and I send him to public school from 9 am till 4 pm Monday thru friday..he has had a simialr schedule since he was 4. I see the public school system as an advantage. I use it as a spring board, and supplement my own lessons. I think you are right in that life will teach him it's own lessons. We all have the instinct to survive, and I can give him the confidence to thrive. I'd go furthur and say that life will teach him what he needs to do to survive or thrive. And while I may not agree with the system, currently, we still have to "play into it" to eventually be free of it. I don't see public school impeding my son in any way. Knowledge is knowledge...and I think kids need as much of it as they can get. It is a vast world, with many schools of thought- and many scenarios looming in the future. I think the biggest thing I can teach my son is to be open-minded and to use any resource to meet his goals. I can teach my son to be his own man and do the right thing, regardless of when he does or does not attend a class.

Sandra Dodd said...

Unlike most unschoolers, I have three grown kids who didn't go to school. They're happy, healthy and capable. Had I spent ANY time, even a single half hour, scaring them with depressing tales of woe, they would be a little less happy, healthy and capable.

To me, that's the crux of unschooling AND of happiness.