“I spent my early twenties finding myself”
It seems to me to be commonly agreed upon that our twenties – in early adulthood – is when we ‘find ourselves’, right?
It is said as if this is inevitable.. that it is part of joining adulthood. We must first find out who we are.
But what if we have to find ourselves because we spent our childhood losing ourselves?
What if we don’t have to lose ourselves to begin with? It seems in our society that there is an definitiveness to losing ourselves to systems and control and expectations. To losing our individuality and curiosity. But is this an avoidable fate?
I believe this process is unnecessary. I think this belief is due to schooling and mainstream parenting. The entire concept that humans when children must be controlled, forced, trained and schooled is what feeds this disconnectedness from the self.
Standardisation is the enemy of individualism
When a system is founded on standardising experiences for people, it’s clear that a result will be a loss of individuality – of self.
“Far from helping students to develop into mature, self-reliant, self-motivated individuals, schools seem to do everything they can to keep youngsters in a state of chronic, almost infantile, dependency. The pervasive atmosphere of distrust, together with rules covering the most minute aspects of existence, teach students every day that they are not people of worth, and certainly not individuals capable of regulating their own behaviour.” – Alfie Kohn.
Both schooling and mainstream parenting are founded in the concept of standardising – standardising and expectations with behaviours and outcomes.
I think the fact that most of us as young adults had no idea who we were, is related to the fact that we were told what, when, why and how to be for our childhood!
I believe this disconnection from our true selves is deeply rooted in our autonomy and rights being disrespected during our youth. If our power to be fully ourselves (and accepted for it!) is taken away, it’s obvious a byproduct will be disconnection from that individuality.
Autonomous children are protected from this
When Cameron wrote his post about unschooling, I loved hearing about what our lifestyle means to him. What strikes me as powerful and beautiful is how much autonomous children are unapologetically themselves. Many adults find that triggering.
Not only are they themselves, but autonomous children know their worth. They will not accept people disrespecting their rights. It takes early indoctrination and control to make humans accept that their time, thoughts, body and things aren’t their own.
Autonomy is the enemy of control and expectations.
Unschooled and respected children really prove to me that the opposite to their reality is what creates this process of losing oneself. These children are so fully themselves, so unashamedly individual. Their interests are so varied, so in depth, so not linear, so meaningful to their unique selves. Their self expression is again so free and individual and free from shame.
photo by Sara
We know by now what children need and deserve. We know the school system and mainstream parenting is not doing a very good job of providing it. We have all read and heard all about it, and seen the evidence. So now it is time for us to do something about it. To protect our children from this stealing of individuality. We need to show our children radical acceptance for who they are. Encourage their self expression. We need to show them what’s really important. To value them. To be an advocate for them in a world that does the opposite.
“People today do not even know what children are actually like, they only know what children are like in schools” – Carol Black.
So when I’m asked what my favourite thing about unschooling is? I answer that I get to know and see my children as fully themselves. Not a version of themselves whose time, thoughts and body are not fully their own. Not a standardised version of themselves. Not a schooled version of themselves. Not a controlled version of themselves. A free, authentic, autonomous version of themselves. And I wouldn’t change that for the world!
Thank you for reading!
A question for you, something I am struggling with as we choose whether to put our children in school in the coming year or two: what to do if keeping the kids home is keeping yourself as a parent from achieving your goals and living your best life? I am a writer and an introvert and I need time alone and in peace to write. I simply do not get either with the kids at home and I know that would not change for years. I feel like I can’t be my best parent unless I get substantial time away from my children and for my work, my creative outlet. But I also know that my children would be well served by an unschooling environment. I at least live in a country where children are cherished and much more respected in school, but I know they’d still pick up values that aren’t my own and be judged by metrics I don’t agree with. But homeschooling is not my vocation, as I know it is for others. I’m conflicted. How to balance it all?
Nancy Slofstra says
I am a grandmother just getting into the whole life-learning realm with my two grandchildren and I love it! If I had been allowed to work in the family business full-time growing up instead of having to spend horrible, demeaning days at school before going to work afterwards, I believe I would have been a much less anxious and sad person. I have pretty much overcome those feelings as I became a competent self reliant adult but I am so happy that my little loves will not have to put up with schooling and will be able to play, work and snuggle with me and my husband whenever they want. (and their parents too of course…..lol)
Esperanza Gailliard says
Beautiful! This is why our communities as Indigenous peoples were targeted. To take our children out of who they are and turn them into a mainstreamer. Now that residential schools are known for their horrors, you would think we would not trust the system schools. Yet, I find it hard to get our people to budge out of the institutionalized mindset and remove their kids from the public schools. I do hope things will change. We are working hard to help others see, feel and understand what living our culture is all about. Thank you again for this awesome article! #Empowering
This is really making me considering to unshool my kids. I am still struggling to find myself. I wonder how my life could have been if I didn’t had to go through the school system. Thanks!!!
That’s an interesting concept. I’ve partially home-schooled my son and he’s been in Waldorf schools with wonderful teachers, but I feel like his exposure to peers has already indoctrinated him into the culture of “cool” and that is expressed in the way he behaves sometimes. I just don’t feel like it’s really him being authentic, but I don’t know how to “undo” it. We’re homeschooling again this year and I’m trying to make a long term commitment to it. Hopefully, in time, he can feel comfortable being himself completely again. Thank you, this was very insightful!
Wow. LOVE THIS. Thanks for writing it!!!