Valiant Child

ocean

A mother feels between her breaths
where time stops between heart beats
and memory works like muscle

Here at the edge of intention
where childhood ends
and memory of the final nursing is lost
though she swore she’d never forget

He artfully negotiates the room like John Wick

She amuses herself with thoughts of what could have been had she married Keanu.

Nestled there against her skin
he entangled all that her childhood needed,

but missed…

because Good Housekeeping.

Swollen with nourishment
for his cells and soul
she gave
and she gives
and now
Menopause.

The tears as she types
in the moments she has allowed for self-care
this month
this year
rarely.

The tears are the biological evidence
imprinting upon the air
her sorrow
her pride
her grief
her longing
her knowing
her accepting
her dreaming
her perfection
expressed as ancestral intentions

It is of unknown source carried like a ruck sack
slung over the back carelessly by her offspring
as he moves into a light
transcribed from within his own lenses.

He was five
when his blue eyes transitioned
to the hue of verdant oceanic dreams

She was old enough to be his grandmother then
just as she was kissing the strange light on the day her own mother’s breath closed

The air around her trembled
signaling her fate
the pace quickened
the portal of her vision narrowed

Then, he was twelve.

In the span of only seven years he blossomed from innocent sponge to
friend
leader
martial artist
thespian
gamer
gamer
gamer
gamer
comedic actor

It has been some time since she
as me
his mother
now single
on welfare
disabled
decided
that children come first,
and a paradigm of compassion, empathy, and respect can forge

a valiant child.

~MBennett (c) first published 6-15-2020 @ The Higher Process. All rights reserved.

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Tired of Political Posts? Here’s A Perspective.

I am sure the posts about being kind or about being unable to handle any more political posts are made with the best intentions. I have no doubt, and frankly, we can all use the good energy. Still, I cannot assert enough that there are populations whose most basic sovereignty depends on the election outcomes. These populations do not have the privilege to let go and flow.

Black, Indigenous, Hispanic, Muslim, LGBTQ, and other maligned populations (including immigrants and refugees and their children) – and women all have fundamental sovereign rights and essential protections at stake. We must advocate for anti-racism and the most basic sovereign rights of other human beings.

Messages I see are ones that have silenced me in my life – be nice, be kind, don’t make waves, don’t discuss these topics, be quiet, women must act a certain way, don’t offend others, don’t upset the apple cart, nice women aren’t confrontational, etc.

I hear many men voicing their opinions without such inner dialogues. This is privilege. If you are a woman echoing the plea for reduction in political posts, consider that your own privilege is still less than that of a man’s. If you have to witness the posts of people struggling for very real needs and equality, remember those without the luxury of peace of mind and maybe consider facilitating their voices.

This is how you remain on the right side of history. No professional or personal relationship should exclude this standard for interdependence in community.

TV Man, by Margaret Love Bennett (see image credit below for description).

Image credit: TV Man by Margaret Love Bennett, circa 1985. Painted when I understood I had power as an artist to inform and communicate social content. Whether clear or not, I began to speak in visual narrative that came from a part of my intuition that grasped the importance of communication through artistic expression.

In artistic composition, there is inherent struggle to balance the functions of freedom and control. Control can be the structure of interdependence in community and still be balanced by the enormous quality of freedom.

There is a supposed Field where all souls can meet without any of this baggage. The fact that some human souls are so weighted by this corporeal existence seems a contradiction inherent in certain belief systems that define who deserves acceptance. If we are to join one another in a Field of letting go, we must first embrace responsibility for the Whole.

Self love is pure and legitimate, but Self is only part of a Whole. Systems theory is scalable, expanding, and rooted in connections – relationships. We have a choice to embrace perspective from within the dashboards of our own value systems. Connections are everything. Without acknowledging and accepting collective responsibility for the still impactful cultural historical narratives of so many, we cannot fully heal as a Whole, as Society, or fully exist as Love.

How the Process of Whole Life Unschooling Promotes Intrinsic, Sequential, and Increasingly Complex Learning, and the Practical and Meaningful Application of Knowledge and Skills

My unschooler is 13. It became evident to me long ago that the process of trusting the child and facilitating their interests as they self-direct their life is the most authentic way to raise a human in their unique, inherent wholeness.

Today, a new direction blossomed. Had anyone been hanging around like a fly on the wall, they might have missed its origins. Unschooling in whole life is a process, not a trajectory with tiered way points. If you aren’t facilitating in connection, you will miss the cues that signal the oncoming organic bloom.

Examined as a chronicle of my teen’s short life, the detailed rabbit holes of exploration and adventure could fill a book or two. Even the highlights have been many: Visiting national parks, historic sites, and the Atlantic Ocean (where I grew up); being raised in the northern Rockies with hiking, rock hounding, fossil hunting, and even some snow shoeing; exploring big cities like Chicago, Charleston, St. Louis, and Denver; participating in Jr. First Lego/Robotics and two state tournaments; practicing four years of Chu Ryu Martial Arts; pursuing complex interests in dinosaurs, world history, anime, weaponry, Japanese culture, modern architecture, acting, comedy, and current events; performing in community theatre; competing in interpretation for Speech and Debate; and enjoying endless and unrestricted YouTube, PC/console/mobile video gaming, and other media.

Highlights as they are, the daily process of whole life unschooling ebbs and flows with the ordinary seasons and responsibilities of life but without the pressure of school or scheduling life around school. There has never been coerced learning. He has never been punished. He has never been restricted. He has had food freedom, language freedom, sleep freedom, and complete access to hours on end, weeks on end, and months on end of YouTube and video gaming.

The life of this child has been extraordinary because he has lived his entire life experiencing that individual sovereignty matters, and how that sovereignty is honored most through respecting the inter-dependent nature of community and the individual sovereignty of others. He endured emotional trauma and divorce and witnessed many forms of domestic violence for 10 years, but he always had consistent whole life connection with me facilitating and respecting his interests and self-direction. He met developmental milestones at his own pace. There was no indoctrination and nothing was taboo.

At three, he was fascinated by dinosaurs. He met with the state archeologist who engaged him like an adult as they conversed about the intricate features of Allosaurus. Albeit, his speach was still that of a 3yo, but his knowledge was gleaned from endless saturation in dinosauria.

At four, he potty trained himself without ever being coerced to try, consumed documentaries about King Tut, became a fan of Ghost Adventures, and hiked to the top of a 12er (12,000’ mountain peak).

 
At five, he played his first video game, watched his first YouTube video, became a Doctor Who fan, started collecting Nerf guns, and watched Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind. He took his time weaning from the breast and didn’t completely stop until well past six.

 
At six, he became a fan of Jack Septiceye when Jack only had about 7,000 followers. This is also when he found his first hunting knife on a trail. He then collected all kinds of knives and swords. Lego was a passion for a while. He entered elaborate freestyle creations into the local Library competitions for several years. He had his first experience with martial arts until the instructor moved. He taught himself how to play Minecraft and Roblox.


At seven, he was playing Halo on Xbox along with numerous other video games and opened a Steam account. He got his first gaming tower, established his Minecraft Realm, cultivated online friendships with unschooolers around the world, and developed a fascination with guns and world war history. He used his own money to purchase a BB gun and a practice katana.

 
At eight, he received his first legit gun, a 22, and rode his bike for the first time. He started at Chu Ryu Martial Arts and ranked up through seven belts over four years.

 
At nine, he had cultivated a posse of friends (all schooled). They still hangout, ride bikes, skateboard, sled, explore the town and mountain streams, swim, and game together.

 
Ages nine and ten were the cruelest, during the divorce process. He explored meditation, Emotional Freedom Tapping, and other modalities of healing. He learned that taking responsibility for the self from within is the key to enduring, authentic happiness.

 
At 11, he had three months of short sessions in vision therapy to address Convergence Insufficiency, a binocular vision dysfunction that was preventing him from decoding reading. He went from reading baby books to reading Harry Potter in that short quarter of a year and then played two roles in a community play. His love of acting was born, and he still insists he wants to be an actor more than any other pursuit. This is important to note, because out of all his passions, talents, and interests, he has identified what matters most to him without having to be pigeon holed into limited choices. But even as he has this passion and goal, he is heavily invested in other interests.

At 12, he asked to participate in Speech and Debate (an activity he heard about from friends and that is conducted with middle and high schoolers together). For two months, he pushed through the grueling schedule and a head cold of strange proportions that for all we know was Covid19 (Jan-Feb 2020). He placed second in the region and fourth in the state for his interpretation performances of Monty Python. The day he turned 12 was the last time he saw his Dad, a visit that ended in duress. This expanded my son’s process of self-reflection and identification of certain layers of trauma, including practice in compartmentalization of feelings for long-term examination.

Shortly after Speech and Debate, he saw his friends on March 7th, and by the next week, the community shut down. He didn’t hang out with a friend or even go into a store until June. Two weeks later, I had a total hip replacement due to advanced OA and woke up from surgery without the use of my foot as a complication of the surgery, a dorsiflexion palsy. The following two months were nothing short of hell for both of us due to the factor of treating constant nerve pain. My then 12yo son was my primary caretaker. By month three, things were settling down a bit, but even now my son has to provide daily aspects of care to facilitate me, truly testing his capacity for empathy and patience.

During the months since my surgery and as he turned 13, my son has been focused on certain interralated self-directed interests. He spent as much time as he could with friends during warm weather, but since they’ve gone back to school, and Covid19 is in an uptick where we live, he hasn’t seen friends in a couple of weeks. He has been playing a lot of Skyrim on Xbox, enjoyed a free Beta for Call of Duty Cold War, and for several months he has worked his way to Builder status on the World of Keralis (WOK) Minecraft server. He watched videos by Keralis for years. This year, my son found his way to joining the WOK server and complied with requirements for 22 (and counting) unique builds of his own design and creation. He blueprints his ideas, researches architectural styles, and settles on design elements before starting each freestyle build. Here is a recent modern home.

During this time, he has also been singing frequently (something we’ve both always enjoyed),  and I’ve noticed a new ability to control his vocal range. We’ve talked about musicals, and will soon pick some new pieces for the upcoming Speech and Debate season. His interests have expanded from singular pursuits to dynamic, integrated, complex engagements.

He got heavily into Skate 3 on Xbox during lock-down and plowed through endless videos on YouTube about skateboarding technique and safety, board design, stunts, pro tips, and hardware maintenance.

An unschooling friend whose Dad designs and builds skate parks had gifted him a board when he was eight, so this revived his interest. He then spent much of his summer after lock-down practicing stunts with friends and asked for skate shoes and protective gear for his 13th birthday. I knew at the time that the Wyoming winter would send his board back into the closet very soon, but he made the most of it until it snowed.

Still on an almost daily basis since before he turned 13, the fly on the wall might not have noticed that the skateboarding videos transitioned down rabbit holes pertaining to airsoft and mountain biking. The airsoft videos have interested him for several years, and he now has an airsoft rifle. He has recently saved to purchase another one after spending his money on attachments that he first researched. He has watched videos on airsoft battles, the history of military strategy dating to ancient civilizations, gun reviews, games on fields, CQB intense indoor experiences, immersive MILSIM campaigns, and safety. A friend’s Dad graciously took him to the local gun range, but the majority of the time he combines his martial arts training with John Wick moves as he negotiates imaginary airsoft battles at home.  

The fly on the wall – that might have considered watching videos to be a waste of time or not educational – might have missed how more frequently the air soft videos were giving way to videos about mountain biking. My first intuitive reaction was to be concerned for his safety as I imagined him attempting the stunts the adults in the videos were doing, just like with skateboarding. As an unschooling parent who partners her child, I know that these inner responses are conditioned fears. I have learned to trust the child. My job was to pick up on the cues to learn how this interest meets a need and to facilitate his access and exposure as the rabbit holes transition, expand, turn, and loop.

This partnering in his learning facilitated my awareness a couple of months ago when he expressed interest in a new bike. He reasoned that he can ride his friends’ more expensive bikes better than his own. He is always lagging behind them. He has a nice bike, but he is outgrowing it after two years. I told him with winter, I probably can’t afford to focus on a new bike until spring. He seemed concerned about this, but his bike spends most of nine months hanging from the garage rafters due to snow. He kept talking about biking. I noticed he was watching YouTubers construct trails, going over the economics of building trails, converting vans for travel to various trails, and detailing specs and maintenance processes for a sport where replacement parts and repairs are frequent.

Soon, he was coming to me expressing a desire to get our city to create a mountain biking trail as a tourist attraction, and as a part of a master plan in his head for extreme sports. Ours is a destination community. We are at the foot of the mountain that is the scenic route to Yellowstone National Park. We have resort level hiking, hunting, and skiing. Our community is quaint and historic, the basis for the fictitious town of Durant in the Longmire book and TV series. Longmire Days brings tourism that triples our small-town population. My son suggested that having an airsoft field, expanding our pitiful skate park, and adding a mountain biking trail in town would bring people from all over for repeat visits, which would impact our economy.

We have lots of trails in our mountains. There is a major trail that leads from town a good ways up the mountain, but few trails if any are limited to mountain biking and most are primarily hiking trails. Also, the kind of trails my son wants to see constructed are exclusive to mountain biking and include special features, jumps, safety elements, and turns that can be repeated without riding long distance across a trail through protected habitat.

He said businesses would be needed to accommodate travelers in need of repairs or to lease bikes. He talked about how hotels, restaurants, other businesses and our sporting goods store would benefit from visitors to the trail. We talked about events. He wants to involve a YouTuber that has helped sell these attractions in various communities.

The more we talked, the more it became clear to me that this is something I will facilitate over time. He is a 13yo wanting to become involved in community improvement that ultimately could be a lasting interest and give him first-hand experience in community project management. Like all things in unschooling, this could also be a trail leading to other rabbit holes of discovery. He is not limited to one or two interests. The world is wide open to him.


Authentic Story of a Single Mom in the System

 

I won’t deny in my young adulthood that a good proportion of wearing my heart on my sleeve was due to a lack of discernment, self-awareness, and misunderstanding about my value, how to get my needs met, and misaligned focus on validating the wrong aspects of who I thought I was expected to be.

I had amazing parents. They were supportive, kind, extraordinarily generous, forgiving, accepting, and cheer leaders. At the same time. They were dysfunctional, made mistakes, and left indelible impact on my life and soul. I don’t feel that I dishonor them by speaking authentically about them. My siblings and I have often run into the realization that despite their dysfunctions, our parents were more loving, generous, and supporting than most. Still, we are our children’s models. We give them the good and the bad aspects of ourselves.

I chose to raise my son in a free paradigm because I recognized my life’s pain, and I saw how doing things the same way I was taught was not serving the true needs of his sisters. It took me a while to break a double standard I practiced between them and their baby brother. But I knew that to stop the cycle of dysfunction, which I believe every family has to a degree, my child would need to experience respect and autonomy for his whole life.

Many thought I was being overly protective of him by attachment parenting, but I knew from the research that it would provide him a foundation to withstand anything life dishes out.

I promote this paradigm because I believe it is the answer to resolving many societal problems, starting at the roots. But as a single mom at a grandmother’s age, with the truth of domestic violence in the rear-view mirror, being both parents by myself gets really hard at times. I struggle to keep meals flowing, to practice self-care, and to release stress for connection. In some ways, I have always been that single parent, and hence why the lack of self-care during my marriage left me with chronic medical conditions.

I am trauma-informed. My child is trauma-informed. If I break, he is not far behind me. I am the sole source he has for stability. This is not because he was attachment parented. I lost community the longer I remained in a dysfunctional marriage and I allowed my life to be dismantled year by year until I had little to stand upon.

I had a few friends and family who literally guided me with one hand while holding what would become my lantern in the other hand as they walked with me so that I could grieve and heal. So much of what I processed encompassed complex layers of trauma and grief. But healing trauma does not promote immediate sustainability.

As much as I am still trying to wrap my head around all that the term conjures,  I am disabled. In marriage, I did not qualify for disability benefits due to income. In my state, the courts do not award alimony to help a woman transition to self-sufficiency and instead force mothers and children into the system. Disabled, and with a substantial career gap, I had to draw strength and resources from corners I never even knew existed.

While I did work from home, I was a stay at home parent for the last half of a very long marriage. In less male-centrist states, I would have qualified from raising children long enough to receive alimony and retirement for life. I received no alimony or ongoing retirement, despite the extraordinary factor of domestic violence and disability challenges.

When I met my son’s Dad, I was the higher wage earner and moderately accomplished professional and a successfully exhibiting/selling MFA artist. I allowed my own dismantling over time. For that, I am responsible, but I also reference the paradigms in which I was raised. Hence, the healing process and extreme reckoning led me to finally step off into the unknown as a single parent.

When I stepped off, I stepped off into poverty. It was a long drop and happened overnight, literally as a factor of retribution for enacting a protection order. The authenticity I promoted for my child became a paradigm that I must own and not be ashamed of, and wearing the veil has become too uncomfortable to not speak my truth.

When that overnight change occurred, my child ate little more than hotdogs from the food pantry for two months before we got even a slight bit of relief. Sometimes, we dip into months that are not far from this, even now. The reckoning forced deep examination of extraordinary painful experiences that extended from childhood well into middle age.

I had a choice as I considered divorce. I could continue to subject my child to insidious types of trauma “nice” people don’t talk about, or I could step off and finish the job I started in trying to break the cycle of dysfunction for my child. I had no way to prepare for this step. I needed charity. I needed friends. I needed community. My heart was mired in despair, but my child was and still remains my Mission. Children save us this way.

I was walking the prescribed government path to please the court that cared less about the inflicted trauma endured by my son and me than about releasing responsibility for the impact of its decisions. I was diving through hoops to stay afloat while trying to move forward. This process has turned a corner into its third year. Progress is slow, but meaningful. I keep my vision focused on fruition as the target keeps moving.

The point of all of this is that there is a personal story behind everyone who ends up dependent in some way on the system. It is hard to get on, be on, and remain on public assistance for any amount of time. It is like doing taxes every month while stripping naked for the TSA and jumping through hoops that are on fire. If you miss one of those hoops, it all unravels. And forget privacy. The process makes it clear that if you use the system, you consent to being owned by the system. Someone who is really lacking in practice navigating the system might easily give up and not even realize that being denied is at times just a filter in the process.

Once gained, the benefits are not substantial. They are barely enough, and barely enough makes it very difficult to move forward, as time is money and it takes money to make money. It is also challenging to keep the benefits static long enough to make headway.

The system is not a free-for-all that props up a bunch of lazy, undeserving people. The resources cannot be spent on just anything. I still struggle to clothe my child as he grows, and to maintain a roof over our heads, buy monthly household items, or to put gas in my car. At times, I have to round out this bare minimum with expired or expiring donated products. Medically, the benefits are limiting, too. Physicians are supposed to process RX for durable goods for those with disability, yet many times I have had to buy what I couldn’t borrow out of pocket because the doctors have endless hoops they have to jump through to qualify these items for the patient, and some doctors won’t even try.

Reentering the workforce at my age, if nothing else, has taught me that if you choose to stay home and raise your child you damn well need two things: A partner who actually has empathy and respect for you, and a back up plan.

I still take pride in making ends meet or in being creative to expand my resources. During the pandemic, a lot of families have come together to share resources. At times it feels like being part of a meaningful web of support. Those are the times I don’t feel so judgmental of myself. Many are struggling.

There are plenty of people with journeys like mine. There are more of us than ever before. Yet it seems there are more people than ever before slanted against us in hate and judgment. They preach in social media posts as if they are not subject to a fall from grace at a moment’s notice, where they may just find their own bootstraps are irrevocably broken. They need to wake up and extend a hand to those in need instead of judgment. Next, it could be them, or someone they purport to love.

My childhood traumas and dysfunctional fetching up were a blueprint in the dance between nature and nurture. Connections are everything, but in all things quantum, even the most complex and integrated of connections can fail when the environment proves too unstable.

This process can be incremental, as with domestic violence* to the point that suddenly the veil is stripped away and the reality of the fight or flight conundrum becomes vivid, an explosion of truth. This hot mess can turn a life inside out very quickly, and so many live life without the self-awareness to recognize the lava that flows around them.

*Domestic violence is defined by many types of manipulation and abuse, including physical, verbal, emotional, psychological, financial, sexual and other forms of control.

 

The Fundamental Purpose of Schooling Vs. the Value of Self-Direction

IMG_5005
My son at six years, with his dog. Seemed rabbit-hole-esque enough to illustrate that learning happens in every moment of life.

In defense against the battle being waged on homeschooling, Lawrence W. Reed wrote for the Foundation for Economic Education about the misconception that school was institutionalized for the sake of illiterate masses. Reed made the case that literacy was indeed not an issue two centuries ago.

I encountered an exchange about this content suggesting that schools are not fully to blame for declining literacy performance*, and that our society is influenced by a “lazy entertainment culture.” I actually believe schools are indeed not fully to blame. But I do not think our entertainment culture is lazy or a deterrent to learning. The discussion is made even more complex by the nature of performance measures.

*Performance measures, cohort outcomes, literacy rates – these are standardized measures and not true indicators of whole aspects of learning and knowledge attainment or application.

The premise of Reed’s essay is to debunk the myth that we needed institutionalized education for the sake of the masses. He provided a thorough overview of the elite knowledge attainment and wide access to many types and levels of information 200 years ago. He openly omitted for the moment, the preclusion and oppression of slaves and to certain degree, women from all, or certain access. He also illustrated the high functional applications of knowledge and skill then, as compared with relative low functional preparedness, now.

But in terms of our current cultural trends and influences, comparison across two centuries is a bit of a stranded analysis. Exponentially speaking, there can be no comparison. This is my jumping off point.

Parents restrict their kids’ natural urges to practice the functional skills of this age. I believe they do so out of fear projection, no matter how well-intended. This limiting, prohibiting, judging, restricting, and dismissing of media and other forms of visual, audio, and meme culture (including gaming) breeds a certain and noticeable level of social and functional ignorance.

I have witnessed this phenomena between my son and other whole life unschoolers and their schooled peers. It is disturbing, and frustrating for the kids who have not been held back from practicing and exploring with their generation’s tool sets. The *limits* many people place on “allowing” children and teens certain exposure to content creates taboos and extreme trajectories. They create the very reality they fear.

While I don’t take issue with Reed’s content or the purpose of his essay, a comparison of schooled literacy now to literacy of the early 1800s and prior is not necessarily a congruent comparison. I for one, dislike reading that flowery stuff. Give me emojis, please. Give me cave paintings and art. Let me fill in the blanks with my imagination and preferences. Better yet, let me press a button and get there in a faction of the time. I don’t feel this is a bad thing.

I don’t discount the evidence that school contributes to continuously poorer performance on standardized tests and measures. But these measures are assigned erroneously and in limiting ways. The more the testing is diluted according to demographic analysis, the further away from reality things get. You cannot reverse-engineer homogeneity.

Functional knowledge is also relative – school does not teach the functional skills required for the 21st century. Reed demonstrated this clearly. Schools have diminished intellectual capacity by wiring the brain not to question, but to accept input. This wiring is reinforced –  flash to kids who parrot their parents rather than thinking aloud for themselves. The authoritarian nature of schooling is responsible in large part for individuals being any measure less mature and discerning today than for the same ages even a century ago. Our brains were hijacked.

Colonial and Victorian societies had their share of misguided choices and pastimes, though, relative to our own era. And school is not the only system on the hook for limiting perspectives and neglecting the development of functional skills.

While school is a paradigm of indoctrination, parenting is entrenched in forms of indoctrination and authoritarianism. Why is it that teachers are now being afforded all but adoption papers by parents who are frustrated trying to do it all for the first time in quarantine? This is an ancestral issue, complete with cultural influences and well-intended (or, unquestioned) normative measures passed down through centuries without relative purpose.

Parents are not seeing that the responsibility for connection with their children starts with them. But rest assured, this is also an age of compassion. When we know better, we do better. Or at least, we can try to build a bridge to reshape the predominant paradigm.

Narratives are important as we seek to level up the paradigm of learning, and what we pass forward as education. I think the focus needs to be on shedding school authoritarianism and standardization, not on controlling the indulgence in cultural interests of current society. We need to open up that information highway and let kids experience freedom of choice, freedom of thought, and whole life autonomy.

Parental fear is responsible in tandem with the authoritarian nature of school for preventing the natural flow of societal learning and functional application of information. Someone not being able to read content from the 1800s has little to do with how much Netflix or YouTube they consume. Our society is different.

We also don’t have the need to read as much as we did then. I speed-read or scan much of the content I consume, while my son’s generation absorbs similar sound bytes as they move through video content. The format is different, but they are in control of when they speed up or slow down to focus. The method works, and when they have questions, they detour down a rabbit hole that might contain a combination of video, written, or functional life aspects around a topic. They even research, collaborate, and invent. And when quarantine is not an issue, they are facilitated towards even more open-ended excursion.

These trips through winding pathways instill a natural complexity of comprehension. This can be compared to what schools try to do when they make attempts to integrate subjects that don’t appeal to students’ interests. This fabricated learning is boring, inherently disjointed stuff that schools coerce kids to digest. Then they pollute the process further with standardized testing and far-fetched, relatively meaningless analysis of these data.

Thank goodness I have the freedom to indulge in whatever my brain wants to accommodate in a given moment most of the time. Children should have the same freedom to develop their own minds. Our experience with whole life freedoms tells me they can be trusted to do so when facilitated gently.

Information in this century is readily available. We can take exponential shortcuts. But we have to have the ingenuity and creativity to find answers and solutions to our 21st century problems. Intrinsic motivation is a far more powerful learning tool than coerced, authoritarian education.

Is the question really about literacy…. or is it about self-direction?

Examining the Structure of the Conventional Paradigm During Covid19

gray bridge and trees
Photo by Martin Damboldt on Pexels.com

I collected a few words from a comment I left on a post about high school seniors missing out on their graduations and spring traditions. It struck me how I both know and don’t know the pooling emotions of this phenomena.

Whole Life Learners don’t have their lives so compartmentalized. We live more in the present tense. It doesn’t feel like the world is closing in on us or that we are running out of time. Opportunities aren’t hit or miss. Rather, they are never-ending and spiraling out all the time.

I truly do feel for those in the conventional mold. I graduated from public school and remember the linear pathway, the anticipation… but I also remember the ennui and the depression, and the emptiness that followed – the now what?

The transition through high school graduation didn’t feel right. In fact, little ever felt right when trying to squeeze myself into the grid of the system. It felt more like I was spreading parts of myself over a substructure. I had trouble filling in some of the spaces. It felt uncomfortable holding my attention there.

I tried to grasp the moments as they were fleeting and measured. It was like trying to grasp at feathers floating by while sitting on a rudimentary boat, riding a strict current towards a certain destination. My anticipations were not often rewarded to the degree of expectation for what the moments might provide in the way of transformative experiences.

The unschooling process becomes a lifestyle. My son wakes up with prospects for an unfolding day, such as laying a foundation for a build in Minecraft or gathering the ingredients for a meal. We laugh. We take time to indulge in Tik Tok compilations. Or, I curse and moan trying to make it out the door for an errand. I’m struggling with pain from degenerative joint disease. He anticipates my moves. He knows how hard I work to meet his needs. He gets why he needs to do his share. He appreciates what I am giving him from the trough of single motherhood.

We both work towards the parts of the day when we can just relax and do our own thing. Many days, most days, that’s how we begin – doing our own thing. It helps set a pace for meeting the obligations on top of feeling satisfied. We converge here and there to eat, to respond to the cat, to help each other with random tasks or problems, or to feed our minds or creativity.

When I have to work, things get more tense. He fends more for himself. We build our routines and schedule around it. He understands how I balance what I have to do with what I want to do. When I can’t maintain balance, he feels the boat swaying and learns how to adapt. Together, we manage. It can be messy. It can be indeterminate. But we are in control, self-directing with the cards we’ve been dealt and the resources we cultivate. The process is inherently rewarding and shapes character. We carve out ample time to do the things that are meaningful to us.

We remember our trips to Chicago, Yellowstone, or when he was a toddler visiting family back East as we pour over a laminated world map he just got from Amazon. He asked me to buy it because he missed his old folded map that fell apart over a year ago. We talk about trips we still want to take.

He taught himself everything he knows about geography over his short years with travel, videos and gaming, and discussions about world events. He knows more than I ever learned in school or throughout my adulthood about the world’s countries and political leaders, cultures, and history. We get side tracked counting the states we’ve been to. It hits him that in 55 years, I’ve never left the US. I see the gears turning. I hear him tell a friend later online that everyone thinks he wants to be an architect because of his gaming builds, but right now, he wants to be an actor.

He practices his acting all the time with me. We sing our communications, exaggerating content and vocal inflections. He affects accents – Irish, British, Russian. He talks in memes in third person about himself. He pretends to be an old man, stooped over my cane as a prop. We end up laughing so hard I can’t breathe. He relishes in his gift for humor. I see how my willingness to be silly facilitates his need for connection.

The apron strings are tethered in certain spots. He asks me to check behind the couch, irrationally, while watching Supernatural. He proved in the last year that he can step out into the world and participate seamlessly in practices of conventional achievement. He had acted in a community play and became interested in interpretation for speech and debate. His friends who go to school were involved. He seemingly whisked in, and back out of that world and collected accolades in one fell swoop.

The reality is that it was hard. This was a regional and statewide organized activity. There were weekly practices and early weekends. He stressed over character development and getting his lines down perfectly. We are both night owls. We got sick from loss of sleep. I had to buy him special clothes because all he owns in his growing frenzy are sweats and custom tees.

Initially, he had begged me to facilitate his participation. It’s hard for me, physically, to take on the early Saturdays and winter Wyoming travel. But he came at this with intense intrinsic motivation. It’s my job to facilitate his interests and self-direction. His desire to compete was pivotal. He made mental notes about the things that he had to tolerate in a conventional educational setting. He was grateful that he could return home to his freer lifestyle. But he also wants to do it again next year.

We often talk about opportunities he can pursue as he gains readiness. Pretty much the only thing that can stand in his way is himself, and much of that is a simple matter of development. At 12, he is already discerning. He is already decisive. His passions are numerous and his interests expansive. He is leading himself.

It is all spread out before him, an open landscape with endless choices. All he has to do is match his intrinsic motivation to the cause. Instead of floating, he is wading. He can walk out of the river at any point to follow any path he chooses. For now, he is content to enjoy everyday life. He says he would like to drive, but other than that, he’s not interested in getting older in a hurry.

There is no rush, unless his friends want to meet him on bikes. Then, it is a mad dash to grab snacks, water, cash, his phone, a hoody, and his helmet. As he pedals away, my world settles eerily. I am so used to having him by my side. As he ventures out, I’m met with spaciousness that is suddenly empty of his energy. I’m reminded how short-lived all of this really is, and how few apron strings remain. Unschooling him leads to my own self-examination. Connections are Everything, and the way he connects me to the world keeps me rooted in authenticity.

A whole life learner knows that the pathways go in all directions at once. They aren’t worried about stepping out of their comfort zones because they know they have the power to return and leave again. This isn’t far from the nature of an entrepreneurial spirit. Life is not linear.

Covid19 has flipped the world for most everyone. But for homeschoolers, the biggest change has been social isolation. We haven’t been able to participate in regular community activities. We miss our community, and my son misses seeing his friends. Our budgets are constrained, and we still can’t find toilet paper on the shelves. But our spirits are OK. We already know how to adjust. We go with the flow, knowing continuous change is a matter of life.

I can imagine how stressful it must be for system-based children and young adults during this time. I imagine the fear of feeling thrust off one’s track, not knowing how to realign and move forward within the chaos.

I imagine this process feels like being jerked from one end of the spectrum and back again. Ideally, these conventional learners would be facilitated in catching their breath, adjusting to a new paradigm that considers the benefits of retaining flexibility and promotes individual discernment.

Ideally, they will never return to what used to be and instead will be afforded an opportunity to know themselves so that when the mouth of the river appears, they sense their own direction.

How Will They Learn? ~Education in Transformation (E.D.I.T.)

E.D.I.T. presents a video featuring unschoolers of all ages discussing how they learn without school, in Unschooling Myths, Episode 1.

Sean participated (that’s my #cubbiebear, now 12) and conveys his perspectives on being a lifelong unschooler and going down rabbit holes of self-directed discovery.

Self-Examine, then Let Go to Level Up

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Photo by Naveen Annam on Pexels.com

We are in unparalleled times, connected globally as never before. My son showed me a mash up of a YouTube video where a cartoon character used a pointer and a world map to tally confirmed cases for Covid19 in every country around the world. It was a geography lesson and an indication of just how small we really are as a human tribe.

In The Common Denominator Is You, Michael Schreiner discusses a tendency to repeat life and relationship patterns that are symptomatic of giving away the power we have over our lives. I am reminded of my own efforts to take responsibility for having allowed my former self to live continuously within trauma and abuse.

Schreiner references Carl Jung’s philosophy that has become a pop psyche tenet:

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”

Along my journey, I chose to accept a term that betrays the illusion of security in childhood, codependency. The stigma associated with the powerlessness and victimization inherent in such terms is humbling to the ego.

  • It requires a journey through pain, emotional upheaval, grief, and layers of healing.

  • It requires trusting the space through which we cannot see.

  • It requires remembering to float on our backs when we are accustomed to reacting to life in fear.

When I realized this aspect of Self, I was awakened to a process whereby I was able to  start shedding the impact of complex domestic violence and sexual trauma. This happened layer by layer – digging through more than five decades of trying to see. I’m a bit of a late bloomer.

With intention, I reached levels of lightness that contrasted with where I used to be. That contrast provides enough definition to light the rest of my way.

Many people attribute such a process to trusting in their system of belief. It is very similar, so I won’t bother splitting hairs. Light, Wholeness, Faith, Trust, Hope, Compassion, Forgiveness, Healing, Centering – all of the ingredients are present.

To me, it felt like a gut-wrenching spiritual process of death followed by rebirth.

I integrated trauma that was grounded as emotional memory into what I perceive as Eckhart Tolle’s pain body. Integrating in this sense means that I took what I was made of, put it through the grinder, and recreated my very being. I thought the process was scary. What I know now is that the process isn’t singular. It is like peeling an onion. It is like sewing a quilt.

At one point in my early 20s, I slept on cardboard on the floor of an open graduate studio for days and semi-showered in the building’s restroom. I found myself secretly stuffing cellophane-wrapped giant cookies into my apron during my opening shift at Stefano’s Pizza where I earned below minimum wage – just so that I could eat something that day. My parents were married for 60 years before the first one died. I went to parochial school and private college. I won scholarships. So, this trajectory made no sense without examining deeper aspects of my life experiences.

I was too ashamed to ask for help. I also feared asking for help. My self-esteem characterized me as easy for the plucking. Indeed, I was targeted by a university professor twice my age. That is just a minor sampling of my early adulthood as a deflated young woman. When I look back, I am grateful to be in my present skin. But even in this skin I journey continuously towards elusive wholeness. This wholeness is so bright that it is often hard to keep focus with an anxious world pulsating freely. Increasingly, I return to center in facile ways.

We seek to control our spaces when a free-form nature defines our existence.

I find myself having to practice yielding to the flow of circumstances as opposed to reacting from a source of complex stress-responsiveness. This is one simple aspect of how choosing to raise my son in connection converges with the healing of my own inner child.

I could not deny my role in the process of allowing abuse. It is very difficult and extremely uncomfortable to live any way but authentically after that realization. It is an humbling life pass that becomes etched into being and soul.

Taking this responsibility does not equate absolving perpetrators of their insidious and hideous actions and intentions. Instead, it removes me from the circumstances of the crime so that I may regain what I’ve lost. It brings me back to center.

Truly, when enmeshed within trauma and abuse patterns, this process of stepping outside of the abuse feels literally like pulling apart the very threads of one’s own being.

Imagine that an afterimage of Self is left behind, an imprint of sorts that enables the healing person to glance back at where she’s been. This becomes a source of information for understanding parts of herself she’s released in order to escape – in order to grow.

She has the choice to fall back into the dysfunctional normal, or to fall forward in trust without foresight of who she is about to become. I must admit, when I got to this point, I felt I’d leveled up and could afford to breathe.

There is a space for wandering where fear is integrated as we search for light within an unlit tunnel. The afterimage of the fractured, former self gives reference to reassure us that we are indeed walking away from hurt. In this process, I was carrying myself for perhaps the first time.

My child was witness to this process, a model for drafting inner strength from deeply within. As he stresses about what he perceives as the narcissistic behavior of a friend, I draw upon my tool box and remind him not to give away his power. Connections are everything, but we have to know how, why, and when to sever nodes in the grid. The kill switch might just begin with us. Reaction must be tempered before it can be mastered.

I found it precarious to wear my identity on social media during my period of transformation. So much of who I am now is not who I was before. But I’m still me. That part is reassuring. I feared I’d lost my essence, expended during prolonged epochs of fight or flight.

Even as I resume sharing opinions and beliefs, I try to take responsibility for how my thoughts differ from others’ instead of carrying the expectation that they see what I want them to see. I had to practice this. I had to sit on my hands and zip my lips when I desired to speak out against declarations that offended my own moral sensibilities. Next, I found myself wishing others would likewise calm the fuck down. Still a slight edge. I’m still me. I still want to express hard-earned opinions.

So much of what I see argued seems sourced from fear – and fear is a liar. Fear projection is inherently a refusal of faith, another lesson I’ve learned raising a child in connection.

Some people have the wisdom of ages, but deny their fear. Others have integrated extreme pain, loss, and misfortune, yet sometimes glitch in fear projection when the idea of letting go challenges the very foundation of their beliefs. Fear is first gear on the stick shift. None of us is wholly exempt. I have to continuously operate the clutch. This blog provides me a space to spit myself out for self-examination. That alone can be nerve-wracking.

Fear projection is inherently a refusal of faith.

Sometimes I feel like I still don’t have all the necessary tools needed to stand against the grain. But I cannot control anyone’s hate. Authenticity requires that we accept before we judge. This also ensures that hate does not become a mirror.

This is where I was when I bailed in large part from social media in late 2016.

I felt pessimistic. I didn’t vote. It felt futile. I refused complicity. I had enough going on beneath my own skin. The story played out. Society experienced great upheaval. And now, society is collectively seeking remedy for Covid19, erasing so much of that ugliness and disarray. Society is Global. For better or worse, we are in this together.

As this story unfolds, I feel like there might be something worth voting for.

But it has less to do with babies being born or bootstraps being pulled up. It has little to do with rainbow flags. Netflix and Amazon already evidenced in chummy comic exchange that society is indeed in favor of the individual. Society has already accepted the predictions in 1984, but the Apple commercial makes it seem more bent towards discovery and creation. There is always a flip side to the coin. We might all end up in one big space-cruise-ship (like the one in The Fifth Element). It has less to do with universal income or health care or guns. It isn’t about coal or renewable energy or climate. It isn’t based on taxes or benefits. It isn’t about religious belief. It isn’t about white-haired old men. None of us should be surprised by our societal makeup. Even Mulder and Scully predicted this pandemic (X Files, Season 11, Episode 5).

This time, it comes down to unity. My motivation comes from seeing humans self-illuminate as we practice social isolation and conduct grids in support of one another across the entire world. We are leveling up as a species. So, let us honor our differences with respect for the higher process as we continue tunneling through the Twilight Zone of 2020. This is an election year, after all. On social media, we’ve never needed an election to divide us.

For example, when we use terms like anti-vaxer or pro-vaxer, we are mistaken and limit the scope of the conversation we can have. If we blame religious belief for one thing or another, we are demonstrating inflexible natures and a refusal to accept that the space between opposite poles contains anything of value. The more I listen, the more I learn. If we throw the baby out with the bathwater and overgeneralize, we miss the entire point of everything. We must re-frame our narratives if we truly desire connection. That is not to say that religious belief does not or cannot harm. My story is evidence of the nuanced trickery, an for others – the outright social injustice we allow by not thinking for ourselves.

If all we are after is to shame people into our perspectives, we need to go all the way back up to the journey in the dark tunnel and dwell there awhile longer (do not pass Go, do not collect $200).

Imagine all the people, living for today. As John Lennon sang, It’s easy if you try. Schools are adapting in this pandemic in ways we didn’t anticipate. My father had his tonsils removed in a school gymnasium in the 1930s. School today has suddenly become capable of transforming to mirror community-wide response. Homeschoolers are opening narratives to help calm the nerves of frazzled parents. The system is not discriminating when it comes to feeding all of our children. We share common ground, at least for now.

Until we live the life of another, we really cannot know. If we push our personal and moral agendas in judgment, we kill the chance for connection. I love Sy-Fy and shows like The X-Files and Dr. Who not because the conspiracies seem so relevant to our world, but because the light, passion, and imaginatively positive energies come together for the greater good, every single time. Perhaps such fantasy is my certain level of privilege because I am moving away from pain, but pain is still right where we leave it. This is what those who do not embrace fundamental campaigns for equality fail to perceive. Pain is like a virus, able to replicate itself into new dimensions and generations of hurt. Which is why I love The Doctor – he/she always sets things right while showing as much compassion to the villain as the villain’s own self recognizance will allow. If the villain refuses to self-examine, then The Doctor’s conscience can only go so far before turning back to shoulder humanity. This is how the villain bears responsibility for their self-demise; they force The Doctor to side with his/her absolute values. The arc is always poetic.

I went away from and came back to social media to dust off some of the us vs. them mentality and for personal healing. I couldn’t do them both at the same time. I don’t sweat the occasional rant – in fact – I deliciously indulge certain content of that nature when it aligns to my beliefs – or better – makes me laugh.

Taking responsibility for the common denominator means self-regulating back to center. Individuals who have survived and even thrived outside of the myriad forms of abuse and trauma learn that it doesn’t matter what you believe. It only matters where you show up and what you do when you get there. Courage comes from traversing the parts of your soul you can’t discern and the parts of the tunnel you can’t see through.

Maybe we should start sharing our judgements as the fears they really are.

A friend on social media posted a prayer for these exponential times to assuage anxiety that stated, “Do the next thing.”

Let it be, just keep swimming, go with the flow, let go or be dragged. Listen more. Ask questions. Authenticity rules. Let’s be mindful of our impact and the nature, strength, and purpose of the nodes of connection we create and what they mean for others.

Level up in connection. Hold on for the rest of 2020 because the shift isn’t over yet. Imprint this into the DNA of your offspring. This part of the journey is worth keeping.

Faeries and Flowers

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Guest Post by Lynn Warcup Metcalf

I always put numbing cream on my port site about 30 minutes before going up to Oncology because inserting the infusion needle is painful. Today I had a new tube of numbing cream with a “safety” top and couldn’t get it open. I was in the downstairs ladies room and there was no one else around. I can’t come out and get Art because I am somewhat uncovered by then. I tried and tried to open it. Finally gave up and used the tiny amount left in an old tube. It works better if you “blob” it on but I’m not sure what was left qualified as a “blob”. Used it anyway. We haven’t been out shopping so I didn’t have a small tag-a-derm to hold the “blob” in place and used my one large one instead. Things are not starting off well. We head up to Oncology on the fifth floor.

We are ushered in, I am poked, stuck, prodded, and weighed. Hmm, down nine pounds today. I haven’t eaten a lot. Food doesn’t taste good anymore. No problem, I could stand to lose a few more pounds. I head for a chair with the infusion machine on the right since my port is on my right upper chest. The Infusion Center is a large area with half-walls. It’s a beige room…beige walls, beige floors, beige chairs, nothing but beige. There are large windows on one side but we are five floors up and I can’t see much from where I sit, except sky and billboards. At least the sky is sometimes blue. Someone must have thought beige would be calming. Actually it’s a little depressing. I’m pleased to see my nurse has on pretty purple scrubs with flowers in the front. I have worn bright red. A red button front silky shirt and my favorite pair of red earrings. The earrings are like bell-shaped flowers with little black beads hanging from the center. I think of them as faerie flowers and, in fact, I purchased them from a website dedicated to faeries. They make me smile. I need them today.

By the time my blood tests came back, the numbing cream is wearing off. My nurse peels the tag-a-derm off and pokes the needle in, apologizing for hurting me. She starts the steroid first and then the infusions. It takes about an hour each and I have two after the steroid. As soon as one of the infusions starts I get a headache. It also makes me feel weak and dizzy. Some of it is worse than others. The nurse wears a mask and gloves and occasionally an over-gown while handling the infusions. Once some spilled out onto the floor. A man in a hazmat suit came to clean it up…that’s what is going inside my body. Surely the cancer doesn’t stand a chance, lol.

There are about eight people in my nurse’s two sections and she efficiently moves around taking care of each of us. Art is a trooper. He comes and sits with me. He reads or plays with his tablet or brings me a cookie, water, or a warm blanket. I so appreciate him being there. I could do it without him but I feel so vulnerable alone, it comforts me to have him near. When I’m done, my nurse says, “See you in three weeks.” I smile and we leave, carefully peeling off the little green stickers that we received to show we were “safe” as we came in.

Lynn Warcup Metcalf is a decades-deep connection and dear friend living with cancer. She is a prolific quilter with a gift for descriptive prose. She is an early riser, keeper of valuable ancestral knowledge, and gives appreciation to the details of life. I requested permission to share this post. It gives me rare understanding about the vulnerable, moment-to-moment experience of her journey. 

Covid-19: Intentional Shifting

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It seems a common, global concern enables us to mirror our best conscientious selves to one another. As a society bound to social media, we are generally fighting about which side of us and them we align to and in the process, forgetting our best human attributes.

I imagine it is vastly different when schools close and events are cancelled in a small, isolated town like ours in comparison to metro areas. Here, everyone connects online, offering each other help. Tired of Fortnite, Sean’s schooled and unschooled friends are playing UNO on Roblox together from their own homes.

What a weird exponential twist all of this is as we shift the dynamic of society and economics across the world. Not quite like a disaster, we have power and WiFi. 12 is probably about the best age to be through all of this.

I am grateful for the social isolation and that so many people see the value in flattening the curve. Maybe we are all sheep blindly falling in line. But, as far as the flow goes, this seems like the best wave to ride in the current situation.

Change is inevitable. Shifting together seems like a sound plan. I read recently in Quanta about how systems level up until the dynamic becomes so centralized and sizable that the leveling up creates a shift into a new paradigm. Analogies were drawn with power grids as well as viruses and other cellular systems.

In some cases, it is prudent to control the shape of what develops by dismantling individual grids or smaller segments of the operational system to keep the larger system from overpowering the paradigm too soon – like controlling the boil in a soup stock. But it can also be advantageous to allow the collapse of lower level systems, allowing them to be replaced by entirely different and newer operational organisms. It can be both complex and simple at either scale.

We are a social system, and we are individual humans leveling up. None of us wants to be compromised in any way, but if we are (for any reason), let us hope it is for the sake of a greater good.

Comparatively, immigration controls like ICE exemplify antiquated, malfunctioning, overzealous components of rogue systemic activity gone unchecked to the point of existing not for the greater good. It has spiraled into an ideological dysfunction. US penal systems are another example of corroded segments allowed to grow to the point of being grossly unprepared for pandemic effects (not to mention how inhumane and unjust they have become).

That we as a society can mostly experience consensus about social isolation during a pandemic proves that we have the capacity to use intention and (at least in the case of my small town) draw upon our collective human spirit to create change that helps us level up as we accept certain impacts alongside the emergent paradigm. If we survive such transformation, surely the process was meaningful and the new landscape freer for the benefit of the greater good.

Can we start to shape ourselves apart from the old paradigm of ideological division, reaching arms and hearts across the grid of social isolation to focus how much common ground we truly share?

Can we take this beyond Covid-19 and not forget how closely we resemble one reflection when essential moments dictate our intrinsic desire for connection?

What this means for us v. them may be as simple as letting go and leveling up to factors that shift us into the action of better being.  What falls away, my good humans, no longer serves the whole of who we are.

As for that handful of 12 year-olds who have now moved on to playing Anime’ Tycoon in Roblox, the worries of the world are no match for Naruto running.