Tonight was my son’s 10th birthday party. He declared that he is double digits, even though his actual birthday isn’t for another week. The party was at the dojo with pizza, attended by a mixture of dojo, home school, and other friends he met at the Y. We sure wish his online unschooling friends could have joined us as well, but they are spread out over different time zones.
My son is interested in Japanese culture (and in general, Asian culture). As I was typing this post, he was watching a video that relates popular gaming aesthetics to Japanese Shinobi life and culture. The YouTuber brings in an enormous amount of information that covers the impact of the culture across the globe. My son follows numerous other YouTubers who do the same justice to a myriad of topics. It is mind-boggling what he is learning just through this single interest.
This is the same process that happened when he first got into dinosaurs, guns, Lego, or Minecraft. The process involves rabbit holes that impart a wealth of interest-based knowledge and that intersect far beyond the array of “subjects” he would get from curriculum or in school.
He is learning aspects of related language, geography, political-cultural-social history, customs, weaponry, currency, government, the traditions of practice, and the threads of cross cultural influences from India, and other countries. I heard Mudras (Chakras), Buddhism, and Yoga used in a single sentence to describe elemental regulation in the body. The vocabulary used by the YouTuber is adult level, not dumbed down for kids. It is not uncommon for my son to know two or more similar terms for one concept, and be able to use them meaningfully, and with consideration for any nuanced differences among the terms.
I enjoy being present for his learning and being in the know about his interests, which helps me to facilitate his experience.
It also helps me to surprise him at holidays and other times with personalized gifts, like more custom beanie hats coming from Simbi, this time with Naruto and Overwatch symbols (Simbi is a cashless, points based exchange for goods and services).
Tonight, he received part of his Hallowe’en costume for his birthday – Naruto headband and kunai blades. Last I saw, the headband was tied around his moving-mouth fox mask – a $60 purchase he made with money he earned from selling his old toys and books. Yes, I worried that the mask would be an over-priced regret, but in fact it has been a fantastic purchase – one we have enjoyed many times over and that looks right smart tucked on a shelf when not in use.
What if I had limited his screen or gaming time? What if I had dismissed what he was interested in, or assumed he was wasting his time glued to a screen? What if I had decided what he should be interested in? What if I had chosen for him instead of him choosing for himself? What if I had allowed my fears to override his personal discretion by forbidding him from certain content?
What if I had forced him to save that $60 (which was actually closer to $100, but he purchased a video game as well) or to spend it on what I deemed to be educational pursuits?
It was Overwatch (presently his favorite video game) that led him to watch the latest YouTuber videos that analyze certain gameplay characters. It was his gaming and Skyping with his unschooling friends in other states that led to his interest in Naruto, and a rabbit hole of YouTubers who analyze that anime’ series with similar cross cultural investigations.
When he was younger, he didn’t really get how rare it is for most kids to be able to pursue their interests without judgment, or that they rarely get to decide what’s even included in the limited range from which they must choose!
Now, he is keenly aware of how free he is in his childhood. He is in control of his own learning, and that translates to such confidence in his pursuit of information, and a seamless experience for living and learning throughout life.
Even as all of this is occurring, he has suddenly mastered his “th” sounds without ever having had interventions from speech therapy. Everything he has ever done has been at his own pace (from toilet training to riding a bike). I worried that he might eventually need speech therapy, but I have also learned to trust the child, and when I offered to get him some help, he declined.
My fear was based in my own need for further deschooling, or deconditioning from my own childhood spent being measured according to arbitrary cohort systems.
He needs no artificial schooling. He simply needs to live according to his own direction. As a human being. On planet earth. A sovereign, autonomous soul.
This is our journey in Whole Life Evolution Without School. This is our partnership. This is truly trusting the child.
If he says No to a suggestion or offer, as much as I often want to override with what I feel is best, I do everything in my self-control to stop myself from doing so. I don’t want him to distrust his own self direction, and I don’t want him to question his inner guide. I am only just learning to trust my own inner compass after being told my entire life it is something that I must strive to do.
He is learning that he has the power to control his own responses, and he is also learning to take responsibility for those choices, as well as to be mindful of his own impact on the world. Other kids his age in school are learning that they need an adult’s permission to go to the bathroom, to speak, to eat, to talk, or even to stand up.
I provided my son with mindful, responsive parenting as an infant and toddler, but the fine lines started to appear in early childhood when he was decided in what he wanted – whether it was the food he preferred or the toys and shows that interested him. I could tell because he displayed feelings of frustration if I didn’t let him choose, if I didn’t truly see and listen.
That is the point when I realized that trusting the child is hard for parents because we ourselves were not likely trusted as children. That was when I truly allowed the seamless process to unfold from a nurtured childhood into a free, whole life evolutionary experience for my child, by trusting him to be who he needs to be. I am not so sure everyone who loves him understands the importance of doing this, but that’s why I am still here to insist that he be free, that he be trusted, and that he be facilitated in his journey without judgment.
The discernment he has developed from this trust is evident in so many ways, but this birthday, it became clear from a thoughtful notion he shared with me.
Let me preface this by saying that he is always aware of every step I take to run the household, to crunch the finances, to make purchases, and how hard I strive to be thrifty without making things dour. He is partnered, rather than parented. He is in the know. He is aware and at the table. He picks out his own clothes and groceries and spends his own money when and how he chooses.
He isn’t coerced to make certain choices, or even to save his money – the going consensus would be that he will surely not develop any conscious understanding for how and why to save money if he isn’t encouraged to save.
But, in reality, he has learned from being partnered what it takes to massage the financial flow, to ensure a balance in resources, and this includes being conscious of financial limitations that aren’t directly his own. So he said, Mom, I really don’t need a birthday cake this year. I don’t have to have one every year. It really is just a waste of money, and I really don’t have to have one.
Of course, I felt blown away. Of course, I don’t think any child should be without a birthday cake (nor have I ever presented buying one as a burden), but I also respect the maturity of my 10-year-old and how he came to say this from a place of thoughtful discernment.
I also know that since he has food freedom, having a birthday cake doesn’t seem like a forbidden fruit reserved for few times in a year’s time. So really, it isn’t surprising that it isn’t a big deal to him. I also know that since he is free to be himself most of the time, he doesn’t really see a birthday cake as necessary to complete the perfect self-celebration. He has filtered out the extraneous.
So, I won’t spend the money buying a cake.
But, you better believe there will be candles in something. I wouldn’t miss a chance to sing Happy Birthday to the being who gave me the gift of motherhood and the rewarding experience of facilitating a whole life journey.
Happy Birthday, my double-digit warrior.