Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Which Way Do I Go?

On a list that I am on, I wrote something in response to a discussion, that I've decided to bring here. Some of the examples are related to that specific discussion, but the concepts are much more broad.

One of the things that is most difficult about talking about unschooling and different families' ways of doing things is that most "question and answer" type things really only touch the surface of what is going on. To fully explain everything that is involved would either not be possible to put into words, or would take far longer than anyone would keep reading.

There are three "domains" in which people learn.

One is physical, or "psychomotor," and is involved in doing things. It is how and what to do. 
It is generally fairly easy to describe things in this domain.
"We turn off the computers."

One is the thinking, or "cognitive," and is exactly that: information and knowledge, rather than physical skill or technique.
This can be relatively easy to put into words, too, since it is all about putting things into words, talking about them, thinking about them, and trying to figure them out. It is about reasoning.

The third domain is the emotional, or "affective" domain, and that is the one people have the most difficulty with. It is the most important, really, at the root of things. People learn and do things because of how they are emotionally connected to them, what they love, or what "feels right." Every interaction has emotional content, and much of it is not spoken, and often may not be recognized or acknowledged without doing so intentionally.

The thing is, this part is rarely put into words.

So when you ask what other people are doing, you engage the cognitive domain for the discussion, and they usually tell you about the psychomotor domain. But you often DON'T get information about the heart of what is going on, the part that makes it all make sense.

It isn't a matter of "turn off the computer or leave it on" and it isn't a matter of "let him sleep or wake him up" or "let him stay up or make him go to sleep." Life in an unschooling family isn't a series of black and white either/or choices.

It's about feeling, about connecting.

In one family, with a well established environment of respect and cooperation, there may well be an agreement (whether verbalized or not) that sometimes, we all need to slow things down a bit, and turning off the computers helps us to do that. Everyone knows that it isn't punitive, and that they will be able to finish anything important, and that the goal is to help ALL of them to feel better and be more connected. Making the decision to turn things off is part of a whole sequence of events and experiences and feelings, and if all of those lead to that being a good choice, then it likely will work out just fine.

That does not translate to any other family in the world. Not yours. Not mine.

Most experiences shared by unschooling families have this in common: it isn't about saying this is the thing to do, this is the solution, this is how it works, this is the "unschooling way." It is about sharing AN experience and train of thought and method of working together to find a solution that works for everyone. What is important isn't the end product, the "solution," as much as the path it took to get there.

Think of it this way: 
If I share an experience with you, it is so that you can see ONE of the possibilities of how things can work out, when we give attention to finding a real, equitable, comfortable and fair solution to something that was a problem for us. It is intended to give you some different ways to look at and think about your situation, and to encourage you that it is possible to find that working solution, but it is NOT intended to suggest that your solution would be identical, because the people in your family are not identical to the people in mine, nor is your situation identical to ours.

I can't know the emotional dynamic in your family.

If the decisions you make in your parenting are from a place of love, of caring, of trust and trustworthiness, if they come from having intentionally considered everything involved, with a desire to be fair and just, then you are likely headed in the right direction. If the results of your choices lead to more harmony, more grace, and more ease in connecting with and living with each other, you are likely headed in the right direction. If there is a sense of fluidity, of flexibility, and of balance, you are likely headed in the right direction.

If everything feels difficult, if there is a lot of conflict (not that ALL conflict is a bad thing), if it is a constant struggle and people are unhappy, stressed, and uncooperative, you are probably NOT headed in a good direction, so start over, take a deep breath, find the places in your patterns of thinking that are unhelpful, the parts where something is inhibiting trust or balance, and change them.