I miss 1970s idealism. Did you know that there was a time when people actually believed that peace, love and understanding would make a difference in the state of the world? I think it is time to bring some of that back.
A friend gave me her collection of Growing Without Schooling magazines when she moved - she had almost the entire set from the very first one that John Holt wrote onwards. You can read them online now - how exciting! I love the optimism and, yes, the idealism of those early issues. People were doing radical things like taking charge of their own children's education, which is to say not believing everything they were ever told about how children learn. Some people did things that sound a little crazy, even to me, but the amount of trust in the children and their innate passion for learning that they had is so refreshing. I particularly remember parents writing about how their 15 year old daughter went to Europe by herself, ended up working on a farm and stayed for a year. What would happen if a parent did that today, I wonder? I have a friend whose 15 year old daughter went to Japan on her own for a modeling assignment (she went with a group of models from a very well-known agency so she wasn't just wandering around on her own but maybe that would have been ok too). The mother was strongly criticized in some quarters for "allowing" it to happen.
Trust. If you know your child, then you know when to let them go and make their mistakes on their own and when to, perhaps, keep six or ten paces behind them just in case. Trust also allows for children to not read until they are twelve if they are not interested in reading until then, or not take up math until it becomes clear (to them) that they need to know some math. I know parents who have had this kind of trust and their children are not illiterate hillbillies but wonderful, functional people in the world. Trusting is hard because we have to let go of our own expectations and our illusion of control. Yet, if I don't trust my children then how will they learn to trust themselves?
Right now, Fin is growing at such a rate that he mostly sleeps and eats. He is officially taller than me and, in the week I was away, I think he grew another inch, at least. Part of me freaks out when he spends half the day in bed and the other half wandering between the kitchen and the couch, complaining about how tired he is. The part of me that freaks out is the part of me that sets goals, is ambitious and striving, and wants to project all my own desires for success onto my children. It is a rather big part of me. But this big part of me has to - HAS TO - step back and take a chill pill. I need to trust that the work Fin is doing now is valuable enough simply to allow him to do it in the way he needs to do it (which is, apparently, out cold in the sack). It is scary - it feels like working without a net. But think about the current state of the world and tell me if you think the safety net of schooling is producing the results you want for this world. The truth is that it is all an experiment. The only difference between myself and parents who send their children to school is that I have eliminated any opportunity to let myself lay blame on anyone else if things go to hell in a hand basket. Truthfully, what would that look like exactly?
I think part of my version of resurrected 1970s idealism is to toss away what constitutes "success". Many of the other people taking yoga teacher training with me are in their mid-20 to mid-30s with graduate degrees and many tens of thousands of dollars of student debt. After all those years of schooling and now working in the nine-to-five world, they are taking yoga teacher training. This is NOT a criticism of my fellow trainees (I love them!) but I point out their plight, for a plight is what it feels like it is, because it seems so completely insane. They did everything they were expected to do - go to school, go to college, get an advanced degree, get a job - and they are very unhappy with the results. Unhappy working in the corporate world and loaded up with debt. What if someone along the way had advised them to take a year (or two) off. Even if they traveled Europe for a year, it would have been cheaper than one year at a private university and imagine what they would learn about the world and about themselves. It boggles the mind.
You know, maybe success doesn't look like one thing. Maybe the fullness of life isn't measured in good grades, prestigious awards, or even money (gasp!). Maybe peace, love and understanding isn't such a naive place to start after all.
Let's bring back some good ole 1970s idealism! I am definitely in.
PS. Day #1 of No Impact Week is focused on consumption. I will be trying to eliminate unnecessary electrical energy sucking devices like chargers that remain plugged in all day and night - using power strips and then turning them off when not in use is a good solution to a lot of that kind of thing - and going to the green market in Union Square for the week's groceries.