Friday, September 28, 2012

Conditions To Flourish - A film & a Question

When my 32 year old son was an infant I decided to 'homeschool' after reading an article in Mothering Magazine. Intuition told me this would provide the most optimal 'conditions to flourish', for us. The adventure enriched our lives immeasurably. 

Teachers became family friends. Nanda, an artist and mentor for the kids, stayed in touch with many of us and she recently brought her camera into the homes, work-world, and activities of grown homeschoolers to document where their lives had led and what they thought in retrospect about their method of education. Her newly released 'must see' film brings brings the viewer into the life of these kids now. As they look back we experience their intimate journey. 

~ Reflections from Former Homeschoolers ~  

Upon viewing Nanda's beautiful documentary, my eyes teared over. I never expected to be so moved by what I thought would be a 'factual, yet personal, review'. This scenic tour of a coastal California town, where these kids grew, with 'education' effortlessly integrated into the fabric of daily activity, springs to life with intimate glimpses of their very real world, then and now. 

This informative film answers many questions (inevitably raised whenever someone finds out that ' home schooled??'). It shows and tells--not merely with words--but by letting you step inside the actual terrain, yourself. I was nudged back to the time when we first wondered what Santa Cruz might offer our 5 year old. 

My first phone call led us to a beach party at Twin Lakes Lagoon, near the Yacht Harbor, a spot I've always considered to be the 'heart & soul' of Santa Cruz! Enlivened by seaside, surf, and moist sand, we dipped our toes into a life that would become radically different from any sort of 'schooling' I'd ever known. We met others who were seeking the same thing. Talking with moms, while our kids played, we found community together. We planned outings, shared projects, and experimented. 

We explored places and did things that the children liked. This 'type' of homeschooling was 'child led' through paying close attention to the interests and activities making up any given day. "Lessons" existed in the form of whatever was taking place. We went where life beckoned. This meant we got to pay close attention to inner stirrings of passion and possibility. The children realized that their interests would be taken seriously.

Often, what we tend to take for granted, turns out to be an utter miracle when seen as brand new & unique, with an eye to everything it might have to show us. Youth--if allowed to follow their natural inclination--will gravitate toward just such ordinary 'miracles' and if we let them, they will show us how curiosity, genuine interest, and spunky inclusion can teach us everything there is to know. 

Back in those early days when it was just beginning--there was thrill and sustenance at being part of a thriving, supportive movement where anything might happen, and everything did! Dynamic, productive 'resource streams' appeared, spanning an array of curriculm options from traditional, alternative, and unschooled (a term for no structure or curriculum at all). 

Our own house had a revolving open door where kids, parents, and teachers came and went at all hours. It was a time of vital immersion in a world of libraries, field trips, and daily life. Eventually, a rapidly growing 'homeschool resource center' was formed, complete with classroom space, an outdoor amphitheater and endless grounds of field and forest, drawing families by the dozens, multiplying rapidly over the years that would follow.

As I look back upon this idyllic era of groundbreaking community energy, it's clear that Santa Cruz was an explosive mecca--one among many--where families sought a new approach. Homeschooling blossomed like plants: a few families here and there, at first, until huge grass-roots 'gardens' (learning collectives) developed. We entered into a 'brief window' of freedom, potential, and natural unfoldment whose expression, continued to morph and grow. 

Now 'homeschool' programs exist in public schools everywhere. "School Re-formed" is a professional blog, which probes the roles of schooling, teaching, and education in refreshing ways. Nanda posted a guest entry there, Leadership Begins at Home, where she shares what she discovered through her adventure of documenting the span of this Grand Experiment.

Looking back, now, at the vast degree of networking and connection, I recall the sense of spacious potential, which characterized our moments. Time, itself, has come to feel more compact and move much faster--as if less options exist. We were extremely engaged in unceasing activity, and yet there was a lightness then; where there's often an impression of density now.

Is there an actual shift in the ongoing structure of the Universe itself? Was it youth, and the malleable environment? Was there more permission for passion to fuel a 'creative force' within such productive, dynamic experimentation? Did being part of that Stream of Aliveness confer an ease of flow and participation? Or did it merely feel like it was spacious because The Dance itself was effortless, born of purpose and impulse? Infused with some essential interior design? Do such 'junctures of opportunity' simply come and go on their own timetable? Or is there an essence to such a dance, that exists in potential everywhere, at all times?

Reading Nanda's blog and watching the trailer of her powerful film, once again, these observations, insights and questions arise, contrasting paradigms of different natures and times. As we age and "life winds down", we expect it will get easier to experience the 'space between things'. We presume there will be less pressure at the fast pace of a world racing onward since the Golden Years are 'suppposed' to make less demands upon the time and energy of a 'wise elder', and historically, less obligation.

But as I look around there are grown children moving back into their parents home, within the 'workplace world' of a faltering societal paradigm, without the steady evolution of security, or 'the givens' we had envisioned. The whole order of expectation has been turned topsy-turvy. The 'fruits of our labor' no longer yield the projected expansion at this time of Broken Promise. Grandchildren are being cared for within 'extended family' settings once again. Companies on a wide scale now reject--or eject--the seasoned workers (who thought they could take their 'golden years' for granted) with little or no compensation. And the mantle of responsibility is being passed along to an eager 'youth-force' with ready, capable, open hands--and yet--with college degrees that fail to yield the positions they are trained and qualified to assume.

This sort of dissonance is widespread, affecting the depth and timber of human experience. We see reactions ranging from a restless, distressed heartmind, to rampant ennui of body and spirit, while the very fabric of our societal and personal paradigms are shifting at a pace far too fast for us to comprehend. It seems we are facing new territory, as a species and a planet. So when I think about the title of Nanda's film, and ponder what it means for us right now, it makes me wonder: What ARE the necessary CONDITIONS TO FLOURISH as we face an uncertain future? In our exuberant innocence at the inception of 'The Homeschooling Project'--we could not have imagined, nor foreseen, such changes.

As these young adults step forth, now, to take the helm, what resources might they bring to the table? Will they summon unknown forces that could surprise themselves and meet the dilemmas of the world they inherit? I have always assumed that this would be the case. Having lived life as a Homeschooling mom, there are things, which did change me--ways I've come to view life differently. For example, I may not have answers, however, I am eager to see what happens next...

* illustration credit: