What does “Radiant Living” even mean???

By 2007 life events had led me to a point where I could no longer ignore the fact that I was put on this earth to
1. learn how to confidently hear and follow my “Inner Voice of Wisdom” and
2. help others do the same.

Often I just call it “The Voice” but it goes by many names: Intuition, Instinct, Gut Feelings, Higher Self, Inner Knowing, Emotional Guidance and more.  No matter what we call it or what we believe it to be, we’ve all “heard” it at one time or another – or THOUGHT we heard it and wondered.

Sometimes we listen and sometimes we don’t.

At pivotal moments in my life, this Voice has “come through” very loud and clear as it echoed in my head.  Other times it has taken a more subtle form: gentle nudges, strong feelings, hunches, feeling “guided” to take a certain action and other hard to describe phenomena .  But however my Inner Wisdom ultimately communicates with me, it always rings true in my heart and I have learned after 41 years of “experimentation” that it’s in my best interest to listen.

We are born tuned into The Voice, but the voices of our family, teachers and other “authorities” often steer us away from listening.  Sometimes this is done subtly and sometimes with strong coercion, threats or punishment.  By the time we are grown, most of us have learned to successfully ignore or drown out our Inner Voice of Wisdom with the external voices that hold power in our lives, our communities and in our culture in general.

What does all this have to do with Alternative Education or Partnership Parenting?

For me, choosing to approach education and parenting in this way is:

  1. a result of hearing (and finally following) my Inner Voice of Wisdom
    and
  2. a means by which I can continually practice listening – and recalibrating my actions and choices to line up with my Inner Wisdom

Almost every external voice I’ve ever heard has said things like:

  • “Children are too young and inexperienced to know what they want.  They CAN’T know what’s good for them.”
  • “Learning is difficult and can only happen when children are FORCED to sit and attend to ‘unpreferred’ activities.”
  • “There are certain things EVERY child MUST know and they must learn it in the time frame and order in which ‘educational professionals’ prescribe.”
  • “We must DEMAND respect from children (without reciprocating that respect).  We should not be our children’s ‘friends’ and if we don’t discipline, punish and force our children to do certain things, they will never learn respect, responsibility or be motivated to do anything productive with their time.”

My Inner Voice of Wisdom has NEVER agreed with these ideas on education and parenting that seem to be dominant in western culture at large.  The moment I made the decision to Unschool and try parenting without using punishment, the most profound sense of Peace came over me.  I’ve learned over the years that this sense of Peace is a strong indication that my actions are coming into alignment with my Inner Wisdom that has never steered me wrong.

Of course doubts and questions have arisen as our family has made our way toward Unschooling and Partnership Parenting, but these have just been opportunities for me to practice quieting those external voices and tune into myself and my children to find the answer that is right for our family.  And when things are still unclear I seek out experienced people on this path whose voices resonate with my my own Inner Wisdom.

Trusting children is a primary component to Unschooling and Partnership Parenting.  In my experience, learning to hear, trust and follow my OWN Inner Wisdom is ESSENTIAL to learning to trust my children.  How can we ever trust THEIR Inner Wisdom if we are unwilling or unable to trust our own?

So for me, Unschooling and working toward parenting in a non-coercive way can only be accomplished if I am CONTINUALLY tuning into my Inner Voice and recalibrating my actions to line up with that Voice.

Why RADIANT Living & Learning?

I’ve found that people who live from the inside out – meaning their motivations, choices and actions come from an authority within – these people GLOW.  Their lights shine more brightly in the world.  They RADIATE beauty and confidence and love and acceptance.  We are drawn to these people because we want to be like them – maybe not precisely imitating the details of their lives – but we want to live our lives with the confidence and authenticity they do.  There is a light in each of us that is trying to shine just as brightly.

We cannot live & learn “radiantly” when we are following someone else’s agenda.  That just dims our LIGHTS or blocks them out entirely.  When we are following our Inner Wisdom, pursuing our passions and fulfilling our life purpose, we SHINE.

At Radiant Living & Learning Events you will hear from Radiant Community Members who are creating the lives they desire by following their own inner voice.

If something you read on this website resonates with YOUR Inner Voice of Wisdom or makes you pause to reconsider the way you’ve always done things, the Radiant Living Community is sure to provide more inspiration and encouragement to confidently create the life you desire for yourself and your family.

We hope you will join us ONLINE or IN PERSON soon!

Heaps of Love,

 

 

DSC_0160r Sq

Announcing the 2014 Retreat!


Super Early Bird Registration opens Monday, May 5
Prices are good through June 15


Radiant Living and Learning Retreat
October 23 – 27, 2014
Cleburne, Texas
(1 hour south of Fort Worth and 1.5 hours southwest of Dallas)

Every little bit of freedom that a child is allowed in determining how they spend their days living and learning is a step in the right direction. 

Nobody gets it “right” 100% of the time, but the more we can move toward honoring our children’s choices and unconditional acceptance of and respect for our kids AND ourselves, the closer we will get to Unschooling Bliss!

Radiant Living and Learning is a community of families who are supporting one another in moving toward a more peaceful, harmonious family life – toward living and learning together in joy as we celebrate each family member’s unique gifts, needs and passions.

Join us at the 2nd Annual Radiant Living and Learning Retreat this October!
Last year, 41 families had a BLAST playing and supporting each other.
This year we plan to double that number!

We will gather at Cleburne State Park for:

  • Workshops and Informal Discussions on various
    Unschooling and Partnership Parenting topics
  • Campsite Trunk-or-Treat
  • Halloween Dance Party
  • Community Campfires
  • Women’s Sacred Circle
  • Unschooling Dads’ Gathering
  • Littles’ PlayLand
  • Fresh juice and smoothie bar
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Canoe rides and more!

Accomodations:

  • Campsites for tent and RV camping
  • Campsites with screened shelters
  • Heated bunk house for non-campers
  • More options for non-campers
  • Heated bathrooms & showers for everyone!
  • Indoor community space in the Dining Hall and Group Rec Hall

Here’s some feedback from last year’s Retreat:
“As we drove away from the retreat, my kids agreed unanimously that was the best Unschooling Conference OR Campout they’d ever been to!  We can’t wait until the next one!”  – Ami

“I’m so overwhelmed at the love, and how wonderful everyone was!  I’m new in DFW and everyone was so inviting and welcoming. It meant a lot to me. Thank you all for being so great!”   – Amanda

“Thank you for a very cool conference.  I was pleased to see people from out of state, too.”   – Rob

The retreat will be similar in pricing and content to last year with some additions and upgrades.
Details on pricing and registration here.

Early Bird Registration ends June 15.
Last Call for Discounts ends Aug 15.
Large family discounts and day passes are available.

We also have plans in the works for an Unschooling Conference in February 2015 at Great Wolf Lodge and Water Park in Irving, TX!

Click “Follow Us” or “Join Us on Facebook” in the right hand column of the homepage for events updates and periodic blog posts on Unschooling.

Join the Education Evolution!

Self-Directed Learning: Do you have what it takes?

Yesterday I read a blog post called “24 Core Questions for Self Directed Learners.”
It was written by Lisa Nalbone.  Here’s a sampling:

What?

What do I want to learn?
What are my goals?
What are my next steps?
What problem can I solve?
What can I contribute?

You can read all of the 24 questions here:
24 Core Questions for Self-Directed Learners

For some reason the list didn’t sit right with me.  I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why, but initially the questions seemed kind of unnecessary to the way I personally approach learning and I couldn’t figure out how I would use it in facilitating my kids’ self-directed learning.

I wondered: Am I missing something?  Could this list offer us an opportunity to delve deeper somehow?   I asked in the comments of the post for suggestions on the application of this list since the way we approach learning at our house presumes that the “right” questions just come up naturally in the course of exploring one’s interests.
I asked, “If your learning is truly self-directed, why would you need to use somebody else’s list of questions?”

Lisa replied (I’m paraphrasing) that she intended the list as a starting point for those who are moving from school and a more “directed” learning style to a self-directed approach.  She also mentioned that sometimes those who’ve homeschooled or unschooled their young children worry about their kids approaching high school age, so the list is intended to help them remember that self-directed learning can work at any age.

She then asked about my family, our history with Unschooling and for my thoughts on her list of questions.
(You can read her entire response to my question in the comments section of her post.)

I wanted to share my answer with you here for two reasons:

  1. I’ve been meaning to write an “about me” page for this site and maybe this will do for now.
  2. Lisa’s answer helped me pinpoint what felt “off” for me about suggesting a list of questions and helped me formulate what I might offer instead.

Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely think we should help people gain confidence in their ability to direct their own learning.  I know parents DO need reminders that the organic learning little kids experience CAN continue into the teenage years and beyond.  Some people will totally benefit from Lisa’s list BUT my advice for these two groups of people would be very different from Lisa’s list of questions so here it is.

My kids are 13, 6 & 3.

I learned about Unschooling 6 years ago in 2007 as I was researching Homeschooling because it was very clear that my oldest child’s learning style was NOT a match to what they were doing in school.

I can’t remember the exact website where I first saw the concept.  At that time I was desperately searching for answers – staying up until 3am every night reading all over the internet about other people’s experiences with home education.    I knew I had to take my kid out of school, but I also knew that doing school-at-home was NOT a good choice for us because we were basically already doing that each night with homework and THAT was a nightmare.

My thoughts on the 24 core questions: I guess they could be a good starting point for someone who WANTS some guidance or who is SO used to being directed that they feel lost when trying to jump to entirely self-directed learning.  However, I believe that remembering how to be a self-directed learner is best accomplished when the person is encouraged to find their own way.  If we continue to “direct” them even with “suggested questions” aren’t we perpetuating their need to be directed?  When we tell someone how to do something we can miss a chance to help them gain confidence in their abilities to do it themselves.

Now, I’m not saying to never offer help, but in my mind the first way to help someone who doesn’t trust themselves and their abilities is to say, “I TRUST YOU to come up with the questions that will take you in the right direction.”  If they are stuck or otherwise asking for guidance I might ask them a couple of questions from this list, but those questions would arise naturally because of the situation, not because I looked at a list.

I’m realizing that one thing that feels “off” to me about the list is that it presumes that “learning” looks like what you might find in school.  And it seems to presume a lot of “shoulds” about learning.  Maybe this is because the list is intended for people who are used school type instruction and for people who are worried about their teenagers and what kids SHOULD learn at that age in preparation for “real life.” 

Fair enough, but learning at my house doesn’t look like this at all.  And I believe that real learning actually looks nothing like what we usually see in school.  At our house we don’t sit down and say, “Today I want to begin learning about XYZ.”  We just see things that interest us and then a question arises naturally and we set off to answer it.

These 2 questions from the list seemed especially unnecessary to me, and I’m going to go so far as to say they perpetuate a myth in our culture about the nature of learning:

“How do I know I have learned enough?”
“When will I finish?”

I know I have learned enough because I have no more questions about the thing – for now.  But tomorrow or in 6 months a question might arise on the topic.  When that happens I will try find the answer.  That could lead to more questions or it could lead to an interest in another topic entirely.  For me and my kids it is just an organic process of living life and answering the questions that arise as we explore the world.

From my perspective we are NEVER finished learning, and in our house we do not divide our learning up into subjects or “chunks of learning” that begin and end.  My hope is that one day we can change the cultural myth that learning begins when we reach a certain age and start going to a certain building each day at 8 am.  That learning ends at 3 o’clock or that it ends when you graduate from high school or college or graduate school or even when you finish a “self-directed learning project.”  I hope more of us can move beyond the idea we are ever “done” with learning or growing or becoming more.  So many in our society are so busy chasing an end goal that we lose the joy that comes from the process of achieving our goals.  We forget the value of each step along the way because we only value the end result.

At first I thought maybe I was missing something about how this list of questions could apply to my family.  They are a lovely offering for someone who is looking for something like this, but aside from possibly perpetuating myths about learning, I also wonder if suggesting these questions could perpetuate the very dependence we are hoping to eradicate as we work to empower people in learning under their own direction.

My advice for those people would be – trust yourself – the right questions are inside you and those questions will guide you to the right materials and resources and people that can help you learn the things you want to know.

And for parents I would say: trust your kids and the questions they naturally come up with.  And trust yourself to guide your kids when they are stuck and asking for guidance.

As a society we have a habit of looking to “experts” for answers – even answers about what questions to ask and about how to learn.  What I want people to know is this: We all are born knowing how to learn, and letting our natural curiosity guide us and help us formulate questions is going to lead us in the right direction every time. 

We ALL have what it takes to be self-directed learners!

Many thanks to Lisa for writing her list of questions for anyone who wants to start there.  And for giving me some food for thought. 🙂

What do you think?  What advice would you give to someone switching to self-directed learning?  Or to parents who are nervous about older children continuing with a self-directed approach through the high school years?  Please share in the comments below!

Retreat Workshop: Starting Unschooling “Mid-Stream”

What are the unique challenges of switching to Unschooling when a child is older?  What can de-schooling look like and how long can it take for kids (and parents)?  How do making these changes in parenting and education affect the parent-child relationship when it happens “late?”
Su will share her experience and insights gained after taking her son out of school at age 13 and quickly moving from doing school-at-home to Unschooling.  She will answer your questions and facilitate discussion for others to share their experience and concerns about switching to Unschooling “mid-stream.”

Click here for the Speaker’s page to read Su’s Bio.

Click here to see other Workshop Topics.

Click here to REGISTER for the Radiant Living & Learning Retreat.

Retreat Workshop: Unschooling when your child chooses School?

Ami and Russell Campbell have always had their 3 children close.  As their babies grew they moved from Attachment Parenting to Unschooling and cherished the fact that home-education allowed them to spend so much time with their children.  The Campbell kids thrived as they were allowed to follow their interests, enjoy friends and other activities and play all day.  So Ami and Russell were a bit surprised when, at age 7, their daughter Aelish expressed a desire to go to school.  Despite their concerns, the Campbell’s supported their daughter’s choice and began the search for the right school.

After looking at the neighborhood public elementary school, Aelish instead chose a very small and homeschool feeling Montessori.  Her goals were to learn to read, to learn some math, to make new friends, and to see what all the fuss was about.  Her parents were pleasantly surprised with her enthusiasm, and with her quick progress from total non-reader, to reader, and at her quick grasp of the concepts in the classroom. Her teacher was unsure at first how to approach and teach this freethinking, unschooled kid, but she soon became a favorite of his, and he frequently spoke to the Campbells after school about her “surprising” progress.   By Spring, Aelish had learned what she set out to gain from school, and had also had enough of the school social scene and was ready to come back home.  Her parents were often amazed by her thoughtful insights about how the students were treated, how the students treated each other, and how her own mind was treated while in school.

Come hear Ami, Russell and Aelish share their experiences of giving school a try.  Aelish is THRILLED to share the insights she gained from her year in school and her return to home-education.

Click here for the Speaker’s page to read the Campbell’s Bio.

Click here to see other Workshop Topics planned.

Click here to REGISTER for the Radiant Living & Learning Retreat.

Retreat Workshop: When it comes to learning: Is “early” always better?

Donna&LuisWe are so pleased to announce that Donna and Luis Gonzalez will be leading several sessions at the retreat!  Donna and Luis have always Unschooled their three children, ages 21, 18 and 12.  They offer thoughtful and practical advice and insights regarding Unschooling, Attachment Parenting and Life in general.  I am lucky to call them my friends, and am so excited to share them with you!  Here’s just a sampling on what they will be presenting:

Is Early Always Better?
We live in a culture that thinks when it comes to children’s learning, “starting early is always better” whether the skills they are learning are academic, musical or physical (learning to walk, sports) etc.

Donna and Luis will share their experience Unschooling their kids who have been allowed to pursue their interests at their own speed.
Here’s one example from their family:
Donna and Luis are talented musicians, so originally their plan was for their children to start Suzuki at age 3.  When this resulted in tears, stomach aches and vomiting, they decided to listen to their kids desires and follow their leads.  Their oldest son, Bobby, eventually decided to take up violin at age 12.  Everyone said it was “too late.” They said, “successful violinists have to start around age 4.”  The Gonzalez’s decided to just go with Bobby’s interests and “trust” as best they could.  As an Unschooler he had time to practice 4-5 hours a day (without coercion).  He “caught up” to all the other kids who started so early and is now a junior in college majoring in music and has been hired as a full-time member for the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra!

Join the discussion exploring concepts like the value of practice (or not to practice), allowing kids to quit, parental panic attacks, admitting when Unschooling is “hard” and more.
Ask questions and hear how Donna and Luis have muddled their way through this Unschooling life through the good, the bad and the ugly.

Click Workshop Topics to see more descriptions of the various sessions we are planning for you at the Radiant Living & Learning Retreat!

If you haven’t registered – do it soon!  Discounts and available campsites won’t last forever!  Contact me if you have questions.

Heaps of Love,
Christina
469-733-7175
ChristinaWester @ mac.com

Retreat Workshop: An Unschooling School? The Sudbury Model for a Democratic “Free School”

We are pleased to announce that Mike South, co-founder of the  Clearview Sudbury School in Austin will be presenting at the retreat!

He will discuss the history and evolution of the Sudbury Model, based on the Sudbury Valley School (est. 1968 in Massachusetts).
From the Sudbury Valley Website:

Sudbury Valley School . . . has been a place where children can enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as they grow up in the newly emerging world. From the beginning of their enrollment, no matter what their age, students are given the freedom to use their time as they wish, and the responsibility for designing their path to adulthood.

In our environment,students are able to develop traits that are key to achieving success: They are comfortable learning new things; confident enough to rely on their own judgment; and capable of pursuing their passions to a high level of competence. Children at Sudbury Valley are adaptable to rapid change, open to innovation and creative in solving new problems. Beyond that, they grow to be trustworthy and responsible individuals, and function as contributing members of a free society.

At Sudbury Valley, students from pre-school through high school age explore the world freely at their own pace and in their own unique ways. They develop the ability to direct their own lives, be accountable for their actions, set priorities, allocate resources, deal with complex ethical issues, and work with others in a vibrant community.

There are currently 35 “Sudbury Schools” in operation in the US and around the world.  Mike will describe the set up at a few of these schools and the challenges they faced in getting Clearview going.

Can we put the Sudbury Model to work in the Dallas area?

We will discuss this possibility and creative ways that we might create a co-op or other “group Unschooling environment” for our kids using principles from Sudbury Valley.

Click Workshop Topics to see more descriptions of the various sessions we are planning for you at the Radiant Living & Learning Retreat!

If you haven’t registered – do it soon!  Discounts and available campsites won’t last forever!

Can limiting “screen time” HURT our kids?

Last week I attended the Rethinking Everything Conference and was fortunate to see Dr.Peter Gray speak.  It was a highlight of the conference for me since I have enjoyed his Blog on Psychology Today for a while now.

I also highly recommend his book, Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life.KidsUsingiPad

Ever since the conference, something he said about limiting screen time has stuck in my head.  I wanted to share it since there seems to be such a push in “mainstream” parenting advice to limit children’s time in front of the various screens we now have in our homes.

Dr. Gray talked about hunter-gatherer societies and compared the way children learn in these societies with the way they learn in Sudbury Schools and in Unschooling.  In both environments children are free to play almost all the time.  Gray said that in these environments there is an “extraordinary indulgence” and trust in children ages 4 and up.  Kids choose how to spend their days and often choose to play with the tools that adults in their respective societies use.  They pretend scenarios that they see in the adult culture.  Through their (mostly unsupervised) play in mixed age groups, they are able to practice and learn many of the important skills that they will need in adulthood, from interpersonal and relationship skills to problem solving and technical skills (using the tools of their society).

Dr. Gray said, (and I’m paraphrasing from my notes) “It’s no wonder that the children in our society have a strong drive to ‘play’ on devices with screens.  Screens are tools in our society.  Parents often ask me if I recommend that they limit ‘screen time’ for their children, and I say no – limiting screen time in our culture would be like limiting ‘bow & arrow time’ for a child in a hunter-gatherer society.”

This struck me so deeply.  In the past few years I have embraced (almost fully) unlimited screen time for my 3 children, but occasionally I wonder if I “should” work harder to re-direct their attention or encourage other activities when I’m feeling like they are using screen devices too much.

I fully appreciate all the advantages of trusting our kids to make their own choices, but have worried that there might be some deleterious physical or psychological effects from using the screens.  I can see many ways that activities using screens will prepare kids for the future, but I still had that nagging doubt that resulted from always hearing about the “latest study” on screen time and ADHD or sleep disorders.

Dr. Gray’s point showed me yet another way that imposing my agenda (based on fear or influence from society) could possibly hold my kids back.  I accept without reservation the idea that trusting my children to choose how they spend their time will give my kids the gifts of self-confidence, self-regulation and trusting themselves fully, but I sometimes felt conflicted in putting this theory into practice and always honoring their choices when it came to “screen time”.

I see now that by limiting my kids’ opportunities to fully explore activities they enjoy because screens are involved, I could not only undermine their self-confidence and self-trust, but could be thwarting some learning that is preparing my child for the future.  After all there is no way to know what skills and knowledge will be useful 20 years from now, but if they continue to practice activities that utilize the tools of our society as society and technology changes, they will always be “proficient” in the current technologies and will be well placed to make the leap to the next level of advances.

I will still continue to provide opportunities for my kids to get outside, connect with nature and partake in social and other activities that don’t involve screens.  I do think balance in our activities and connection to nature is VERY important for all human beings.   But I also appreciate deeply Dr. Gray’s perspective which has quieted those nagging doubts and supported my instinct to allow my children to learn freely in the ways they choose.

Invitation to Share:
I believe that there is no ONE correct way to raise or educate children.  We each have to find what works best for our children individually and for our families as a whole.  My experience is likely to be different from yours and I believe that in sharing our experiences we can help each other find the way that fits our families’ needs best.  Please share your own observations and experiences on “screen time” with your children in the comments below.
(Or click the comment bubble at the top if you’re viewing this on the Home page.)