Laurie A. Couture on Attachment Parenting, Unschooling, Social Justice and The Planet

If School Were Relevant, it Wouldn’t Be Compulsory

15 October 2013 Categories: children's rights, public school

(Photo by Laurie A. Couture)

(Photo by Laurie A. Couture)

In a democracy, holding someone hostage, subjecting them to unpaid work and denying them the right to meet their basic needs is a human rights violation. However, since the 1850’s we have been subjecting children to these conditions daily, calling it “education”.

Most children do not want to go to a place where every joy about being a child is controlled, banned or used as a reward or punishment. They don’t want to go to a place where their basic physical and emotional needs, such as food, hydration, elimination, physical activity, play, rest, sleep, comfort, affection and attention, are at the mercy of the people controlling them.

Children grow weary of years and years of being in a box that stifles their innate creative passions, interests and unique ways of learning. Children struggle to learn in environments that are increasingly developmentally inappropriate, hostile and stressful the older that they grow. Kinesthetic learners, especially boys, are especially agonized by being forced to sit sedentary for hours in chairs doing mindless busywork that bears no relevance to their way of exploring and interacting with the world.

Fiery, brilliant, kinesthetic, out-spoken explorers and creatives are often labeled in school as having brain disorders or behavioral problems and are subsequently referred for chemical restraint (i.e. “medication”). As if six hours per day, five days per week isn’t enough time stolen from the most creative and ingenious years of their lives, children are still expected to hand over the remaining few hours of their family, social, play and free time for daily, weekend, vacation and even summer “homework”!

Can we blame children for not wanting to go along with such conditions?

When certain freethinking children assert themselves and refuse to continue to blindly succumb to treatment that has made them miserable for years, we should be praising and supporting them! However, Portsmouth, New Hampshire and other cities in the “Live Free or Die” state are now using law enforcement to keep children oppressed and compliant with their own captivity. As the mother of a unschooled son who is now in college, I am appalled that in this society we treat children as if they have subhuman status. I am equally shocked and disgusted to read that the police are violating children’s private bedroom space and using physical force, physical abuse and even arrest to muscle them to attend school. In the recent case, a Portsmouth NH police officer used physical force to intimidate a 12 year old child to get out of bed. The officer also grabbed the 14 year old brother to get him out of his bed, then arrested the child when he attempted to fight back.

Imagine how you would feel if your employer sent a police officer to your home on a day that you did not go into work. Imagine how you would feel if that officer broke into your bedroom, demanded that you uncover yourself and get up. Imagine how you would feel if the officer grabbed and attacked you when you did not comply. Imagine how you would feel if the officer arrested and handcuffed you and took you away from your home before you had a chance to use the bathroom and eat breakfast. Would you want to return to a work place that sanctions that type of treatment of employees? Now imagine this happening to you when you were at the vulnerable age of 14, at a place where you are forced to do unpaid labor. Why is the community not outraged that schools collude with this treatment of children?

According to the number of times the police had reportedly been called to the home of the two children in the above case, the children demonstrated on at least 40 occasions that their school is not an environment that meets their needs. Why has their mother continued to insist that they attend?

Most parents are not aware that homeschooling is legal in all 50 states. They are also not aware of the many other alternatives to traditional public school such as alternative schools, charter schools, virtual online schools, early college and democratic, child-led schools. The media fails to educate parents about how simple it is to get started with homeschooling and that there is a strong homeschool community with active groups and social activities available to homeschoolers of all ages. When children’s needs are met, when their learning is driven by their own interests, when they are free to learn via their own their unique learning styles and when they are honored and respected, every child can succeed. The media does little to bring attention to educational alternatives, leading parents to believe that leaving their children to suffer in public school- or get arrested- is the only option.

This post is based on my article that appeared in the September 28, 2013 edition of the Portsmouth Herald under the title, Embrace Options to Public Schools.

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Teacher Offended by Student Advocating for His Needs, Rights

11 February 2013 Categories: public school

(Photo by Laurie A. Couture)

I hope this month’s post will empower children to advocate for their needs and rights and I hope it will empower parents to seek out learning environments that respect their children’s needs and rights. On 2/8/13, I received an email from a middle school teacher who was displeased that a boy in her class had empowered himself with one of my articles. Her email and my response to her email (with a grammatical fix for clarity) follows.

NOTE to school teachers: I am a mandated reporter of child abuse and neglect. If you leave a comment telling me that you deny children use of the toilet, I will forward your school’s info to Child Protective Services in your state as required by law.

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Liberals, DO Homeschool Your Kids!

21 February 2012 Categories: public school

Laurie’s son, Brycen, involved in social justice work

Why allowing children to live and learn freely nurtures progressive values

The institution of forced school is in panic mode right now. More and more parents are taking action to protect their children from a largely unaccountable environment that is responsible for inflicting intensifying distress upon young lives. Increasing numbers of parents are opting for arts-based charter schools, child-centered private schools, democratic schools, homeschooling and the most natural choice, unschooling. The institution of public schooling has been responsible for child abuse, human rights violations, epidemic psychiatric drugging, health risks, violence, enforcing increasingly stressful time expectations, developmentally inappropriate curriculum, lack of play and physical activity, destroying creativity and dulling children’s interest in learning. The Slate article, Liberals, Don’t Homeschool Your Kids by Dana Goldstein seems to minimize many of these human rights concerns and instead begs progressive parents to do what is in the best interest of the public schools. As a progressive parent who is unschooling a happy, socially conscious, community-involved, socially adept and creative teen son, I am asking you to instead consider what is best for your children and what is in the best interests of children’s rights in our society. Does public school nurture or violate progressive values? [...]

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Announcing My Second Book, Nurturing and Empowering Our Sons

23 January 2012 Categories: Attachment parenting, unschooling

It all started back in 1979, when I was around five years old. My next door neighbor, Toby, was my best friend at the time, and I recall a conversation he and I had on the long staircase leading up to his kitchen sliding glass door. We were having a serious discourse that both boys and girls could do and be whatever they wanted to be. We were trying to come up with some things that could disprove our theory, but we were coming up short. Suddenly, as he bit into his snack, Toby piped up, [...]

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When No Presidential Candidate is for Children

09 January 2012 Categories: children's rights

The New Hampshire primaries are tomorrow and my son, Brycen is now just old enough to vote in his first election. Both of us, usually considering ourselves very progressive, face an ethical dilemma in 2012. The problem at hand is that NO candidate or side in any US Presidential election is for children’s rights, or for total compassion for all people and living things! Human and environmental rights have been co-opted into political “isms” and funding lobbies, with groups using propaganda and rhetoric to deceive people into believing they want equality for all, rights for all humans and respite for our planet. In actuality, they want funding for their narrow-minded political causes. Here I discuss each Party’s record on children’s rights and overall social and environmental justice. [...]

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Pain Infliction to Punish or Control Traumatizes Children

28 November 2011 Categories: child abuse

I am deeply concerned about the recent surge in violence towards children in the name of “Christian” values, religion, parental rights and school “discipline”.  Pain infliction on children seems to have a hold on the cultural beliefs of Americans like an ugly memory that won’t fade. Pain infliction on children in this article refers to “spanking” and other forms of  “corporal punishment”, including smacking, paddling, grabbing, yanking, squeezing, shaking, not allowing children to eliminate bodily waste, or to hydrate or to eat when they have the need. Pain infliction also includes, but is not limited to, forcing exercise or fixed body positions as punishment.

Let’s call these acts what they truly are:  Assaultive, hurtful, distressing, traumatizing and violence against children. These acts are cruel and considered acts of assault or even torture when inflicted upon adults. Despite that 31 countries have abolished the use of pain infliction to control or punish children, Americans continue to believe that controlling a child through pain infliction is acceptable. [...]

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You Can’t Reform An Education System Built on Oppression

16 November 2011 Categories: public school

Laurie’s son displays his Occupy Education post

Talk of “education reform” is viral all over the internet. Despite multiple failed attempts at “reform” over the past decades, society refuses to think outside the “box” of schooling and consider a radical return to how children learned for millennia- By playing, living and doing! Teachers and others in the field of education continue to propose that the oppressive, prison-like institution where children are forced to stay seated in a building all day pumping out paperwork can and should be reformed! When democratic schooling, homeschooling and unschooling advocates attempt to join the conversation and offer models that are successful and truly radical, they are often met by educators and their supporters who dismiss these models as idealistic and not “realistic” for “everyone”. Additionally, people seem not to be aware of the fact that despite talks of reform, the needs, voices and leadership of the people who are the most adversely affected by public schooling- youth- are left out of the conversation. [...]

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What Children Really Want to Tell Teachers

01 October 2011 Categories: public school, unschooling

Laurie’s son, Brycen R. R. Couture, 17 year old unschooler and musician

I am sharing the words of my 17 year old son in response to Ron Clark’s article, What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents. Brycen is an unschooler and the vocalist and songwriter for his Glam Metal band project, Serenade II Darkness.

What Children Really Want to Tell Teachers

by Brycen R. R. Couture

This is my second response to Ron Clark’s article, What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents. My Mom, Laurie A. Couture, also wrote a response to his article, What Parents Really Want to Tell Teachers. This is what I say from a child’s perspective to Ron Clark and to teachers like him. [...]

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What Parents Really Want to Tell Teachers: What You Do Hurts Our Children

12 September 2011 Categories: children's rights, public school

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs (Image by Factoryjoe)

Many parents are shaking their heads at the audacity and insolence of the CNN article, What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents by Disney-and-Oprah-endorsed teacher, Ron Clark. His article is dangerous because it represents how the majority of traditional school teachers view children, parents and teachers’ roles as authorities over children’s lives. In my post, What Teachers Really Need to Hear From Parents, I challenge Ron Clark to consider the dehumanization of children and the undermining of the parent-child bond in the institution he represents.

Most parents in industrialized societies are conditioned by their own schooling to be obedient and unquestioning of their children’s schools and the so-called authorities therein. A frightening majority of parents are unaware that most everything that traditional school teachers do is developmentally inappropriate and even harmful for youth of all ages. However, a growing movement of parents are parenting through awareness, consciousness and connection to their children’s needs. Many of these parents are opting out of public and traditional schools are are seeking refuge for their children in child-centered and democratic schools or through homeschooling and unschooling. As a mother of an unschooling teen son, and based on the years of complaints I have heard from parents and their children about traditional schools, I have compiled a list of  concerns and presented them to teachers in the context of their own education: [...]

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Please Help Create Christian’s Law to Protect Abused Children

12 July 2011 Categories: child abuse, children's rights, Uncategorized

In 2009, 13 year old Christian Choate was beaten to death after years of physical and mental torture by his father and step mother. He was confined to a wire dog cage for the last year of his life, not being allowed to eat, hydrate, use the toilet, play or move around. He wrote pages of heart-wrenching accounts of his suffering, wondering when an adult would come to rescue him. After dying from blows to the head, his body was wrapped in trash bags, buried and encased in cement by his father and step mother. In July of 2011, his body was finally discovered by authorities.

For ten years prior to Christian’s death, child protective authorities investigated and visited the family, most of the time concluding that they found “no evidence” of abuse and neglect. The Indiana child protective (DCS) spokesperson, Anne Houseworth claimed, “We followed all state laws, all policies and procedures.” She added, “If we don’t see evidence of abuse, and no one admits anything is going on, there is nothing for us to do.” [...]

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Unschoolers Should Live and Learn Freely

26 April 2011 Categories: unschooling

My son, Brycen is a free spirit, much like Mom! When his sense of intrigue and curiosity envelop him (which it does nearly every minute of the day), there is little that can distract him from passionately exploring, creating, wondering, questioning, researching and playing. Unfortunately, State legal requirements for homeschoolers are the few times in my son’s enriching life when he must take a break from living and learning and instead perform some task in order to produce some product for our annual portfolio that will cover some requirement in some mass-determined “subject” that some unknown person decided was necessary for all children his age to “learn”. Of course unschoolers know that nothing forced is truly learned, only finished and produced. [...]

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Spanking Traumatizes Children

06 December 2010 Categories: Blog, child abuse

It is almost the year 2011. A new year, one year into the new decade, 11 years into the new millennium.  It shocks me to the core and I take for granted the fact that mainstream society still holds onto corporal punishment like a tenacious toxic addiction that it just can’t release. It is egregious that in 2010, corporal punishment, “spanking” (or- let’s call it what it is- legalized child abuse), is still legal in children’s homes in all 50 US states and legal in schools in 20 states. Compare that to the fact that the same type of assault against an adult is illegal in all 50 states. While spouses, partners, parents, teachers, psychiatric patients, senior citizens, disabled adults, employees, soldiers, prisoners and all other adult citizens enjoy legal protection from assault, children under 18, our most vulnerable and developmentally fragile citizens, do not hold even this most basic human right.

Is it just ignorance or is there something more complicated going on that causes our society to view children as sub-human in status, not entitled to basic human rights protections enjoyed by fully grown people? [...]

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Spanking: It’s time to Stop Defending Violence Against Children

27 August 2010 Categories: Uncategorized

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has been in the news, as President Obama considers that it is an embarrassment that the United States is the only “civilized” nation who has refused to ratify a document that calls for nations to abolish legalized violence towards children. Although I take issue with the fact that the UN Convention recommends school be compulsory, the UN Convention is the only international child-focused treaty that calls for the end of violence towards youth. Egregiously, the GOP opposes the UN Convention because they have traditionally viewed children as the property of parents. Conservatives as a group have a poor track record regarding fighting for human rights; this includes their refusal to accept children’s right to live in homes and communities where their bodies are protected from age-discriminating violence.

“Spanking” is a candy-coated word for violence- It is not discipline, it is not any of the rationalizing lies we tell ourselves as a culture that it is. Corporal punishment is a physical, emotional and spiritual assault on a child and it has negative consequences to a child’s neurological, psychological and social development. If we hope to teach our children to be peaceful, compassionate, nonviolent, responsible and cooperative people, then we must parent by deepening the parent-child attachment relationship, not hurt it through traumatizing violence. Hitting children teaches them to accept aggression towards the self or others or to become aggressive towards the self or others in some form- often in a form that they later do not perceive as aggressive. [...]

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Child Advocacy and Children’s Rights Resolutions for the New Decade

02 January 2010 Categories: children's rights

With every decade that passes, new legal and civil rights have been fought for and won for every group of adults in Westernized cultures. The fight continues around the globe in order to share those legal protections with oppressed populations in other cultures. With each passing decade, there have been landmark victories won that validate the journey for adults to assert their basic human rights- In the 00’s, gay marriage was the fight that finally found victory in the United States.

However, children seem to exist in a surreal incubator; a sterile laboratory in which they are viewed and treated as if they are human beings-in-the-making, like objects waiting to be assembled, or feelingless, spiritless bodies waiting for someone to bestow humanity onto them. Decade after decade passes, and yet an industrialized child’s world always looks the same, with little more than trite hope of obtaining any real victories beyond the superficial “right” to be intoxicated consumers and technology automatons. [...]

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Abuse/Neglect of Children is the Root of All of the World’s Problems; Punishment Won’t Heal, Only Attachment and Need-Meeting

09 December 2009 Categories: child abuse

The story of the Plaistow NH father who bruised, bit and broke the bones of his three newborn triplets while the mother stood by passively praying, not calling the police, is just horrifying beyond all belief- The torture these baby boys and baby girl have endured is shocking to the conscience; I imagine for the adults to behave in this manner the same or similar must have been done to them- I have worked with children severely tortured this way as infants and when they are older youth, people expect them to behave normally. When they display severely disturbed behavior, “professionals” label them and do not seem to make the obvious connection between the torment in infancy and their current behavior. People who can’t see the connection between childhood abuse (including spanking), neglect as well as poor parent-child attachment and later adult pathology are bound to be blind to the fact that the world’s problems are a result of generations of this cycle of abuse and neglect of childen’s basic needs. They are equally blind to the fact that healing the world won’t be accomplished by punishment and hatred, but by a return to human attachment, bonding and need-meeting.

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UN Convention on Rights of The Child: Why is Education Compulsory?

29 November 2009 Categories: unschooling

Child advocate Louise Gordon sent me a message on Facebook today asking me my thoughts about the contradictions in The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child related to compulsory education and children’s rights to freedom of thought and pursuit of knowledge. I’ve been familiar with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child for at least a decade, especially concerning the international child advocacy work I have done with Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education (PTAVE) for the past 12 years in efforts to abolish corporal punishment of children. The UN Convention is a universal, global children’s rights declaration meant to protect the rights, freedom, dignity, needs and vulnerability of children in every country. Any child advocate knows children of all ages need protection from the exploitation they receive daily in our society from adults, which includes everything from the common day-to-day ageist subordination to the outright physical, psychological and sexual torture some children endure. Child advocates all over the USA have decried the fact that the USA is alone with Somalia as the only two member countries in the UN who have refused to ratify the UN Convention. This fact no doubt reflects a similar hypocrisy of the “Land of the Free” refusing to join the 25 other countries that abolished all corporal punishment of children in homes and schools starting in 1979 with Sweden. [...]

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