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

Children are Starving for the Holistic, Multi-Sensory Experience of Nature

09 September 2013 Categories: Natural family living, unschooling

DSCN9611

Laurie’s son, Brycen learning and being challenged by the multi-sensory, holistic experience of the natural environment (August 2013).

Our society and our planet are witnessing the deleterious affects of what happens when children are disconnected from natural ways of living, playing and growing. Violence, mental illness, addiction, trauma and the myriad of emotional, behavioral and learning struggles that children suffer and witness, are a direct result of our human family’s disconnect from nature’s wisdom, nature’s intent and from nature itself. Rather than nature being the primary modality through which children learn and families connect, nature has been relegated to the status of being just “a nice thing to visit and observe when we have the time”. The fact that our technologically advanced, industrialized culture spends most of its time indoors, sedentary, at desks, on couches and in front of screens has only exacerbated the physical, emotional, behavioral, social, neurological and holistic health problems children and adults face.

The occasional short trip to a park or an occasional scenic vacation, replete with cell phones and gadgets, does not meet our need for connection with our natural environment. Likewise, a 10 minute school “recess” for younger children or the twice weekly outdoor gym class for adolescent children do not meet children’s needs for play, physical activity or connection to the holistically attuning power of nature.

DSCN9247With each new generation, children are missing out more and more on the adventures, the exhilarating encounters, the quiet pondering, the wonders, lessons and the raw, real life experiences of nature. For the Millenials especially, nature’s offerings are viewed as tedious or dull compared to the sedentary instant gratification of smart phone apps, online video gaming, TV and texting. For many parents and teachers of youth, nature is often viewed as dangerous, dirty, time consuming or something too far beyond their control.

DSCN9603Connecting with the balancing chaos and order of nature, feeling the vibrational force of ascending and clinging to the branches of large trees, navigating a thrilling and unexpected wrong turn through the forest, swimming in the powerful, chilling ocean, building hidden forts and camping out, running through a sun-drenched field, balancing the delicate intimacy of coming face-to-face with an insect or other creature, being faced with the lessons of life’s cycle of life and death, lying in the snow and listening to the sound of pure silence, or respecting the overwhelming pull of a raging river, are experiences that are disappearing from childhood. Yet, these are some of the very educational and holistically attuning natural experiences that literally help wire children for creativity, intelligence and physical, emotional, neurological, social and holistic health.

Nature intended children to live and learn with their entire bodies, including  their arms, legs, hands and feet, their skin, their sensory and vestibular systems, their six senses, their instincts, their reflexes and their internal sense of homeostasis. Nature also intended for children to learn with their entire brains, including via emotion, intuition, sensation and cognition. A secure parent-child attachment and interest-led, nature-attuned play- with varied  intensities of physical movement- fully develops children’s cognitive and creative abilities in the way nature intended. This is true whether children are in infancy or in their late teens.

DSCN8376The body and brain modalities through which learning occurs must be nurtured, respected and stimulated in order for children to optimally and fluidly attend to information and absorb, process, store, recall and apply it. Tragically however, the holistic learning modalities of the body and brain are stifled, denied and starved in traditional schools and when children spend hours in front of screens.

Children need to regularly connect and recalibrate with the natural environment, through its many habitats and living organisms, in a physical, multi-sensory, vibrational and tactile manner. Democratic schools and nature-focused outdoor schools are learning environments superior to traditional schools. However, attachment-focused natural homeschooling and unschooling are the most aligned with nature’s intent, as they are ideally based on passion, freedom to explore, children’s needs and intense play.

Read the full article 2 Comments

NOT-Back-To-School: Unschooling is Nature’s “Curriculum”

27 August 2012 Categories: unschooling

Back-To-School? Or Nature’s Intent for Learning?
(Laurie’s son, Brycen, joyfully exploring the wonders of nature)

I revel in the embrace of summer, when children are again a part of the community and a part of the natural landscape! It brings me such joy to see children jumping in the waves at the ocean, running through a wooded trail, exploring plant and animal life, digging in the sand, climbing trees, creating artistically in the community or leaping from boulders into a rocky basin gorge. I reflect with warmth and love at how September for my unschooled son has always been a relaxing and relieving time- yet another month to extend the joys of summer; the beginning of another cycle of him living and learning in freedom.

However, for the majority of the children in society, the “Back-To-School” nightmare seems to get an earlier start every year. Many schools are forcing children to return to school in late August, two weeks earlier than when I was a child. In mid-July, advertisements on TV, the radio, online, in stores and in junk mail flyers begin threatening children a month too soon about the impending dread of school. It strikes me as very passive aggressive that our culture takes a condition that most children find so distressing- being confined against their will for nine months of the year- and throws it in their face relentlessly during the second half of their summer time. [...]

Read the full article 9 Comments

Laurie A. Couture Responds to Unschooling and “ADHD” Questions from Anderson Episode

02 April 2012 Categories: public school, unschooling

Laurie A. Couture on Anderson

Here is Part II of me discussing my appearance with my son, Brycen on the Anderson daytime show. Below I respond to some of the common questions and comments raised during and after the show.

What is unschooling?

Unschooling, or radical unschooling, are the trendy terms for the way children learned for thousands of years- up until fairy recently in human history- by playing and actively pursuing their passions and interests all day, most of the time. Nature intended children of all ages, from infants to teens, to learn through play and physical activity. Humans and other mammals have learned this way since the dawn of time. Unschooling has at its core living authentically and freely as a family, nurturing close, connected parent-child relationships that meet children’s needs. [...]

Read the full article 0 Comments

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. [...]

Read the full article 2 Comments

Education Reform: An Oppressive System Can’t Reform Itself

18 June 2011 Categories: public school, unschooling

I read this article in The Huffington Post about “education reform”: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/will-richardson/have-schools-reached-limits_b_853848.html. I don’t believe that a system designed to oppress children (and the population as a whole) can reform itself. Politicians have used the false promise of “reform” for decades now to gain votes. Politicians are aware that most people forget that “reforms” in the past have only worsened the school environment for children and caused it to be more oppressive. [...]

Read the full article 0 Comments

Nature’s Intent for Parenting and “Educating”

12 June 2011 Categories: Attachment parenting, unschooling

Laurie and her son Brycen, 2006

Nature’s intent is the only parenting advice and “educational curriculum” we truly need. Our parenting challenges, concerns and choices can become so simple if we consider, “What is nature’s intent for a child’s holistic development?”

Nature is our reference manual, our guide to mammalian and human needs. I hear so often parents say curiously common phrases along the lines of, “There is no one right way to parent”, or “School works for my child- My child could never learn on her/his own.” Often those types of statements translate to, “Something in my past is being triggered and I am feeling defensive, so I am unable to consider alternatives.” [...]

Read the full article 3 Comments

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. [...]

Read the full article 4 Comments

Public Schools Pathologize Childhood; Cause Severe Distress to Healthy Children

21 October 2010 Categories: Blog, homeschooling, public school

Every single day in my work as a mental health counselor, children of all ages are being brought to me, being referred, because the public school insists there is something wrong with them, something that must be punished, manipulated, controlled, pathologized, drugged up and strangled out. That something is called childhood–the basic needs, nature and energy of childhood. The schools are causing healthy children to become depressed, anxious, distressed, aggressive and suicidal. Healthy, energetic, normal childhood, boyhood behavior is labeled a brain disorder (ADHD) and children are subdued with chemicals so that schools can continue to operate in a grossly developmentally inappropriate manner. The schools so aggressively overpower parents that parents ignore and deny their natural instincts and intuition about their children’s needs. Parents instead become extensions of the school’s oppression on their children, keeping children locked into a place that they hate- A place that drowns every pleasure and joy of being a child that they can uncover. Even when children have made suicide attempts due to their distress about the pressures and demands of the school environment, parents still won’t do the obvious and remove their children from the source of their distress.

[...]

Read the full article 11 Comments

Public Schools that Cut Recess and Play Need a Lesson in Child Development

12 October 2010 Categories: Blog, public school

The national trend of eliminating play-based learning, unstructured play and frequent physical activity for youth at all grade levels in public schools defies all of the research on learning theory, child development and the study of childhood in indigenous cultures.

As someone who has worked with children of all ages for over 18 years in the roles of counselor, social worker, educator, child care provider and mentor, I am intimately aware of the negative effects on children and adolescents who are confined to chairs and forced to labor over paperwork for 6-9 hours per day. Epidemic numbers of American school children are presenting with profound distress signals in reaction to the developmentally inappropriate environments of public schools. These distress signals, including hyperactivity, distraction, aggression, poor school performance and school refusal are mislabeled as “ADHD”, learning “disabilities” or mental “illness” in such children and the knee-jerk reaction has been to chemically control these children with powerful, dangerous psychiatric drugs.

[...]

Read the full article 2 Comments

Back to School Signals the End of Childhood Joy and Freedom

15 August 2010 Categories: homeschooling

This past weekend my 16 year old son and I went camping with some friends of ours. While kayaking alongside my son and our friends during our trip, I marveled at the vivid beauty before me: Mount Chocorua gracing proudly and breathtakingly in the distance, accented by New England White Pines, peaceful Lilly-padded lake and the salve of nature’s sounds.

I had to take a breath of sheer awe at the perfect beauty when my son and his friend in their boat rowed by with playful boyish charm across this backdrop as I sat and watched in my kayak. I regretted that I had not wrapped my camera in a plastic bag and brought it along to capture this moment. My mind immediatly soared back to the days of Native America, when joy was the purpose of childhood, when Native American children would have paddled their canoes across this very backdrop, laughing, racing and splashing just like my son and his friend, while loving parents in their canoes smiled serenely and with perfect love and gratitude for the children, the mountain, the lake, the trees, the lilly pads, animals… and the freedom. [...]

Read the full article 0 Comments

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. [...]

Read the full article 4 Comments