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

Get Started Now to Begin Unschooling in September!

27 April 2014 Categories: homeschooling, unschooling

Take the leap into unschooling!

Take the leap into unschooling!

Maybe you have been thinking about, reading about, talking about and even researching unschooling but you aren’t sure whether you are ready to make that leap for your family… I remember the day my son and I broke away from schooling, mid-school year, and leaped into the void of my son living and learning naturally, as nature intended. It was exhilarating and frightening for me at the same time! As the day began and the time that he would normally leave for school came and went,  I saw the joy and relief on my son’s face as we became involved in the various indoor projects and outdoor adventures we planned for our first day of learning without school! To watch my son playing, smiling, laughing and exuding joy provided me with the most profound realization and evidence that what we were doing was natural, fully congruent with his physical, psychological, cognitive, social and neurological development and right for him holistically in every way! Over the next few weeks and months of deep connection, of my son feeling free to meet all of his biological needs on his own body’s timetable, of him following his passions through play and exploration, of us being active in nature and of us becoming involved with community activities and homeschool groups, I couldn’t imagine life any other way for my child.

Why unschooling is right for your children

The most paramount reasons why unschooling is best for children are:

  • Unschooling supports the parent-child attachment relationship by allowing parents to be sure their children’s biological, psychological, intellectual, creative and social needs are being met. Not even a fraction of these needs can be met in traditional schools and over time, the parent-child attachment connection becomes injured and may become distant or adversarial. Our children need to be with us, their families, and involved in their world communities, not imprisoned behind concrete walls with strangers and other distressed “inmates” all day.
  • Unschooling is in line with nature’s intent for how children learn: Through play. Youth of all ages, from infants through adolescents learn through play: Vigorous, passionate, dramatic, loud, rough, exploratory, secretive, quiet and adventurous play that occurs alone, with friends or with family. The force-feeding process of indoctrinating children in school settings with curriculum, control and confinement is not actual learning, but only conditioning under the threat of punishment or deprivation. Over time, this conditioning process causes many children to become exhausted and emotionally distressed or to run on “automatic pilot”. Sooner or later, children shut down, become apathetic to actual learning, act defiant, or, in an attempt to obediently acquiesce to the curriculum, disconnect from spontaneously and authentically reveling in their true interests and passions. Far too many children are diagnosed as “learning disabled” or as having the fraudulent “ADHD” label because they are simply starved of play.
  • Unschooling allows children to pursue, express and fulfill their own unique passions, gifts and offerings to the world and to live and learn in a way that is right for their unique time table, learning style, temperament and intelligence.

In short, unschooling is simply a new name for ancient wisdom; a title put on how our peaceful indigenous tribal ancestors guided their children’s learning for Millennia prior to being disrupted by the institution of agriculture, civilization and the Industrial revolution.

What do we do all day?

The key to unschooling is to live and to enjoy life at a balanced pace that works for your family. Allowing children to spend time playing and pursuing their passions and interests is the primary foundation of unschooling. Exposing children to a variety and diversity of experiences, materials, places, people, arts, community events, social opportunities and activities will help children discover new interests and hidden talents. Some children enjoy a more structured schedule of activities, while others need to be completely free with their exploration and creative inventions in order to thrive. Most children enjoy a balance of both a structured and a free schedule.

Unschooling is right for all types of children and their unique learning styles because its foundation is allowing children to be driven by their individual needs, interests and goals. The possibilities are endless as to how your children can spend their unschooling days! For some children, this might appear more academic and “schoolish” to the outside observer. Other youth might choose to spend their days in nature building forts, climbing trees and observing animal habitats. Some children will read, write, build, paint, craft, cook or play music most of the time. Many unschooled youth have volunteered, attended college classes, traveled or opened up their own businesses. Others still may appear to be playing all day without any semblance of academic accoutrement! Wonderfully, ALL of these diverse ways of learning lead to preparing youth for their own unique life paths and describe unschooling- as long as they are child-led.

A common approach when families begin unschooling is for parents to try to fill each day or even hour with a cornucopia of scheduled activities to convince themselves that learning is in process. Although this will work for some families, over time this approach could potentially burn out children and families. Overtime, exhausted and burnt out families may find that they are doing less and less that is actually enriching, fulfilling and adventurous, to the point where the days become mundane and errand-focused, with little social activity for the children and sedentary screen time as the focus of the day. This slump often causes youth to believe that they should return to school in order to “get socialization” and activity. What a loss to escape and then return back to an environment that harms children! It is important for us as parents to assist our children in continually exploring and finding the resources, opportunities and social connections they need in order for unschooling to meet their needs as nature intended.

Why isn’t screen time considered play?

Some parents might argue that  video games are the “passion” of their children. Many families who unschool or who are considering unschooling have encountered the trend of parents allowing children to spend hours on a daily basis playing video games, watching TV, texting or posting on social media. However, screen time is not play and in fact, screen time may be as stressful to the child’s holistic health as sitting at a desk in a classroom all day.

Dramatic play invigorates all parts and processes of the brain, stimulates creativity, feeds the imagination, fosters critical thinking skills, builds crucial face-to-face social skills, contributes to mental health and often involves the entire body moving, whether gently or intensely. Physically active play exercises the muscles, tendons, joints, spine and bones, long distance and periphery vision, and supports all systems of the body including the respiratory, digestive and circulatory systems.

To the contrary, young children who become involved with video games often spend very little time in dramatic play or they abandon dramatic play completely as early as age six. I have seen a trend in my clinical work of children who literally do not know how to play; their imaginations are stifled and weakened due to constant media saturation (in addition to school busywork). Dramatic play is a crucial requirement for optimal child development.

Dramatic play and reading paper books excites the imagination and stimulates the entire brain. Video games, TV, social media and texting shut down processes and parts of a child’s brain, especially those related to critical thinking. Research has shown that violent media may negatively impact a child’s development of empathy. Screen media actually has an effect on children’s neurological dopamine reward system similar to heroin or other drug addiction. Media offers instant gratification, causing some children to feel that dramatic play seems tedious in comparison to the reflexive and addictive attraction to checking their phone, updating their social media status, playing live online games or vegging in front of the TV. The dopamine crash of turning off the TV or the screen can lead to depressive symptoms and anxious restlessness. Children realize that once the video game or screen is turned off, there are no gains translated into “real life”. How do children often attempt to remedy the affects of these depressive, anxious symptoms? With more screen time!

Additionally, consider the physical effects on the body of being sedentary, slumped, with the vision fixed on a small concentrated screen and the fingers performing the same small motions over and over, sometimes hundreds and hundreds of times: While research has found that reading a paper book is easy on the eyes, screens cause eye strain and restrict periphery vision. While children who read can move around and read in a variety of body positions, indoors and outside, screen time often fixes a child’s body to very limited and unhealthy positions. Repetitive tendon stress injuries may result from excessive texting or video game usage. Sedentary behavior negatively affects every system of the body, affecting overall holistic health.

My recommendation is that you treat screen usage like you would treat any other addictive agent: Either unplug completely or discuss with your family a way to keep media usage in its place, with the priority being “real life” activities, time in nature and time with family and friends. In our home, through out our unschooling journey, my son spent the majority of his time in “real life”, off screens. As a grown unschooler now, at age 20, he is pleased with all he has been able to accomplish and pursue in his life as a result of prioritizing his “real life” time.

How do I get started?

Getting started with unschooling often feels daunting and overwhelming at first, but the steps are simple:

  • If you are a single working parent like I was while unschooling, the first step will be securing reliable child care. When I began unschooling my son, we literally had a different caregiver for every day of the week just to make unschooling happen! I was also able to arrange times when I could bring my son to work with me. Start by looking for childcare within your family or circle of friends. Begin reaching out to the homeschool community and making friends- Maybe someone will be willing to assist you with child care? Consider building a part time home business to allow you more home time.
  • If your child is still in school, research and learn your state’s homeschool laws, as they vary from state to state. In most states, you will be required to send a “letter of intent” to your school district’s superintendent or to a private school that agrees to act as your “participating agency”. Some states require that you write up a curriculum while others do not require a curriculum. You can still unschool even if your state requires a curriculum. The law might require certain academics to be included in your homeschooling program, but generally the law doesn’t strictly dictate how your child must pursue those subjects. Remember, how your child pursues learning a certain subject does NOT need to look anything like schooling. Only provide to the school district what the law requires, no less and no more.
  • Research local homeschool and unschool groups and events in your area and attend as many of these with your children as possible until you find one or more that your children enjoy. Network with families and collect contact information so that your children can set up play dates with the youth they meet. Attend these groups regularly.
  • Begin immediately keeping a log book and take photos to document some highlights of each day that you can use as part of your end of the year portfolio that is often required by most state homeschool laws. Collect any written, mathematic or artistic samples, as well as brochures, maps or flyers to add to your children’s portfolios.
  • Whether you are new to learning without schooling or whether you have already been homeschooling and are transitioning to unschooling, allow your children the freedom to play and follow their interests. Play with your children and share some of your own interests with them. Make sure to focus on having fun and deepening your connection, not on trying to “turn” play and activities into “teaching moments” or into something “educational”. Everything your child does constitutes learning; it is up to the individual child to determine how he or she wants to respond to, express and apply that learning.
  • Get outside, explore nature and get involved in community events and activities as a family and with other homeschooling families.
  • Consider starting a homeschool or unschool group with your children based on one of their interests.

For more step by step instructions and a list of ideas for specific materials and activities and how to document for the end of the year portfolio, please view my six YouTube videos, especially, So You Want to Unschool Your Child or Teen? 4 of 6 (Community Resources and Materials) and So You Want to Unschool Your Child or Teen? 5 of 6 (Documentation).

Unschooling is Nature’s Intent For Children’s Learning

The freedom that unschooling will allow your family, even if you are a working parent, is tremendous, and can’t be believed until you experience that freedom! When you take the time to “deschool” yourself and challenge your beliefs about what learning should or shouldn’t look like, you will begin to see learning through nature’s lens.

What determines nature’s intent? The conditions that allow an organism to thrive!

Children thrive when their needs are met, when they have close, connected and secure attachments with their parents and families, when they are allowed to let play and passion drive their time and focus, when they are allowed to form naturally mixed age friendships with diverse people, when they are active and engaged members of their communities and when they are able to fully experience all developmental stages of childhood on their own timetable. When children thrive, they learn to the best of their abilities. When children thrive, they naturally meet their full potentials and mature into successful adults!

For further information, please read my following articles:

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

What Is It Like to Be Unschooled? Interview With An Unschooled Teen

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

Unschooling Without TV and Video Games: A Freeing Experience

For a comprehensive and in depth look at children’s needs and the harm done to children of traditional schooling, I invite you to read my book, Instead of Medicating and Punishing: Healing the Causes of Our Children’s Acting-Out Behavior by Parenting and Educating the Way Nature Intended.

I am available for supportive parenting coaching and consulting to get you started on your family’s unschooling journey- I will even research your state’s homeschool laws for you and assist you in writing your Letter of Intent! Learn more at:  http://www.laurieacouture.com/coaching or book your consult with me now!

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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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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.

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Bully Film Misses Obvious Solution: Abandon School (and Let Youth Create Their Own Education)!

18 March 2013 Categories: children's rights, public school

(Official Bully movie poster)

I reviewed the film documentary, Bully on Amazon.com. Documenting and exposing the reality of children being tormented by peers in traditional schools is commendable. The humanizing footage of the bullied children, including footage of their emotional suffering and home-video of them at various stages of their childhoods, was painfully powerful. The film’s exposé of the infuriating  incompetence, minimization and victim-blaming shown by the adults towards the victimized children was outstanding. Of course, the stories of  the children who took their own lives were  some of the most heartwrenching “wake-up calls” in the film.

However, despite these strengths, I gave the film only a three-star rating for the following reasons:

1. The film failed to address that the root causes of peer bullying are child maltreatment by adults and the child-subordinating power structure of schooling itself.

2. The film failed to state that the most obvious immediate solution to protect bullied youth is for parents to rescue their children by abandoning the schools.

The film also left viewers with a false sense of “hope”. Emotional community rallies, slogans on bracelets, pledges, Facebook groups and bringing passionate speakers to schools will not put an end a problem that is a symptom of a much larger problem: The inhumane way children are treated by adults in Industrialized culture. [...]

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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. [...]

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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. [...]

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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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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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I’m Generalizing Teachers? Teachers Generalize Most of the Children in the Country

01 October 2011 Categories: public school, unschooling

Photo by photl

I have received a blizzard of positive and negative feedback from my two controversial blog posts, What Teachers Really Need to Hear From Parents and What Parents Really Want to Tell Teachers: What You Do Hurts Our Children. Both of my posts were in response to the exasperatingly child and parent-disparaging CNN post, What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents by Ron Clark.  The most common complaints from people were:

1. “You are over-generalizing all teachers in your post- Not all teachers believe/act the way you and Ron Clark presented that they believe/act”,

2. “Teachers hands are tied- they can’t be blamed for what the system forces them to do”,

3. “You should encourage people to try to fix the system rather than blame teachers”,

4. “Parents are the ones who are the problem because they aren’t involved”,

5. “Democratic schooling/Unschooling is only possible for a privileged few families and isn’t realistic for society as a whole”.

Sadly, the actual impact of the school system on the human beings who are the most damaged by it was glaringly left out of these types of arguments. [...]

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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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What Teachers Really Need to Hear From Parents

08 September 2011 Categories: public school

Sometimes school propaganda comes out that is so obviously, shockingly dehumanizing to children and undermining of the parent-child relationship that it amazes me that anyone dared print it. The viral CNN article, What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents by Disney-and-Oprah-endorsed Ron Clark, epitomizes the word “propaganda” and gets a gold star for its audacity in dehumanizing children and undermining the parent-child relationship. Homeschooling author, Linda Dobson, immediately tackled the article with a blog post that paragraph by paragraph exposed the hypocrisy and callousness of teachers’ attitudes towards children and parents.

Public schools are government institutions that have literally taken control of  much of the global population and most world cultures. By holding all children under 18 as hostages, against their wills, this infectious institution forces the population to deny the self, homogenize, obey and consume. By choking down an irrelevant, carefully engineered “education” in a factory-like environment,  children are conditioned to ignore their bodies, emotions, passions, interests, questions, ideas, creative impulses, purposes and needs. In the US, this multi-billion dollar social conditioning machine trains children to take their place  assisting the United States in remaining the World power through economic and political globalization. This control of the population was the intent of public schooling when it was made into law in 1852. [...]

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Mainstream Media Wrongly Presents Back-To-School As Inevitable, Part III

29 August 2011 Categories: Attachment parenting, public school, unschooling

Laurie’s 17 year old son, Brycen is holistically healthy because, as an unschooler, all of his physical and emotional needs are met

The August 2011 issue of Parenting New Hampshire stood out as a perfect example of mainstream media presenting traditional schooling as inevitable for children in September. This is Part III of my blog post discussing the way the media presents Back-To-School fervor and traditional schooling issues and the detriments to children.

Failing to Bring Attention to How Dangerous Public Schooling is For Children’s Health

Towards the end of the August 2011 issue of Parenting New Hampshire is an article that, without intending to, underscored the irony of how schools fail to meet children’s basic biological, physical, psychological and developmental needs, often contrary to health care advice. Traditional schools are regimented in a manner that forces children to deny their bodily functions and emotional needs and contort these needs to the system rather than schools conforming to children’s needs. [...]

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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. [...]

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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.” [...]

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When Homeschooling is Blamed for Child Abuse

30 May 2011 Categories: child abuse, homeschooling

When children are hit, beaten, hurt, sexually exploited, sexually assaulted, emotionally and mentally tormented, physically and emotionally neglected or murdered at the hands of parents and caretakers, it is an egregious tragedy. When a tragic case of child abuse breaks into the media, if the parents labeled themselves as “homeschoolers”, the media often spins the story to insinuate that “homeschooling” (or what appeared to be homeschooling) is what caused the abuse or allowed the abuse to occur. This deeply saddens me. The majority of cases of child abuse occur in homes where children attend public or traditional school. I can testify to this as I have sadly been working with abused youth of all ages since the 1990′s. [...]

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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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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.

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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.

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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. [...]

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Epic Fail: Good Morning America Gets “F” for Biased Radical Unschooling Report

21 April 2010 Categories: unschooling

When Juju Chang asked the teenage siblings featured in Good Morning America’s report on Radical Unschooling if they “ever miss or regret” not being in school, I couldn’t help but wonder if she would ask a survivor of a hostage situation if they “ever miss or regret” not being in bondage. Clearly, from the sitcom-like, satirical nature of GMA’s segment, Juju and George Stehanopolos spinned a patronizing, smug and biased attitude towards the idea of youth living in freedom- The way children, including Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln and Margret Mead, had done it for millennia. This montage of painfully obvious bad edits and carefully selected quotes was patched together to make the Yablonski-Biegler family appear irresponsible, negligent and ignorant. What ironic fuel for the firestorm of oppressive legislators around the country who are already working to infringe upon the inalienable rights of homeschooling families! [...]

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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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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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