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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Unparenting is Not Nature’s Intent: Revisiting the Earth Wisdom of Attachment Parenting and Unschooling

17 May 2013 Categories: Attachment parenting, unschooling

Our children need our guidance, otherwise they would be born adults.

Our children need our guidance, otherwise they would be born as adults.

Readers of 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 know that natural, need-focused parenting and child-led organic learning are not new fads. Although growing in popularity under trendy terms like, Attachment Parenting (AP), holistic parenting, self-directed learning, education hacking, unschooling or Radical Unschooling (RU), these ways of growing children are simply a revival of the ancient wisdom of the Earth; the way parents parented and guided learning for millennia, before the dawn of agriculture. However, as these nature-based principles have gained in popularity, we may be losing some of their deeper intentions.

Centuries of agriculture, civilization and industrialization have perverted nature’s intent for humans, perpetuating a tragic cycle of child abuse, neglect, community and cultural violence, slavery, genocide, war, planetary destruction and endless other forms of human-inflicted suffering. Readers of my book understand that the origins of human violence are a result of unmet holistic needs and trauma beginning in childhood, leading to holistic suffering that was systematically projected onto and inflicted upon family, friends, tribes, communities, cultures, nations, regions… and then the globe. Here we stand in 2013, with nearly the entire human family enslaved by a daily grind of systematic forced schooling, working, buying and paying just to live and survive. Most people cannot see any way out, and thus just resign themselves to the fact that this is life, even as they walk in the woods and wade into the ocean and see that the rest of nature runs wild and free.

The first people to revive the modern Attachment Parenting, organic learning and unschooling movements of the late 60′s and early 70′s were some of the first child advocates and parents to say, “No more. Our children are far too precious for this! We want to raise our children to be free, joyful, healthy, happy and natural!” Pioneers of natural family living began to question industrialized, corporate, processed living and they began to observe, explore and return to unfolding nature’s intent for children and families.

Now that Generation X has grown up and become the parents, Attachment Parenting and unschooling have broken out of the “hippie” fringe and have become a growing trend that has even received some mainstream attention.

Since the turn of the 2000′s, at the very point in history when ubiquitous technology, processed food, cradle-to-grave busywork, cradle-to-grave consumerism and monstrous corporations are taking over every aspect of life, there has been an explosion of information about how to return to the wisdom of the Earth. Organic primal diets, natural remedies for medical and mental health issues, holistic treatments, energy healing, ancient spiritual practices such as meditation, intentional communities, compassionate volunteer work, living off the land, self employment and of course, Attachment Parenting, democratic schools and unschooling have sprouted out of the chaos like a plant that rises through pavement. The premise of all of these ways of reviving the Earth’s wisdom is nature’s intent: These ways of living are holistically healthy because they are in line with nature’s intent for humans.

The foundation of Attachment Parenting (and therefore unschooling) is based on meeting a child’s holistic needs to the best of our ability. Readers of my book are well aware of the secure attachment cycle and the four steps involved:

  1. Child has a need
  2. Child expresses the need
  3. Parent meets child’s need ASAP
  4. Child feel homeostasis

This secure attachment cycle is the same for all mammals and is based on the conditions each individual species requires in order to grow, thrive and meet their full holistic potential. When parents meet the needs of their children at all developmental stages, from pre-birth through late adolescence, children will naturally thrive and grow to be holistically healthy. Humans are all born wired to be loved and to love; the natural state of the human being is to holistically thrive. When childhood needs are met, humans can live up to their potential.

My readers also know the flip-side of the secure attachment cycle, or, what happens to children when their needs are unmet. When parents or the environment fails to meet the needs of children, children are no longer in a state of homeostasis, but in a state of distress. This distress leads to attachment disruption in the parent-child dynamic, or, in modern terms, ambivalent, distant, conflicted or anxious parent-child relationships. Such relationships are not a “normal stage” at any time in child development, they are an alarm signal of distress in the parent-child relationship.

When a child’s needs are chronically unmet, their distress builds and begins to cause emotional and holistic injury, or trauma. In severe cases, trauma can result from just one serious incident of distress. Evidence of distress, unmet needs and trauma are easy to identify in children– Children act-out, shut down, or develop emotional, behavioral, learning, social or even sexual problems. Sometimes, the evidence of unmet needs does not manifest in children for a decade or two. Other children manifest their distress immediately.

Most parents in the AP/RU communities support natural parenting practices such as natural birthing, genital integrity, extended breastfeeding, natural immunity, cosleeping, gentle parenting, relaxed homeschooling or unschooling, nonviolent communication, natural healing, close parent-child relationships and children having freedom in following passions and interests. Most parents in the AP/RU communities understand that disrespecting children by punishing, shaming, controlling, yelling at or hitting them is harmful to every level of their holistic development. Most parents in the AP/RU communities understand that traditional school environments, with all of the human rights violations that occur therein, are also harmful to children on every level of their holistic development. In these ways, AP/RU parents are in line with nature’s intent for children’s healthy holistic development.

While the original AP/RU movement as a whole has been on board with nature in so many important ways, there has been a concerning trend that has developed in the movement that seems to fly in the face of the entire foundation of AP/RU: Unparenting.

Unparenting appears to be a well-intentioned effort to ensure that children are not in any way being stifled by adult intervention. However, the practice borders on (and in some cases exceeds the definition of) child neglect.

I have been dismayed to hear that some parents in the RU community advocate for children wasting days, weeks and even years staring at screens all day, addicted to a constant stream of console and online video games, TV shows, texting and social media. Such parents claim they are allowing children to “make the choice”; however, is it really a “choice” if it is a dopamine addiction?

I have been shocked to hear some in the RU community justify allowing children to gorge themselves on candy, soda, pizza, fast food and other mainstream foods, despite that it is well known in the natural living communities that refined sugar, gluten, dairy and processed foods are toxic and contribute to chronic inflammation, emotional distress, obesity and even cancer. Again, these parents claim they are allowing children to “make the choice”; however, is it really a “choice” if it is a dopamine addiction?

I have been appalled to learn that in the name of “choice”, some parents in the RU community allow their children to be exposed to dangers such as lack of supervision, abusive adults, alcohol, drugs, premature sex and adult media- even porn! (It is sexually abusive for adults to knowingly expose children under 18 to pornography.)

Some RU parents even advocate for allowing children to use extremely vulgar language in public or for parents not to expect basic hygiene from their children.

It shocks me to my foundations that any parent who claims to parent for attachment, who puts the time and energy into AP/RU principles, would then constantly expose their children to addictive, dangerous and toxic lifestyle choices and situations that can cause physical harm or long term psychological trauma to children. I wonder why they don’t just send their children to school and parent in all of the other harmful mainstream ways? While the confinement of schooling and the control of mainstream parenting are at one end of the spectrum of harm to children, some parents in the AP/RU communities have rushed to the other extreme- total hands off, “let’s watch and see” parenting.

Our children need us to guide them on their journey to adulthood.

Our children need us to guide them on their journey to adulthood.

Unparenting goes against nature’s intent and doubles as neglect. It also flies in the face of common sense: If children did not need our intervention, then they would be born as adults, not as children. It should go without saying that children need us to guide them on their journey to adulthood, not for us to stand by and watch them get hurt or lost.

When we observe how Hunter-Gatherer people once lived in nature, we find the opposite of punitive, controlling parenting AND the opposite of unparenting. In peaceful nonviolent tribal cultures, children enjoyed respect and freedom. Parents guided children largely through very strong, constant community modeling. Parents did not stand by idly when children acted in not-yet-mature ways; adults guided and lead the way without demands, control or punishment, but with firm expectation (i.e.: “This is just the way we live”). In no mentally healthy tribal culture did parents expect youth to negotiate childhood alone, without guidance.

How do children get to a place of having rude social skills, poor hygiene or being exposed to toxic food, excessive media usage, dangerous people or adult-themed entertainment? By parents accepting, modeling or offering those conditions. How do children get to a place of not “choosing” such conditions? By parents being heavily involved in guiding children’s choices, asking questions, modeling, expressing parental feelings and thoughts, having some basic, loose family routines, having a schedule of activities, providing information, purchasing only healthy foods, refraining from purchasing cable or electronic gadgets, working together as a team and facilitating exciting alternatives and opportunities that children would find irresistible.

In any growing movement that attempts to heal a social problem, past histories, anecdotal information, personal interpretation and dogma will eventually creep in and dilute the original principles. When many of us detoxed from mainstream parenting, educating, eating, living and healing, we probably asked ourselves some variation of the question, “What does nature say about this?” When it comes to our continued journey in the natural family living lifestyle, when we have doubts, questions and concerns we can also look to nature’s intent for answers. Nature’s intent is the only parenting advice we really need!

What does nature tell us about parenting our children?

What does nature tell us about parenting our children?

What does nature say about children eating a toxic diet? What does nature say about children chronically staring at screens for hours on end, day after day? What does nature say about failing to protect children from people, dynamics, situations, substances and choices that are not developmentally appropriate for them? All we need to do is observe or imagine what (did) would happen if peaceful tribal children, wild animals, trees, plants or the land were exposed to such conditions contrary to their natural development. I believe parents who have discovered the AP/RU lifestyle already know the answers to those questions deep in their hearts and in their primal mothering and fathering instincts.

With a little guidance from nature, Moms and Dads can each tune into their Earth-given instincts and follow their hearts- and their common sense- and know just what their individual children need to thrive holistically.

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

26 August 2011 Categories: Attachment parenting, public school

Laurie and her son Brycen have a close, connected and democratic relationship. Brycen’s needs, choices, requests, freedom and time are respected. (Photo by Joe Martin)

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 II of my blog post discussing the way the media presents Back-To-School fervor and traditional schooling issues and the detriments to children of this view.

Advocating For Homework- An Exploitative Theft Of Children’s Free Time

Perhaps one of the most dreadful realities of “Back-To-School” is homework. Parenting New Hampshire again failed to recognize children’s needs and presented homework as an inevitable necessity of childhood. The title of their article on homework, “Get Ready for the Homework Battle: Tips for Parents on How to Win The War” by Karen Plumley, truly speaks for itself. This article, like many other mainstream media resources, ignores the research that indicates that homework has little to no educational benefits and actually may hurt children. Most mainstream media resources present homework as something that children must and should do rather than empowering parents to speak out AGAINST it. This article actually aligns parents with the schools and AGAINST their own children, encouraging parents to view homework as a war battle where they must prevail over their children’s needs and wishes. [...]

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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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Unschooling Parents (Not School Teachers) Best Equipped By Nature to Guide Learning

20 March 2011 Categories: Blog, public school, unschooling

This evening I read the first sentences of an online article speaking of teachers in almost fantastical, iconic-like terms, painting a picture of nurturing, loving caretakers wiping away children’s tears, inspiring the passion of youth and shaping the future. I felt the indignation and frustration of years of working with children ages 3 to 18, whose spirits, bodies and psyches have been mangled by traditional schooling, often at the hands of teachers.

Contrary to the sentimental, somewhat maudlin cultural imagery of school teachers pouring out selfless nurturance, tending to the needs of youth or lighting the passionate fires of inspiration in grinning, alert children, the youth I have worked with and met over the years have painted me a very different picture. And it ain’t no Mary Cassatt. For six plus hours every day traditional teachers indoctrinate, control, coerce, punish and regiment. They deny children their basic physical and emotional needs, hold children hostage against their will, stifle creativity and freedom of movement and force-feed them irrelevant, dull, boring theories and biased “facts” prefabbed by the government. They ooze ubiquitously into children’s home and free time with homework expectations that strangle play, exploration and family time. When children cannot tolerate the terrible, developmentally inappropriate environment of schooling, teachers are often the arm of the school system that coerces parents into believing their children are “disabled” and are thus in need of chemical restraint (aka: “medication”). [...]

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So You Want to Unschool Your Child or Teen? Yes, you CAN do it!

02 March 2011 Categories: unschooling

So you want to unschool your child or teen? Yes, you CAN do it!

I have uploaded six videos to my YouTube Channel, explaining the five steps to the unschooling process.

The Five Steps to Unschooling:

1. As parents, deschool your beliefs about education

2. Let your children play and follow their interests

3. Hook into resources in your community, provide materials related to your child’s interests and get involved in your local and online unschooling communities

4. Document your unschooling journey with a portfolio and daily log book

5. Trust nature’s learning process for your child! [...]

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Five Questions for Laurie A. Couture by E. Christopher Clark of Geek Force Five

20 February 2011 Categories: Attachment parenting, Blog, unschooling

Five Questions for Laurie A. Couture by E. Christopher Clark of Geek Force Five

Laurie A. Couture is the author of Instead of Medicating and Punishing: Healing the Causes of Our Children’s Acting-Out Behavior by Parenting and Educating the Way Nature Intended. Her book was chosen as a finalist in the ForeWord Magazine Book-of-the-Year Awards in 2009. She appears as an expert in the documentary film, The War On Kids (2009) and is the host of The Free and Joyful Childhood Radio Show. Laurie was a recipient of the 2010 Manchester Union Leader’s Forty Under 40 honors.

  1. The title of your book is pretty comprehensive and self-explanatory. Beyond what’s spelled out there in the title, how would you pitch this book to prospective readers? I pitch my book from many different angles—It is far more than just being the obvious parenting book—It is a book that challenges us all to look beyond what our culture has drilled into us as the only way to live and to instead realize that there is a much freer, more creative, more intelligent, more compassionate, and more fun way to live than the typical, “Be born, go to school, go to college, get a job, try to steal a few moments of recreation, go to bed, get up, do it again and die” scenario. [...]
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Every Child Innately Knows How to Learn- By Playing!

18 February 2011 Categories: Blog, unschooling

Laurie's son, Brycen in 2005

Have you ever pondered the redundancy of certain quotes commonly used by the education institution? For example, “Try to learn something new every day”. Have you ever tried NOT to learn something new every day? Is it even possible to NOT learn something daily? How about, “Children need to arrive at school ready to learn”. In my opinion, it is precisely when children arrive at school that beneficial, relevant learning stops! [...]

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Schools Banning Silly Bandz: More Important than Banning School Abuse of Children?

03 August 2010 Categories: Uncategorized

TIME magazine recently reported that public schools are finding yet another excuse to curtail children’s freedom of expression: An obsession with Silly Bandz (Banning the Bandz, June 14, 2010)!

I am convinced that public school administrators and many teachers  invest  energy in seeking out and extinguishing nearly any semblance of fun, enjoyment, comfort and pleasure that children are able to sneak into the monotonous and joyless school day. If the children are becoming lively, excited and interested in something or otherwise distracted from the tedium of the school day, you can be sure that if the school didn’t sanction it, it’ll be found out and prohibited. Rather than abolish practices that are actually harmful and traumatizing to children, such as corporal punishment, standardized testing, psychiatric drugging, developmentally inappropriate teaching methods and the practices of rationing toilet use and restricting physical activity and play, public schools would rather ban harmless novelties…  such as rubber bracelets…

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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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