Helen Davies, February 2014
I've just been reading a wonderful introduction by Ray Bradbury to a book of his short stories, and it really reminded me of this thread. He says that all his writing is inspired by exactly the kind of openness to new experiences that people have been discussing here. This paragraph really stood out for me:
In other words, I was not embarrassed at circuses. Some people are. Circuses are loud, vulgar, and smell in the sun. By the time many people are fourteen or fifteen, they have been divested of their loves, their ancient and intuitive tastes, one by one, until when they reach maturity there is no fun left, no zest, no gusto, no flavor. Others have criticized, and they have criticized themselves, into embarrassment. When the circus pulls in at five of a dark cold summer morn, and the calliope sounds, they do not rise and run, they turn in their sleep, and life passes by.
It's so easy to imagine a parent vocally hating the circus, because the music's too loud, and the tickets are a rip-off, and the candyfloss is nothing but sugar…
Many of the elements of a good unschooling life—joy, abundance, connections, wonder—seem to be part of this personality trait called "openness to experience."
Ideas regarding how we can support our children's interests while acknowledging our own preferences, but not expressing them through strong negatives words, when they don't match) :-)
Jenny Cyphers, to someone being controlling of food, but her response is not about food itself:
It's very easy to control food when you have a home of young children. Most young children aren't going to question the choices you make regarding food, they will eat what they like of what you've offered. The really big challenge is when kids start asking for other things and how you choose to respond to those things.
This is a biggie and it applies to EVERYthing, not just food. Are you going to be a mom that reacts big and opinionated to these questions and inquiries and curiosities? Or are you going to be a mom who helps her kids explore their questions and inquiries and curiosities? This is the very basis in which parents build the foundation of unschooling, if that is indeed the goal.
In each moment of questioning, or inquiry, or curiosity, you get to choose how you respond. You can respond in such a way that a child's question, their learning, is honored, with kindness and lightness and joy, or you can shut that down with your own opinions and ideas. The more a parent can honor a child's curiosity, the more that child will genuinely listen to their parents ideas about the world. It's the only way that I've seen that kids really truly are influenced by their parents. All other attempts are seen and felt as control, manipulation, coercion, unless of course you have a child that is VERY easy going. But trust me, there will come a time when even that child will challenge you, and the more easy going you've been about their ideas from the beginning, the more influence you will have when that time comes.
If hot dogs are a "thing" that's caused upset between you and your child, it might seem like no big thing now, but how you've handled that will set the tone for the next "thing" and the next one and the next one. Each of those interactions, the child is growing and learning how your relationship works.
Other people have said this before, but it is worth repeating. Emotional health and emotional well being are as equally important, if not more so, as physical health (from food, etc.).
My kids have different ideas than I do about lots of things and that's okay. I can share my ideas and sometimes I'm absolutely sure I'm right and sometimes my kids have astounded me with their own convictions of things they have found to be true for them. It has been one of the coolest and mind expanding aspect of unschooling. Sometimes absolutes are the worst thing ever, to eat humbly.
It didn't matter much in my life (so far) that I didn't love jazz. None of my kids picked it up. If I were pressed to choose jazz, I would go with Dixieland first, then Chicago big-band stuff, and last, last only if I had to, progressive jazz. It seems to keep my heart from beating properly.
My best childhood friend was a piano prodigy. No one in our small town could teach her after she was 13 or so and her mom used to drive her 90 miles to the university for lessons, where she discovered jazz. She tried to explain it to me one day when I was 15, about how it wasn't so much about keys and chords as lines and patterns. I didn't get it.
I have a feeling of inferority about it—that and science fiction. Many of my brightest friends love jazz and science fiction, and I don't. They don't understand why not. I don't either, except there are so many other things i like so much better!
Something I liked better than anything, though is being as good a mom as I could be, and so since my kids weren't going to have teachers at school to validate their interests or to introduce them to things I "hated," I decided not to hate anything, and to leave as much of the world accessible to my kids without them feeling they were messing with something I didn't like, or asking about something I disapproved of.
When I reject something from my life, it closes doors, in my head, and in my soul. I can't make connections there anymore. I have eliminated it from active play. It's not good for unschoolers
Everyone has the freedom to be negative. Not everyone has thought of good reasons to be more positive.
I just wanted to add that I can totally relate to what you wrote about openness (or should I say about the contrary, the closing of the mind and of the soul). As I was reading this thread on facebook and kept reading and thinking about the word "hate", I could literally *feel* something closing inside, as opposed to when we were chatting about this topic last week, when I could *feel* myself opening up and feeling lighter and happier and more excited to be alive and to have so many paths I can go down with my daughter and husband! :-D
I wonder if it has to do with personality traits or with past experiences or with a specific type of intelligence... For instance, I can see learning in everything and I can't imagine myself hating anything. Disliking, yes, but not hating. I don't remember ever being any different.
What I'm starting to realize (by what I've been reading and learning, and by my own observations of my experience), is that we can most certainly choose alternatives that can lead us to more openness (like choosing more positive words to describe how we feel about something, or genuinely trying to relax and see what our children and partners see in something they like, etc.). And that if we do it often, we can probably rewire our brains, creating new neurological paths and becoming indeed more open. end of Marta quote