"I find the thoughtfulness about word choices to be a kind of meditative exercise that helps me slow down in the midst of a busy time of life."


November 8, 2011, I wrote on Facebook:

I got a daily calendar in India, each page having a different picture of Ganesha and a quote. The one I saw today is: "God talks to His devotees through intuitive feeling, through friends, through light and through a voice heard within."

I really like that intuition and "a voice heard within" are separate. Having grown up Baptist, "friends" were often considered to be the devil for sure. But best of all is "light." Inspiration and clarity, no doubt, but things look different in different lights. Mountains and clouds, lately, for me and Holly. http://justaddlightandstir.blogspot.com/

As happens sometimes with the photos of tourists and amateurs, I did not plan this lighting and drama. I only saw it later, in the photo.

Just seconds later, the same angel, different angle, there are modern details the angel sees every day, plus Linnaea Waynforth, and across on the other wall, art by children.

This was in a church in Bunwell, in Norfolk, one town over from where Schuyler Waynforth lives. We were there to hear bell ringers practice, on a summer day in 2009.

Same, with notes on perspective and art, at Just Add Light


I find letting go of my expectations a crucial and ongoing part of deschooling myself. The layers seem never-ending and almost every single 'expectation' of children in general and of my son in particular I uncover in myself seems to get in the way of me trying to learn to relate to him as the unique person he is. All the 'expectations' I have imbibed from my culture put pressure on me and could lead to me putting pressure on him. I am finding that it is when I can most fully let go of what 'should be' and most fully embrace 'what is' that I glimpse the joy and connection which is the heart of unschooling. It isn't easy, I don't always manage it and it is taking lots of practice, but I think I'm slowly getting there.

I guess it is the heart of why unschooling seems to me like a spiritual practice—the same one to be found in all the mystical traditions of the world, that of being in the moment, embracing what is and experiencing the fullness of that.

—Tracey

Subj: Re:Unitarian Universalism
Date: 98-08-20 22:44:03 EDT
From: SandraDodd
Posted on: America Online
For those like Joyce who are atheists, does "spirituality" have meaning?
I'm not a Unitarian. I'm not positive I'm an atheist. I know for sure I'm an agnostic who doesn't believe in God. LATER NOTE: Someone introduce me to the term "apatheist." That's it. That's me! It doesn't matter to me whether there's a higher power or supreme being. I'm going to live my life the same way regardless.]

The past few weeks intensively, and the past few months semi-intensively, I've been working with some mostly-self-selected adults on character-building and morality issues. We've been working lately (half a dozen of us) on virtues, centering around compassion and humility.

Is that spiritual? I think so, but it's not in the prayer/spirit vein. No angels are alighting. It's a change of mental posture and attitude, which is designed to improve the thinking, decision-making basis [i.e. philosophy], and the integrity of the individuals. That changes behavior. Or sometimes people change behavior without really believing there's going to be a resulting change in belief or others' reactions, and when the reaction comes, the belief follows, and the transformation starts cookin'.

People can believe that there is centeredness, balance, and right-living without any belief in God.

Although I've been working with these folks from six to two years (and more in a couple of cases, off and on), I could not tell you which of them believe in God, or whether any of them do. I know two were raised Catholic. One had a Catholic dad and Baptist mom and I haven't asked where he went to church.

So the question is, what do you mean "spirituality"?

Sandra


"[W]e are drawn to exploring ourselves, to finding that depth of engagement in life, with all its twists and turns and ups and downs. For maybe the first time we really see the value in nurturing our spirit. It stuns us. We marvel that the journey we started to fully and deeply support our children and their learning has turned so completely around and we are learning so much from them about being alive and fully engaged with life."
—Pam Laricchia at Unschooling Grows Far Beyond “Not School"

From correspondence with a smaller group, also in 1998, my friend Elaine wrote::

I've been a fan of Rumer Godden for some years now and finally got my hands on her autobiography - done in two parts/two books. One of them is called A House With Four Rooms. She begins with.......

There is an Indian proverb or axiom that says that everyone is a house with four rooms, a physical, a mental, an emotional and a spiritual. Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time but, unless we go into every room every day, even if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person. R.G.


As I add this part to this page, the Always Learning list is ten years old. Today I saw post #64,085—but the very first post there, post #1, was by Deb Lewis, and was about spirituality in children:
I am not a particularly spiritual person and neither is my husband. It was never our intention to keep religion or spirituality from our son and most of our family members and friends are practicing members of some religious organization. We have always tried to answer his questions in a non biased way, ( I hope we succeeded ) and if he had specific questions we tried to find answers.

I recently found some books on different faiths and they have been helpful.

Well, here it is. My son is becoming a spiritual person. He recently lost both his grandfathers. He was close to both of them and close to their deaths as well as they were in our care at home during their final illnesses. This may have a good deal to do with his pondering's lately, I know.

He's not troubled, only curious. I know faith is a very personal thing. I know my opinions have an influence on him. I'm just trying to be a source of help and security to him while he finds answers that make sense to him, without unduly influencing him to my way of thinking. This must sound extremely naive but not being religious, it really never occurred to me he'd have more than passing questions.

Any thoughts?
Deb L

There were fifteen responses, then, in November 2001. You can read them here if you're a member of that discussion list: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/AlwaysLearning/message/1?threaded=1&l=1

This next quote is slightly edited, to remove references to another discussion, and apologetic asides:
When my family started unschooling, my partner and I felt the spirituality of it immediately and couldn't help but compare it to our buddhist practise. It is very profound and deeply transformative and the results of joy, happiness, kindness, gratitude and abundance, through changes of thought, word and deed are the key elements of successful unschooling, like buddhism.

Unschooling affected me so profoundly and immediately that I did start to question my buddhist practise for a bit, and for precisely the reason Sandra pointed out in her last comment on the FB thread : -=-The point I was hoping to have made was that there is a spirituality that doesn't have to do with dogma, but that has to do with becoming a better, more thoughtful, aware, mindful, compassionate, patient, grateful sort of person. —Sandra-=-

I started to question it because of Dogma—different Dogma than christianity, but its still there. Unschooling has no dogma but ALL of the same results that ripple out to the children, spouse's, relatives, friends and community. It was good to question my practise as we are encouraged in unschooling to question everything, I questioned the differences, that as Sandra rightly said, are argued about just like in world religions, but ultimately, and personally, I saw these spiritual practises travel well together for me in my life.

I wanted to share this to be helpful and encouraging, but more so to anyone that is starting out on this or having doubts—it is profound and spiritual, and you do become ''better, more thoughtful, aware, mindful, compassionate, patient and grateful'' and this discussion list and FB page are a huge support and guidance on the journey to true happiness that you don't have to thank anyone for, or give money too, or worship anyone for.

It's grounded, realistic, accessible enlightenment.

Janine
Always Learning, 22 Feb 2014


Rippy Dusseldorp (responding to Janine):
-=- When my family started unschooling, my partner and I felt the spirituality of it immediately —Janine-=-

and

-=- Sandra pointed out in her last comment on the FB thread "The point I was hoping to have made was that there is a spirituality that doesn't have to do with dogma, but that has to do with becoming a better, more thoughtful, aware, mindful, compassionate, patient, grateful sort of person." —Sandra-=-

We saw the spirituality inherent in unschooling very soon too. In fact, for our family, it was the most important factor in our decision to unschool.

Homeschooling (much less unschooling) was not on our radar when our kids were little. We just assumed they would go to school. We wanted to find a really nice school for them, so we visited over a dozen schools in our area. We would 'interview' the teachers and principals and ask them how they would deal with students in different situations - feeling left out, being insecure about their spelling, having a different learning speed, etc. We had a list of questions three pages long ;-) We were trying to get a feel for the environment and philosophy of the school. We wanted a school that was invested in helping children be peaceful, kind and thoughtful. We wanted a school that would bring out the best in their spirits.

We didn't find what we were looking for. There were some wonderful teachers that seemed to be filled with love and enthusiasm and some other teachers that seemed very tired and in survival mode. There was no guarantee which teacher our children would spend each year with.

Then a friend mentioned the possibility of homeschooling. We did not know a single homeschooler, but we discovered there was going to be a homeschooling conference. We packed our tent and our toddlers (aged 1 and 3) and went.

We attended a talk by Dr. Alan Thomas. He told stories about natural learning and how much knowledge and experience children soak up while they are living with their families and doing everyday things together. He also gave an example of an unschooled teenage girl who decided she wanted to try high school. Even though she had never been fond of math and had mostly avoided it in the past, she decided to enroll in an 18-week adult education remedial math class to catch up. Not only did she catch up, she excelled in the class.

That got us thinking. Even if we completely messed up and our kids learned nothing academic (which we knew would be impossible), we could be with them at home a bit longer and nurture their spirits in ways that we believed were important. We thought that would be more helpful to them as they grew up and became adults. And if we missed out on some Very Important Core Academic Skill, we could find people to help them with that skill. Or they could take a specific class and get that information from a school when they were a bit older. It seemed like a better and safer bet for their childhood.

Things that we considered —spiritual—were not offered on school curricula. Things like being in love with life and loving yourself, being curious and in awe, being grateful, paying attention to the beauty in people and places and things, paying attention to your own thoughts, words and actions, being brave enough to see where you need to stretch and grow to be kinder, learning how to live with others in a peaceful way, being light hearted and helpful, being a good friend and partner, learning to breathe and take time to find your balance when life unsettles you.

Of course we wanted them to be able to read, write, do math, science, and everything else academic, but after that conference, all of that seemed easier to do. We became more and more confident that we could help them with the academics in fun and interesting ways. We actually were excited about it!

We decided that we didn't want to share our limited time with our children with teachers and a school that didn't prioritize spiritual aspects as much as we did. I'm so happy we made that decision all those years ago. And soon after, we discovered that unschoolers on Always Learning were discussing and considering the very things that were so dear to our hearts.

To me, it seems like 18 years can go by in the blink of an eye. Right now we are the stars in our children's lives and they want to spend almost all their time with us. Eventually though, there will be friends, boyfriends/girlfriends, husbands/wives, their own children and grandchildren, that will overshadow us. And that is good and natural :-) We want them to have rich, love filled lives.

We just want to make the best use of our time with them while we are the stars in their lives. We want to help them in the ways that we believe will benefit them most.

Rippy

(Gianluca 9, Gisele 7) it was written in March, 2014


Janine (indented), responding to Rippy:
Things that we considered important—spiritual—were not offered on school curricula. Things like being in love with life and loving yourself, being curious and in awe, being grateful, paying attention to the beauty in people and places and things, paying attention to your own thoughts, words and actions, being brave enough to see where you need to stretch and grow to be kinder, learning how to live with others in a peaceful way, being light hearted and helpful, being a good friend and partner, learning to breathe and take time to find your balance when life unsettles you. (—Rippy)
Yes Yes Yes!!! This is it! This is exactly it. And I believe all these thoughts surface in most parents when school age looms, but we push them down—I know I did, feeling silly and odd to be thinking this way…. We have nurtured and developed this amazing bond and closeness with them, almost a secret language of love and learning of what they need, how they think and feel, and then suddenly boom! it ends as you hand them over to this place, away from you and with strangers and connections broken.
It seemed like a better and safer bet for their childhood.
And it is, it so is - Grateful everyday for unschooling and listening to my heart finally...
To me, it seems like 18 years can go by in the blink of an eye. Right now we are the stars in our children's lives and they want to spend almost all their time with us. Eventually though, there will be friends, boyfriends/girlfriends, husbands/wives, their own children and grandchildren, that will overshadow us. And that is good and natural :-) We want them to have rich, love filled lives.
And they will make a deep and profound difference to the lives of the people they meet, and love, and share their lives with—because we and our children Have chosen this way to live and learn, and because they have rich, love filled lives.

Janine


Peace for Unschoolers Being How to Unschool

Wonder Service Generosity Making the Better Choice

The title art was created by Michael Masterson and Brie Jontry, September 2012; read about the materials.