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In a message dated 7/30/04 2:55:34 AM, rock7555@... writes:

<< The next theme is on democracy at home and community. I am looking for
someone to perhaps speak (write) on behalf of democracy (if or when it applies)
at home or within homeschool groups. >>

Maybe you can collect responses to what I'm about to post, and publish the
good parts of those? Or maybe someone here would love to write about the topic
and could coordinate with Paul on the side, or maybe volunteer to write a
post incorporating quotes from what's below (which might be worthless and
expendable) and (or only) the responses.

When I ran an unschooling group, starting many years back and fizzling out
four years ago, it wasn't at all democratic.

The group had grown out of a playgroup of La Leche League families. First
phase was always at the same park (and I was a new member, not an organizer).
Those organizers fell away and those most regular wanted to change parks. This
was pre-decent-e-mail and pre-webpage, and I used to pass out little booklets
of maps (hand drawn and notated) to the next six or seven parks. We called
it "Park Parties" and "The Park Explore." After about a year, some of the
newer families started to complain about one park or another being too babyish or
too dangerous for little kids, or too close to a road, or not enough shade.
Basically they wanted to stick to one park. <g>

So I had lived through a whole set of change with that group, but at least
there were kids my kids had hung out with through the whole time, and always
some new ones.

Families with oldest kids Kirby's age got to the school-choice age and many
chose school. With another mom who had chosen homeschooling a year or two
before, we decided to shift the focus to unschooling, and we made three rules
before we advertised it. The rules were based on our certain knowledge of what
problems had come before and they were:

No field trips
No officers
No discussing curriculum

Of course that made us the defacto "officers" or enforcers, and we didn't
mind, because if we were going to be there, and have the back-up plan and do the
contacting and reminding, we didn't want other people trying to turn it into a
"learning co-op" or a curriculum-whining session.

To reinforce our intent, we called it "The Goof Group." Then we put little
flyers with a map to the starting park, and the three rules, in several places
we thought people would be. It took very quickly.

It was a strong group with sometimes 18 families, for several years (more on
the list, but that many attending). Stayed at one park for a season, we had
some public-indoor-site rotation winters (didn't work so well, some families
complained if there was food for sale, some complained if there was any
expense). Eventually when we bought a big house, the meetings were at our house.
After a year and some of that, my boys had reached their frustration level. It
had come to be us doing other families a favor by introducing them to other
unschooling families and helping them have contacts. We weren't benefitting
anymore, there was a lot of cleanup (physical and social--handholding of members
who wish other members weren't just the way they were), a couple of people left
because I said, "No, really, if you want to do a field trip just announce it,
but it's not going to be a field trip of this group, and our family is
definitely not going.

Everyone had a list of all the other people's names and phone numbers and
kids' names and that was unbroken tradition since the third group back. But
others wouldn't organize things, they would just whine at me to change policies
and do it THEIR way.

Not democracy. It was me and Monica Cordova providing an opportunity that
was still a reason for us to get our kids together every week, and which helped
some unschoolers and lots of relaxed and eclectic homeschoolers who did have
curriculum problems and concerns but were wise enough not to tell us about them.

As to my family, we do something I consider to be much better than democracy.
We built a freedom nest for our kids. Who else could have?

I was in a discussion years ago among homeschoolers about the nature of
freedom. Some said freedom is natural and god-given. I disagree. I think freedom
is given and defended. We have given our kids LOTS of freedom, but they
have it because we gave it to them. And we have responsibilities (legal, moral)
that we still have to hold in mind, so if a child's free choices go beyond the
boundaries of what the city/state/government allow, we (my husband and I)
need to do something. First plan has always been to explain and reason and
persuade. That has worked in all but a handful of minor instances. In those
instances, it becomes "freedom denied," but those have been about things like
firecrackers or other loud noise too late at night and being out and about after
midnight when they were very young (city parks have 'closed' hours, and it
doesn't matter if it's right by your house).

Some people confuse freedom with anarchy, and choices with wild destruction.
Freedom has a context and boundaries. Even when the earth was sparsely
populated by a few small groups who might've thought they were the only humans
in the world, their freedom would be limited by the group's needs and safety
concerns, and by what other neighboring groups or species would allow. Freedom
to hike for miles alone gave lions the opportunity to exercise their freedom
to eat you.

So in my two major experiences, I didn't set up a democratic system either
time. I'm a benign dictator, or a generous monarch or something. My husband
rarely vetoes plans or policies because he knew me for almost ten years before
Kirby was born and if he didn't trust me he wouldn't have stuck around, and
anyway I've always incluced him in the benefits of the (weird) designer life
we've lived.

Lots of times it looks like democracy here, but it's more like individuals
having options within the stated plan.

If we're wanting to go to a restaurant because we're on the road, we will
find a mutually agreeable place if we can. Last road trip, we went into a KFC
because Holly wanted macaroni and cheese, and the others were interested in
accommodating her desire. After Kirby and Marty already knew what they wanted, we
found they had no mac&cheese. So we said, "Oh, sorry, that was the thing we
came in for. Sorry." And we left in search of a mac&cheese place. When we
got there it was way too crowded and the kids were very hungry, so we ate at a
Taco Bell next door. It wasn't the work of an evil dictator, but had it
been "democracy," we would have stayed at KFC because the group had made a
majority decision and our goal was accomplished once a restaurant was chosen.

So what we do is more consensus on mutual days, than democracy.

But there's another thing we do, and that is "whose day is it?" If Holly
needs something from the store, her brothers are probably welcome to go (unless
her real request was some alone time with a parent), but Holly gets the front
seat, because it's her trip. Yesterday was Kirby's birthday and he got
decisions weighted in his favor, if other factors were equal. But that's a
management decision, too. It's something my husband and I figured out was a
peace-tool long ago. There are precedence issues, and letting the oldest child have
precedence all the time is unfair and oppressive. When we went to Holly's
girl scout presentation, it was a Holly night. We left when she was ready, we
went to a restaurant she chose. It was a freedom and privilege and power she
had because her parents gave it to her. And the boys go along with that
because they know they will have situations in which they are supported and
followed by the rest of the family.

So I don't think I'm a good one to write an article on democracy if the
intent is to show democracy in its classic, idealized American-mythology form.


Paul Rathgeb

Actually in a nut-shell I suppose my intent is to break the mold of the traditional held "myths" of democracy and to delve into the meaning of the "d" word, readily supported by those classic ideals. My other objective to those interested is to speak more on behalf of the consensus process that occurs in the home and community.Some questions in the wind... "What works for you as an individual or within group settings?" and "What is this popular rhetorical word democracy really about?" - "Are families commonly democractically structured?"

Basically just would like to stir up a pool for discussion by the "experts. As a student, unmarried and without children myself, I have many curiosities about family ideals and how this can relate on a community level and possible global... I greatly appreciate the feedback, it is very insightful and thought provoking. Peas! Paul

"The fate of the country does no depend on how you vote at the polls-the worst man is as strong as the best at the game;it does not depend on what type of paper you drop into the ballot box once a year, but on what kind of man you drop from your chamber into the street every morning."

Henry David Thoreau

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