Commentary on my changing views of the Certificate of Empowerment

This was printed on paper and mailed to contributors to site costs in 2012, so the links here weren't part of the original letter,
but adding links always makes me happy. Portals to other places, just one click.

September 2012 commentary to go with the last few paper copies of the "Certificate of Empowerment"

If you're receiving this, it's because you donated to my unschooling-missionary-work expenses at the second anniversary of my blog Just Add Light and Stir. Thank you for helping me with the expenses of providing everyday assistance to families interested in unschooling and parenting in a sweet and generous way.

In 1996 I was invite to be a presenter at a conference in Albuquerque. I was afraid to speak because it was to be recorded, so I took a little six-week public speaking class to fortify myself. I still use things I learned in those sessions when I speak.

I wanted a handout for that conference, and so I asked other unschoolers on AOL to help me polish what I called a "Certificate of Empowerment." Because it was well received by those who came to hear me that year, I gave copies away many times at other conferences.

I found a local print shop that had an interesting scheme of colored-ink specials. They were nice guys, and I asked them to start a collection of colored paper from the ends of jobs, and when they had a fair pile, they printed my certificate in colored ink on them. The ink looked different on different papers. And I signed them in various flattering colors. Then I thought I had given them all away.

Recently I found the last forgotten end of them. Thirty-three copies.

Paper and colored ink are more expensive these days and that print shop is gone.

Bigger than all those factors, though, my knowledge and thinking changed, a little, and I would like to share that with you. Because a couple of paragraphs in this have been "abused" (in a way) by people using them to justify things I thought were Not Good, I don't love it as much as I used to. That doesn't mean you might not like it. I liked it a lot for a long time!

Once someone published it on a homeschooling-related webpage with one change that bothered me. Perhaps I'm just easily bothered, but I soothe myself by saying "it's integrity." Still, I had given people permission to make their own. The editor had added "and libraries" to the phrase "Although collections of these treasures have been located in museums for your convenience, they are to be found everywhere else, too." Museums and libraries !? That puts it all back to pictures of things or words about things rather than REAL things. She missed the point.

But the biggest two problems have been boredom and "protection."

In 1996 I wrote, "Furthermore, you may allow your children to experience boredom without taking full responsibility for finding them something to do." "Full responsibility" was important, but several people have thrown that back up at me saying that it wasn't their job to entertain their kids and that I even said so.

I didn't want parents to feel responsible for perpetual entertainment, but I certainly never wanted to create justification for neglect. And it was a couple of years later that I really started thinking about boredom, after an online discussion, and in 1998 wrote "Bored No More" (which is in Moving a Puddle, and on the webpage). The main point of that essay is this:

Sometimes the real message behind "I'm bored" is "I'm little and feeling agitated and vaguely unhappy and I don't know what I can do to get over this uncomfortable feeling. What would you do if you were my age, in this house, on a day like this?"

I think that deserves a helpful, respectful response.

The other glitchy bit on the certificate was "...take what steps you feel necessary to protect your children..." which some people have used to justify controls, fearmongering, and other non-peaceful actions.

Other than all that, the certificate is fine. If you want to frame it, I won't be embarrassed. If you want to stick it in a filing cabinet, I won't be offended.

Sandra Dodd
Albuquerque, New Mexico
September 8, 2012

The problem with "finish what you start"

Original certificate Laurie Wolfrum's version, 2013