Thursday, May 23, 2013

Replacing Fear withTrust

I finished Dayna Martin's book, Radical Unschooling: A Revolution Has Begun, this afternoon. It only took me three days to read, and I passed it on to my husband. Now I have begun to re-read Suzie Andres' A Little Way of Homeschooling: Thirteen Families Discover Catholic Unschooling. Dayna speaks of her spirituality in her book but does not mention practicing a particular religion. Yet there is a common theme running through both books, which is that of trust.  Fear of the future is something Dayna has observed in parents, and it paralyzes them from being authentic and living in the present. And of course Jesus teaches complete trust in him.

In the Al-Anon 12 Step program, FEAR is the acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real.  What assumptions do we make about education, about children and parenting, based on the mainstream ideas embedded in our culture and with which most of us grew up? The traditional model is authoritarian, revolving around obedience and punishment. Dayna Martin insists that punishment of children is never necessary. Never. That thought alone is mind-blowing.

The mother of a teenage girl recently told me that her daughter struggles in school with algebra. It's the only subject in which she does not receive an A.  So is she failing this class? No, she is getting a B.  Heaven forbid! I have heard many similar stories. The pressure on kids to be perfect is fierce. And since we are trained in school and by mainstream parenting to derive our self-worth from the rewards and punishments of others, many adults never become autonomous, never learn to think for themselves, and forever depend upon the approval of someone else. When that is the case, the logical conclusion is that we fail to put our trust in God and to rely on his guidance alone. We can't believe in ourselves, either. We are perpetually crushed by the guilt of not measuring up to others' expectations, by the fear of making a mistake. Guilty simply for trying to be ourselves, the people God created us to be. The noise is so loud we can barely hear the voice of Divine Love calling us home.

Everything must be measured in mainstream thinking. When I worked as an esthetician at a day spa, there were "secret shoppers" who came in as customers and evaluated us. We did not get paid for that service unless the secret shopper granted a score of 100%!  I thought this was an unfair practice, and I told my manager as much. When I was secretly shopped, I got a perfect score. This was because I gave my best to every customer, out of internal motivation. The employees of this salon were not trusted to do their jobs well. If the motivation of the fear of being secretly shopped and punished for not measuring up really worked, then everyone would get a 100%, but they didn't.

Not being trusted is as insulting to children as it is to adults, because children are as fully persons as grown ups are. When people close to me did not trust me to be a good homeschooling parent, I was devastated. I was still relying on others for approval, and they were still functioning under an authoritarian mindset. If people are older, they think they know better, even when you grow up and have gray hair. They were never trusted, and so they can't trust you. No wonder society is so dysfunctional!

Fear, intimidation, coercion, and punishment don't work with children, and they don't work with adults. These tactics create power struggles, rebellion, and the killing of the human spirit. Dayna Martin, Suzie Andres, and other unschooling trailblazers are forging a better way, a path to joyful living and secure families. I don't agree with every position radical unschoolers take, nor do I think Dayna would expect anyone to.  She advocates following your own intuition, respecting the differences and uniqueness of others. She preaches authenticity and peace. Isn't this exactly what our suffering world needs?

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