I discovered for myself that in France presentation is not incidental, but capital. The kings may be long gone, but customs that started in the court, and the respect for rules and protocol, are still present in France today. French flair, style, and panache imply some kind of freedom. But form is ever present, and style and panache are played out within its boundaries. Form is not some abstract concept; it governs daily life... --Harriet Welty Rochefort, from Joie de Vivre
There you have it. I highlighted certain words in Harriet's passage, because they spoke to me of why particular aspects of unschooling philosophy and practice struck me like fingernails on a chalk board. Of course my voyage into the world of unschooling would have to intersect at some point with my new pursuit of joie de vivre. Now I know why, aside from religious considerations, the radical unschooling idea of "freedom without limits" sounded so wrong. My French sensibilities balked at the very idea! My maternal great-grandmother was a Valley (Vallee in French), half French, and my mother adored her. My grandmother and my mother surely inherited something of the French way from this woman whose father was French-American, both in their blood and in their life experience. No wonder the idea of formlessless, of the absence of boundaries, seems so, well, vulgar, to me!
Once again the value of discipline is brought to form, and the true freedom to be found within certain, defined parameters. To the French, this is what it means to be human. Tradition and custom are tres important. They are not trifles that impede self-expression and joy; rather, they are the very fabric from which the tapestry of joie de vivre is woven! They are natural to society. Therein lies my distinction between unschooling and natural learning. Neither should the fact that France is a Catholic nation be overlooked. I will take formal elegance and the value of beauty wrought from tradition over an inconsistent free-for-all any day. Give me fresh cut flowers on my dining room table. Let me eat my breakfast on fine china. And God give me the grace to teach my child how to live and learn well. Let joie de vivre be her inheritance.