22 August 2006

Unschooling Birth

As all my nearest and dearest know, birth has been an obsessive topic of research of mine for ... well, since the people I paid to handle my first pregnancy and birth let me down, landing me with a cesarean (I refuse to capitalize it) for iatrogenic difficulties resulting from caregiver (ha!) impatience. They had the degrees, the training, the background, that I did not have. I trusted them, they let me down, and I have this scar on my belly to show for it. That was four years ago. In the meantime, I researched birth. Obsessively. Learning about what happened to me was my path out of the PPD/PTSD darkness the whole experience landed me in. I read. I studied. I performed more biostatistical analyses on other people's research than I did in four solid years of graduate studies. I learned, I learned, I learned. At this stage of things, I can sling obstetrical lingo like a pro. In fact, better than some pros. I know an astonishing amount about the natural state of a pregnant body, about the variations on normal, about birth as it's meant to happen, without the mediarchy meddling in it. My command of the relevant research is nearly encyclopedic. My knowledge of the trade journals, the insurance regulations, the governmental statutes, is exhaustive. I know, because to me, fighting for the plain old normal birth of my second child, every single data point mattered. And the final exam? My glorious homebirth VBAC. We, all of us, my family, we passed. So here we are. Rowan's four now. And I'm beginning to look into schooling. It isn't pretty. I could go on some about the state of public, private, institutionalized, education in this country. But suffice it to say, it's not for us. We're looking at unschooling; the radical idea that children are learning machines, if you don't strangle the delight out of it for them. That if you give them building blocks for wings, they will assemble them (in their own unique ways), and they will soar. Terrifying, beautiful thought, that. I feel like I've bonded with Daedalus, somehow. As usual, when you're going offroad with something parenting, you ask yourself whether or not it "works". I suppose by "works", what you mean, generally, is, "will this form of education result in a child who is centered, intelligent, well-rounded, and able to attain the goals they set for themselves?" As usual, I've been fretting. Will it? Will this be the right thing to have done? The shelves of birth-related books and research are gradually being supplanted with the shelves of education-related books and research. I'm on the yahoogroups. I'm reading the bulletin boards. I'm joining the associations. I'm reading, dear lordy, everything I can get my hands on. I'm learning the terminology that the initiated use to describe the inner workings of the child mind. I am becoming conversant in the theoretical modalities of educational theories. And as another friend grilled me about some aspect or other of pregnancy, and I tossed off an answer as casually as could be, it hit me. I do not have a degree. I am not a medical graduate. But I am unschooled, in birth. And if can work for me, like this, then am I not, by modeling this compulsive researching behavior, proving both to my kids and to the Doubting Thomases of my culture, that it does most thoroughly work this way? Yes, I am. So forward we all go. Because it does, it does, it does work this way. UPDATE: This post has been nominated!!!

A Perfect Post


At 8/23/2006 02:10:00 PM, Anonymous The One True Bubba said...

I am reminded of an ancient saying that I just made up:

"Schooling does not intelligence create, nor does age delete it.

But if to choose twixt book and life, I choose the rocky back road of experience over the smooth interstate of processed academia.

You may not cover as much ground, but the miles count triple."


At 8/23/2006 02:23:00 PM, Blogger LadySeduction said...

Hurray, another one for our side!!! LOL

It is such a beautiful thing to watch. Even as my teens chose to attend high school, they are still unschoolers b/c they still dive deeper deeper into whatever they are interested in until there is nothing left to learn. All on their own, above and beyond anything "assigned" and often about things that have just appealed to them.
They Love to Learn and most importantly they know how to find information about everything and anything.

At 8/23/2006 04:25:00 PM, Anonymous Tammy Takahashi said...

Such a beautiful post. You're right, you did unschool birth. :)

You said you're wondering if unschooling "works" by asking if "this form of education result in a child who is centered, intelligent, well-rounded, and able to attain the goals they set for themselves?"

Well, by that criteria, will school work?

There is no guaranteed system. Although it is comforting to know that many kids have come out of unschooling very happy and bright, many kids come out of public school that way, and school-at-home that way. That critera isn't enough to determine an answer either way. No matter what we do, we can't know for sure if our approach or our lives will produce that in the end.

But what we can know is whether an approach fulfills that criteria NOW. For example, today, our kids are happy, well-rounded, centered, intelligent and able to attain goals they have set for themselves. And until that changes, we'll keep plugging along doing what works for us. Not only does it work for us, but we like it. Can't predict the future, but you sure can bet on future results based on today's data.

Good luck in your decision. This is a life-long thing - not just a one-timer. Just like deciding how to parent is not a one-time decision.

At 8/24/2006 10:47:00 AM, Blogger chartreuseova said...

I jumped when I saw the title. Dh & I were discussing unschooling this morning but as usual I had to bring birth into it. My belief is that by unschooling, our dd will not look to the "experts" to treat her with education for the normal function of learning. And I hope she'll carry that over into birth and know that she doesn't require "experts" to treat her with surgery or drugs for the normal function of birthing. Most parents only worry about peer pressure, drugs, and the first date...nope I'm worried about my dd's right to give birth. She's only 5 but I want natural birth to be an option for her. Not normal birth, because we both know what the norm is these days.

At 8/28/2006 06:26:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The first poster here outlines a very important point.

How many of the best job opportunities require an advanced degree? Nearly all of them. You yourself wouldn't be in the position that you are in without a formal piece of paper stating that you completed your college education. It may be nothing more than society's official stamp of approval, essentially nothing more than an E-ticket purchased at Disneyland; allowing the bearer onto the best rides...but still, that resource serves it's purpose well.

When it comes to off-roading anything, as Nietzsche said, "The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

So - do you wish an easy life for your child, or a meaningful one?

I think I know the answer already.

At 8/30/2006 10:51:00 AM, Blogger Jenny said...

Unschooling is fundamentally about trust. So is birth. Just as you have learned to trust your body to bive birth, so do we trust that as human beings our children will have an innate passion for learning about the world around them. Just think about a 7 month old baby popping off the breast because she can't resist looking around, or a toddler who is obsessed with exploring every corner of the house.

If children are given the support and freedom to continue to explore their worlds as they grow (with their parents as their guides and facilitators) they will learn everything they need to know to live successful, happy, and fulfilling lives. Why? Because they will WANT to!

This does not mean that they will never open a text book or earn a diploma. For some, their passions may take them into careers that require lots of traditional schooling. But they will choose for themselves when, where, and how they want to receive that schooling. They will have felt empowered about their learning for their entire lives and will be in the classroom because they want to be there, which of course greatly increases their chances of success.

Or they may never set foot in a classroom and be just as happy and successful, all the while retaining their love of learning.

That's just the crux of why I love unschooling. Then there's the fact that we get to be together every day, that my kids are not subjected to the horrible social environment of school, that parks, museums, civic centers, libraries, local businesses, mountains, rivers, and our farm are the places where they learn instead of a chemically sterilized, artificially illuminated room, and that we can travel at any time of the year even on a whim if we feel like it.

Trust birth. Trust learning!


At 9/01/2006 03:34:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

addendum to my previous comment:

"I've always thought anyone can make money. Making a life worth living, that's the real test."
--Robert Fulghum, author of "Everything I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten"

At 9/01/2006 08:15:00 PM, Blogger heidi said...

This is a beautiful post. My birth experience was the inverse of yours. I read and researched and planned a natural birth in the water at a birth center, and then had 1,000 unfortunately necessary interventions at the hospital. You are so eloquent, I'm delighted to find you & can't wait to read more.

At 9/04/2006 07:57:00 AM, Anonymous angie said...

Brilliant post! Have you read any of the John Holt books? They are very enlightening, as are a couple of books I read by James Herndon, The Way it's Spozed to Be, and How to Survive in your Native Land. John Taylor Gatto is really good at exposing the school landscape in America.

Happy studying!

At 8/25/2007 06:17:00 AM, Anonymous Alicia said...

I hear you!! I have had 5 cesareans and along the way, there has been so much learning. I am now a midwife and founder of Well Rounded Missions, a non-profit organization that deals primarily with healthcare/social reform with focus on parenting and pregnancy. We are now starting a magazine... WR Magazine in an effort to inspire and bring a new level of awareness. I would love to talk to you more about your story and perhaps publishing, linking to your blog. If you are interested, my e-mail is donsgirls@juno.com. The site is www.wrmagazine.com.



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