I spend a fair amount of time with kids, mostly kids in the homeschooling and unschooling community. The majority of them have much more freedom in their lives than you and I did at their age, or than most of their public-schooled peers do now. And I’m impressed. These kids are some of the most creative people I meet, and for the most part they’re not caught up in proving themselves to anyone else.
I’m talking about kids of all ages:
The toddler who loves to explore her world, wandering away from her mom in all directions but always making her way back, whether on her own or gently held by the hand of another community member. She’s figuring out her surroundings on her own terms.
The friendly 4-year-old who comes up to ask me what I’m doing, then shows me the Lego spaceship he just made.
The girls in paper arts class who craft delightfully colorful and varied artist trading cards with a minimum of guidance, then trade them with one another, respectfully but completely on their own terms. After negotiating a trade, I overheard one girl asking another about trading again – which involved giving each other back the very cards they’d just traded. I think the first girl was regretting giving up one of her masterpieces. The second girl giggled and thought the whole idea was great fun, and they both went away happy.
My daughter and her friend, both unschooled teens, giving an impromptu and unselfconscious ukelele concert before the homeschool co-op classes started this morning. If they get lost or forget a chord, they just shrug and carry on, or ask each other for reminders. They are so poised and fully immersed in their love of music.
I think freeing kids to learn and live on their own terms is a positive trend in our society, one that will gain momentum. We humans are designed to explore our world, to play, to learn, to create, to grow and change and learn some more. We don’t need to be forced, or told what’s important. By living our lives in community, we discover what we need to know.
Some of the key things I’m learning in my 40s, like how to follow my intuition without worrying about what the infamous “They” will think, are lessons these kids never forget to begin with. They tell their own stories. They make their own choices. They follow their bliss. Unless you’re taught not to, that’s just the natural thing to do.