Friday, February 25, 2011

Slow Travelling, Unschooling and CouchSurfing

I love the internet.

It has presented me with amazing friends, some really radical (for me) ideas about faith and transparency and how to live low impact in some ways and ultra-high impact in others, about the birth of Jesus and the fate of earth in the face of sun flares...and the list goes on and on.

Recently, my wanderings through the internet introduced to an amazing blog/podcast called Raising Miro. It is the life story, as it happens, of a woman named Lainie and her son Miro (who is now around 11) as they travel the world together. In her words:

I am Lainie, mother of a beautiful soul named Miro. By the time we left on our journey, he was 10 years old. I have been entrusted with the responsibility of his well being, welfare and eduction and it is truly an honor. His presence in my life has been the greatest gift of all and he has given me the strength to follow inspiration.

The inspiration is simple;
Let’s live a simpler life.
Let’s experience the world.

Let’s reconnect with what really matters.

As I sit here writing this, we have been traveling for 10 months. However the process of preparation started much before that. I invite you to follow along as we support each other on the road of life, as my son keeps me present and I continue to do my best to Raise Miro.

Lainie has chosen to educate her son by slow travelling around the world, experiencing each country as a "local," eating what the locals eat, living where they live, and by providing as many experiences as can possibly handled through exploration of the world. I find the idea delicious and exciting and utterly amazing. What a way to raise a child...

He's definitely learning important life skills: They live on a very small budget (money skills), they EACH post blog entries and pod casts (communication and technology skills, as well as learning to be genuine and forthright), cook with local ingredients in home kitchens (math, reading, following instructions, etc),and serve in the communities of which they find themselves a part. They meet, befriend and at times live with those of a vastly different culture and often language. I am utterly fascinated.

Lainie is one of a growing number of people who espouse the concept of Unschooling (at times called radical unschooling), where, experiential learning is favored over curriculum learning. This kind of learning places a heavier responsibility on the parent to provide guidance, advice and enriching experiences. Again, an utterly fascinating concept - not so much that we all need a pre-defined body of knowledge, but rather that we need to learn to learn, that we need to be taught to think critically and with purpose, that we need to focus on literacy and curiosity and experiential learning, rather than rote memorization and test scores.

As the college-educated daughter of a public school teacher and an engineer, it would seem I'm an odd candidate for thinking Unschooling is a viable alternative. BUT, I've come to see much of my own education not as the things I learned in classrooms, but more the things I learned having relationships, reading books, and experimenting with ideas and concepts along the way. I'm nearly famous for saying that college wasn't about my degree, but about learning how to be an adult in the world. (sometimes badly and sometimes to great success)

I know I grew up keenly aware of where "the mark" was and always knowing how close (or far away) I was from it. Its interesting to consider what might have been different if my learning experiences had been different. Sitting in a highly organized world with lots structure and rules and any number of other highly educated people of a similar background around me, I'm in a particularly luxurious position to consider such things. I have nothing to lose with the thought of it. So...take that for what its worth.

I understand that my conventional education was invaluable for me getting started in the world. I understand equally that my husband's lack there of has made life unnecessarily difficult for him. Why? Because people judge you based on your diploma (or lack thereof) and give little heed to your actual skill set. I know my husband is brilliant about the things he wishes to make a business out of, but there are those who want the piece of paper to "prove" he's "qualified."

The world, however, is changing. In many places, where you graduated, or the fact that you even did, doesn't hold the same power as it once did. These days experiences reign supreme when looking for employment, when finding a career that brings you joy and fulfillment in addition to the paycheck. Its becoming a world where Miro's experiences will give him an advantage over his conventionally raised peers.

One other thing that Lainie and her son are a part of is a growing number of people called Couch Surfers. This isn't your destitute college buddy's Couch Surfing, people. This is now a way of life for some people. A way to see the world and expand their relationships and experiences. There is a non-profit network of people, neatly organized and verified, who either couch surf or provide couches to surfers as a means to create positive experiences through relationships with those from another country, culture, language, etc. You can read some more about on the CouchSurfing Website.

Again, I find this utterly fascinating. I have to admit - there is a fear factor here for me...dragging my kids into a situation where I don't know who it is they are going to be meeting. BUT I'm terribly intrigued about the prospect of it all...

So...what do you think about these radical ideas?

Slow travelling the world with your children over a period of years as a means of education?

Unschooling - radically disconnecting from the notion of a core necessary body of knowledge and teaching children through life experiences?

Couch Surfing - literally travelling the world on other people's couches?

Let me know your thoughts... I'm curious.

Peace, ya'll.

PS...Jackie, if you are reading this, you knew I'd get to these kinds of thoughts someday, didn't you?


shaina said...

i am completely fascinated and intrigued by the idea of unschooling. back when chris and i were thinking of having children i did a lot of research on it and believe that it is definitely how i would approach things. i'd be interested to see how it influences your life with your children. thanks for sharing these stories and resources.

Lainie Liberti said...

Thank you so much for featuring us on your blog post! We are honored. My son and I also research the history and culture of the places we visit and share the info on our podcasts, along with an interview either my son Miro conducts or I do. Thanks to the internet, we have a traveling library with us at all times!

Again, thank you for the feature and I look forward to creating community with you and your readers as well.

Love & light,

ssamee said...

The test of Life does not appear on paper nor does it have anything to do with filling in the correct answer on a bubble sheet. These standardized formulas are simply a series of 'hoops' which have been culturally designed to measure how sufficiently One has been conditioned into and within various knowledge forms.

The so-called educational experts apparently can no longer see--and I mean truly see-beyond the compulsory measures they have establish to serve as witness to their idea of what it means to be educated. Unfortunately these 'experts' cannot seem to make the distinction between what it means to be highly conditioned into a closed set of ideas and what it means to be highly educated into an open set of ideas.

Yes, it may be well and good to teach children the collective means by which a certain group perceives the definitive ends of an expressed cultural reality, but to truly achieve a holistic measuring of such an Understanding suggests an interrelation amongst the various people and not simply a relationship with standardized information about various people.

People can think they know a 'this' or a 'that'. But thinking you know is still thinking. Knowing--actual knowing--demands much more than passing another paper-driven informational test.

Bravo to Lainie and Miro for taking on the challenge of meeting Life on its actual, unschooled--hence unformed terms. May their experiences bring new form and expression to what it truly means to be educated!

Sashya Sharone Amee