Prior to homeschooling when my son was still in school, I often had to push him to get him to go to school or do his school work. I was concerned that pushing him constantly, and his resultant state of strong resistance, was teaching him that it was more important to disconnect from his feelings and do what he was told, than it was to follow his own voice. For our children to develop self-mastery and grow into responsible adults who are connected to their hearts, they need a combination of learning to listen to their innate inner knowing about their life path plus having guidance from wise compassionate adult mentors.
And to be honest, when I look around at how many adults I know who are pushing themselves through jobs they dislike just waiting for retirement, I can’t help by see a parallel between that experience and being taught as a child that you must push yourself through school whether you like it or not because ‘it’s the only pathway to success in future’. If we teach our children that they must do what they’re told because it will provide security and safety for some point off in the future, they will keep subconsciously repeating the pattern (e.g., for the youth—job opportunities; for adults—security in retirement). I’d rather teach my child to follow his inner voice from the start, so that he can practice that for a lifetime.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe kids need to learn the self-discipline to follow through and do some tedious tasks, but the difference is in whether the tedious tasks are in service to a core decision and path that is aligned with their own deep desires, or whether it is in service to someone else’s agenda that may or may not serve them in future. I value and want my son to learn how to listen to his own voice, emotions and his own body rhythms as a part of how he navigates his way through the world. It’s through this process that he learns to know himself, what’s in his heart, and find his courage to follow that path.
Here’s a modified version of an entry to my journal from last month about how my son’s current homeschool program is supporting him in this goal. I’ve removed some details about my son’s and other children’s experiences and shared with you a ‘general’ description of children’s experiences in these programs—to preserve the privacy of my son and other children.
I’m very grateful because I’ve become aware of another aspect of Wolf Kids that is so profound for keeping my son connected to himself. He can follow his own rhythm, and body messages, thereby staying connected to them and learning about himself, because there’s no punitive consequences for doing that. There’s no ‘time schedule’ that can’t be altered for him to deal with his own feelings and experiences. There’s no report card coming with 15 ‘tardy’s’ on it.
Recently, the Wolf Kids were scheduled to sleep overnight in shelters they had built. It’s a ‘personal challenge’ for each of them. Some kids challenged themselves to build their shelter by themselves and sleep alone, ‘going solo’; others chose to challenge themselves in pairs or small groups. The kids made this choice independently—they determine their own ‘edge’ and push it as much, or as little, as they feel ready.
The ‘personal challenge’ aspect is common to all of the programs modelled after Wilderness Programs created by Jon Young and Tom Brown Jr. The kids often experience some anxiety—some far in advance, others just in the 24hr prior. This may manifest as difficulty sleeping, agitation, or an unspoken need for a little extra comfort, snuggles, or closeness as the challenge draws nearer. The beauty is that the children are given space to pull back a bit when they’re afraid, and then proceed when they feel ready. Parents and mentors are on hand to support them in whatever decision they make.
In the morning as they prepare to set off, if the child’s rhythm is such that he or she goes back and forth while gathering courage to push forward on their challenge, that’s completely accepted. Some kids actually arrived late that morning because they had some last-minute fears, and needed some time to sit with their fear before regaining the resolve to carry through with their challenge.
My son went through some of this process on the morning of the sleepover, and eventually found his own courage, in his own time. I felt so relieved at being able to focus solely on my son’s needs, and his development as a human being, rather than worrying about whether he was going to be penalized for being late. We arrived late and the leaders not only accepted this—they understood. In a later conversation with the lead mentor, I was heartened by the depth of his understanding. He knows that to nurture that small flame of courage in each child’s heart, they need to be given time and space to find it on their own, while surrounded by adults who are available to say a comforting ‘it’s okay’ both when they pull back, and then again when they move forward—standing by for support regardless.
After the challenge was complete, my son and the other kids had that shining light in their eyes as they told their stories—the look and feeling that we get when we’ve dug deep within ourselves and accomplished something we weren’t sure we could do. It was a stark difference from when my son was attending school, and we could never get to that place of him finding that aspect inside of himself, because I was frequently pushing him to either get to school on time, or to meet some other outcome—finish assignments and homework. There was no space for his own rhythm, and no honouring of the learning that could potentially take place during this process. Thus, he was in an almost constant state of resistance.
As I’ve said in previous writings, when we push our children to do something, they begin to switch their focus from how they feel and their inner voice, to focusing outward and resisting us. This sets up resistance within themselves as well, making it difficult for them to actually feel and know what they want. They lose track of their own ‘felt sense’ of what’s right for them during the conflict. This is amplified if they’re feeling some fear or anxiety, and we don’t acknowledge their feelings with empathy. Their fear gets ramped up. They’re feeling anxious and tentative in the first place, and then when faced with the combination of not being acknowledge/seen/heard in their fear, plus being pushed, they panic and resist. I have done this, and it not only set up resistance and disconnection within my son, it created constant conflict and heartbreak in my relationship with him.
If we want our children to learn self-awareness and self-mastery, giving them the time, space, and appropriate mentor (parent or teacher) support to find their own motivation inside of themselves to initiate and move forward when they’re scared or reluctant for any reason is KEY. It fosters the kind of self-awareness and intrinsic motivation that lasts for a lifetime—whether or not anyone else is looking or telling them what to do. It builds the self-confidence and “chutzpa” that kids need to have the courage to be themselves, and even change makers in the world.
I’m so grateful to have programs available in which the leaders are not only is okay with the children following their own rhythm, they understand that it is part of the process and journey to self-mastery. There’s no hint of anything in our conversation or when we arrive that indicates that ‘being late’ is a problem. He’s learning about himself, and this is his process. It will be honoured.
So my gratitude is because he’s able to follow his own rhythm, he learns that he can trust himself. I learn that I can trust myself and his decision. And I rest in the knowledge that the leaders will trust and honour his decisions, and support his emotional back-and-forth journey.
And today, because there was no resistance, he, and we, stayed connected through the whole process.
- What are your thoughts? How can we get integrate some of this to the publicly funded school system for the kids who need it?
- Do you have a child who is often resistant, either getting to school, or doing the work once he/she is there?
- Have you found some successful ways to support your child to navigate the system while honouring his/her inner voice?
As always, I look forward to hearing your comments or questions below, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Outdoor Spring Break Camps
Southern Vancouver Island
My son attended Wolf Cowichan homeschool program last spring and it was a life-changing experience. David and Tashmyra are offering Spring Break camps this year for the first time, and they sound great! Themes include safety in the outdoors, sustainability, sacred order of survival (shelter, water, fire, food), and building community. David and Tashmyra are super-skilled and experienced at mentoring and building connections with the students. I have the information on a Word document, which I’ll paste below. The program is from 9-3, 5 days per week, in the Duncan/Cowichan Bay area. Cost is really reasonable at $150 for the week. If you know folks in those areas who may be interested, please share. Alternatively, it’s easy carpooling distance from Victoria.
When and Where
Monday to Friday each week from 9-3. Bring a packed lunch
Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday at the Sacred Cedar Center on Boyes Road, Duncan
Thursday and Friday at Crowe and Appel in Cowichan Bay
Friday night celebration at Crowe and Appel in Cowichan Bay
Each 5 days will be a fully experiential practical and fun filled program- learning and playing, exploring, having adventures and making friends. At the same time the students will learn lifelong skills and create memories of adventure, fun and connection to the natural world.
Day 1 & 2 – Lost proofing and wilderness survival – through games and activities
* How to be safe in the great outdoors
* How not to get lost and what to do if it happens
* Practice the ‘sacred order of survival’ – shelter, water, fire, food – even if you have no equipment (make a survival shelter and clothes, purify and find clean water, make fire by friction, find and prepare food in the wild)
* Create a survival pack to always take when you go into the wilderness
Day 3 & 4 – Creating a natural village community – through games and adventures
* Create a long term camp in the natural world
* Plan and design shelters, clothes, tools and food sources
* Preserve and prepare food
* Working together acknowledging all contributions and skills of each community member
Day 5 – Celebration and feast – preparing a celebration and meal for parents and family to take place on Friday night. Please register by emailing email@example.com or calling 250 732 1175 or 250 748 0020
Limited space in two groups . Ages 7-10 and Ages 11-14
$150 per week. Two weeks for $275. The second week students go deeper into the skills and to the next level with comfort and connection to the wilderness.
For more info about David and Tashmyra, and their programs, see website.
On another note, I’ve been quiet on the blog front over the winter, but have had my head down writing intensively. Stay tuned for more posts over the next while, and even a youtube video or two!
I wish you and your families a Happy Spring!