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Pearls of Wisdom from JacQuie Ward
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Chicago homeschooling mother of Taylor 13, DaryleMarie 11, and Forrest 7 years old.

Jan/Feb 2004 Vol 1/Issue 1

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I have been homeschooling since 1991 (less the two years that my son attended kindergarten and first grade). In my journey from being married to single parenting, from homeschooling to unschooling, I have discovered very little substantive difference in my experiences versus the experiences of other un/homeschooling mothers. I have no particular credentials to make my testimony or experiences any more or less valid than yours. My only desire is to share with you some of the things that I have learned in our twelve years of educating ourselves.

Establish a strong bond early on. According to Stephan Rechtschaffen, M.D., founder of the Omega Institute and author of the book Timeshifting, "everything moves in rhythm...the blood pumped by our heart along with the organs muscles and sinews nourished by the blood move in rhythm. Entrainment is the process by which these rhythms fall into synchronization with each other."

One of the singularly most important discoveries for me was that in societies where some form of "attachment" parenting is practiced, children grow up less emotionally needy and with a higher degree of self esteem. In a study comparing parenting styles, the single most determining factor for healthy emotional development was the degree to which the children were held or "worn" during the first three months of birth. In one community in particular in West Africa, children were literally worn for the first three months after birth -- considered the fourth trimester. These children tested well off the scale in terms of emotional maturity relative to their counterparts years later.

I took heed of this report and when I gave birth to my first child I "wore" him -- even showered with him when I had to. Later when my daughter came along, I wore them both, attaching one to my front and the other to my back at every opportunity for the first three years. This served the dual purpose of creating intimacy and also keeping them out of my way while shopping or doing chores.

The benefits for our family were that we all became "entrained" in both thoughts and action. The result of listening to my heartbeat all those years, translated into a synchronized group rhythm that people tell me is amazing to observe. By the time my third child was born, my older two were so entrained to my rhythms that they automatically started "indoctrinating" him to the family dynamics (with varying degrees of success). Even now, at the ages of 13, 10 and 7 they continue to be almost preternaturally synchronized with each other. I sense degrees of this same phenomenon in many unschooling families who have shifted from the rhythm of society to some internal family or group rhythm.

Build a community. As a single parent, it became obvious to me that I needed extra support and that I could not be all things to my children, something that couples are sometimes slow to realize. In his book The Wonder of Boys, Michael Gurian, Ph.D. notes that boys in particular need a tribe. This tribe should consist of three layers of "family." The first family is of course the immediate family; the second family, one of friends and relatives to create alternative safe places for kids to go and; the third family should be comprised of people from community based institutions such as schools and community programs.

My community institution is our homeschooling association. Comprised primarily of African-American families, we have formed a solid network of alternative safe places for our children. In addition, I have surrounded my children with plenty of male role models, a community of men from doctors, investment bankers to laborers and even ex-cons. Their pediatrician, tennis coach, swim coach, music teachers -- all men who hold up to and reflect back to my children what they should (and sometimes should not) aspire to.

Learn to Bend time to your own ends. Time as we define it today, is an artificial construct created to accommodate the rhythms of a post-industrial, corporate driven society. Up until the turn of the 20th century, with a few exceptions, agrarian societies, including our own, measured time by the position of the sun and the changing of the seasons.

Former Catholic friar and noted author Thomas Moore notes that "...time is a fantasy, part of the imagination of experience, and not something that can be fully measured and explained with reference to a clock or calendar."

Out of necessity, I have learned to slow down, to synchronize myself to the natural rhythms of the earth. I have forced the world to match my pace and that of my children rather than the other way around. I catch myself when I exceed the speed limit or hurry others impatiently at stop signs and lights. I have learned that I always get "there" when I need to be there and 99% of the time at the prescribed hour. I joke that I have the ability to manipulate time and space, but in truth this is so. For while on one hand, I have to respect the fact that we are all tied to this post industrial concept of time, at the same time while moving through the day I am "bending" time and space as I prepare myself mentally and physically to honor both my internal rhythms and the time dimensions of others.

Finally I have learned to trust and have faith in my children and their ability to chart their own paths. They are born with an innate sense of their own destinies that is beyond our perceptions and experiences. As Kahil Gibran notes in The Prophet:

Your children are not your children. They are the lifes longing for itself. They come through you, but not from you. You may give them your love, but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies, but not their souls; for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow which you cannot visit, even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

Jan/Feb 2004 Vol 1/Issue 1