Sep 15, 2021
Hello Everyone and welcome to the Rogue Learner podcast. My name is Jenna Reich and I am the host of this show. Today is going to be a quick episode where I may ramble. I’ll try to keep it relevant to SDE, but with no promises! The first thing I want to share is a bit about my daughter’s experience so far going back to the school system and my son’s new opportunities after moving Stateside. And since I’m doing a solo show, I also want to share a bit about my intersection between financial and educational freedom. For us, they are inextricably linked so I feel compelled to share how one leads to the other and vice versa - together they provide us with a powerful gateway to liberation. Essentially any time you rely on an outside entity or person to fulfill your most basic needs, you are putting yourself in a vulnerable position.
So, let’s begin with my daughter. For those of you new to the podcast or listening to the show out of order, I’ll give you a little of our backstory . We started unschooling at the beginning of the pandemic and at that time we lived in England. In the UK, there were strict lockdowns put in place almost immediately after we arrived and we spent close to 6 months in isolation. As you can probably guess, my kids weren’t able to experience unschooling as it should be, nor did they have the opportunity to make friends and build community. Both of which are essential to SDE, as you know from listening to my episodes with Peter Gray on the 6 optimizing conditions for SDE. That was episode 13 and 14 of the podcast. Anyway, we came to the conclusion as a family that the move to England was terribly timed and we needed to move back to a place where we had a support system already in place. We would have likely moved back to Germany, where we had been living for 6 years, but sadly unschooling and homeschooling are illegal there and we were not interested in rejoining the German school system. If you don’t know much about the German school system, let’s just suffice it to say that it’s not changed since its inception. None of us were keen on that and alternative schools were sparse where we lived. We ultimately decided to move back to the States, where we had been living prior to our time in Germany. Our son, who attends a global online school for self-directed learners, was pretty content with his schedule and talking with friends over Zoom calls and through video-gaming. However, it was evident that this type of learning environment, which we expect will continue for months and months, was not only less than ideal for our daughter, but it was making her sick. She was not living a full life and we knew it needed to change immediately. When we talked with her about it, she asked to go back to school and of course we supported her in that decision and agreed that being with people on a daily basis is necessary for her. There aren’t any self-directed learning centers in our area. I know other people must be in a similar situation, so I’m sharing this here in the off chance someone needs to hear this right now. Although I am completely aware of the fact that schools are oppressive and not well geared for original thought or creativity, I think parents need to evaluate decisions based on the overall well-being of their child. For us, and this may differ from you, my child’s mental health is far more important to me than the constant advocacy needed to fight for my children’s liberation while they’re in school. In fact, the more I read about emotional wellbeing and how it plays a significant role in one’s physical health, the more I realize that my #1 priority will always be emotional health. For some, that may mean keeping your child as far from a school as possible, but for others that may mean participating in some “school-like” settings and partnering with your child as they navigate the messed up systems in our society.
Let’s get to my daughter’s experience so far - the positives are that she has made many friends, she’s been able to express herself, she’s felt successful, she’s feeling challenged too, and she gets plenty of exercise. She also feels a sense of belonging. The negatives are that we are bound to a schedule, we have to pack a lunch everyday and it limits the food she can eat, she is being influenced by friends and teachers, some of which I can tell are oppressive and stereotypical beliefs and propaganda. I’m absolutely aware that there’d be more awareness and respect in these areas if she were to attend a self directed learning center or sudbury school, but we are working with what’s available to us. Luckily, we found a school with small class sizes, a remarkable community feel, and one with familiar faces.
My plan of action to combat this is through honest dialog and by challenging those beliefs and ideals together in our home conversations. “Why do you think that?” is a great opening question. Giving kids the opportunity to think about their beliefs and defend them is a great way to open up dialog. Our most important job is keeping her close, loving her fiercely and maintaining healthy attachment.
Two of my favorite authors who write about attachment and psychology are Gabor Mate and Gordon Neufeld.
In his book, When the Body Says No by Gabor Maté writes,
“Well-self-regulated people are the most capable of interacting fruitfully with others in a community and of nurturing children who will also grow into self-regulated adults. Anything that interferes with that natural agenda threatens the organism’s chances for long-term survival. Almost from the beginning of life we see a tension between the complementary needs for security and for autonomy. Development requires a gradual and age-appropriate shift from security needs toward the drive for autonomy, from attachment to individuation. Neither is ever completely lost, and neither is meant to predominate at the expense of the other.
Autonomy, however, needs to be exercised in a way that does not disrupt the social relationships on which survival also depends, whether with emotional intimates or with important others --- employers, fellow workers, social authority figures. The less the emotional capacity for self-regulation develops during infancy and childhood, the more the adult depends on relationships to maintain homeostasis. The greater the dependence, the greater the threat when those relationships are lost or become insecure. Thus, the vulnerability to subjective and physiological stress will be proportionate to the degree of emotional dependence.
I’m guessing you’re listening to this show because you want to support our societal shift in how we treat children because you, too, believe that their emotional wellbeing is going to determine the society we grow into. If you're interested in learning more about childhood experiences and how they affect your health later on, I encourage you to read the whole book. It’s an eye-opening read and gives credence to the unschooling lifestyle - one that seeks a balance between attachment and autonomy.
As Gordon Neufeld says in his book, “Hold Onto Your Kids”, Attachment is both a shield and a sword.”
He also says,
“The time we as parents and educators spend trying to teach our children social tolerance, acceptance, and etiquette would be much better invested in cultivating a connection with them. Children nurtured in traditional hierarchies of attachment are not nearly as susceptible to the spontaneous forces of tribalization. The social values we wish to inculcate can be transmitted only across existing lines of attachment.”
Connection is where it’s at. We are paying close attention to our relationship. At the moment, we see her thriving and our connection is strong which makes us all very happy. If that ever changes, we will discuss it with her and decide what to do from there.
As for my son’s experience at home; he’s still happy learning through clubs, bootcamps and playing video games. He watches a lot of YouTube as well. He started volunteering at our daughter’s school, helping out in the Pokemon club. In the club, he helps the other kids build their decks, calculate their damage, and explains the rules. He LOVES it! He’ll be trying out karate at the end of the month, but we’ve got a few back-up plans if he doesn’t enjoy it, like recreational swimming, tennis or handball, all of which he enjoys a lot. The one other thing we’ll be adding to his learning experiences is spending some time at my dad’s hardware store once a month, helping out as needed. He also hopes to build his own gaming PC with my dad’s help.
Just as I mentioned in previous episodes, this journey never stagnates. We are always ebbing and flowing and making small or big adjustments as needed, which is a great segue into the other topic I wanted to talk about briefly. The ability to make big changes in our lives has been a result of some intense effort on our part.
For over 3 years now, my husband and I have been working toward financial independence and it’s opened our world to incredible opportunities. Although we aren’t there yet (not even halfway), having financial security has provided us with the freedom to make some drastic changes in our lives. In order to live the lifestyle that most aligns with our values (unschooling included), we’ve had to change our mindset about money. Just a few years ago, we were both working full time and were living that 9-5, M-F kind of life - ya know, keeping up with the Joneses. Even though we mostly enjoyed our jobs, we realized most of what we earned, we spent on things that didn’t truly matter much to us at all. You know, new cars, better housing, new furniture, better technology, more vacations and fancier hotels. The more we made, the more we spent. I came upon a podcast at the end of 2017, that completely changed our lives called Choose FI. Essentially, and I’m really over simplifying this for today’s episode, but what they discuss on the podcast is how to save enough money so that if you didn’t want to work anymore, you wouldn’t have to. That sounded pretty dope to me, so I started listening and listening and listening. We were on a road trip to Italy and we had a 13 hour car ride ahead, so I tuned in that whole drive there and back. Over 100 episodes later and after regurgitating everything I learned to my husband, we began making some pretty drastic changes to our lives so that we could begin saving more than we spent. I quit teaching, we bought a house way below our means and stopped spending money on things we didn’t value. I became so passionate about it and was learning fast. Because it was so relevant to my life and my goals, I was willing to spend hours devoted to acquiring more information. I thought of nothing else. I read every book I could get my hands on. I mean, I learned about finance, something I thought I could never wrap my head around. And why? Because I wanted that freedom from the daily grind. I wanted to retire early with my husband and earn money doing things we loved - make our own schedules and stick it to the man. I wanted to make my own rules about what is important to me and what I want to spend money on. Guys, I went Rogue before I went Rogue!
Something I’ve discussed at nauseum on this show is how powerful self directed learning is. If you are motivated to learn something, by golly you’ll learn it! Anyway, fast forward to today and my husband and I are well on our way to early retirement. We don’t have a definite end date, because we are taking it one year at a time and adjusting our spending as our lives require it. For example, the move back to the States obviously wasn’t planned in our budget, but we made the decision based on our needs and feel so much freedom in knowing that if something isn’t working for us, we have the ability to change it. We don’t rely on that next paycheck. We have space to breathe. I want that for you all too. It will open up doors for you and your family.
The reason I tell you all this is because I know there are people out there thinking that this lifestyle isn’t accessible to them for financial reasons, but I challenge you to reconsider. Are there things in your life you spend money on that you could live without? Is there a way to reduce your spending on housing, car, or food? Those are the three largest expenditures for most households and reducing that spending can hugely affect your savings rate. The other reason I wanted to share this is because personal finance sounded really scary to me. I thought it was too complicated for women to understand! I can’t even believe I’m saying that now because I actually feel comfortable teaching others about it and I have shared my knowledge with friends and family who have benefitted from it. So, yeah, self-directed learning works. You can learn anything and so can your kids.
I have an interview coming up soon with a dad who is financially independent and I’m seeing a huge number of families on the path to FI or already there, who also choose to homeschool/unschool or worldschool. I notice that our type of people are looking for ways they can improve their lives and break free from conventional thought. With that said, I hope to bring you more interviews with people who have all of this in common. That is, if you want it! Let me know in the comments or come visit me on Instagram. You can also email me to let me know your thoughts at email@example.com.
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