Ted Talks, young geniuses, overwhelm and extreme admiration.

Ted Baby 

We as of yet have no self-sustaining organic garden, our kids don’t know quite how to fashion wooden spoons out of a tree nor how to stick then roast an organically farmed pig. They are not musical geniuses that we know of, yet, and they have not started their own companies at the age of eight, which they are now floating on the stock market. These are not our kids, our kids may end up doing all those things who knows but right now, they don’t.

Now this is such an interesting topic for me as I put myself on the line and question the way I show up all the time. I am tempted to help my kids be able to public speak, there is a part of me that would love them to feel that they could address a room at a Ted X talk on unschooling or even hackschooling. Why? Is that me or them? There is part of me I hate to admit, that is most likely a competitive parent. But then perhaps it is in our genetic make up, perhaps I should be more gentle on myself, perhaps that is how we have survived all these years, perhaps way back, when I was sitting in a cave with my loin cloth on and picking at my nits (no change there) my neighbour said to me said ‘Ooh you think that the rabbit that your children have caught is big? Look what my little Johnny got for the pot, he is so good at hunting!’.

There are stories of kids who are  blacksmiths at the age of 14, have become pop stars, (ok if you just clicked on that maybe she is a bit of an exception, this beautiful girl is from a very famous family) There are kids that have their own have their own companies like this amazing young lady. Our friends kids learnt to play the accordion in three weeks (I have had a concertina for 20 years and I play it how I played it 20 years ago, badly) I do believe kids fly given the tools and the support, I really do.

But another question I ask, and I ask this from a mother’s point of view, is how do you know when you are doing the right thing, nurturing the right interest?  When Ken Robinson does his wonderful talks on creativity he often mentions how the mother’s took their kids into a sport’s gym and then everything changed from that moment on, the child’s life completely transformed. Or he would say something along the lines of, she was there with her mother. She took her to see a specialist, who saw that when they stepped out of the room the young girl was moving to the music and from then on she knew she was a dancer and she became one of the world’s best choreographers. There are often these magical instinctive mothers in the background being witchy and supremely clever and generally getting it perfectly right.

So that leaves me with the feeling of erm oh er, overwhelm…

Then the other question I ask is, what is this getting it right bit? And I quiz myself do I show off my children’s acheivements and show that I think we are getting it right because I want to prove to the world that kids learn brilliantly without school? Possibly.

If I were sending my kids to school and was really interested in unschooling or home schooling would I be totally put off and intimidated and a bit bored by all the posts out there that say how incredible and successful unschooled children are?

We stepped out of traditional education for many reasons but one of the main reasons was the constant competition, tests, scores, pressure and it is interesting to me to see that it seems that it can show up also in the world of unschooling and home schooling but maybe it has just mutated…

Then I wonder how my kids feel when I show them a video of an incredible child doing something, well, incredible. I asked them and they said ‘It makes me want to do amazing things’ ‘It is inspiring’ and ‘I like it’ so they don’t seem to have a problem with it. I see the brilliant kids and parents out there doing their amazing stuff and I also know that it is wonderful when they shine, all kids shine to me, so I say, ‘Shine on kids, you are our inspirations’.

But maybe the most important question that I would ask myself as a parent is, how can I best help my kids be fully themselves and happy with who they are in the world however they show up. Hopefully in this way all the answers will fall in to place and their lives will unfold exactly as they should.

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About the Author

Lehla is an illustrator and an author of books, she has written for The Guardian. She trained as an actress at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She wrote The South African Illustrated Cookbook, The Lovely Book for Wonderful Women and she illustrated a kid’s book by M.J. Amani called ‘Excuse Me, I’m Trying to Read’ and also ‘I am Me, You, Us and We’ by Caroline Trowbridge. Above all she is a mother to three fast growing kids, she juggles her time between them and working on new books and projects. She has recently co authored with Anthony ‘Jump’, Fall, Fly – from schooling, to homeschooling, to unschooling’ Her art work can be seen at http://lehlaeldridge.wix.com/lehla-

12 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Elissa Joy says:

    Great questions and awareness.
    Since when did just being a kid learning and doing things kids do stop being good enough?
    I unschooled my kids until last year. (I have 4 ages 11-26) and when the two youngest started going to regular school… All of a sudden family members (like grandparents ans aunties and uncles) were asking how school was and impressed with their results. They kept commenting how ‘proud ‘ they were of the girls’ achievements
    Wow.
    So many mixed emotions around that.
    But.. Truth is..that even though we have kids who are being unschooled or homeschooled… They are being measured by the same standards outside the house to a certain. Degree.
    And it is hard to quantify growth when you are a kid learning. Once they learn to read..let’s say..it is no longer a milestone to be admires that they are reading different books.
    But the external comments are not why you chose this path for you and your kids. It is something bigger than that…. 🙂

  2. ellenrowland says:

    Thanks Lehla for another great post. I was giggling at your opening examples. I think you’re right that there is a fine line between “star” kids who might inspire our children and show them that the sky is the limit and holding them up to those standards which may translate into pressure to “succeed.” I still want external validation for my kids, because I believe they deserve it. I can’t help it. I think it’s only human. I struggle with this all the time. but it’s my problem, not theirs. I think it’s ok to include the examples of unschooled kids who do “extraordinary” things, especially if they are leaders, as long as our own kids feel from us that they don’t have to follow. XO

  3. Hi Ellen,
    The opening examples are not meant to be a huge dig at the alternative self sufficient unschooling community but you got my point about how it is easy to create like you say ‘star kids’ I am guilty of it myself I tried to teach the kids the word onomatopoeia when they were about 4! (like they would need that word…) And what is worse I took a photograph of it and probably posted it on Facebook, it was all about me and not them! I love what other people do out thier with thier kids, I really do and however they show up. We have close friends who are wonderful and self sufficient and very much of the earth, it is beautiful to see, we are just different as a family, our vegetable garden was a shocker last summer!
    I am just curious as to how, on some days, I feel that competetion or validation thing cropping up. (about me, not them at all!) So I have to manage myself. Yes and I am aware that if I show them a kid doing a Ted Talk that they think that I am subconsciously setting some kind of bar for them aswell as inspiring them at the same time. But maybe it is just me as an adults who is being complex about it all, as they seem very excited whenever they see other kids talking about thier passions. It is an interesting topic. Oh and I love whittled spoons, I really do!

  4. Hi Elissa,

    Thanks for your comment.
    That is so interesting that when your kids were back in school your family could comment on how proud they were, it is complicated, as that is a huge validation. Am curious to know whether they validated your kids when they were unschooling? As an unschooling family, you will know this, the ‘achievements’ are so subtle and the learning comes in waves, it really does and it is for them to feel inspired by what they have achieved, no one else. But ultimately achieving some form of deep seated happiness is what I hope for our kids. Yes you are right, we are unschooling them because of something bigger, not for other people’s validation as to whether they are doing ok and keeping up within the system.

  5. Dave G says:

    enjoyed your post. as a public school leader i champion the many benefits a public school education offer…as a member of the larger global society, i champion the notion of choice! each of us, parents, have a choice to raise our children as we see fit, and since there isn’t a definitive finish line – there is no right or wrong. i want my students and own children to contribute to the world in a meaningful way and own their own learning. the world will impose measures along the way, unavoidable in my opinion, but those measures should not determine or seal your fate. they are simply a measure of a particular time, on a particular narrow standard. you can live a very fulfilled life as a product of public, private, charter, home-school, un-school, any other version that i neglected to mention, and/or any combination. there are plenty examples of each all around! keep writing interesting posts.

  6. Thankyou for your comment Dave, it is really interesting to read your words. I am pondering on what a fulfilled life is? It is that that I hope to pass on to our kids but in truth perhaps that is only something that they can do for themselves. Thanks for commenting on my post.

  7. Coletta Canale says:

    I love your honesty Lehli, refreshing as always. You said to me recently that your kids don’t let you get away with anything and you also, don’t let yourself get away with anything, in that you examine, prod and grapple with these deeply important thoughts. We influence people most profoundly by the way we live our lives, not so much by our instruction or words although that too, but mostly how we behave, how we ‘be’ and you are for sure, you and Ant, giving your children the best chance to be “fully happy with themselves in the world” to quote the lovely you! love Coletta

  8. Thursday says:

    Brilliant!! Thank you!

  9. Thankyou for your kinds words Coletta.

  10. Thank you for your lovely lovely words Coletta. x

  11. I love what you say here. ‘But the external comments are not why you chose this path for you and your kids. It is something bigger than that…. 🙂’ so true! Thank you.

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