This has been Thomas’ first year of homeschooling and Lillian’s third or fourth year. The style of schooling we follow is more like unschooling, interest based, or child-led learning. It’s definitely not traditional homeschooling.
Over the past several months I’ve had a couple of friends ask how homeschooling is going. Without any thought, I answered through my heart with this, “We are learning how to be kind humans and how to have healthy relationships.”
We are absolutely not memorizing dates and events, taking tests, practicing math facts, or anything like that. We are learning the ONE thing that I never learned and that no child is taught in a traditional schooling situation and something many kids are not taught at home.
Excerpt from “Real Love in Parenting” by Greg Baer, M.D. …
“It’s strange, don’t you think, that we go to such great lengths to instruct our children in subjects that most of them will never use ….. and yet we teach them nothing about the one subject – relationships – they will use every day?
Our children are not taught what human beings need most. They don’t understand how relationships work, and then we wonder why they become frustrated and angry. We wonder why they join gangs, why they can’t keep a job, why the jails are full, why more than half of all marriages fail, why people shake their fists at one another on the road, why children are abused and neglected, why relationships seem to come and go like falling leaves, why newspapers are filled with accounts of violence and war, and so on. There’s no mystery in any of this. All these things are guaranteed to happen when we don’t teach our children the basic principles of love and relationships.”
This is where I have placed my focus. Thomas and Lillian each pursue their own interests and I facilitate. I, by no means, have this figured out. I’m stumbling my way through it, trying to be mindful and conscious.
The core of what I teach as the facilitator of their learning journey is mindfulness, living spiritually from the heart, oneness, compassion, non-judgment, and unconditional love. I do this with a mixture of the words I use and my actions.
I am aware that the words I speak mean absolutely nothing when my actions do not match. And, that happens often. I am still learning. I share all of this with Thomas and Lillian. When I make a mistake, when I respond in anger, when I respond in an unloving way with my body language and facial expressions, I tell them I am wrong. I share that I’m doing the best I can and I am still learning.
So behind the scenes of the amazing walks and adventures we experience, there is much discomfort and rubbing of one another’s thorns while we figure this all out. I’ve decided it’s better to do this now, rather than waiting for them to get older. For then they will be around others who are not committed to loving them unconditionally while they make mistakes and figure it out.
What seems to also be happening is confronting, accepting, and letting move through me, unlovely aspects of my own childhood. Plus, unlovely aspects and habits I’ve learned and claimed as my own.
There’s also a great deal of dancing in the darkness and shadows of my own internal self-induced suffering. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? There’s one thing I know for sure, I wouldn’t have it any other way for this is what I came here to do.
Many times this means putting aside my own personal preference of wanting peace and quiet and everyone getting along, stopping what I’m doing, rolling up my sleeves, taking a deep breath, and being present with each of them as we work through an issue … And, most importantly, not taking anything that is said to or about me personally …. I’m still working on it …. I still don’t have it all figured out; yet, I’m a heck of a lot better than I used to be! 😉
Camilla See It. Share It. BE IT … Spread Love Everywhere You Go!
Wonderfully exciting news! My 15 year old daughter, Lillian Darnell’s book, Where Would You Fly and Other Magickal Stories will arrive soon. Be ready to enjoy the magick! Learn more and pre-order here.
I am facilitating a “Wild Child Nature” program once a week (or every other week) beginning May 25th to continue through Fall 2017 as there is interest. These sessions focus on connecting with nature, creativity, and imagination. Nature connection is about connecting people with nature through mind and body. Please visit this link for full list of sessions and to sign up.
Sessions to last from an hour to about an hour and 15 minutes. The sessions will be stand alone. Meaning you can come to all or simply as it fits your schedule. Cost will be a suggested offering of $15 per child, $5 per sibling and no charge for parents. Yet, no one will be turned away, so please join us if this speaks to you.
Thursday, May 25th, for the first session. We will begin at 10:30 a.m. at Virginia Foothills Park (near Geiger Grade and Brown Elementary School in South Reno). This session may be full already, so please let me know if interested. Age is completely open. If you think your child will enjoy this and benefit, then great!
The session will begin with a very short guided meditation and a short nature dance. From there we will move on to our topic of the day. The entire program has mindfulness as its core. These will be as fluid and organic as possible and intuitively driven so I might cover a different topic then I had originally planned.
First Program: Start Noticing Nature – Using All of Our Senses
Core of Class (Sampling):
Feel and smell the air
Notice the clouds and the trees
With eyes closed name every sound heard
Walkabout (Mindful Walking)
End with Circle Share
Each session will cover one topic such as a sit spot, nature journaling, using all of our senses, observing, writing, drawing, story telling, and sharing. These sessions are not solely for the kids. Parents are asked to participate and observe so that concepts can be transformed to your liking and weaved into your family life.
What this class will NOT be about: We will not be focused on proper writing and grammar, correct drawing styles, naming plants, animals, or cloud formations. However, if a child is extremely interested in a bird song, plant, or cloud; we will note that so they have the opportunity to research further at home.
So that we can get started on time, please register and pay using this PayPal link. Cost is a suggested offering of $15 per child, $5 per sibling, and no charge for parents. Yet, no one is turned away due to finances. Pay what you can and join us!
Camilla See It. Share It. BE IT … Spread Love Everywhere You Go!
Wonderfully exciting news! My 10 year old son, Thomas Darnell‘s book, Biggest Little Photographer has arrived. Be inspired! Learn more and order here.
This is a long post. So, I’m going to give you the take-away points right now:
Take Away Points:
Examine and question the way it’s always been done. Ask yourself, “Is that true? Do we have to do it that way?”
It’s okay to question others who have direct control over your child’s education or therapies
Observe and facilitate discovery for your child’s interest
Differences play a role in our given talent
Pay attention to your intuition
Trust and have faith in your feelings and ideas
“Teach” your child by modeling your beliefs and living your passions
It’s okay to do it differently
Have meaningful discussions with your child and ask for her input
Release guilt and self-judgment for not “doing” life like others
Share your passions with your child
Become a learner and discoverer with your child
Be inspired as your child shines as his unique self
(I originally wrote a version of “I Have a Dream” on the Different iz Good website in 2010. I was called to combine this with two other blog posts from 2011 into a new post with updated information. The updated information is in italics. There is a bit of repetition. I wanted to leave the original articles mostly in tact and this is the reason for the repetition.)
I do not claim to know the One Way, or One Size fits all approach to living a joyful, peaceful life. I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything. These are simply my thoughts to share for those with whom it resonates. xoxo
I Have a Dream
“Whatever you dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.” – Goethe
I have a dream of a world where people like my daughter Lillian Darnell, who have intellectual disabilities, genetic differences, chromosome abnormalities, are not pigeonholed into jobs that don’t reveal and let shine their uniqueness. Jobs that do not give them the opportunity to share their unique and different view of the world.
I have a dream of a world where those closest to these magnificent people and those who are entrusted to educate them shift their perception. A world in which we become aware of not what they can’t do or what they are doing wrong or different. A world where educators don’t attempt to make them fit into a cookie cutter system that is so archaic even “typical” kids don’t fit in.
**Update: As an example of the above, during an IEP meeting when Lillian was in the 2nd or 3rd grade, I was told of their concern that Lillian was still not drawing proportionate stick people. The first thoughts that ran through my mind were, “Are you kidding me? Why on earth would we be focused on changing something that is unique about her?” I explained to them that this was something unique about Lillian and very well may be part of the gift she is to share with others.” I told them they could stop being concerned about that.
Can you imagine what educators would have said to Picasso’s parents? “We are deeply concerned about the way he draws people? We cannot get him to draw proportionate stick people.” Please don’t misunderstand. I know these therapists and educators had Lillian’s best interest in their hearts. My perspective is simply different than their perspective.
**Update: A world where we question the way it’s supposed to be done as that’s the way it’s always been done. A world where we examine our own thoughts, ideas, and beliefs and ask, “Is that true? Does it have to be done that way”? A world where we let ourselves become learners and discoverers right along side our children.**
A world where we open our eyes and discover what they can do, what they are good at doing, and what they like to do. A world where we notice what excites them, what fuels their passions. A world where we take the initiative to mentor them to cultivate this, shape and mold it into a way for them to earn a living for themselves.
Whether that be working for someone else or . . . being an entrepreneur. A world in which we, and they, don’t feel guilty or wrong about using differences to their advantage in life. Our differences most likely play a role in our given talents.
**Update: I have since expanded this dream to include all children and people like my son, Thomas Darnell, who are high functioning, extremely bright, have a deep thirst for knowing “why” and are not okay with “because I said so” as an explanation, who are empathic, and greatly sensitive to the energies of others.**
“Each of us has a Different gift that lies within us. Some amongst us just need a little extra help in uncovering that gift so that we can share it for the benefit of the world. ” Camilla
Conventional wisdom says “do it this way, this is the way it’s always been done.” I am the type of person who questions conventional wisdom. I pause to think about whether the way it’s always been done is really the right way for me and my family.
Conventional wisdom says that the best path for Lillian is to attend traditional public school to benefit from what she’s entitled to according to federal laws and what’s established in her IEP. That worked for us through fourth grade, but it doesn’t work now. **Update** – Lillian is now in tenth grade by traditional school standards.
I simply believe with all my being that this young lady will not follow any conventional route in her life, or in her career. I believe she will be self-employed, and I don’t believe she will reach her full potential staying in a traditional public school. Of course, I will accept whatever career path she chooses, but for now, I choose us to zag instead of zig.
I’m not saying that we should always zag when others zig. But, that we pay attention when something inside us is saying, “not so fast there, find a different way,” or “don’t keep doing that.” We may hear these messages, but dismiss them due to doubt, fear, or lack of faith. As these messages spring from our heart, we find that we have invited judgments of our own and others into our mind telling us we are crazy for thinking that way.
**Update: I also believe Thomas will not follow any conventional route in his education and life. In fact, we don’t follow a conventional route as a family. I single parent Thomas and Lillian and have for the past 9 years. We haven’t owned a television since 2008.
We live in an 800 square foot, 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom condo. I haven’t used a microwave in 3 years. I hand wash our dishes. I value good quality food over the newest or designer clothing, shoes, cars, furniture, jewelry, or electronics; and I share that value with Thomas and Lillian. We go for many, many walks together. We talk about food, the differences in quality of food, and the ingredients in our food.
We read a lot. I thoughtfully choose the books we read aloud together and they choose their own books. We also have a movie night once per week using a projector and a Macbook Pro. These are also thoughtfully chosen and we have started taking turns choosing a movie from the selection I check out from the library. I share the books and movies as a reference for others in the Book and Movie Musings section.
Since Thomas was 1 year old we have been going to the library every 2 or 3 weeks. We live as a team rather than a dictatorship. Mostly, I am the team leader, yet I give them many opportunities to lead. We have letting go burning ceremonies every quarter. We continually talk about why we are here, what are our goals, how are we doing personally and as a family, we make gratitude lists, create yearly vision boards for each of us and one as a family, write “compliment” notes for each other, and we openly discuss and practice mindfulness and emotional connection. We are not typical … and we like it.**
I wrote this when Lillian was 10 years old. She is now 14 years old. I homeschooled her the year I originally wrote this. She re-entered school the following year and was there for two and a half years. Here’s a bit of the story on how that happened.
She has been “homeschooled” for the past year and a half. In January, without my having searched for it, the term unschooling and information about it kept coming across my awareness. After reading much about it, I realized I had been unschooling Lillian all along and just didn’t know it.
Lillian self leads her learning and discovery. I take the opportunity when it’s presented to facilitate that learning. She has always loved to write, draw, and paint. You can see that as far back as 2007 in the first blog we began titled, Pink Elephant Books. I knew even back then that she and I would author books.
Currently, she blogs on her own site at LillianDarnell.com. Her writing is becoming deeper and richer by the day. It has been magical to be a part of and watch her blossom. She is absolutely thriving by being allowed to focus on her passions and interest.
She loves tracking the weather and has loved it since probably about 2007 or 2008. When we need to know what to expect with the weather, we ask Lillian. If she doesn’t already know, she’ll look it up in less than 5 minutes. She says she has a weather sniffer nose and she can smell the rain coming and other weather conditions.
I share my enthusiasm and love of nature, photography, mindfulness, and emotional connection with Lillian and her brother, Thomas. And, Lillian has naturally become interested in these subjects also. Not because I sat her down and taught her the names of everything. But because she has witnessed me living it and my genuine love of these things. Thomas and Lillian love our walks and time spent outdoors.
Thomas sporadically blogs on his website (ThomasADarnell.com), posts items for sale that he has created, and is about to become a published author. He completed a 365 photo a day project that he came up with and decided to do on his own. That is being made into a book that I will co-author with him. Tentatively titled, “Grand Adventures of the Biggest Little Photographer”.**
(This next section was written in 2011 and a version of this later became the “O” Chapter in the, “D iz for Different” book.)
O is for Observe
“Most people see what is, and never see what can be.” -Albert Einstein
Observing, paying attention, being aware of the present moment. What’s happening, who you are with, are you having a conversation? Are you really being present for the conversation or are you thinking about all those bills that are due or what you’re making for dinner or what happened on the last episode of your favorite show.
How will we guide our kids, with special needs and “typically developing” kids, into a fruitful, joyful and peaceful future if we are not present for them? Observe their likes, dislikes, what are they good at doing, favorite hobbies and maybe they have topics or interests they seem obsessed with . . . the weather, the time, making lists, making a plan and sticking to it.
Observe these and then use these qualities to their advantage in life. They like these things for a reason. It’s not up to us to figure out why they like or don’t like something or why they are obsessed with a topic.
**Update: The very quality that we may find extremely annoying, could be the key to their joyful future. Let’s observe, be present and give them every single opportunity we can to blossom and use the special and unique gifts they have.
Stand back. Observe. Be inspired as their personality shines and they become their own person with the loving ingredients you have added along the way.
**LOVE OFFERING** If you find this content helpful, I invite you to toss a tip in the love offering bowl. With oceans of gratitude … Camilla ….
Dreaming, Zig Zagging, and Observing,
Camilla See It. Share It. BE IT … Spread Love Everywhere You Go!