Many years ago I sat at a campfire in the meadows of Northern California with my young daughter at a gathering of women and girls. We were listening to a gifted storyteller tell the story of “Sir Gawain and the Loathly Lady” (https://englishlanguagearts-progressiveacademy.wikispaces.com/file/view/sir+gawain.pdf). It was the first time I had heard the story, and I resonated with the message of what a woman truly wants in life. I recommend the story, but wish it could always be heard with the magic of that fire-lit night with my impressionable young one at my side. Many years later the message is still as meaningful as it has been throughout history, including the time of King Arthur…
What ‘woman’ has always wanted is her own free will, or free choice. I have spent a lifetime pondering the dreams and desires of women (and men), and have been fortunate to work with many families as a parent and throughout my teaching career. I think the issue of choice is always a factor in everything we do. Nations have risen and fallen over free will, wars have been fought, leaders have been inspirational, relationships have been forged and broken, and families struggle to find balance within the dance of choice.
As I write this our world is faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges… with the environment, politics, healthcare, the economy, human rights, and even simple civility. It is a time of year when people traditionally come together to face the long winter nights in many different ways in cultures all over the Northern Hemisphere. We celebrate what unites us, and hopefully work peacefully to address that which divides us. We gather round the table or the hearth, and we nurture family and friends. No matter what nationality, religion, race, or gender, we all love our children and want the best for them.
Around the same time my daughter and I heard the story of the Loathly Lady, my son and I struggled with elementary school choice. My choice was for him to attend first grade at our local public school, and his choice was to run after my van asking for me not to leave him there. Ultimately his choice won the day, but only after I spent weeks trying to help him feel more comfortable there. I realized I didn’t feel comfortable either, and thus our homeschooling journey began. This choice was met with criticism, questioning, denial, confrontation… and very little support. Our choice at this time began a long journey of discussions about schooling, lifestyles, parenting decisions, healthcare, relationships, values, friendships… It also led to the formation of our local alternative education model at the public school in our neighborhood, which I have led as the independent study teacher for twenty-three years.
After several decades of working with my own family and with countless other families as a homeschool consultant, I have seen people make choices on a daily basis. It starts when we are children ourselves, and then escalates into the teen years as we struggle for autonomy. We have choices about schools and sports, risks, college, relationships, travel, hobbies, careers, marriage, children…. If the choice involves family and children then we head into home or hospital birth, drugs or no drugs, vaccinations (if, and, or when), breast or bottle, co-sleeping or sleep training, attachment parenting or independence modeling, highly structured or laid back parenting, school or homeschool… and the list goes on! There seem to be volumes written on parenting styles and guidelines for raising children.
I would like to offer a forum where discussions about choice can be held within a space of respect, deep listening, and mutual appreciation for different points of view. One of the things that I have noticed over many years is that there is no “one” right way to live our lives or to raise our children. There are ways that in my opinion have more positive outcomes, and I always love to do my own research and share my views. However, I can honestly say that there are not always “right” answers… The many families that I have been blessed to work with have shown me this!
I have tried to live my life as openly, healthfully, and lovingly as possible. I have researched many different life philosophies and educational agendas. I have made many mistakes, and changed my mind often. Our lives as a family together have not been perfect, but they have been full of joy and full of honest discussion. We have had challenges and sorrows, but we have continued to strive, and learn, and grow together.
We have made choices about living as non-toxic a lifestyle as possible with our home and land. We have made choices about alternative healthcare and parenting. We have made choices about alternative educational models. Our children have gone to public and private school, as well as being homeschooled, doing independent study and study abroad. We are now enjoying the next generation as grandchildren are coming into our lives. I am filled with joy watching these amazing children find their way (and their parents find theirs…)
I feel called to share these observations in a broader way as I head into this next phase of my life. I hope to offer encouragement and support to others on their journey, and to share wisdom, ideas, questions, and most of all, choices to any who are searching and open to them.