River, narrow but deep, clear blue water, the current moving me. I am carrying something, a small highly conscious being, like a small child but more the size of a tiny monkey, that I have saved, or rather it has saved itself by attaching itself to me. Before, I was watching the being save itself by grabbing onto this human, now I am this human.

We are being followed, by people who do not mean us well. On our left is a high bank of smooth rock with round outcroppings but most of these are impossible to get a hold on. But I know where I can get up and I climb easily. I have no fear of the pursuers.

Now I am searching for a place to hide. They are coming. My people are gone, captured or escaped, I don't know which. I will it to appear, this scoop in the rock where I fit my body and that of the being. I fear for a moment that it won't be quiet enough, but it understands when I put my finger to my lips. I have glimpses of the intruders, but they do not see us. I feel safe here but know I cannot leave. I know they will post a lookout for some time, to wait for me to appear. We stay there, drinking water from my flask, for many days.

They are here again. I see them coming, barely in time for me to squeeze under a wooden platform, soft dirt beneath me. It is not a very good hiding place. Strangely, they have children with them, and one of them comes to play. The children are not my enemy. One looks under the platform, sees me, and I whisper urgently that she must not let them know that I am here. She agrees. She is not afraid of me. But then another child comes and sees me and calls to them. I leap out and run into the forest. I am too fast for them, and I know the forest better. They do not follow for long.

From And the skylark Sings With Me by David Albert:

Where we differ from some homeschooling families is that their main objectives appear to be to protect their children by narrowing the range of available experience. As parents, we too strive to protect our children, but frankly we never apprehended the school system as a threat to our children's innocence or understanding. If anything, we perceive the range of educational experience offered by schools -- starting with the segregation of children into age-bound classes -- as far, far too narrow.
Our vision of the perfect learning environment is a library, but like none we have ever encountered. The library would have books and videos and tapes and computer linkups, but that would be just the beginning. [...] There would be a vast exchange of skills, from basic mathematics to auton mechanics. There would be lending libraries of tools and materials, from carpenters' saws and hammers, to biologists' microscopes, to astronomers' telescopes. [...] There would be large gardens and orchards, staffed by botanists and farmers, where students could learn to grow fruits and vegetables, and home economists who could teach their preparation and storage. There would be apprenticeships for virtually every kind of employment the community requires.
Now that is something I would be happy to put my tax dollars toward. That is something useful: and what it is, simply, is opportunity. Rote learning of subject matter uninteresting and not relevant to the learner is not opportunity, it is a waste of time and resources, a monstrous one when it goes on year after year after year.

I disagree with him, however, when he says, "[...]all users, both children and adults, would be required to contribute time (not just tax dollars) to the library's success." That is where it would fail. Because once something becomes a duty, even more so if it's mandatory, an entirely different energy gets brought to it; it loses its vitality, its goodness, its truthfulness. I'm guessing it would not be unlike... school.

Last night I was at a gathering of unschoolers, and a young girl related to us how much she's always enjoyed writing, that it's easy for her and she's good at it. She said that the words just fly out of her. But recently she's been taking classes, to work toward her dream of a certain vocation that requires certification and therefore degrees, and in one of these classes she is being given writing assignments. She related, the dismay plain on her face, how suddenly writing had become unpleasant, difficult, and worst of all inauthentic.

Who hasn't had that experience? That something, good for its own sake, was robbed of its integrity because somebody said, "you have to"?

Two stories.

Over Christmas Rowan received a "craft kit" with lots of little pieces. As she started to open it up to get a closer look at everything, the person whose house we were at, and who I suspect didn't want lots of little pieces getting strewn around, said nervously, "You'd better ask your mom about that... ." Before I had a chance to reply, R said blithely but reasonably, "Oh, it's my present," as if the person was simply confused as to whom the present belonged. Because why else would someone act as if another person didn't have the right to do with her gift what she wished?


I've been organizing. R has a lot of clothing that she has grown out of or just won't wear, so I was asking her what we needed to weed out. She pointed to a couple of things that I love, and I said, "Oh, but these are so cute!" "No," she said, "they don't feel good, and besides they're too big." Cajoling, I said, "But maybe once you've grown into them you'll change your mind." She paused as if to consider whether I had a point, then said brightly, "Mama, you can have them!" She'd figured out that the issue was really that I was attached to the clothes, so clearly the solution should be that I should keep them for myself.


Both times her reaction delighted me. This is not the reaction of a person who has learned from past experience that she is supposed to indiscriminately regard older people as authority figures and to interpret their interactions with her as something to be defensive or annoyed about. I was delighted because I immediately had a vision of how she might have reacted instead, how I've reacted, how I've seen so many people act, and I was struck by the meaning in the difference. She is innocent of those things because her personhood has always been respected and protected. She didn't try (didn't feel the need) to fight, either time. She was simply reasonable. Such a simple, seemingly small thing. Yet it is exactly how a peaceful life is made, and what it is made up of.