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Home Education Magazine

March-April 2003 - Articles and Columns

Unschooling and the Art of Running - Ren Allen

I stepped out for my morning run today, air heavy with the scent of honeysuckle, and began the usual three mile loop through the city streets. As the sweat dripped into my eyes and my lungs pulled oxygen from the thick, humid day, I began to reflect on this journey called unschooling, and how it's affected my entire life. Yes, even the morning run. What does running have to do with unschooling? Besides the obvious fact that I am following a passion and living the life of my choosing, here's how unschooling has affected even the more remote corners of my world.

A typical morning run takes me through a racially mixed neighborhood. Insignificant in and of itself, but I have noticed some things. I wave hello to every person I run past, usually shouting -Good morning!? with a goofy grin on my face. A few people stare at me, no expression on their faces or maybe even a look of annoyance. It seems they are void of much joy in their lives or possibly they are prejudiced, (which is the thought that most often enters my mind).

In times past, this fear of rejection, the thoughts of prejudices may have caused me to end the waving and smiling. No longer. I refuse to let fear in any form motivate my behavior. The way I see it, those are the very people who might benefit in some small way from a friendly greeting.

By not being fearful, by letting joy be the mantle I wear, I have gathered some gems along the way-some friendly people who always have something to say as I pass. Often a gentleman sitting on his porch shouts -Too slow! Too slow! C'mon!? I always speed up a little, just for him. Or the smiling newspaper guy up at the intersection. His gray beard can't hide the sweet smile underneath or the happy crinkle of his bright blue eyes. He must not own much in a material sense, judging by his clothing and occupation, but this world hasn't robbed him of his joy. He has asked my name. I have run-by conversations with him consisting of a greeting and a couple of sentences before I'm past and on my way up the next street. I have the feeling I should stop one day and really talk to him, learn about his life. I'm sure he has much wisdom to share. Perhaps not, but the look in his eyes makes me wonder.

This feeling of being driven by joy, of not allowing fear to motivate, all stems from my unschooling epiphany. When one learns to trust, to quit fearing the future, fearing that children may fail or what others think, it opens the door to a deeper peace and joy. When joy is the motivation for behavior, unschooling becomes second nature. I really believe now when a person is having a hard time coming to unschooling, some level of fear is involved. Fear serves a purpose, but it can't be the decisive factor in the choices made for creating a meaningful life.

The tentacles of my unschooling philosophy are spreading, reaching deeper into all layers of my beliefs. I no longer base the way I live on some fear of what tomorrow may bring. An imagined future won't help me glean the joy of today. A Cherokee proverb I love says, -Have a vision not clouded by fear.? As I embrace joy, embrace the freedom only unschooling can give, it has the chance to affect others in ways I may not be aware of.

Nelson Mandela said, - we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.? If this is true, then our children will not have to wrangle the fears we did. Liberated from the belief that they must do what others tell them in order to be a success in life. Liberated from believing there is one right way to do most anything. Liberated. To be who they really are, follow their hearts, explore the world on their terms and prove that a life worth living must be lived in freedom. Love will be the motivation, not fear. My children don't have to spend their childhoods enduring, preparing for an imagined future. They can live for today-that's all any of us really have anyway. They will have faith in the future because they are living today to the fullest.

Let others have faith in their fear, not I. As I run these city streets I will remember the Zen saying, -The world is like a mirror, you see? Smile and your friends smile back,? and I know I'll find friends out there. Just as I must be the one to smile first to find the friends, unschooling can only happen if I trust first. Smile, trust, love and wear joy as your mantle. All the things we need, all the people we are meant to find, will be there.

2003 Ren Allen


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