perjantai 12. kesäkuuta 2009

A few links

As I ponder where to take this blog and what to do with it I read material about unschooling.

My new guru is Dayna Martin, who has been on the Dr. Phil show to exemplify unschooling and has posted some videos about unschooling at youtube. Her site is Unschooling America. Her blog is also really interesting and full of life, at Sparkling Martins. She has been invited to be the keynote speaker at the first European unschooling conference, held in London in July. I'm seriously envious of this lady with her 4 shiny children and an adventure-filled life...

I also found a nice post about unschooling food, which is very close to the overcoming overeating approach to eating and feeding children.

keskiviikko 27. toukokuuta 2009

Naomi Aldort interview

I found a great interview Naomi Aldort did with another blogger at Mother Rising. Enjoy! 

tiistai 28. huhtikuuta 2009

More Naomi Aldort in the internet

Yesterday I discovered that Naomi Aldort offers a forum for everyone interested in discussing Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves. The address is

There is a hidden gem: a section that contains links to Aldort's articles in Life Learning magazine and some other articles at 
I've really enjoyed reading the articles.

lauantai 18. huhtikuuta 2009

from book Trauma and Recovery by Judith Herman

I've bought this book a while back, but yesterday I actually read some of it for the first time. 

The chapter 5, "Child abuse", hit home. It describes rather accurately how my life has been, what kind of a struggle and anxiety I've experienced. Most of the writer's examples are very extreme and deal with sexual abuse, but the structure of the experience is similar. 

Some quotes that I feel describe my life well: 

"The child trapped in an abusive environment is faced with formidable tasks of adaptation. She must find a sense of trust in people that are untrustworthy - - Unable to care for or protect herself, she must compensate for the failures of adult care and protection with the only means at her disposal, an immature system of psychological defenses." 
It's just this week that I realised that I was trapped in a traumatic environment as a child. I understood that trauma comes from a situation you can't flee from or fight in, that's where I was at. I had to freeze, and my mind did whatever it could to keep me from cracking. Too bad that I now see that fulfilling all expectations and being so nice meant that the other adults around me had an excuse to think that I was okay. If school goes okay (even though you're bored out of your mind and anxious..) your environment must be okay, you don't need protection! A variation of the theme is my intellect, and how I've been met by others; there seems to be an assumption that if you're intelligent you can't be traumatized or seriously hampered in other respects. My life would be a lot better now had someone seen in what a horrible situation I was in and put a stop to it... 

"In addition to the fear of violence, survivors constantly report an overwhelming sense of helplessness. In the abusive family environment, the exercise of parental power is arbitrary, capricious, and absolute." 
I feel an overwhelming sense of helplessness close to all the time. And it is not only "a sense of" helplessness but a physical and mental freezing, of being immobile and incapable of action. 

"Adaptation to this climate of constant danger requires a state of constant alertness. Children in abusive environments - - become minutely attuned to their abusers' inner states."
I've learned to always have my brains 'on', and to scan my environment, and to be conscious of what others are experiencing. I guess that I'm also empathic by nature (as described by the writer of The Highly Intuitive Child), but that has been made into a frozen defensive structure by the traumatic environment I was in. The reason the attunement happens is to try to gain control by doing exactly what is expected. 

"- - while in a constant state of autonomic hyperarousal, they must also be quiet and immobile, avoiding any physical display of their inner agitation. The result in the peculiar, seething state of "frozen watchfulness" noted in abused children." 

"These children double and redouble their efforts to gain control of the situation in the only way that seems possible, by "trying to be good"." 
Trying to be good does not mean trying something considered good, but doing whatever it is that the abuser (parent, sic) expects or would not get angry about. Which is of course impossible to predict, and a responsibility no child or person should ever have to take. 

"The social lives of abused children are also profoundly limited by the need to keep up appearances and preserve secrecy. Thus, even those children who manage to develop the semblance of a social life experience it as inauthentic." 
I wasn't conscious of this, but I remember suffering with the inauthenticity of my "family". My parents pretended to be normal around others, but were violent and grossly ignorant/negligent whenever others weren't around. I learned to hate the dichotomy. 

"When it is impossible to avoid the reality of the abuse, the child must construct some system of meaning that justifies it. Inevitably the child concludes that her innate badness is the cause." 
I'm sure that I have this. Nowadays I notice that my body (where the trauma lies, I think) is wired for being punished and just surviving through horrible situations, not changing them or getting out of them.  I don't think that I invite retraumatization, I just don't really have the skills to lead an independent authentic life, at least not yet. 

"- - adult survivors - - continue to view themselves with contempt and to take upon themselves the shame and guilt of their abusers." 
I guess that this is where my unconscious attitudes are. I'm still thinking, on, all the time, using thinking as a defense. I think that I am valuble, and unique, and capable to live, but my body disagrees. I don't trust myself to take good care of myself, and when I look at my past there is no reason I would. 

" - - the child victim often becomes a superb performer. - - she usually perceives her performing self as inauthentic and false. Rather, the appreciation of others simply confirms her conviction that no one can truly know her and that, if her secret and true self were recognized, she would be shunned and reviled." 
I certainly see my past as fully inauthentic, and the child trapped in it really unloved and unlucky. 

"Abused children sometimes interpret their victimization within a religious framework of divine purpose." 
I used to have a fantasy that my life was a big scientific experiment. My parents, who both have PhDs in medicine, were forced to treat me with no love to see what would happen. Only when I was dying, in my death bed, would they pour out their love and explain the experiment to me. They were forced to treat me badly, it was not their choice. The truth is, obviously, that they just didn't care. I don't think that I ever took this fantasy for truth, it was just something that came to mind when I was approximately 10 years old. 

"Many abused children cling to the hope that growing up will bring escape and freedom. But the personality formed in an environment of coercive control is not well adapted to adult life. The survivor is left with fundamental problems in basic trust, autonomy, and initiative." 
I remember dreaming about being grown-up, respected and capable of taking care of myself. Too bad for me now that my body is ruined in ways that can probably not be fixed. I'm not sure if I have the willingness to live in this broken body now that I finally have the chance. 

"Almost inevitably, the survivor has great difficulty protecting herself in the context of intimate relationships. - - Her empathic attunement to the wishes of others and her automatic, often unconscious habits of obedience also make her vulnerable to anyone in a position of power or authority. " 
My physical disability would not exist had it not been impossible for me to defend myself in the context of a relationship. And I'm terribly terribly bitter. 

"Many survivors have such profound deficiencies in self-protection they can barely imagine themselves in a position of agency or choice." 

"Eventually, the defensive structure may begin to break down." 
This is where I have been for a few years, maybe. 

perjantai 17. huhtikuuta 2009

Unschooling resources

I found out about unschooling (not putting children to school and letting them direct their own life and learning) a couple of years ago, and finding it validated many thoughts I already had about school and raising children. It didn't take a lot of convincing for me to start to think that unschooling would be what I would have chosen for my life had I been given the opportunity and trust... What I could appreciate at first was the role that school had played in my life; it allowed adults around me to not notice how unhappy I was, took a lot of my valuable childhood time for meaningless tasks, and prevented me from learning what I would really have needed to learn. Only later I've come to understand the depth of compassion and genuine respect for children many unschoolers have that goes beyond not putting children through school, and what kind of freedom children benefit from in many unschooling families. 

I'm not really interested in defending unschooling; it just clicked with me when I found the idea, and my belief in its virtue has only become stronger over time. (I'm aware that unschooling is difficult or nearly impossible for people, especially in Finland, to manage.) There is a lot of well thought-out school critique out there, especially the books of John Holt and John Taylor Gatto, I believe, are worth checking out. (Not that I have read Gatto.) John Holt's books also give a fantastic perspective on how children learn, and what prevents children from learning to the fullest. Holt explains how children are willing to learn and already know how to learn things, why there is no such thing as "the basic skills" etc. 

For anyone interested in unschooling I would recommend reading the following sites:

When you've found out the basics, a fantastic place to hang out at is the shine with unschooling yahoo group. This group is filled with stories of *shine*, children and families being themselves and enjoying life. Occasionally someone posts a problem, and the group responds with a lot of wisdom and empathy. Many times I've felt moved to the point of tears reading the messages in this group. The founder, Anne Ohman, also has a wonderful joy-filled blog, and has written some interesting articles about parenting and unschooling. Her story about her older son Jake is just breathtaking, I wish that everyone had had such parents and understanding when growing up! If you only read one thing I almost wish it was that piece. Another brilliant article by her is about being highly sensitive and unschooling. 

Many unschooling families also have blogs that will allow you to take a peek at their lives. Some can be found for example in the unschooling photo blog ring

keskiviikko 15. huhtikuuta 2009

On throwing pillows from the sofa

Two days ago I went to the "official" birthday cake-and-coffee for my smaller little brother, who turned 19. My cousin's family with their 3-year-old son were there. He was very interested in the room that is full of (mostly my) old junk and overall being a happy curious child. 

What made me think was how he enjoyed throwing pillows from an old sofa. My brother tried to stop him, and to talk him into 'cleaning up' after himself, making him promise to put the pillows back on the sofa after he was done with them. It didn't work, and I didn't support my brother but I engaged with the boy's play, throwing the pillows back to him, laughing along with him. 

Later when the boy tried to go and throw some more pillows, his father stopped him, saying "no" and tearing him away. I'm left to wonder what harm he could've possibly done - mostly probably to the ego of the father who was maybe concerned with what we would think about his parenting skills? 

This is a perfect example of a situation in which just saying yes creates the space for joy. Maybe the father could have asked us if the pillows were valuable, or if there would be something less valuable to throw around? But he obviously didn't consider the experience and joy from throwing pillows valuable or "something to indulge". 

Small thoughts

I've been reading John Holt's Instead of Education, and that book too has both made me hopeful and incredibly sad. It feels so sad to notice that had my parents wanted to offer me a good environment they could've, there would have been resources out there. The contrast to what they chose to do is shuddering. 

One of those things they chose to do was to hit us. The instances I remember were all situations in which my intentions were misinterpreted, and where I was already feeling really bad due to not being understood or some other reason. Hitting us seemed just a way to use up emotion without feeling it for my "parents", and of course was the handy method they made sure that my authentic self was silenced. As a consequence I was "a nice, well-behaved girl", meaning, always afraid, always seeing what was expected, always unsure and unhappy. 

My "mother" told me a couple of years ago that she thought that I would forget what they did, implying that that would mean that it wouldn't have affected me. Why you would want your child to forget your influence as a parent is beyond me - how can you have such low standards for yourself? A part of the reason is maybe that parenting is seen as something where conflicts with children are the norm, and there is very little understanding about the kinds of conflicts that are healthy and the kinds that aren't? 

The conflict there were "at my home", were not the healthy kind, but really usually meant my parents assigning malicious motives on us and punishing us (whether by hitting, not listening, ignoring our questions, etc) according to how they felt at the time. Our needs, emotions, and intentions were ignored. I hardly think there was any time my parents would just have been satisfied and happy to be parents, and accepting and loving us. 

However, as I was, it doesn't really matter if there were such times, because I never felt the love even if it existed. My parents were never around, but even when they were around they weren't present and loving, but distant, judging and violent. There was a really dangerous assumption at play; that in parenting it matters what you do the most, not what is the worst thing you do. I have to say that my parents passed the line of "sometimes acceptable parent behavior" frequently, what they did was so bad it should never happen. There is a concept of parenting nowadays in Finland, "good enough parenting" that I don't know much about (probably easing the guilt and stress of the image of the "perfect parent" is a good idea and allows parents to spend their energy on really becoming the parents they want to be).  This is what I want to point out - if you are bad enough even once the good things you do have no relevance. Your child will be afraid, insecure and unhappy all the time, because she is scared about you flipping out. There can be no trust, real learning, existing, happiness, because you are not safe for the child. 

I was always afraid of punishment, and I had no control over how my actions would be interpreted, so I learned to be anxious all the time. I learned that my parents harboured judgments on us, and they would come flying out when they were in an emotionally difficult state; three weeks ago you... and so you are not a valuble being... you did that and that. They chose to harbour judgments instead of communicating with us in situations, instead of sharing their own point of view, actually parenting us. 

I've learned later that I'm really sensitive compared to many others, and that sensitive children become more easily traumatised, learn to shut themselves up, and, I suppose, are more conscious of parental and adult expectations around them. I would've needed support to find my place in the world even if my parents would have been nearly perfect (support from them!), as it was my home was just another horrible thing to get away from.