On structure and my good news

No, it’s not a book deal.

But speaking of books, remember Michael Ellsberg?   If you’ve been reading this blog for even a few weeks, then you do, because I’ve devoted several posts to him and his new book, Education of Millionaires.

A couple of weeks ago, I happened to be on Twitter when Michael tweeted that he was looking for a few people to help him do research and outreach on topics related to his book (topics like student debt, debates over the value of higher education vs. self-education, etc.).   It caught my eye and I clicked onto his site to look at the application.   Without really thinking about it I started filling it out.   Promoting self-education?   Working with other people who believe wholeheartedly in the value of self-education when it comes to life success?  Do you think this sounds like something I’d be interested in?   I’ve spent weeks rambling on about how great Michael’s book is; wouldn’t it be fantastic to get to work with him and spread the word to as many people as possible?

On the application, Michael also promised to be a mentor to and help those who get the gig with their own personal goals, and if those goals revolve around writing and publishing…umm, yes please!

So I sent it off.  I didn’t tell anyone about it.   I was about 98% sure that I would not be who or what Michael was looking for.  I had no real reason for thinking that, so I’ll blame it on the vampires. When I told Joshua about my doubts last night he said, “Why?  No one is more perfect for that than you!”

You’ve guessed by now of course.   I got the gig.  An email message in my inbox upon our return from dinner said the sender was Michael Ellsberg and had the subject “You’re in.”   I sat staring at the screen for a minute.  I may have even sworn under my breath.    I clicked on the message while holding said breath as though perhaps it was a trick and upon opening it a huge laughing clown face would appear in a pop-up yelling, “Psych!”

But it didn’t.

I don’t know the details or who the other people are who were chosen (there are 10 of us), but I’m sure I’ll be writing about it, so stay tuned.   And a big, big thank you to Michael for whatever he saw in me – as the hours pass the excitement about being involved in this group has grown and the doubts & mild panic have faded away.

Ok, on to some stuff about kids and structure.  Since that’s the real reason we’re all here.

Monday night I wrote about Lisa Ling’s show on extreme parenting, and about how I found it because of one of Oprah’s tweets in which she called unschooling into question by saying that “kids need structure”.  (I’m telling you, there is so much info on Twitter!)    Don’t get me wrong,  I have all the respect in the world for Oprah and the things she has accomplished in her life.  From what I know of her she does her best to give back to the community and the world & she seems like a truly good person.

But in saying she thinks that kids need structure (and giving that as the reason she questions unschooling), she is regurgitating an oft repeated phrase that is both vague and inaccurate.

Kids need structure?  Well, tell you what.  One of the most structured environments there is can be found in any jail.

You don’t think that’s what she meant?

I don’t either.  But I’m pointing out why just saying ‘kids need structure’ is so vague.    I’m guessing that what she meant is a home where there are hard and fast rules about what is and is not allowed (set by the parents with little or no input from the children).   The thought process is that if such rules are not set, kids will a) run amok and b) never learn respect, appropriate behavior or any number of other things.  It is all done in the name of “what’s best for the children.”

Too often in such cases, the reality is that these rules are set down solely for the benefit of the parents as a way of exerting their parental control & authority.  Children are seen as not fully human and are treated accordingly.

Kids don’t need structure.  Parents impose structure (i.e. rules & regulations) for reasons that have nothing to do with the needs of their child.  In fact, kids who grow up in such structured environments often get to college or their first apartment and go a little nuts.   They’ve never known what it is to make their own decisions and do what they want and so they try everything.   There is a good reason why many colleges go out of their way to court homeschooled/unschooled kids.   These are kids who know how to be responsible for themselves.

Instead of structure, what kids do need is love, respect and support.   Support is far more important than structure.  If the child asks for a certain routine, then the parent, to the best of their ability, should try to support that, which is not the same thing as imposing ‘structure’.    The unschooling, life learning families I know are usually quite good at supporting the interests of their children and of creating an environment based on mutual respect and support among members of the family.

Support means that as a parent you are there to help & provide guidance when asked, give love no matter what and respect that your kids are fully human and worthy of trust.

It’s also a good idea to live your life as an example; hopefully one you would be happy for your kids to emulate.

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