Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Ben, 13-year-old Unschooler, Reflects on his Year

"One important aspect of this year is the drastic difference between my middle-school/learning experience and other teens I know. I have been able to grow academically, socially, and emotionally, without the level of teenage angst of my friends. I think it is because I am in control of my learning, my day, and my life. Being in control helps me understand who I am and what I want in my life. For example, I tend to get very anxious in large crowds. I was able to recognize and work on my fear of crowds because I was in control. I have to decide when and how to push myself into healthy social environments. For instance, I volunteer about twice a month for our local L.G.T.B. center's library. I also participate in a circle of “Indigo Children" held once a month at a metaphysical bookstore in town. A friend, also unschooled, and I also organized a large yard sale. This gave me the opportunity to meet and talk to many people. It was fun working with my friend Anna and getting to know some of my neighbors. I made about one hundred dollars, too! What I have learned about myself emotionally this year is that emotions are just states of mind. They do not need to control the outcome of my experience by controlling me. 

"This year I became very interested in foreign languages, language acquisition, and linguistics. These subjects have always been very interesting and it is great to be able to focus on them for as long as I want. In the year, I have learned some aspects of Russian, Hindi, and Mandarin Chinese, but I mostly studied German. To understand language acquisition I took these languages apart and reassembled them into a constructed language with its own vocabulary, grammar, and numeral system. I met native speakers along the way that helped me achieve a basic understanding of German, Hindi, and Russian, as well as working on an internet site called LiveMocha.com. LiveMocha is neat because I get to talk to native speakers from all over the world and I helped many of them with English. 

"My interest in nutrition and health led me to plan and plant a garden. From that sparked an idea to build a terrarium for some exotic plants. All of that taught me about how ecosystems work. The curiosity I had about meditation lead me to the philosophy of Buddhism. Their teachings of forgiveness and compassion inspired me to incorporate them into my life. The teachings also took the "you have to be perfect or worthy" out of my life and education. The only analogy that fits what I felt about this school year is I blossomed into myself. 

"Meditation and Yoga have been a large part of my year, too. I play several instruments like the ocarina, didgeridoo, and different drums and I incorporated them into my meditation. Each instrument adds another feeling in meditation. For instance, the didgeridoo is played using circular breath and knowing how to circular breath has advanced my breathing technique during meditation. This year music was an offshoot of meditation but next year I want to make it more important by relearning the violin and advancing in the ocarina. 

"'Discovering new ways to discover and evolve'--this statement perfectly fits my year. I dived into old paths and found new trails to follow. I found courage to flower and expand into myself. Most importantly, I learned without much distress from my old mindset of "I'm not learning enough". In conclusion, I must say, I am positive that I will learn so much more next year and I am thankful for this new experience."

~Ben, Fort Collins, CO USA

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