Sunday, October 6, 2013

on discipline

I think there's a common assumption, around school and other things in life, that sometimes you just have to do things you don't want to. The implication vis a vis children and especially education is that kids need to learn to do things they don't want to do by being forced to do things they don't want to do.

I confess I've been prone to this anxiety from time to time, especially since we started homeschooling. But I don't think the belief is factual at all. Discipline comes from love. It comes from connecting with the larger goal or need more than the short-term inconvenience or unpleasantness. I learned discipline from loving horses. Getting up early to feed them and turn them out before school, returning home early to muck their stalls, feed them and bring them in... well it wasn't always fun when I was a teenager. But I connected with the larger goal of wanting to ride one horse and compete and improve with one horse, and that required shovelling shit and getting up early and sometimes opting out of fun things to take care of this dependent creature.

I never make my bed. I'm sure some would label that behaviour a lack of discipline. But I think it's a matter of the pleasure of getting into a made bed at night (and I do find this a pleasure on days when I wash the sheets) is not enough to make me take the extra time in the morning or any other time of day. A few nights ago, at midnight, I proclaimed myself a rock star. Not because I was doing anything remotely musical but because I did the dishes when I really didn't feel like it. My husband asked, "Do you ever FEEL like doing the dishes?" And I do. In fact, most of the times I do the dishes because I feel like doing them. Not because I take pleasure in the act, but because I connect to the larger goal of having visual space to breathe (and actual space to prepare food) on the kitchen counters.

André Stern, a grown unschooler and French musician, takes it one step further. He says: "Learning takes place because of the interest we have for things; self-discipline arises from the pleasure one has from doing these things. We believe, wrongly, that discipline is a framework imposed from the outside, that it requires a system that forces the child to do something, to practice. However, the natural discipline comes from the child, from within. It grows out of pleasure and curiosity."

Speaking of discipline, we are still plugging away on the chicken coop. It's feeling pretty heavy and slow, but my dad came today and gave us a bit of a kick start to finish. We aren't finished yet, but the gate to the run is built (thanks, Dad!) and the fencing has begun. Soon, I will get a feeder and waterer, and set up a place to store bedding and feed... Soon, I think we may actually have hens cooing around in our backyard. Soon, when we want an egg, we may just be able to walk to the backyard.

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