When Worlds Collide

So, I did this podcast last week, with friend and fellow unschooler, Amy Childs, on her show, Whatever Whatever Amen.

I wrote a little about that here, but one thing I was not able to fully get to during our time chatting together was this budding realization of some of the similarities between the unschooling philosophy and the holistic healing philosophy.

Which is kinda cool.

As I'll be going more in the whole unschooling thing on the onlyhuman blog in the months to come, I won't dwell on it here, but here are some key "Parallels I've Noticed" between how humans learn and how humans heal.


In education, not to mention parenting, there seem to be two main camps concerning human nature. One is that we are born flawed and must be continually educated, trained, guided, and sometimes cattle-prodded, if necessary, into becoming productive members of society.

Without the extrinsic motivation, and if left to our own devices, we would resort to our basest self-serving impulses, and given the choice, would wile away the hours in front of the xBox.

The other camp believes in the intrinsic sociality of humans, trusting that we come into the world hard-wired to learn all we can in order to fit in to our tribe, and to seek our purpose and passion.

Prodding is unnecessary, perhaps even counterproductive, but positive expectations and healthy modeling are critical and provide all the impetus a human needs to grow into his full potential.

Like this latter perspective, holistic-types tend to trust that the human body in an intelligent, self-healing organism, needing only the right environment, conditions and stimulus under which to regenerate and thrive.


Contrary to how how public school system and the work world at large is set up, humans, being a part of the natural world, are just as much subject to rhythm -- the ebbing and flowing and what-have-you -- as everything else in nature.

We do not learn naturally in a linear fashion... at least not most of us... and our growth tends to occur in spurts followed by periods of absorption, contemplation, and a great deal of 'behind the scenes processing' (often mistaken for 'daydreaming').

Same goes for the healing process. We have periods of drought, the occasional blessed Aha! moments, movement forward, regression, and then the scaling of new plateaus.

True healing and wellness success sometimes require that we cycle through past experiences, and that we recognize that some things cannot be addressed just through will alone ... losing weight for example.

We would also attain a level of peace with our bodies if we recognized that, like everything in nature, we are subject to environment, seasons, hormones, and age, all of which are about rhythm.

Connection, Relevance and Ownership.

I've lumped these together because I perceive a lot of overlap here. But these qualities are always what provide that magical spark which takes 'learning' into the realm of 'knowing'. This is what makes learning or doing anything really a joy and a passion, even if it's majorly challenging.

The standard educational model has been founded on compartmentalization and seemingly arbitrary timetables determined by educational experts and logical rational.

Has this had any more of a profound effect than the one of totally sucking the joy out of learning anything? Not to mention removing us from the learning process itself.

We are now passive subjects and receptacles, and have to be trained or enticed or threatened even, to do something we would have joyfully done anyway.

I see little difference in the way we approach our own health. We rely on experts to tell us what we need to do, what to eat, what we feel, and even while seeking those professional opinions, we resist acting on them, as self-care has now become an item on the to-do list, much like dreaded geometry homework.

How many people have I have heard say, "I know I 'should' be exercising more... (or eating better, or I always sucked at math, or I don't care for history, or....) but..." Statements like these are usually tinged with guilt, and some degree of self-loathing and a sense of failure.

How is this helpful?

It seems that from an early age we learn to give away our power to those more 'qualified' than we, as well as our autonomy over how and what we learn, and what is best for us and our bodies.

When we are not trusted from the get-go, we learn not to trust ourselves.

There's something about making the internal connections between what we know in our heads as information and what we know in our hearts to be true... what those connections are exactly remain a mystery to me, though I've felt that 'cha-chunk' feeling (as Mark Silver describes it) when heart and mind are in alignment, and even the most daunting challenges lose their, um, daunting-ness.

And, there's something about owning the learning process that makes it stick for us, in no way that prodding or self-discipline ever could.

How is it that a baby suddenly becomes obsessed with the desire to join the ranks of the upright, so determined that will attempt nothing else besides pulling themselves up and falling down day after day until he masters it? And all without toddling classes! (Though I wouldn't be surprised if they do exist.)

A tiny person will defy the laws of gravity unaided, and master complex human speech, but still can't be trusted to learn to read or add and subtract without drills and a timetable.

How did we come to this? How can we get back to reclaiming our own inner knowing?

I suppose I could beat you over the head with this point, and perhaps I will in future posts.

For now, however, the question in my mind is how can the unschooling philosophy better help me support my clients and readers?


PS... After writing all this, I drove my kids to the dentist, where I happened to pick up a recent issue of Time Magazine lying face down next to me in the waiting room.

This oddly appropriate article was featured on the front cover, which I'll leave for you to read, but one line serendipitously seemed to hint at the question I left hanging above at the end of my post:

"...research suggests the brain in its relaxed state is more creative, makes more nuanced connections, and is ripe for eureka moments."

Yeah. Exactly. More to come....