Rosie Speno speaks with Dayna Martin, home educator, writer and speaker about family life, attachment parenting and her unschooling journey with her four children in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
Dayna Martin has been such an inspirational force in many an unschoolers life and a leading light in the unschooling movement in the States for some time now and she is clocking up some significant media experience with appearances on the Dr Phil show, Fox News, various local radio stations, and other magazine interviews. The more the Unschooling movement gets this kind of exposure, not only does it let other families out there know about this option, but it also normalizes the choice to home educate and do it in the manner of unschooling.
RS: When did you first discover Unschooling?
DM: After I gave birth to my first child, I knew that I didn’t want to send him to school. Devin was born within minutes of the tragedy of Columbine happening, and that was very pivotal to me in my first realizing that school was only an option. I knew that there were better options than sending my child to school. I knew that I wanted to be with him as much as possible and he wanted to be with me. The cultural idea of sending children away from their parents at age 5 or 6, wasn’t something that I was buying into. I began to research the different methods of homeschooling. I was practicing attachment parenting with Devin, meaning we shared a family bed, I held him as much as possible and I breastfed him until he outgrew the need. I always trusted him and chose to listen to him. Even though family and friends were telling me how much I needed to force independence on him, I always knew that as long as I was focused on meeting his needs, all would be well. Unschooling was a natural extension of attachment parenting for me. I extended the same Trust that I had for him as a baby, as he grew. Forcing him to do a curriculum at the kitchen table felt as wrong as forcing him to sleep alone or cry himself to sleep.
RS: And what is it about unschooling that encompasses trust as opposed to traditional curriculums, even taught at home?
DM: Humans are born designed to learn. Learning is very pleasurable if it isn’t forced upon us living someone else’s ideas of what they think we should know. Unschooling requires a lot of deprogramming, what unschoolers call, “Deschooling”
RS: Can you say a little more about what deschooling means?
DM: Deschooling means taking time to un-brainwash yourself in what you think you know about education and learning. Reading books by John Holt or John Taylor Gatto can really help someone on this path. John Holt will help you learn how humans really learn. Gatto will share why schools were started and the overall agenda that schools have, which is not what most people think.
RS: Is there other research that backs these theories up?
DM: I think that when someone on this path reads and learns something that really speaks the truth to them, to their inner knowing, they can tune into their instinctual wisdom. Holt did this for me. Also, there are so many resources about Unschooling out there. I have a YouTube video series to introduce others to the philosophy.
RS: You are clearly very passionate about a child’s right to be treated as an equal with compassion and respect, what is it about school that you don’t feel provides this?
DM: Schools and parenting in general in our culture focus on Obedience as the main goal – Obedience to meet the needs of the adults rather than the children. Radical Unschooling philosophy takes back the focus from the adults needs and places just as much value on the child’s needs.
RS: Yes reward stickers and the naughty step do remind one of a dog training manual rather than how to treat a human being!
DM: Exactly. It wasn’t very long ago in the course of human history when men were told to beat their wives when dinner wasn’t on the table on time. Men were instructed to punish their wives for not “obeying” them and meeting their needs before their own. Times have changed so much since then. The women’s rights movement began and changed the course of history. I am honoured to be helping to pioneer the same rights and respect for children.
RS: You mentioned the term Radical Unschooling – how does this differ from unschooling?
DM: Unschooling is extending trust that a child will learn what they need to learn in life by pursuing their interests and passions with an involved parent as their facilitator. Radical Unschooling is extending that same trust to other areas of a child’s life, like food, bedtimes, media and other areas which are typically controlled by traditional parents.
RS: How has that worked in a practical sense in your own family?
DM: It has been very natural and joyful. As parents, Joe and I choose to move away from Control and move focus to Connection.
RS: Do you see unschooling one day influencing the ideas in mainstream schools?
DM: Yes I do. I believe that although those living this life may be walking the road less travelled, the philosophy speaks so much truth. By the time I have grandchildren, it will be revered and respected as an admirable way to live with children.
RS: What is your favourite book to read with your children?
DM: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom to my youngest and the Little House on the Prairie series to my older two. Also, whatever they want me to read to them. We have a huge library and have only read about half of the books we own.
RS: Do you have to have a lot of knowledge as an unschooling parent?
DM: You need to have a lot of Trust and Love, but not what others would see as “book knowledge”. You only need to know how to find answers and in this day and age, this is so easy. Facilitating our children’s learning doesn’t mean to “know all the answers” ourselves. In fact, this would be a very narrow source of information. Living this life with our children we need to know how to open doors, give resources, offer feedback and especially support and encourage our children on their own life path without judgement. We need to move from Control to Connection.
RS: And how does one teach the 3 R’s without sitting a child down and teaching by rote?
DM: By living a rich, full, exciting life the “3 R’s” are learned just as a side effect of living life. If these things weren’t part of everyday life, there wouldn’t be a need to learn them, would there? Learning these things never has to be forced. They are simply tools, useful tools that are pleasurable and useful to learn. Just like walking and talking are useful tools to a baby and toddler without classes or tests, so are the 3 R’s for older kids.
RS: Do you see your children going to university?
DM: Maybe, if it is something that they want to do to meet their life goals and dreams.
RS: Do you think they will be at a disadvantage not having been schooled traditionally either at school or in the home?
DM: No, not at all. Universities love Unschooled kids. They are quite sought after in fact because these children do not have the cookie-cutter application like every other child who applies. Universities love self-starters and people passionate about learning, not just people jumping through hoops.
RS: Dayna, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today. I am really looking forward to meeting you in London in July
DM: Sure! Thanks for having me and I am so looking forward to sharing these ideas in Europe for the first time this summer! We are changing the course of human history and the tides are turning. Those interested in learning to live more peacefully and joyfully with their families, come join us for this extraordinary event! My family and I look forward to meeting you there!
Dayna Martin can be reached via her website at www.unschoolingamerica.com and also on her blog at www.thesparklingmartins.blogspot.com. Dayna Martin is the keynote speaker at the London Unschooling Conference on 25th July – www.londonunschoolingconference.com.
This article was first published in the Education Otherwise newsletter – April 2009.