I write this post to help me process a recent occurrence in my life.
You may or may not know I have a relationship with a choir where I help out with vocal training. This year I branched out into helping with the warmups, to try and set the scene for the voice, as it were. Bringing in a little more vocal technique to help with achieving a better tone, increased breath control and higher notes.
Of course, being the creative soul I am, I couldn't just do the same warmups everyone else has used. I had to invent a whole new system.
So taking inspiration from my yoga class, I decided to incorporate some body work with some breathing and grounding exercises, before we started on the voice. Then, in order to keep people from just cranking into their voices and to facilitate relaxation, I created stories where people were to put in sound effects and little sung phrases, to create a whole and take people on a journey. Almost like a story meditation but with singing. It's a little difficult to describe, but it was a lot of fun.
However I had a five week break due to a family holiday, and when I returned the engagement from the choir just wasn't there. I persevered for a couple more weeks and then sent out an email survey to find out what people were thinking about my style.
Half of the respondents were on board and loving it, but half were either on the fence or actively negative. In particular one respondent tried to explain how two other conductors he knew did a similar thing but with much better results. He couldn't see how what I was doing was influencing the choir at all, or changing the sound.
I could have ignored his comment given the greater amount of positive feedback, but something wasn't right, and I was feeling a sense of disengagement from the choir overall.
I should mention this is the first time I've worked with such a large group (60 or 70 voices), and I struggled with my Asperger overload feedback loop in my brain. Whenever people sang my brain shut down for a second, and I lost all capacity to think. To counteract that, I wrote everything down, but this may have caused me to seem less engaging and able to think on my feet.
I'm not sure why I am so attracted to dancing on the edge of my abilities like this.
So I decided to pull out from the warmups, and from helping the choir overall for a while, to lick my wounds and reassess. If I had been paid, I would have pushed through the negativity, but being a volunteer, I didn't feel the need. It requires a lot of energy for someone of my sensitivities to overcome negative feedback, and I delayed issuing my survey knowing this about myself. But in the end I did it, and now have to live with the result. My precarious health and my kids' need of me, require me to be careful how I expend my energy, so I decided the environment was not ideal for me at this stage.
Leaving has been a hard decision because I really thought I might have finally found a place to hang my hat. I have a quirky way of relating to the world, and not every group or organisation can support it, but this choir was different I thought. I thought they might manage to go there with me, and maybe they would have in time, but somehow it didn't work out. I do wonder if we didn't have such a long break whether things would have been different. It has also been hard because this was my only real social outlet in my life.
Since I've left I have received some more emails saying how much they enjoyed my warmups, so that has been nice, but also induced a sense of guilt that I've abandoned people.
I think I am reacting so strongly to this situation because it is pushing buttons from throughout my life where I have been in a similar situation.
I seem to get to places where I can't see my way forward, perhaps I've run out of energy or other priorities arise, or I just can't do it anymore, and so I leave. I am not blessed with the ability to stumble along. This makes it seem like I leave things more than I complete them.
I'm not sure this is true, I have completed many things, including university degree, staying married for 29 years, studying singing for 10 years, many knitted garments etc. But I do struggle in groups when I don't have a direct connection with the people involved. Unfortunately being Aspie/gifted/highly sensitive, this can be many of the groups I attend.
Anyway I ask myself, what is wrong with knowing your own mind and deciding not to continue down a path that isn't suiting you? It is good to be proactive and design your life, even if it means making hard decisions.
I think I need to allow myself this process and not listen to the self critique that follows.
So once again I feel like I have something to share where I can't communicate what I can see, where I'm going deeply or intensely into it, and where many people can't follow. It seems such a shame.
My Mum says I'm throwing pearls before swine...but then Mum's are notoriously biased. Love you Mum! It's so nice to have a cheer squad, to know you are in my corner!
So, I start again, trying to find a place for my talents. At the moment I am cocooning, and pulling back into my domestic space. I feel like I never want to try to share anything creative again. But of course, in time I won't be able to help myself, and we'll be on the rollercoaster again!
I have been musing on Unschooling and how it leads you in directions you least expect. Having Unschooled for a year and a bit now, I feel able to reminisce a little, and see how the land lies.
One of the principles of Unschooling is to allow your children to find their own place, their own passions and interests. These bubble up out of their own person, without any input from parents. Sometimes they can seem quite surprising and out of left field. But because they have set their own course, your kids pursue them with an intensity and determination that is remarkable...or at least my kids do.
My 15 year old Miles (yes, he has turned 15) has a passion for history, namely the early 20th century, during the World Wars. He loves story telling, the physics of engines, strategy and the psychology of teamwork. This is why he is attracted to this time in history although he is sensitive to the suffering during wartime and has explored numerous stories of people caught up in warfare. As you can imagine we have had many discussions about this! His interest has lead to him making replica guns out of wood. We must have at least 30 by now! He has an amazing ability to eyeball the different shapes he is interpreting. With great pride in his reproductions he loves to use them in his re-enactments. Yes, he also is interested in re-enacting battles...what 15 year old boy wouldn't be! To this end, he has purchased an ever increasing amount of replica and original clothing and gear from World War 2.
One of the lessons we have all learned as a family came about as he did one of his re-enactments too close to a school yard as it was getting out. One of the parents took exception to this child (who looks like a man) and called the cops on him. Wow! that was a lesson learned the hard way...see this post.
Through all of this we have found a maturity and sensibility in our son that has made us so proud.
Photo by Aiden
My 12 year old Aiden has also been through an interesting 18 months of Unschooling. He was the reason we started homeschooling in the first place...see this post, due to the onset of an extreme anxiety disorder. So how has being at home affected him?
I won't lie, it has been a rocky 18 months at times as the road to health is not a straight one. I often had times of second guessing our decision when he would revert to spending days and days and days in bed. But we have recently returned from a month at the beach (yay flexible learning and travel times!)and he really is starting to make some inroads into his fears.
For example, he has had a fear of driving with others in the car, and sitting in the back. One day he declared he was deliberately sitting in the back of the car on the way to the beach (four minutes away) to try and desensitise to one of his fears. Leading to him sitting in the back of the car with the whole family as we drove to the beach another day. And then finally driving home the 2 1/2 hour drive with his brother in the back!
Many days I have to bite my tongue at the slowness of our progress, and many days I don't! But it feels a little like coaxing a wild animal from its cave. Gently does it, no sudden moves or you'll startle it.
But if I can be patient and trust my son wants to get better, and knows his own body and brain, we see results. We are seeing some weight improvement too as he is eating better. The ribs are disappearing! Of course his weight gain hasn't been helped by the fact that he is a manic mover when he feels well. But slowly he is gaining flesh and muscle...and height! Very satisfying for all.
He has springs on his feet!
My son is a VERY deep thinker...can't think where that comes from ;-) This of course fuels his anxious thoughts, so we are attempting to use meditations, stories, crafts, humour, yoga and cuddles to distract his brain from descending into the abyss at times. We need to find healthy ways for him to use his obviously bright mind. This is what Unschooling is so brilliant at, so we continue following his shine.
Some of the ways he shines are with photography, gaming, drawing, playing guitar and of course moving! When he is alight he just blinds you with his brilliance. We are very proud of our courageous boy.
So what can I conclude in this very brief sum up? We are finding the lifestyle of Unschooling fantastic! It is so nice to be flexible with sleep time and eating times, and it is lovely to have time to travel during school hours/days. The time we have spent close together listening to each other and adapting to each other's needs has brought a closeness to our relationship which is impossible to beat.
I would love to do more outings than we do as Aiden still struggles to leave the house at times, and we still don't know many homeschoolers as the kids are not really feeling the need. We did try our local group, and have been on some outings with them, so that may come in the future as Aiden improves. I must admit to some loneliness for adult company at times due to this, but I make do.
The benefits definitely outweigh the difficulties, as I see my sons blossoming in their interests and learning to love the world again. And surprisingly they have picked up all sorts of knowledge in their gaming, Youtube and movie world which makes them very interesting conversationalists as well. What more could I ask from a schooling method/lifestyle?
When I look back 18 months I see a family in pain and so puzzled for a way ahead. Now I feel the pleasure of our 18 month adventure, the pleasure of all those aha moments, those jokes shared, the movies watched and the days spent together on the beach. We turn to Aiden and thank him for deciding to homeschool. It started us on the best ride of our lives!
I hope you enjoyed reading a little more about Unschooling. If you would like more resources please see my friend Sue's website Stories of an Unschooling Family. It is packed with information. Also Pam Laricchia from Living Joyfully has books and interviews and stories as well.
Til next time, keep on creating!
PS I have the permission of my kids to post this :-)