Following Your Dreams

Wild Eyes, Abby's Boat

I just had to share this with you all! I subscribe to Stacey’s eZine and read it often, for obvious reasons, after you’ve read this article.

Reprinted with permission from the author, Stacey Curnow. If you like this article and you want to give birth to a life you love, sign up to receiver her FRE*E eZine, Special Delivery, at www.staceycurnow.com.

The article:

“Abby Sunderland and Following Your Dreams

I’ve known one of my best friends since 4th grade. The two of us did well in school and mostly enjoyed it. But we both also realized that it had major problems. As my husband (also an exemplary student) has said, “School was always best at showing me what I didn’t do well, but it wasn’t necessarily very good at teaching me to be better at it.”

I’ve seen this in my own life. I always thought I was “bad” at science and math and avoided the subjects if I could. It was only when I chose to become a nurse-midwife that I decided I would be good at science and math. And suddenly, hey presto! I was. I even won a few academic awards. I’m not bragging: it’s just that I now believe that if you have enough self-driven desire, you can do anything you want and do it well.

So I saw my friend raising her kids according to that principle, and watched as they grew up kind, funny, smart, and inquisitive. They loved learning and have no sense that there was anything that they weren’t good at. They never looked outside of themselves for direction or approval—their locus of desire and control was firmly inside themselves.

This approach to education—allowing the child to follow his or her passions—is called unschooling. And on the strength of my friend’s experience, I was sold. I set out to learn everything I could about unschooling and devoured books by John Holt, John Taylor Gatto, Grace Llewellyn and Richard Alpert, just to name a few.

In the course of my reading I came across a book edited by Grace Llewellyn, Real Lives: Eleven Teenagers Who Don’t Go to School, which contained some pretty incredible stories. The most memorable was of a teenaged girl who rode her bicycle alone through Colombia in the late eighties. Occasionally she was stopped by police who would look in her saddlebags for drugs, but other than that, she was unbothered and described a wonderful, magical adventure.

I remember telling my husband (we were expecting our son at the time) the girl’s story. He reacted with horror. “I can’t believe her parents let her do that!” I responded by saying, “Oh, I hope our son will want to do something like that…and will let me go with him!” I believed then and I still believe now that encouraging our kids to be their best selves, no matter what form that takes, is the most important job we have as parents.

So I’ve been especially interested in the media squall surrounding Abby Sunderland. Many say it was foolish of Abby’s parents to allow her to sail at such a young age, but by all accounts she was an able sailor. In Abby’s own words,

There are plenty of things people can think of to blame for my situation; my age, the time of year and many more. The truth is, I was in a storm and you don’t sail through the Indian Ocean without getting in at least one storm. It wasn’t the time of year, it was just a Southern Ocean storm. Storms are part of the deal when you set out to sail around the world.

As for age, since when does age create gigantic waves and storms?

Thanks to my interest in unschooling, I was delighted to see that my son will have another example of a young person attempting to achieve her dream. But Abby’s final comment, about age, struck a different chord.

You don’t have to go back to 4th grade to hear voices telling you what you are and are not good at. In every endeavor, at every stage of life, you will find people on the sidelines warning you of the dangers involved and how your undertaking isn’t a very good idea at this moment.

Risk some of your savings to start a business at 40, and you’ll hear almost the same things you might if you risk your life circumnavigating the globe at 16. The fact that the predictions of disaster might come from those closest to you, as opposed to the world at large, doesn’t make them any less daunting: quite the opposite, in fact—Abby probably had an easier time dealing with the criticism she faced because her parents were squarely behind her.

And I honor Abby’s parents for that. Because my son, and people of every age and stage, can use all the examples they can get of people following their dreams. They provide us with the encouragement we so desperately need to follow our own dreams.”

Reprinted with permission from the author, Stacey Curnow. If you like this article and you want to give birth to a life you love, sign up to receiver her FRE*E eZine, Special Delivery, at www.staceycurnow.com.

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