Sunday, August 05, 2012

Let's disco

Ronnie, Jerry, Chloe (mostly hidden behind Jerry), and MJ at Jerry and Cori's wedding

A few years ago, I responded to an unschooling questionnaire. One of the questions was:

What resources do you use for your children’s “educations?” Feel free to comment on the word “education.”

My response was:

Ah, you’ve been burned by unschoolers before! While some would argue that debating the word “education” is mere semantics, I’d counter that, at root, all language is mere semantics. In a sense, this is the core differentiation between unschooling and all other forms of educational philosophy. Therefore, it is significant and worthy of discussion.

Let’s use some of that classical education I suffered through as a child. We get our word “educate” from the Latin verb “educo” which does literally mean “to educate” but the root implication is “to lead” or “to draw out from.” Caesar ducos his troops; a teacher educos his students. I dislike the parallel, especially because I find it painfully accurate. This is most obvious in the Elenctic method popularized by Socrates. The teacher leads the student to the conclusion the teacher wants the student to accept by drawing the student out with a series of structured (leading) questions. It seems like the student is engaged in a meaningful intellectual exercise but it is, in fact, carefully choreographed and completely controlled by the teacher.

This is precisely what happens in “education” or “teaching,” the other word unschoolers dislike. It is not genuine. It is not honest. It is not really “learning.”

Empire-period Romans knew the difference two millennia ago. Dum spiro, disco. While I’m alive, I’m learning. Disco not educo. And one I like: Nemo nisi per amicitiam cognoscitur. Nobody understands anything unless they like what they’re studying. Cognosco not educo. “To know,” “to understand (for yourself),” not “to be led (to someone else’s opinion).”

As I said in my opening paragraph, for me the core difference between unschooling and all other educational philosophies is freedom vs. coercion. Disco and cognosco vs. educo.

(E)duco is fine for military troops or slaves or domesticated animals. I find it inappropriate for thoughtful human beings. And that’s why I don’t like the word “education.” YMMV.

We are discoing every moment we’re alive and we’re cognoscoing things we find attractive or interesting (per amicitiam). If you wanna educo me, you’d better bring some Marines cuz I ain’t getting dragged somewhere I don’t wanna go without a fight.

You'd probably need to find some leathernecks other than Jerry and his pals, too. They have better things to do than enforce "education." (wink) And, clearly, now you understand that the title of this post refers to the Latin verb disco rather than to the music and dance craze of the '70s. Sorry if you were hoping for some "Kung Fu Fighting." Well, I hate to disappoint my readers, so here ya go:

I hope those Marines you hired are ready for the fabled Unschooler Kung Fu. Our kung fu is strong. Jackie Chan drunken master style, baby!

So I'm thinking about educo vs. disco as a theme for my What-I-Did-This-Summer post for several reasons. We're bracketing this Summer by starting with the LIFE is Good Unschooling Conference at the end of May and ending with the Wide Sky Days Unschooling Conference at the beginning of September. That nicely defines the Summer by bookending it with a concentrated dose of unschooling. On the other hand, Chloe signed up for 20 hours, including a lab, at community college last Spring and finished this Summer. She also signed up for Fall quarter. MJ will join her for Fall quarter. So, given those actions, we're sailing from our pleasant, peaceful unschooling lagoon to the unprotected open sea of American Higher Education. Very much a change from disco to educo.

All hands on deck! There could be some rough weather and merciless seas ahead. Chloe's Spring experience was intense, going from unschooling to a 20-hour class schedule, but she wanted to be there and made it work. That experience led her to choose a 15-hour schedule for Fall. (grin) But this is the Summer report so we'll leave discussion about that for future scribblings.

What did I disco(ver) this Summer?

The LIFE is Good Conference was at a new hotel so we discovered the joys of the physicality of that new and different place. We enjoyed time with old friends, made new friends, and had new experiences.

When told that a new transmission for our minivan would be circa $5K, I balked and did some checking on prices. I learned that the tranny itself would cost more than $4K. In that case, I unbalked and let the pros do it for us. I learned that I had forgotten how nice that car is when the tranny's working properly. (grin) The Odyssey is now ready to take us to Wide Sky Days! And, of course, many other interim locations. Twelve years and 200K miles done and, with a new tranny, we're ready for phase two in our Odyssey's journey. (Odyssey's Odyssey?)

We went to Houston for niece Katie's wedding and I remembered how much I love warm weather, especially because Seattle has been so Seattle for most of the early Summer. I discovered that I could still get up on waterskis, despite not skiing for a lotta years, and had several wonderful tube rides behind Chuck's (my brother) skiboat. While there, we visited old friends in their new location. Laureen and Co. had just sailed from San Diego to the Houston area and it was nice to visit with them.

Ronnie and MJ celebrated the Fourth of July at the traditional beach house party at Mary's (Ronnie's mom) while Chloe and I stayed in Houston and celebrated with Chuck and the gang. We all (re)discovered family love and connection.

Ronnie and Chloe will be heading to Ashland, OR for the "Swan Song" performance, celebrating Chloe's experience as an intern at the Shakespeare Festival last Summer. Then later in August, both girls will be at NBTSC. Ronnie and I will pick the girls up from their last day of camp in Southern Oregon and continue on down to San Diego for Wide Sky Days.

Wide Sky Days marks the back end of our Summer unschooling conference bookends. One exciting thing I'm looking forward to there is playing music with old and new friends. In '09 at the first San Diego conference, our just-for-fun unschooling parents' rock band (the Greybeards and Hot Backup Chicks) played for the Sunday night dance. This year, some of that original group won't be there but we're adding old friend Matt Jones on drums and new friend Phil LoBue on guitar. I'm excited to be playing music with my old pals, renewing our musical connection. I'm delighted to be playing with old friend Matt for the first time. And I'm overjoyed to meet and play with new friend Phil. I can't wait to hear him wailing his axe.

That's a quick look at my Summer.

I say Summer is a perfect time to disco. Whatcha gonna do? C'mon and get down on it!


  1. Frank, as usual, I love your post! Thanks for slipping a little Disco into the Carnival as well!

    Have fun at the conference - maybe I'll make it next year, since Katie will be moving to L.A. :)

  2. Thanks, Sue. The Carnival is fun.