Pretty much all of europe and most of the rest of the world has heard of the recent Brexit vote by the UK.
Over the last few days and weeks myself and Lehla have been focussed on this vote and what it might mean for us and what it also tells us about the UK, our home country. As we have been plugging into and out of the news the children have shown only a passing interest in it. That changed a little as the vote we were not expecting came in and they could feel that something was going on of some significance.
In a few conversations we have both attempted to explain what is actually going on. And realised almost immediately just how absurd and strange it must sound to them, political innocents. As I have tried to explain it it has had the effect of making it all seem so utterly unreasonable and stupid. A huge vote for democracy as some have suggested? I think not. The maths tell us it is a case that for every vote for leaving the UK there about three people who voted the other way or did not vote at all.
A couple of days ago we were having a family meeting convened to decide how to manage the computer time allocation. This is one of the most visited topics in our household. Without going into the ins and outs of this it is enough to say that while the computer gaming genie is out of the bottle keeping it under control is an ongoing learning process.
My son Jahli got bored quite quickly as he wanted to get onto the computer! He decided he wanted to quit the conversation before a conclusion had been reached. He told us that we could go ahead and decide what we wanted. I pointed out to him that we might decide something that he might not like and that if he did not offer an opinion or tell us what he thought then his voice and so his needs and desires would not necessarily be heard. He thought about that and reluctantly decided to stay.
So when explaining the Brexit vote to people Jahli was quick to join some dots about the almost 70% of the UK who did not vote for Brexit. “It’s like when we are talking about what to do about computer time Dad. If you don’t participate then you don’t get what you want” Precisely. How simple.
(Sidebar here. In our approach Unschooling can include agreeing as a family to have some boundaries and agreements about when and how computers are used. It is after all in my opinion about common sense, more about that in another blog follow.)
So how to explain democracy to the kids? My daughter Amari decided that it was silly to leave such a big decision as a voluntary one. “Shouldn’t everyone be expected to vote?” She asked? I explained that voting was seen to be an optional thing. You did not have to if you did not want to. She thought it silly. And of course she also figured out that by not participating you can end up with something you don’t want.
But it gets more complicated. Amari wanted to know why people voted for Brexit? How to answer that without unpacking the nature of modern media owned politics, the neuroscience of how the mind manages fear, how people can be quite easily manipulated (like apparently I can be when it comes to chocolate) the convergence of big business, right wing politics and wealth inequality. Oh not to mention the removal of trillions of dollars from the world’s official economies by tax dodging billionaires. What a lot to go into.
In all of this being an unschooling family following a set of philosophical principles how easy it is to bump up against the realisation that it is so easy to make your own views, beliefs and feelings ones that you foist on your children. I know that causing bias in our children is pretty much unavoidable (something I have written about in the book ) and so the real challenge is how to offset my own bias whilst assisting them to learn about how societies go about organising themselves.
I voted remain. Not because I like the Brussels bureacracy particularly but because I believe that if you want to influence things for the better then you need to stay in the conversation. Already the UK is outside the rooms of Brussels while everyone else plans the future. But also for another reason. The future belongs to the next generations. I am not old but I ain’t young and the vote we take on such big matters with such potential (and as we are seeing actual ) consequences affects others more than me.
One of the underlying principles of our approach to raising our children the unschooling way is that we encourage and inspire them to an open curiosity about the world and human life without trying to brainwash them. We tell them about our values and what we believe and yes it influences them but we are quick and constant to tell them they don’t have to believe what we believe, that they can make up their own minds as they go along. In reality of course they are pretty similar to us at the moment but they are not slow to argue or disagree if they feel like it. That is a good sign.
So we don’t rail against one particular political party (we just explode inside our own heads ) but outwardly try to stay calm. It’s a frightening prospect that maybe one day our kids will be different to us. Like our pacifist friend who’s son joined the army! But as free as possible a mind is a great gift to hold a space for our children. We can only do that through example which we often do not get right.
I think it is a mistake to to think that we have to foist all the crisis of our times onto the minds of our children. At 10 and 12 they are still in their childhoods. There is plenty of time to see the face of modern politics laid bare. I certainly have no desire to push their realisation of cynicism and naked self interest along.
The last word on this topic has to go to our daughter Olive. The conversation went like this.
Lehla was talking to her about the possible collapse of the housing market and Brexit….
Are you interested in this?” Lehla asked
Olive paused and replied “Not really, I am only 12 Mum and anyway not my circus, not my Monkeys”
Lehla said “Not yet”
Olive. “Ok fair enough, not my circus and not my monkeys …..yet.”
And with that she skipped off into the mediterranean sea for a swim!
(illustration by Lehla Eldridge)
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