A few years ago I got to know Marli and her partner Antonio at the very beginning of my two years living in Southern Ecuador. We instantly became friends – at first sight. To my surprise, their young daughter appeared to be an exceptional radiant, aware and impressive being. As my curiosity lit up I started to look deeper into this sweet family and their alternative approach to living.
Today I am fortunate for Marli giving me an interview with valuable insights into their motivations and ways of education so that I can share life-enhancing content with you.
TELL ME A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR FAMILY, WHERE YOU LIVE, HOW YOU CAME BY CONSCIOUS PARENTING
We are a family of three: Antonio my husband, Marina our 14-year-old daughter and myself. Currently, we are living in the charming little Andean town of Vilcabamba, Ecuador. We are an international family; I was born and raised in Brazil, Antonio is originally from Romania but raised in the US and Marina was born in NYC, but has lived most of her life here in Ecuador.
Even though Antonio and I have formal education and hold Bachelor Degrees we never really liked the school environment. When I was pregnant with Marina we already knew that we did not like the idea of turning our kid over to an institution for her education. That motivated us to start looking at other schooling options. At first, we were looking into different types of alternative schools and homeschooling programs. By the time Marina was 5 years old we realized that we wanted to stay away from compulsory instruction altogether.
WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT FOR YOU REGARDING RAISING A CHILD?
It is important that she enjoys and actively participates in her upbringing experience. In regards to Marina’s education, we have been following a child’s led approach, we call it Natural Learning (AKA Unschooling), while we have focused on things that are important for and fit our particular lifestyle.
WHAT IS THE CORE MOTIVATION FOR YOUR KIND OF EDUCATION?
Is to have a child that remains open, creative, independent, curious, kind, playful and capable of questioning. Our education is custom made to our lifestyle and preserves her uniqueness.
WHY DO YOU THINK IT IS IMPORTANT TO RAISE KIDS CONSCIOUSLY?
Not to watch them struggling throughout her life in frustration like most people are, so they can have a truly fulfilled life.
The word “conscious” for most people has to do with the environment, animals and the planet and that is not how we intend this word to be interpreted. To us, the word conscious means to be aware of the consequences. We wanted to raise our daughter away from the schooling system so she can be her own person, and focus on things that make sense for her and not things that fit somebody’s agenda. We want to make sure she uses her critical thinking skills to make the best choices for her life long term.
WHAT – IN YOUR OPINION – IS THE CORE OF CONSCIOUS PARENTING?
It is that the parents are completely at ease with this approach. They should have overcome their own culturally ingrained, habitual ways of thinking about education/learning first. Schools do not hold a monopoly on education/learning.
Education/learning happens as naturally as breathing. Just like the higher quality of air benefits your breathing, a high-quality environment enriches one’s education/learning. We could have never been successfully unschooling our daughter had we not unschooled ourselves first.
Another important component of conscious parenting is the actualization of a genuine partnership, which includes the free flow of ideas between parents and their child.
WHAT ARE THE BASICS OF CONSCIOUS PARENTING, WHAT KIND OF TIPS WOULD YOU OFFER?
Everyday activities are learning opportunities. The child decides what to do each day, whether to go to the library to read books or to stay in the kitchen and learn how to prepare food. The parents may, in various ways, provide an environmental context and environmental support for the child’s learning. In general, unschoolers see life and learning as one.
As the children get older, they can integrate courses, workshops, and classes to their schedule. The key point here is that the student manages their own schedule and must make necessary arrangements to make things happen. Since the child initiates these activities and takes full responsibility for their learning experience, there is a sense of pride, which directly contributes to establishing an independent spirit (the main desired outcome of unschooling or conscious parenting).
Critical thinking is a fundamental part of unschooling. In our family, we apply the Trivium Method approach to learning, which is comprised of Knowledge, Understanding/Logic and Wisdom. This method greatly enhances and supports our natural way of learning. It helps with the development of accurate perception and problem-solving.
We use the Trivium when we gather knowledge by asking the “who, what, where and when” questions. Once we have those answers we move on to the Understanding/Logic of a given subject by asking why. Then we move on to the last step of the Trivium, which is Wisdom at this stage we are able to apply the Knowledge and the Understanding previously gathered.
HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR DAUGHTER BEING DIFFERENT FROM OTHER KIDS DUE TO YOUR WAY OF RAISING HER?
She maintains a positive mental attitude throughout the day, is open to suggestions and does not exhibit the typical oppositional behaviors found in other kids her age.
Also, she is equally comfortable relating and being socially engaged with people of all ages. Her friends range from 4 years old to 70 years old, what matters most for her is the activity at hand.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN YOU AND YOUR DAUGHTER?
We have a harmonious loving relationship and like each other’s company, we take dance classes together – something I have been doing for years and my daughter independently decided to join me a few months ago. We play volleyball together and she plays basketball with my husband. Above all, there is the trust, the trust in the natural process of things in general.
HOW IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP DIFFERENT THAN THE ONE BETWEEN OTHER CHILDREN AND THEIR PARENTS?
For what we see other parents are constantly grading, comparing, convincing, and judging their kids. We don’t do that, she can go to bed as late as she wishes, but she chooses to go to bed early because she understands how her body feels after a few days of not properly sleep. She is free to eat whatever she wants but she understands that a high raw diet keeps her body and energy level at its best so that’s what she eats. She helps around the house because she understands that we are partners and we share the same house and if everybody helps a little we are all happy.
WHAT ARE YOUR HIGHEST VALUES WHEN IT COMES TO FAMILY?
I believe that family is the main engine of education. If being with the family is safe, harmonious, fun, full of learning opportunities the world out there can be dealt with in a more assertive and effective way.
WHICH MESSAGE WOULD YOU LIKE TO GIVE TO OTHER PARENTS?
Look around you and start observing the kids that go to school and ask: Are they happy? Are they engaging? Do they love learning? Are they in harmony with their parents and with life? Do they feel like they make a difference?
At this point in time, we know what the results of traditional schooling produces: worker bees, bricks in the wall, confused unhappy souls.
If those are not desired results then choose the custom made path, shaped around your family’s strengths to ensure a well-adjusted independent future for your child.
We recommend the following books:
John Taylor Gatto: “Dumbing Us Down”
John Holt: “How Children Learn”, “Teach Your Own”, “How Children Fail”
If you want to learn more about Marli, Antonio, and Marina, please visit their Youtube channel and be in touch with them.
Conducted by Elena from YOUniverse Community