I spent this past week on a small island. In fact, I’m writing–with paper and pencil–this post from a quiet rock looking out over the sea. On the island none of the roads are paved and there is one grocery store. The house my family stays in doesn’t have electricity and we don’t bring any of our devices. It’s such a different world than the one we live in most of the time, but I think it’s important to bring some of that world back. Which is why I want to talk about the value of unplugging (in the context of unschooling).
When I’m home, my life is filled with alerts on the happenings of friends and family all over the world. It’s easy to get swept into checking my email every minute and keeping my iPod by my side in case I get a text. But it distracts me from my tasks. I read my book, but pause in the middle of a sentence when my screen lights up. I type quickly, completely immersed in the world of my novel until I hear the familiar sound of an email arriving in my inbox. I fritter away the time I had planned to spend outside checking my Facebook yet again. Taking myself away from all that helps me recenter. It grounds me. I remember the things I love to do: write, read, go on long aimless walks, wake up early and chat with my parents in the growing light. I learn new things about myself: an interest in photography and fascination with birds. It helps me focus myself, plan how to bring this back into my life at home. I remember that all my notifications can wait. I have new goals for returning home, new things to learn when I’m back to a place of easy access to the knowledge I seek.
Unschooling is about living your life to the fullest. I think everyone can relate to that part of unschooling, the desire to squeeze every drop out of life. In that sense, everyone is an unschooler, or at least wants to be. So I hope this could be helpful to a life-long learner of any age. When you’re feeling knocked to the ground by the weight of the online world, when it’s taking up the time you planned to spend on learning something new or having a thoughtful discussion or reading a new book, take a break. Step back and reassess. Give yourself clear guidelines, if that’s what you need (I know I do). Experiment. Try a day (or longer) with no screens. Close your email when you’re working on another project. Turn off the sound on notifications. Don’t bring your phone with you if you won’t need to communicate. Actively fill your time with other activities. Learn from yourself what your mind needs. Let yourself wander without self judgement. Take hold of ideas. Write your thoughts down. Rekindle the joy of living in this world, with so much more to learn and so many ways to grow.