Neill! Neill! Orange Peel!

So #babybernie has moved it all up a gear.

As I write he has piled up the cushions from the sofa and is lying on top of them by way of protest.
The ‘disruption’ is over cooling down his porridge which spoon to use.

You would think I had put all his toys and his best friend in a microwave, turned it on full power and was making him watch it all melt into one – with the volume turned up.

Yesterday we stood in our road for fifteen minutes while he refused to move. There was something like 100 metres between us and we looked like two cowboys in a gun slinging match. Eventually a neighbour walked by, said hello to him and he ran to me, tool my hand and we walked off as though nothing had happened.

He has just come and sat next to me with his porridge and is smiling as thought the last thirty minutes had not happened.

Part of how I handle these situations is don’t like conflict and I am chicken. Most of it is I am sure in my heart that playing stuff out and seeing what happens is more healthy for all of us. What we sacrifice in ‘learnt compliance’ – and we do – we make up for in seeing things through.

Where does all this come from?
I am a big fan of Summerhill School and Alexander Sutherland Neill the founder, essentially Summerhill is a ‘free school’ – which is often misinterpreted.

“A free school is not a place where you can run roughshod over other people. It’s a place that minimizes the authoritarian elements and maximizes the development of community and really caring about the other people. Doing this is a tricky business.” (Mel Snyder, quoted in Richard Bull, Summerhill USA)

When I was at University probably the only books I found easy to read were A.S. Neill books, they are all in the library of the Institute of Education on Bedford way in London.

The copies I read were printed in the 1970’s and unlike most books on education from that time they were not seeping with references to the “Great British Empire” or military tactics.

I would sit on the floor between the shelves with piles of books around me reading, I find it VERY hard to sit still and read so I listen to books.
With these books I was hooked, in fact these books introduced me to what I think I thought education really is.
At the time a book on my required reading list was “New Labours Policy for Schools” this I did not digest so well, in fact I think I only read the two pages we had to reference.

In contrast I had a picture on my folder that is now on my wall @90Mainyard – it is a picture of a boy sitting down practising his guitar, with a quote from A.S. Neill:

“I’d be very disappointed if a Summerhill child became Prime Minister. I’d feel I’d failed.”

I’ve been thinking about this for years, if #Babybernie became Prime Minister I’d feel I’d failed.

If he craved gathering trophies, being first, telling people what to do, job titles and all that type of thing I’d feel I’d failed too. In a few days I’ll tell you about when I was in the ‘Dead Poets Society’ – not THE DPS – our DPS.

It does urke me that we praise films like “Dead Poets Society” but require our children to “be good” or “tow the line”.

I am forever trying to find the space for #Babybernie that permits freedom, curiosity and expression while enabling him to build a sense of responsibility. For instance he always walks ahead of me and then stops at the edge of the road, even if he is running. Ok, so at first my heart spent a lot of time in my mouth but I have learnt to trust him and my gut tells me he knows he is trusted.

Breaking an elephants spirit

Other times, I will shout at him and feel like the cruel circus trainer working to break an elephants spirit so it does what “it” is meant to.

As soon as I shout I know I have lost.
You may want to make me feel better and tell me I need to shout sometimes, maybe I do. What I really think is that being calm and letting him work it out for himself is the best way. Screaming at me always shut me down and made me go into a defence mode. Sometimes it would be months before I came out of it.

When I was sat on the floor reading A.S.Niell in the library I wished I had been exposed to a schooling like Summer Hill, instead of going to war with people I’d have connected with myself and other people sooner.

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More tomorrow!

Click here to access a PDF copy of “Neill! Neill! Orange Peel!”

 

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