Booking Open: Autumn Consent Based Education Course for Parents – FULLY BOOKED

I am now taking bookings for the September – November 2017 Consent Based Education Course for Parents.

About the Course:

As parenting evolves beyond the traditional authoritarian model, and more and more families choose to live together in more respectful, socially just ways that acknowledge the personhood and agency of children, essential questions arise as to what that means in regards to our relationship with ourselves and others, our outlook and interaction with the world around us.

Consent Based Education is a response to this quandary. What happens when authoritarianism, the basis of all our existing systems, is stripped away, when we become more individually empowered in our own lives, and seek to support our children in this too? What happens when we embrace our own autonomy and capabilities, when we question the education and social inheritance we’ve received up until now?

What happens when our consent and voice really does matter – when we come closer and closer to our authentic selves?

This course is designed for parents who want to explore and go deeper into their understanding and experience of Consent Based Education, for their own personal development and to support their family’s life long learning in a consent based way. You can find out what it is like to take part in the course here.

The course is made up of the following 6 sessions:

  1. The History of Patriarchy and Consent – Why are Things the Way They are Now?
  2. Breaking Cycles – the Process of Change
  3. What is Consent Based Education?
  4. Love and Relationships, Boundaries and Freedom
  5. Creativity, Flow, and the Potential of own CBE
  6. The Bigger Picture

Before each session, a selection of preparation materials are emailed out – this can include things like podcasts, videos, articles and quotes. This prep material is designed to be thought provoking and takes between 1- 2 hours of your time. The prep is optional, although having a look at it will help you get the most out of the sessions themselves.

The sessions last for 2 hours, and are a combination of presentation and group discussion, critical thinking and reflection. Snacks and drinks are provided.

The course will be taking place between 10.30am-12.30pm on the following dates, at a venue just outside of Bishop’s Stortford:

Sunday 10th Sept
Sunday 24th Sept
Sunday 8th Oct
Sunday 22nd Oct
Sunday 12th Nov
Sunday 26th Nov

The course content is structured in a chronological way, with each session building on the one before.

Price: £15 per person per session, £90 total for the course (total course cost to be paid on booking).

Group size is limited to 8 participants to ensure a quality experience.

For more information and bookings, please email: sophiechristophy@gmail.com

What is it like taking the Consent Based Education course?

I’ve recently come to the end of the first Consent Based Education course for parents.

The course is made up of 6 sessions, and runs fortnightly over 12 weeks. I always hoped that both mums and dads would be drawn to taking part, and amazingly, we had a 50:50 split. It was such a pleasure to work with the group over the six sessions, I learnt a lot from their experiences and insights, and finished the course feeling really excited about the potential of CBE ideas being taken out into the world. I am really going to miss meeting the group once a fortnight, eating popcorn, and discussing making the world a better place!

If you are curious as to what it is like to take part, the quote below is taken from feedback that I received from one of the parents that just finished the course:

My experience of the CBE course was one that left me feeling empowered, invigorated, and ultimately feeling that anything is possible. I originally wanted to attend the course as we as a family know that we will unschool in the future. That however shouldn’t determine whether you do the course or not. If you are a gentle parenting household, or you feel that your children are being deprived of their autonomy on a regular basis, and you are uncomfortable with that, this course will give you the courage and most importantly the tools to question those deeply rooted patriarchal influences found in schools and every day situations.

As a mother of 3 little ones, having the course material to digest and assimilate between each session was very welcome indeed. It enabled me to feel prepared with the questions i wanted to ask, thus leaving me feeling like I had gotten everything I had wanted out of each session.

This course is perfect for anyone who has that uncomfortable conflicted feeling that their children’s autonomy isn’t being heard or respected. Having an understanding of the history of patriarchy, and where perhaps our own subconscious patriarchal influences stem from, gives us the opportunity to change and follow a more consensual lifestyle. For me in particular this was pivotal in allowing myself the opportunity to forgive myself for the times I should of been more consensual with my children, and turning a belief into behaviour.

The course that Sophie has created is an authentic, and loving space in which to reflect and learn on how we can all become a more consenting family unit and more pertinantly, shift the way we think and treat our children as a society. It has definitely helped me reframe my perception on relationships, love, life, and what education for our children and future generations should look like.

What has the course left me thinking? My words cannot sum it up better than Sophie’s: “If we want our children to understand consent, we have to live it with them”.

One of my regrets is not taking a group photo before the course was finished – I won’t make that mistake again! Below is a one of the pictures that was kindly taken during the course.

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In the next few days I will be releasing booking details for the Autumn course, which will be taking place locally to Bishop’s Stortford, between September and November. If you would like more information, or would like a CBE course in your area, please contact me by email: sophiechristophy@gmail.com

What is ‘deschooling’?

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Photo: San Francisco, Museum of Modern Art, no year

‘Deschooling’ is a term that is used to describe the process people go through when they transition to home education – particularly unschooling. It’s is something that can be beneficial for parents who went to school themselves but want to home ed, and for children who have been attending school but then deregister to start home educating.

Deschooling helps people to move to a self-directed and self-motivated way of studying and living, from one that has been directed and controlled.

The term ‘deschooling’ gives us some clue to it’s meaning – ‘de’ describes the taking away/reversal of something, ‘schooling’ the thing that is being taken away.

But what exactly is the ‘schooling’?

Traditional schooling functions, among other things, as a process of socialisation into subjugation. One of the key things that we learn during our time at school is to accept the authoritarian model of ‘power over’ as normal, and to learn our place and role within that. We are socialised into accepting that the person at the top has power over those underneath, and the best way through that is to please/satisfy the person/people in authority, in order to survive/do well in the system.

Punishment and reward is used as a tool to reinforce this. At school, when we please those in authority, we are rewarded, often publicly.  If we fail to please, then we may be punished (also often publicly) – either directly, or more discreetly over time, by being labelled as not doing well enough, trying hard enough, as being difficult, or as having something wrong with us.

Traditional schooling also teaches us that learning is something that is controlled by the teacher, and our role as learners is to take on board what we have been told, and prove that it has been internalised. We are ‘schooled’ into thinking that ‘real learning’ looks like a particular thing, that happens with a teacher, in a classroom. That it isn’t something we ourselves can manage and direct, but that we need someone else to direct us and show us what is important. We are ‘schooled’ into believing that any learning we do independently isn’t real.

This process of ‘schooling’ doesn’t only happen in school. It can also happen in other spheres of socialisation, for example, in the family. When parents behave in authoritarian ways with their children, and use punishment and reward, they are teaching the same kinds of messages as are described above: to survive/do well/be loved you must please. Fail to do so, and you will suffer. It is a way to condition, coerce and control people into being a particular way, and doing a particular thing.

We have become ‘schooled’ once our subjugation – to a person, system, or idea of who we ought to be – has become normalised. At that point the existence of ‘schooling’ as an influence becomes invisible, as we have accepted subjugation as ‘life’.

Deschooling, then, is a process of personal liberation. It is the process we go through in order to deprogramme our bodies and minds from the conditioning that results from being socialised in a ‘power over’ dynamic. It creates space for us to reconnect with our own inner voice, sense of self and autonomy, and to release any belief, conscious or unconscious, that misusing our own personal power over others is ok.

Deschooling enables us to realise, accept and embrace our most authentic selves, our feelings, strengths, weaknesses. To acknowledge and address any fear or shame that has resulted from being socialised via punishment and reward, that is limiting us in exploring and being ourselves. It empowers us to be authorities in our own lives and to self-advocate – and crucially, to listen to, acknowledge and respect that same self-empowerment when it is demonstrated by the people around us. It creates a climate for honest relationships.

Deschooling frees us to be who we truly are, to understand ourselves and our own needs, and to make space for other people to do the same. It frees us to own our capability to learn what we want and need to, in order to explore our potential – and get excited for other people to do the same.

Compulsory SRE? How about we stop teaching children that their consent doesn’t matter in the first place.

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I just read this article by Dr Elly Hanson about the “radical overhaul of sex and relationship education (SRE)” recently announced by the government.

She makes some really important points about the current situation, and at the end calls for sex and relationship education that is “available to everyone… well resourced and embedded within a wider curriculum”.

I wonder if Dr Hanson is aware of unschooling, I would have expected her to flag it up in her article if she was, accompanied by the fact that mainstream schooling – where this SRE is supposed to take place – is fundamentally non-consensual, and that this might be a problem that no amount of SRE is going to fix.

Herein lies the important question:

Rather than trying to teach consent, why don’t we stop teaching that consent doesn’t matter?

Our culture normalises that children’s consent does not matter. We usually don’t ask, we don’t wait for a reply, we don’t take the time to explain. Children are often deprived of the opportunity to consent in the home, and critically, in the school environment. It is common that even if children self-advocate, their wishes are overridden.

Ask yourself this: how often are children given the opportunity to consent to their relationships and experiences when they are at school?

First they are generally told that they have to go (although it is of course perfectly legal for children to pursue their education outside of school through home education and unschooling), so straight away are often deprived of the opportunity to consent to the environment in which they spend a significant amount of their time. Once at school, they are told what to do, when and with whom. They are told what they will be learning, and how, when they can play, when they can talk to their friends, when and where they can move around.

Often times they are told what they have to wear and look like, very specifically, and what they can eat – sometimes they are even told what order they have to eat it in.

It isn’t until people are 14 years old that they are given a say in what they study at school, and even then, their options are strictly controlled.

Consent isn’t something you can teach, it is an experience and a feeling. When someone asks you for your consent, to be able to consent in an meaningful way, a person needs to be able to pause, think and reflect – Do I want to do this? Do I want this to happen to me? – without coercion. They experience a feeling of being in control of their own destiny, of looking within themselves, to see if they do indeed want to consent to what is being proposed, or not. They need to know that the person asking for their consent genuinely means it, and will respect their response, in order for the consent to be meaningful.

Trying to ‘teach’ this, whilst persistently exposing children to a non-consensual environment, I just don’t see how it works.

What we should be doing, is not un-teaching consent in the first place. Normalise consent in children’s every day lives and environment, from birth, and your SRE is done. No child is too young to know that their body and their minds are their own, that their say matters, and that other people, of any age, should respect them. Children who grow in an environment where their voice and consent matters, easily recognise what is non-consensual, and understand that it is unacceptable.

Having the opportunity to consent should be a base line experience, not a novelty or add on. It should be a lived experience so that it is taken for granted as normal, so that people can understand how to navigate this world in a way that maintains their physical, sexual and emotional safety.

The coercive nature of schooling and traditional parent child relationships normalises and teaches coercive relationships and behaviour – this is the exact opposite of consent. If we want children to understand consent, we have to live it with them.

To those who are really committed to SRE that genuinely makes a difference, I suggest getting behind consent based education from birth, researching unschooling as an alternative to coercive and non-consent based mainstream schooling, and I encourage you to challenge the countless normalised examples of children being deprived of their autonomy and consent in their everyday lived experiences.

Consent Based Education course: now open!

I am now taking bookings for the Consent Based Education course that I am running from April – June this year.

Here are a few of the reasons as to why I am offering the course:

  1. I believe that when we apply the concept of consent to the way we live and learn, we actively deconstruct the historically rooted influences of patriarchy and authoritarianism that negatively impact our relationships, our sense of self, our health and wellbeing, and our lived experience. However, as consent is a relatively new concept, particularly in regards to family dynamics, a key purpose of the course is to unpack what it means, and how it looks.
  2. Parents are intuitively gravitating towards living more respectful and consent based lives with their children, but may not have had the time to fully explore it’s importance and historical context. By developing an awareness of the social and historical constructs of childhood and parenthood, parents can appreciate why consent based living is in such stark contrast with traditional parent child dynamics, and why it is such an important and progressive shift.
  3. The course is reflective and empowering. The course gives parents the opportunity to reclaim the power of their own autonomy, and information to support their knowledge, courage and persistence in holding space for their children’s empowerment and consent based living and learning. Consent frees us to live our most authentic, meaningful and empowered lives, and to respect and support others in doing the same.

The course is designed for parents who want to get to know consent based education better, for their own personal development, and to support their family’s life long consent based living and learning.

It will support parents in reframing their understanding of family relationships, education, love and life in consensual terms, and seeks to support the transition from beliefs to behaviour.

This course is for parents who have a sense that through their parenthood, they have the potential to influence positive personal and social change, and want to know more about the how and why.

The course is made up of 6 two hour sessions, that take place fortnightly from 7.30-9.30pm. The dates are:

Monday 17th April
Monday 1st May (Bank Holiday)
Monday 15th May
Monday 29th May
Monday 12th June
Monday 26th June

The sessions will take place at a venue on the Herts/Essex border, on the outskirts of Stansted Mountfitchet, easily accessible from Saffron Walden, Bishop’s Stortford and the surrounding area.

Places on this course are limited, more details can be found here. Booking can be made via email: sophiechristophy@gmail.com

A Love Letter to My Self on Valentine’s Day

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To My Dear Self,

Seven years into unschooling parenthood, I have realised that probably the most important love letter I can send on Valentines Day is one to my very own self.

So, here goes. Let me count the ways…

  1. I love how I am rediscovering my own identity after years of having intentionally put myself to the side in order to meet the needs of my babies and then young children. More and more I can feel myself coming to share the fore, exploring myself and my passions and interests, and making them a priority.
  2. I love my body, in all it’s glory. It has experienced two pregnancies, two births, the physical toll of carrying, breastfeeding, and co-sleeping, plus all of the physical work involved in day to day family life with young children. Having shared it for a long time it is starting to feel like my own again and I love it without condition from top to toe.
  3. I love my mind and the thinking work I have done over the past 7 years and continue to do. First thinking about my pregnancies and births, making informed choices for myself and my babies, informing myself as fully and critically as possible. Then thinking critically about parenthood and childhood, really thinking about my children, spending time with them, observing them and their needs, working out how to best support them in navigating this world. I love myself for having prioritised that process, and for continuing to do so.
  4. I love that I am committed to being true to myself, and to not giving in to societal norms when the are in conflict with my ethics, and the best interests and wellbeing of myself and my family. I love myself for toughing it out, going against the grain when necessary, and for living with the greatest integrity and authenticity that I can.
  5. I love that I have tried, that I have made mistakes, and that I have sought to acknowledge and reflect on those mistakes in order to develop and grow. That I have practiced self-forgiveness and self-love, and endeavour to model that for my children so that they feel free to love themselves as fully as possible too. I love that I have compromised and changed my mind when that has been the right thing to do.
  6. I love the personal boundaries that I am working towards. That I feel worthy to be mindful of my experiences, to say no, to stop doing things that don’t work for me and to protect myself when necessary. I love that I am taking responsibility for my own life and experiences, and acknowledging my needs and limits.
  7. And finally, I love that, despite everything, my commitment, courage and passion to do the work in this life that I need to do, is stronger than ever.

Happy Valentine’s Day. xxxx

Consent Based Education: What can a flock of Spanish geese tell us about schooling?

 

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Let’s take a few moments to think about what it means that schools are compulsory and coercive environments and not consensual ones. To do this, we need to think about the many compulsory layers that exist within schools.

Firstly, there is showing up. Unless home educating, young people have to attend school. There is no choice, it is compulsory, and failing to attend is a big issue with attendance data highly monitored. School being a place that you ‘have to be’ is the baseline of a person’s relationship with their school and education.

Then there is the compulsory participation within the school day. Students have to be in certain places at certain times, as decided by the teachers and school leadership. Their time during the day is rigidly structured in terms of the places they are allowed to go, and what they are allowed to do within those places. Again, compliance with this is compulsory, with deviation carrying the risk of punitive consequences.

Within this are further compulsory aspects. What information is offered, what, when and how students interact with that subject matter. Students are not given the opportunity to consent to what and when they are taught, and their participation in lessons is compulsory – you can’t just sit quietly at the back waiting for what you want to learn, you must tune in regardless of whether you actually want to or not.

Part of the reason for some of this highly managed and non-consensual environment is practical. There are large numbers of students in an environment that is designed for classroom based teacher-led learning, and so it can be said under their current design, a degree of structure and organisation is necessary to ensure everyones safety. Some of the compulsory nature necessitated by restrictions resulting from testing and imposed curriculum requirements.

There are other reasons as to why consent is absent in schooling, to do with beliefs and mindsets about young people and learning. These beliefs inform policy and everyday school life.

Some people believe that school and learning is ‘bad medicine’ that will only be taken if a person has no choice. That ‘education’ and/or ‘learning’ is only possible if children are forced into it. Some people believe that given the choice, children wouldn’t sit in that classroom.

Maybe there is some truth in that, when considering what is currently offered as ‘education’. Unlike teachers who can leave a school, or leave the profession, students can not talk with their feet. It’s impossible to say how many would show up given the choice, and how essential coercion is to the functioning of schools as they currently stand.

The fear within schools, that given the choice, students wouldn’t voluntarily show up, either to school at all, or to particular classes, is very real. It even prevents some schools from granting students free access to the toilet during the school day – the fear that a student would prefer to sit in a toilet cubicle than in a classroom.

To me, this fear and ‘bad medicine’ idea is telling us something very important. If people wouldn’t actively consent to being there and to participating, we have an epic problem that needs resolving.

There is a farmer in Spain called Eduardo Sousa, who produces foie gras without force-feeding his geese. His geese help themselves to enough of what they need, through their own choosing, to self-create some of the best fois gras in the world. No forcing, they do it through their own choice. They do it consensually.

His geese aren’t even penned in. They are free to leave at any time, should they wish to. Only, his geese don’t want to leave. Wild geese flying overhead even come down and join his flock. He has proven that it isn’t necessary to force feed geese to produce foie gras, it isn’t necessary to keep them under caged conditions either. Given the right environment and opportunities, the geese choose to be there and do it themselves, and given the space and opportunity, thrive. Some people believe you can only produce foie gras by force. Eduardo has shown that that isn’t true.

Some people believe that learning and education require force, compulsion, coercion. I don’t believe that to be true.

What would a school need to look like to replicate the effect of Eduardo’s farm? What environment and opportunities would you need to offer in order for students to actively consent to being there? What if students could choose with their feet, and the only type of school that was sustainable was one that students chose to show up to, and chose to participate in? What would the impact on ‘learning’ be if it was happening in a consensual and personalised rather than forced relationship?

For a school to be consensual, it needs to offer freedom of movement, it needs to genuinely listen to and respect the people within it, to offer space and time, and access to things of interest and value, as perceived by the participants as well as the providers – and those can be flexible roles. It needs to be an attractive and comfortable space that people want to be in, where people are free to meet their own needs, and can reach out for support if needed.

Who wouldn’t want to show up there everyday?