Thursday, April 26, 2012

By the Rules?

Rules have been a difficult concept for my kids. We don't have many rules in our house. For the most part, I simply want my children to respect their family and themselves. Don't tease, be polite, take care of your body by feeding it good food and getting enough sleep, that sort of thing. These rules are easy to explain, but that is not always the case when they step out into the world.
You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.
Albert Einstein
The thing is, there are good rules and bad rules. A rule can bring order, like stopping for a red light, but rules can also cause undo pressure and confusion. If you have ever driven on a highway and tried to stay within the speed limit, you know what I mean. Around here, the flow of traffic on highways is usually ten miles above the posted speed (some will say I'm underestimating). My choice is often to stay in the right lane, while cars whiz past me or swerve in front of me to exit, or go with the flow. Avoiding the highways isn't always a viable solution, unless I have all day to travel the back roads (yes, I've done that). Sometimes you have to make your decision based on safety considerations.
Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.
Dalai Lama XIV

Our house rules always have reasons, and I repeatedly remind them of the reasons. You don't have to eat the vegetables I serve for dinner, but you do have to have some vegetable. I explain that fruits and vegetables have nutrients and fiber that they need to grow and stay healthy. If they fill themselves with empty calories, their bodies will still be hungry for those nutrients. 

When they come across rules that don't make sense to them, they ask why. Sometimes the why isn't easy to answer. This is where we run into problems. My kids don't want to follow random rules. Who does? The trick is knowing when it is OK to bend the rules or when a rule needs to be broken.
If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun.
Katharine Hepburn

Some rules are made for the convenience or protection of others. If drug companies don't specifically tell you not to operate heavy machinery while taking medicine to help you sleep, they could get sued if someone decides to do this and ends up in an accident. In schools, you need to ask permission to use the bathroom because the teacher is responsible for you and needs to know where you are at all times. 

When rules are set in place for every little thing, it can feel oppressive. Knowing the "why" helps, only if the why makes sense. Many rules are set in place to dictate what we should be doing anyway. No littering. Buckle up your seatbelt. No talking or cellphone use during the movie. Isn't it sad that we need to mandate the obvious? 

Now think. If tomorrow you learned that homeschooling was against the law, would you still do it?

I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do. I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.
Robert A. Heinlein


Subadra said...

Lovely post! Makes sense...We don't have rules, but just model the obvious living life...Love the quote by Katherine Hepburn...:)

Sheila said...

In response to the last question: yes. We homeschooled for one year in Germany, fighting the authorities the whole time, then had the two oldest children in school for six months, left the country for six months, returned and didn't mention that we (or rather, that the children) had returned and homeschooled for another 16 months, left for another four months, returned for another eight months of illegal homeschooling, and finally left Germany permanently over three years ago. And now live in Cyprus, where the law says that homeschooling is legal, but despite one visit by the police and two by a social worker, we're mostly being ignored.

jugglingpaynes said...

Sheila: Wow! Thank you so much for commenting Sheila. This has always been a question I wondered for myself. Would I have the strength of conviction to do this even if I were breaking the law? Your story is inspiring. I'm happy you are homeschooling in spite of the obstacles you've faced. What an example for us softies who take our homeschool freedoms for granted!

Inner Elder said...

This is a wonderful post for a meaty discussion. You could do workshops very nicely, Tina. And it sure takes courage to break the rules, even the silly ones. What I abhor is Big Brother watching you - like the red light cameras. That does not bode well. Love, Mom PS Yes I just got a red light ticket!

Stephanie said...

Wonderful post! You're raising thinking, self-responsible kids rather than ones who are burdened by rules for their own sake. I liked the traffic analogy. It's a good example of how sound judgment trumps rules.

Jenn said...

Perhaps I missed something here. While I agree with most of what you've said, and much support for the main idea, where exactly is the main idea? I kept waiting for it and then the post ended with no main idea or conclusion. *confused*

jugglingpaynes said...

Jenn: This is me thinking out loud, considering and questioning rules as I see more rules imposed on our lives. Feel free to take what you need from it, or dismiss it as the ramblings of an overworked unschooling mom. :o)

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