Five Questions for Laurie A. Couture
Laurie A. Couture is the author of Instead of Medicating and Punishing: Healing the Causes of Our Children’s Acting-Out Behavior by Parenting and Educating the Way Nature Intended. Her book was chosen as a finalist in the ForeWord Magazine Book-of-the-Year Awards in 2009. She appears as an expert in the documentary film, The War On Kids (2009) and is the host of The Free and Joyful Childhood Radio Show. Laurie was a recipient of the 2010 Manchester Union Leader’s Forty Under 40 honors.
- The title of your book is pretty comprehensive and self-explanatory. Beyond what’s spelled out there in the title, how would you pitch this book to prospective readers?
I pitch my book from many different angles—It is far more than just being the obvious parenting book—It is a book that challenges us all to look beyond what our culture has drilled into us as the only way to live and to instead realize that there is a much freer, more creative, more intelligent, more compassionate, and more fun way to live than the typical, “Be born, go to school, go to college, get a job, try to steal a few moments of recreation, go to bed, get up, do it again and die” scenario. My book calls for a radical return to parents focusing on their connection to their children and teens and trusting children’s natural intuition and drive to play, explore and learn in freedom, without forced “teaching.” Imagine what that would mean for adulthood!
- At various meet-ups we’ve both attended, I’ve heard you use the term radical unschooling, but I’ve never taken the opportunity to ask you to define it. So, here I go: what’s radical unschooling?
Radical unschooling is a return to how I believe nature intended humans and other mammals to live and learn: By having fun, by playing, exploring, examining, questioning, creating, making, musing, dreaming and inventing! It’s about allowing children the freedom and right to do this, with family, friends and the community as their mentors. Most children grow up being force-fed “education” and being held hostage for much of their childhood in an institutionalized setting where play and their talents and passions are seen as mere wastes of time or “hobbies” that children must wait to engage in until the “academics” are done. Children learn that their own interests are less important than the agenda of the school. With unschooling, the curriculum is directed by the child. I am always so inspired by the creativity of those of us who come together at NH Media Makers. Most of us probably found school to be tediously dull and an obstacle to our creativity. Imagine if children could do daily what we artists do now as adults!
- Your son, Brycen, seems like a pretty remarkable kid. He’s a musician, writer, and one of the most pleasant seventeen year olds I’ve ever been around. What have been your biggest parenting challenges, and how much do you think the way children turn out has to do with parents versus the children themselves?
Thank you, Chris, I think Brycen is a remarkable kid as well! My biggest parenting challenge has been watching my son endure the grief and pain of overcoming his challenging past from the years prior to me adopting him when he had just turned 11. I have realized that despite the abundance of love and support I give to him, I can’t shelter him from the grief process of all of the challenges that came before me. I can support him, his healing process, and his endeavors, but I can’t do it for him. On a lighter note, my other biggest parenting challenges have been in detoxing myself from my own upbringing and from the parenting and educational conventions of our culture. I have realized that the more I let go of “supposed to’s” and trust my son and allow our connection, his needs, his creativity, and his interests to lead the way, everything falls into place. If he wants to spend a month playing D&D with his friends and focusing primarily on his music, where is the law of nature that says that it shouldn’t be done? Really, he is learning far more by doing this and he is happy. That is most important to me—his happiness! I believe that how children turn out has everything to do with the quality of the parent-child connection and relationship. In our culture, what most people consider “connected” is actually dehydration. In peaceful nonviolent tribal cultures, a child or teen who is well connected to their parents is a happy, interdependent, cooperative and contributing member of the community. Teenage rebellion is a myth of our culture. Rebellious teens have dehydrated connections with their families, friends, and communities. My son, despite his early challenges and losses, is doing as well as he is because of the quality of our connection, his connection to his friends and community, and his connection to doing what he loves to do. Time with his friends and family and his creative ventures take priority over “academics.”
- As you mentioned above, you are a regular at the monthly New Hampshire Media Makers meet-up. What do you get out of attending? What kinds of connections have you made there?
I really enjoy the meetings and I am pumped by hearing about the creative projects people are doing involving multiple genres of the arts. It is such a cool, cutting edge group of artists of all types, and the youthful, creative energy really inspires me. I have become more involved in the local community arts scene because of people at NH Media Makers. I have met people who have been able to help me with projects relating to my business as an author, writer, and speaker, including making my professional Website a reality. Chris, you were a huge help to me at Podcamp 2010 in helping me venture out into podcasting. I also hope to continue to connect with people who will be able to work with me on some of my other creative ideas not related to my book, such as my interest in doing short, random, eccentric film clips in public or horror skits. Although I present more professionally when marketing my book and consulting services, I am eccentric as an artist and would like to find a niche online and in public with that side of me as well.
- We had the pleasure of hanging out during the Generation Goat FunSpot meet-up back in January and you were quite the master at winning tickets from the games there. Any secrets you wish to divulge? And how important do you think it is that grown-ups like us connect with their inner child at places like arcades from time-to-time?
Funspot is a mecca of 80s video game perfection and a great place for young adults to reconnect with a sense of being carefree and having pure fun. I think it was awesome that you set up the event because I do feel it is very important that creative adults get together and just goof around, get their “geek” on, play, laugh, and have fun in ways that do not involve a bar or alcohol. I had so much fun that day and I felt like a teenager again! Yes, I’m an 80s video game fanatic and I did score some mad tickets that day. My secret is that I’ve figured out the exact way to flick the lever on the Chicago Coins mechanical baseball game to score several strings of Homeruns and Cancel Outs, something I perfected when I was nine back when Dover had a Funspot. If you can hit a Homerun on both sides of the game, the next time you score a “Cancel Out”, your score will increase by ten. It also helps that the game glitches a lot and gives out free points and sometimes doesn’t count the Outs!