Article written by: Terri Novacek, Executive Director for Element Education
We have become a codependent society. We depend on others to provide care, education, and food for our families. While lower-income families rely on the government for basic needs and services, higher-income families have access to the private sector for these and more, including the maintenance of our homes, our yards, and ourselves. One might say, we have reached a point of relying on others for our sense of self and well-being.
Codependence is not to be mistaken for interdependence. While on the surface “co” (together, with) sounds warm and fuzzy, codependence is really just being dependent… together. As such, it can hinder growth, create animosity, and thwart self-worth. Inter (among, between) on the other hand, provides a sense of self within a community while offering flexibility and freedom. Although interdependence comes naturally between plants and animals, humans struggle to find the fine line.
The shelter in place mandate sparked by COVID-19 is in some ways returning us to our agrarian (land-based) roots and lifestyle in which people remained in one place, took responsibility for and focused on the immediate family, maintained their property, and created social structures within a community. It was a society of interdependence. In this unprecedented time of our lives, we seek solace in our homes and neighborhoods, working and learning at home with mixed ages and generations, and setting up virtual co-ops, playdates, happy hours, family gatherings, and support groups. We are, once again, faced with finding a balance between ourselves and others with more time for personal interests, taking back personal responsibility, engaging on a more meaningful level, and setting new and healthier boundaries.
Although we may not all be ready to set up the farm, with spring in the air and more time at home, more people are testing their green thumbs. There is a plethora of resources for growing your own food from vertical, raised beds, and container gardens to larger-scale gardens that could feed a neighborhood. Local garden centers and feed stores are operating as essential businesses, and the checkout lines are comparable to those at grocery stores. Even those not ready to dig in the dirt or wrestle with chickens to get their eggs are finding a need to put more thought into their food acquisition, meal planning, and meal preparation. One no longer stops at the store or take-out on the way home from a hectic day but instead develops a carefully planned shopping list to get by for more time on less money before venturing out with rubber gloves, face masks, and sanitizer to brave the germs of the local market. Others order online to have items dropped at the doorstep or delivered to the car in the parking lot. With everyone at home, meal planning and prep has once again become a family affair. We are being nudged into frugality, mindfulness, and… interdependence.
At a time when our society is wrestling with childcare and education, we wonder, whatever will we do with the children? Who will teach them and make sure they are safe? The answer: We will… amongst ourselves. We will take responsibility for our own children and turn to others to assist, not replace us.
As we come to realize our children will likely be home with us the remainder of the school year, there are mixed responses of panic and joy. Today’s youth are faced with the challenge of preparing for life, work, and social expectations yet to be determined. The young child that decades ago could aspire to be a first responder, scientist, teacher, or entertainer no longer has clarity on what those, or any career will look like when they reach adulthood. The most promising way to prepare for the future is to develop the skills and mindset to navigate one’s way in a blended, self-paced, and mastery-based learning environment. As a parent, that can seem a daunting task, but we must remember two important things…learning is natural, and we are all in this together. Unlike our agrarian past, our “community” extends much beyond our town. All the world’s a classroom, even if we can only experience it via the internet right now. Resources and support are plentiful. It just means we need to think differently. Element Education, with its philosophy of self-directed, self-determined, whole-child learning, is a resource that offers the interdependence between parent, student, educator, and the learning environment. www.myelement.org and www.dimensions.org.
It is a wonderful time to embrace this opportunity to connect with our family, our friends, our community, our land, and ourselves. It is time to get back to a place of… interdependence.
Terri Novacek, Executive Director for Element Education