The importance of keeping a curriculum in your plans
In a TEOTWAWKI community, the lifestyle would be more or less the traditional one known to all communities in all times, cultures, and epochs: survival maintenance. Work never ends because, in a traditional community, work is life. Gardening techniques, clothing styles, earthenware, cuisine, tools, art, tapestries, house construction, and all the rest are not ‘pretty things’ at all but artifacts that emerge from survival. They are pretty things when we see them as a Goth’s furry booties in a museum or an Algonquin head wrap in a roadside souvenir shop. Likewise, education is practical, a lesson with a purpose and not as a diversion, and the learning that does not further community welfare is a dangerous one. All effort either contributes to the community welfare or works against it. Learning programs are no different.
Even if cataclysmic events pass after a short time – say, five to ten years only – and we are able to re-enter the society we left with its food stores and water treatment facilities, that is a gap of time that needs to be filled diligently and productively. Children should emerge in a better frame of mind and worldview than if they had been left in the pre-cataclysmic modern public school system. Would your TEOTWAWKI school program do that? This is what the prepper-survivalist strives for: coming out of difficulty stronger, wiser, and looking upon challenges, however fearsome, with the same look that Aristotle described on a ‘great man’: one who looks upon life the way an athlete looks upon a race.
The vital points of learning are in stories. Here are suggestions for designing an approach without electricity for any digital materials, cassettes, or videos. From the descriptions of TEOTWAWKI life that I have seen, it is difficult to imagine that your energy sources would be wisely spent on dvd or cd players, even for educational purposes. It’s likely going to be purposely selected tales and sing-alongs by campfire and candlelight from day one. A family or community must decide for themselves what is moral, good, bad, etc, in terms of reading material and because of the personal nature of that, I do not prescribe materials by name.
Reading the opening chapter of James Wesley, Rawles’ How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It, it is difficult to imagine that there will be much time for school learning concerns, at least in the beginning. In a real TEOTWAWKI scenario (is there any other kind?), most preppers and their children would find it difficult to focus on bookish pursuits. But eventually, if and when things settle down and preparations have paid off well enough that a small community can emerge and stabilize, life will have to go on and part of that maintenance is in the schooling of the young. It is what gives the idea that there is a future to work towards at all, for it would be equally difficult psychologically to go on with things if you and your family/community had the attitude that there would be no future.
Right thinking requires selecting right examples
If we accept that learning must be geared towards practical survival, and if we accept that stories can transmit good examples and ideals necessary to survival (fortitude, perseverance, self-restraint, charity, respect towards authority, etc), then we may infer that the selection of stories is crucial to preparing children to survive, which in turn helps us to survive.
The one in charge of learning (in the home or for a small community school) will have to act as censor in the selection of stories for telling or reading. Let’s not forget that the word comes from the Latin ‘cencere’, which meant to give an opinion or assessment, to appraise. From the late-medieval period on it was used in ecclesiastical terms as ‘censor’ to mean a corrector or editor in the sense that what was printed was accurate and the stamp of approval was the word ‘imprimatur’ – (fit) to be printed. The TEOTWAWKI teacher will have to know what is ‘fit reading’. One of the disasters of modern education is the idea that children can be the creators of their own learning. Shall we allow them to create their own means of survival? We have been taught by mainline media to fear the word censor, but consider how often we as parents do this in practice: we censor what children eat, we censor the time they may be home or in bed by, we censor the language they may use towards their siblings, and so on. If we are willing to admit that a child’s outlook, temperament, and inclination are shaped in great measure by what is seen in the films and in print, then it follows that these things need censoring.
You have a limited amount of time to prepare the mindset of kids, to prepare by the age of ten or twelve in what Aristotle called ‘khreston ethos’ or a fitting outlook, what C.S. Lewis called ‘just sentiments’ – the frame of mind that is conducive to working when cold and wet, learning for tomorrow ‘just because it’s what we do’, accepting correction with humility, acquiring a fledgling sense of decorum, duty, and the like. Learning is not complete by this age but the basis upon which more advanced learning can take place is laid here. The mind at this age is the concrete slab foundation of the house and it had better be strong. If this is true generally in the comfy environment that we have at the moment, how much more true will it be in a perilous environment where the survival of everyone is contingent upon what notions are put into our children’s imaginations?
Stories – the foundation of community
Stories, as education, were never for diversion. Today, myths are considered to be fanciful stories for entertainment from a naïve past, but in fact they served as educational lessons to their original societies. ‘Little Red Riding-Hood’ was a tale to warn small children not to venture into the woods because in early-medieval times, that’s where roving Celtic bandits lived – and kidnapped children that drifted too far afield. This is how a little Romano-Briton boy ended up an Irish shepherd for fifteen years; he later became known as Saint Patrick. The genealogies of many traditions are thought of as being overly-attentive to family trees but in a traditional community, genealogies are historical time-lines. With the Internet, parents have great access to all manner of stories new and old to collect, print, and even use now without any TEOTWAWKI. Parables, proverbs, fables, and legends (including adventure tales) transmit lessons about survival-conduct, wise decision making, and right perspective. Right-perspective is not about your ideological preference or your favorite -ism; it’s about survival within your retreat.
The material of a prepper’s home school or community school might be in pictures or words but it’s what the stories are about that counts. Many societies of more primitive peoples without a written language are known for their generosity and peaceful way of life, and don’t forget that at the time of Nazi Germany, Germans were the most literate nation in the world. Even at the most practical level, such as the Bushmen of Africa, there is an ‘oral literature’ without which they would have difficulty making sense of the world around them and their place in it. Consider collecting a list of stories (tales, books, etc) classified under value-headings, ex: about family life, community life, work ethic, and personal responsibility. The goal is moral living generally, for all the camping supplies and solar panels and chlorine tablets and jerked beef and heirloom seeds come to nothing if strife, dissent, and selfishness reign in your retreat compound. Daily stories help in some measure (depending on how well they are integrated with other tasks in the day) to keep order. It would be difficult to teach children to participate in a tight community structure while feeding them some random assortment of disconnected stories that go against communal living. When it comes to tight community living, where every person young, old, and in between is a vital cog in the daily operation of things, moral stories are as important as clean water and defense. If you see nothing in common between the traditional stories of the Tlingit in Alaska, the Sanskrit parables of the ancient Indo-European Aryans, the myths of the ancient Greeks, and the tales of medieval Slavs, then know that it is their survival as communities.
Written word, spoken word
Wars and disruptions in The Grid can be temporary. However, if a TEOTWAWKI scenario happens, it would likely endure for many years because the very nature of TEOTWAWKI is big, not small. After fifteen years of travel, living and working on four continents, it is my impression that the Amish in the United States have the most balanced or holistic system of education: letters and stories that enforce the social ethos. There is a similar community in Europe (and some other countries, including the US) called Bruderhof with many parallels in approach but they are not as numerous. A number of small eco-communities (often downplayed as ‘communes’ by the western technocratic media) have grown in Russia and in Germany, but because of their nature and principles, they are not on the internet. They all value stories and art as part of the mechanism of community health. Should there be second and third-generation TEOTWAWKI communities, and should they lose most writing skills, they would still stand stronger than others as long as they carry with them the necessary Moral ABCs to survive.
Don’t let reading dominate. Use voice. In your curriculum, include many oral response/ performance activities that follow stories. Having kids read aloud helps with communication skills generally, can remove some speech impediments, assists memory, and also encourages self-confidence. Have them identify connections with previous stories. Ask how they are related and how they are different. You might also combine a spoken story with art/drawing activities. Traditionally, music is also combined with stories, especially for younger kids. Music in many societies is the means to teaching correct grammar because children internalize rhythm more easily than rules. The use of songs has long been known to work well in foreign language acquisition. Rhyme in music and poems is also a natural feature of language learning because it is an analytical activity. Incidentally, many traditional (non- or semi-literate) communities that I have seen in my travels have rich musical traditions without instruments. Voice and melody are the important elements.
For those who would develop writing in the curriculum, there is no great rocket science to making comprehension/response activities into learning pedagogies. Anything read or listened to has the basic pattern:
-Elicit the moral/lesson of it
-Connect or integrate it with previous stories or real-life experiences (physical, emotional, ethical, creative, etc.)
This process doesn’t change much in terms of essentials all the way up to college work, only in depth and complexity. For example, the standard parts of an analytical college essay are:
-Summary of the main ideas (What the facts are, what the deal is)
-Interpretation (What they mean, how to look at it)
-Proposal (What we should do next, new ideas)
And at the higher level of formal research projects, it becomes:
-Review of the literature
-Research methods and analysis of the data
-Results and applications
Create a similar template for any story at any age level.
Children and especially adolescents should be encouraged to contribute materials for the library such as writing original short stories and reflections, writing down their experiences, noting humorous episodes from their days, and – importantly – reading each other’s stories or telling them dramatically. Humor will be a vital component in TEOTWAWKI society. Kids should be encouraged to draw scenes of hope and joy wherever their imaginations can find it. Book-making (for what they write and draw) is another basic and rewarding skill that can be worked into the whole process. Ink-making, carving out a quill, paper making can also be part of the curriculum because these things might in fact be needed.
Select your library now. Even if you don’t have children, some in your community might. Your library collection should not be too big. If each family in a community had a small library, it would make for a sufficient sharing system all put together. The library should also be portable. Having a community does not guarantee that its members will have the luxury of remaining in one place settled down. You might need to go nomadic. This lifestyle should also be somewhere in your selected stories so children can relate to it should the need arise. There are plenty of stories from nomadic cultures that help young and old alike to comprehend the life of traveling.
Traditional societies that have survived so long in natural TEOTWAWKI conditions – in Australia, Central Asia, South America, North America, Siberia, and many others right up to our day all share one thing in common with regard to the young: educating youth through stories that impart the values and character necessary to not only survival but constructive outlook and moral self-worth. It will be good for preppers to study something about existing communal groups that integrate traditional stories with living,. For example: kibbutz settlements, Amish communities, Eskimo reservations, monasteries, and other indigenous cultures around the world, both settled and nomadic, to glean information. In such communities, things are not done frivolously. What works is kept, what doesn’t work is discarded.
This is the course of literature. What we list as ‘pretty things’ are just artifacts of survival taken out of their survival context. Real literature is that which promotes survival. It can become pretty afterwards for future generations to look back on when they are in the position of enjoying the accomplishments that their forebearers (re)built.