Arwen Clark Interview June 2013

543078_10151353648389665_873564753_nI’m Sarah Clark. I run my small indie dye workshop from home, where I live with hubby and four small daughters, and also an antisocial cat who does not acknowledge any ownership arrangement. Our home is in the middle of a council estate where I’m known as “the rainbow lady with a baby on her back”.

What do you think are the most important questions we should be asking each other?

“What makes you come alive?”
I think we need to be talking about passions, and making up new ways of living so that we can all do the things that sing to us. I believe that our families, communities, and our world, would be better places if everyone were encouraged in what they are uniquely passionate about.

If you had one year to live how would you spend your time?

I wouldn’t change a thing. Perhaps that’s the acid test of whether you’re really living out your one precious life, if you knew that with less time to spend this is still how you’d spend it.

What are the most important social issues that you care about?

I care about equal treatment under the law – for everyone, not just special groups. And I suppose naturally the social issues that I feel I have to most to say about are the ones I experience daily: I am a woman, raising children without violence, living as lightly on the Earth as we are able, in relative financial poverty. So, social justice, feminism, parenting, peacefulness, positive communication and co-operation, the environment…

What do you love most about your life?

Learning and sharing with these four incredible free-spirited daughters. Creativity, and being able to do what I love every day.

What have been your highlights of 2013 so far?

Learning to use a spinning wheel.

Taking crazy weekend short trips to sleep on living room floors at friends’ houses with all the children.

Publishing my first original knitting pattern.

My smallest baby starting to talk.

When you think about the issues that concern you, what would you like to see more people do?

I would like to make better choices myself, day by day, so I’d rather answer from that perspective. I want to remain conscious of the effect my words have, and make choices that prioritise caring for others. I would like to listen, really listen, to the experiences of other people without correcting or arguing or explaining them away. With life-affirming positive interactions, we can change everything.

How do you feel about the current government and why?

I think they are waging an ideological war against the disadvantaged. I cannot believe that it is accidental that social justice is no longer a priority and the media is attempting to turn people against each other – to see each other as less than human. Less than 1% of disability claims are believed to be fraudulent, yet Atos are asked to deny 20% of applications for disability claims. The numbers don’t add up, and so much more money is “lost” each year in tax fraud (by rich corporations). “The deficit” doesn’t really exist, this is not money we have ever had, it’s just a convenient fiction that supports our markets. The system is so far beyond broken.

What does it mean to be a good parent?

Modelling a positive example of how to live as a human being, and providing a secure safe environment rich in tools for learning and exploring. Unconditional love and affection, without using violence, coercion, or emotional blackmail to seek obedience. Support and facilitation to help children find and pursue their passions and interests.

I believe we all do the best we can with what we have, and do better as we know better. I also believe that parents are often way too hard on themselves, and would do well to really look at their child as a person and follow the joy with them – rather than at a book or someone else’s child.

How do you think the education system could be improved?

Our family are unschoolers. We personally retain our legal responsibility to provide our children with the education most suited to them as individuals, and we do it by following their interests and helping them figure things out for themselves in the real world.

We don’t believe that either lessons or teaching make learning, and we neither teach nor set up lessons. We don’t have a set idea of what all people *must* know in order to thrive, but we certainly believe all schools are overly controlling and don’t provide enough breadth or depth of information.

I don’t believe a system which compels children to attend whether or not they wish to, and insists that they stay together with peer groups and do set activities at set times, can ever be a system that is entirely fair or humane. Education is compulsory, school is not.  Schools should not ever seek to co-opt parental responsibility, and currently they create loopholes to do just that. There should always be a state schooling option for parents to use if it suits their family, but the family should be in control (not the state).

I would love to see more options for families to share childcare and learning opportunities without state or financial penalty. I would love to see teachers being encouraged to follow the class and support projects, rather than being required to teach to a plan no matter what. I would like to see all schools truly recognise the individual needs of every child and support their passions. I would like to see an end to all standardised testing. I would like to see children’s wishes honoured as much as adults, wherever they are.

When confronted with a boy in a chicken costume speaking poetically about freedom, what then?

I would stand beside him and sing a song of freedom and peace. My children would probably fall about laughing.
I’d like the link for Sandra Dodd’s unschooling page listed with the interview, please.



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