Watching my children discover the world, I am endlessly inspired by their curiosity, clarity, and intuitive connection to nature. They run up to me bursting with questions and observations that crash through my adult paradigms to leave me breathless with insight. As a parent and educator, I aim to help them capture and use insights like these to guide them in pursuing areas of interest, acquiring useful skills and most importantly, developing a sense of agency over their future. At the same time, I believe that paying heed to my children’s clarity and perception in our family decisions is paramount.
With its ethics of Earth Care, People Care, and Future Care (or Fair Share), Permaculture gives an easy framework for children and adults to understand the importance of regenerative living. With these ethics as a lens, we can clearly see what is right – but that still leaves open the question, “What should I do?”
In our own lives, in helping our children to make their own choices, and in making family decisions, this can be a weighty question indeed! Inspired by Michelle and Rob Avis and their book and course, Building Your Permaculture Property, I have developed an exercise that can help you and your family to develop answers to your individual and shared life-choices.
In Building Your Permaculture Property, a holistic structure for approaching major decisions is offered, using the questions: What do I want? (vision), What is right? (values), and What do I have? (resources). The answer to the question What to do? lies at the intersection of these three.
One of the biggest challenges in answering these questions is that of context: drawing the answers out of the fullness of our lives. To do so, Rob and Michelle call upon the Eight Forms of Capital developed by Appleseed Permaculture.
These eight forms offer a way of seeing multiple areas of abundance in your life, allowing you and your family to make decisions based on the areas involved: what is the impact of the decision? How does it ripple out? How can it bring about the greatest well-being?
Let me describe each of these as simply as possible:
- Financial: I place this one first on the list not because it is most important, but because we are all most familiar with it. This is the financial wealth that we wish to acquire. What does financial resilience look like to us?
- Social: These are the social connections that we share with friends, family and members of our community. Who do we envision sharing our lives with? What kind of social connections do we want to foster?
- Experiential: These are the things you do: the skills and experiences that you will acquire throughout your life. What does experiential wealth look like to you? What do you want to experience in your life?
- Material: This is the non-living stuff that you have access to. How do you envision your relationship to material possessions?
- Living: This is everything in your life that is alive. The plants, animals and soils in your life all fall under this category, but so does your health and your life energy. What kind of living systems do you want to be surrounded by? How much time do you have available? How do you envision the health of your body?
- Spiritual: This can mean something different for everyone, but at its core, is the definition of your mental state; The reason that you get up each morning. How do you feel in your ideal life? What does spiritual attainment mean to you?
- Intellectual: These are your ideas and how you use them. How will you contribute your genius to the collective knowledge in the world?
- Cultural: These are the long-standing traditions that drive communities and local economies. What sort of culture do you envision yourself participating in? What traditions, songs and stories are you surrounded by? In an ideal world, how do people act around you?
So how can you and your family use the Eight Forms of Capital to identify your vision, values, and resources? The exercise I’ve developed draws upon Michelle and Rob’s Vision and Values One-Pager template covering each of the eight forms of capital. Before offering the exercise here, I’ve tested it together with my family of five (yes, both adults and children participated!).
While this exercise is intended as a first step to designing and building your permaculture property, it can also be used in making any major decision, whether you are thinking of installing swales on your property or your teenager is considering a career as a circus performer.
Step 1: Identify Core Values
In the first part of this exercise, each family member identifies the root of their decision-making: their core values. For children, this may come across as something as simple as “To be happy and live with nature, surrounded by people who love me.” Offer plenty of time for reflection here. When our family tested this exercise over dinner, the question “What is the right way to live our lives?” sparked a lively discussion enriched with profound insights from our children.
Step 2: Craft Individual Vision Statements
Next, each family member crafts a statement describing what an ideal future would look like in each of the eight areas of capital. For older children, this could be one or two sentences, acting as a sort of affirmation for how they envision their lives.
For children who cannot write by themselves, you can help them to create two or three sentences and then guide them through honing the meaning until they are left with one statement for each area of abundance that makes them feel good.
For the youngest children, an art project may work best. Ask them to draw their vision of the future in each of these areas. While this moves the exercise beyond a single page, all of the drawings can be bound as a booklet within a folder.
To accompany this post, I have created a kit of templates to help craft the Vision and Values One-Pager for children of any age. These are available freely and can be found within the Verge Academy Vault for all members of our community. If you haven’t already, create a free account on our Portal and access them HERE.
Step 3: Craft a Family Vision and Values Statement
When all of the members of your family have completed vision statements for each area of abundance, you can bring your statements together and collaboratively create a unique Vision and Values One-Pager for your entire family, combining the patterns and insights from each family member’s statements. This can then be referenced by all as you are inevitably faced with decisions to make about the future of your property and lives.
In the end, the Vision and Values One-Pager provides a foundation upon which you can make efficient decisions that guide you and your family toward well being. Crafting this page together as a family will give your children a voice and influence in the family’s vision, and empower them with their own vision of the future as you work together toward building your permaculture property and creating the life of your dreams.
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