Rough Vision

August 7, 2007

We were discussing Intentional Communities on a New Zealand Unschooler list and I was asked about what our vision for an intentional community (IC) might actually be. The question kind of stopped me in my tracks. Up until fairly recently I’d had quite a strong set of ideas – it is going to be this, this and this. However since I’ve been through the disillusionment phase I’m not feeling nearly so prescriptive. Anyway, I sat down with Karen to figure out what it was that was important to us about a community.PARENTING STUFF

Aside from being a place that would support people who want to unschool we would also like to provide support for people who want to practice things like homebirthing, co-sleeping, non-vaccination and non-coercive/unconditional parenting.

These are the things that come to mind first when we think of a community, maybe it’s the stage we’re at but it seems to be the area of children that people are most judgemental about. We want to see support for these things, but if someone also didn’t want to do these things we would also be supportive of that choice. It’s important to have that freedom but we would be unhappy if the balance swung back the other way. I don’t think it’s likely too but it is a kind of grey area.

The parts of that we feel slightly more prescriptive about are with the unconditional parenting. I remember someone on the continuum-concept list complaining that in her co-housing community another parent had been shouting at her children in a particularly nasty way. Because of that there would probably need to be a requirement that other adults should treat a child in the manner that the parents request.

Not everyone is in a position to homeschool, but it would be a disappointment if we ended up in a place where most of the children left for the day. Again we don’t want to make rules – especially as people sometimes need time to make changes like that, so we’re counting on the vision statement filtering out people who aren’t keen on these things.

I know that mainstream people worry about unschooled children just running wild but to be honest I love the idea that the kids would have that kind of freedom – I hope they could roam all over property while the older ones can keep an eye on the younger ones and they’re free to build the self-reliance that previous generations had until we got so scared that we even supervise out kids when they walk between the car and the house.


As with kids we would like to have a place where the majority of adults don’t leave for the day. Obviously some people are tied to a certain type of job so there has to be a lot of tolerance with this one but our vision for community is definitely that people are around a lot.
It’s a given that ICs provide well for the community interaction side of things but we also think it is essential that the physical structure of the property and building allow for a variety of interactions so that it can nurture smaller groups, nuclear families, couples and individuals. We feel that people need to be able to have as much time alone as they require if the community side of life is to prosper.

We want to minimise the amount of compulsory activity that members will have to be involved with, although there will obviously be a degree of property maintenance work to attend to.

Most of us are aware of the damage that the world does to children and have probably also become aware that some of that stuff has happened to us so it could be good to create an environment that is healing for adults. Hopefully
people will have more space to focus on this area because if the structure of the community is done right we will feel less overwhelmed by the responsibilities of parenting.


We’re looking for something that is rural, because we want a few animals, a good forest and trees etc but is also closely integrated with the larger community of a nearby town (such as Raglan).

We think that there should be capacity for people to leave and extract their money from the community with relative ease. The last thing anyone wants are unwilling members.

Some parts of the property will probably be communally owned while other parts will be individually owned


We imagine principals of permaculture will be used to design the layout on the property and we are quite keen on having a food forest and on being relatively self sufficient as far as food is concerned – although not in a mad obsessive way where we prefer to go hungry rather than actually pay for food :-)


I don’t know how many people have heard of this issue (it’s been aired on TV3 occasionally) We’re taking it seriously and want to see some kind of focus on low tech human-powered technologies. This is another of these things that not everyone needs to be into but I would personally like to have one or two other people around to work with on this.


We kind of take it as a given that what ever happens will be done in an environmentally friendly way and that food will be organically grown. I’m undecided about whether people could use sprays on their private garden. On the one hand I’d like people to be free to do what they want there but on the other it does affect the rest of the land. Denmark banned Roundup recently because they found that it was seeping into their underground water supply.


Karen is a christian and I’m not. Karen would like to have someone else around her shares her faith but we are also very clear that we don’t want all, or even lots, of the members to be christian. As for having a variety of faiths – I’d be uncomfortable with having ‘competing’ faiths together in one place, I’m not sure that a community could handle it but I also agree with Scott Peck that exclusiveness is the opposite of community so I haven’t made my mind up about that. This is my view as a secular observer incidentally.


We intend that the community will be in a position to give back to the wider community somehow. It won’t be in a single focus way where everyone does the same thing but if someone wants to take in foster children then the community will support that person in doing so (the community won’t have to support the children though – only the member involved in that activity) If someone wants to focus on providing food to a foodbank then there should be some land set aside for that purpose. If someone wants to organise some kind of support group to meet on the site then that’s good too. It won’t be compulsory to give something back to the wider community either but we intend to create a place where it’s much easier for members to do that sort of thing than it would normally be.


Definitely there will be no single issue or single focus involved with the community. It is mostly about supporting people where they are at – and helping them to move forward when they’re ready. We hope that people will be able to let their defences down a bit more than they currently do. From what I’ve read it’s likely that living like this will ‘bring up stuff’ for people so we’ll have to have ways of dealing with this also.

Decisions will probably be made by consensus once the community is up and running and it would probably be a good idea for us to take a course on how to operate in consensus because it’s not something our culture is very good

Somehow we want to create a relaxed, fun, healing (anything else?) atmosphere that is noticeable to people when they come to visit

We hope that most people will work (and relax) on site and that a result of this will be that our unschooled children will have a variety of activities at their disposal to learn about should they want to


I’m keen to build an earth house quite soon and would like to have people to do that with (maybe we can build two?) because I’m really poorly motivated when I work by myself :-)

Plus, I know virtually everything here is considered to be radical by the mainstream but we are both from mainstream backgrounds and are kind of torn by the fact that we can’t talk about this stuff with the people who we are most at home with. Because of that we don’t want a community of people who are against the world, we want to still be fully integrated with mainstream society and have friends etc outside the community.


is there anything I’ve forgotten?


One comment

  1. I don’t know if you’ve read Island by Aldous Huxley, but you definately should! It’s described as a utopian philosophical novel, but you can see the sense and potential in the community vision that Huxley created. Really opened up my imagination on the issue.

    One of the most interesting parts is that the residents of utopic Pala have things called Mutual Adoption Clubs. They are groups of 10-20 families, and basically the children are allowed to move between families as they wish. They stay close to their blood parents of course, and that role is never replaced, but if the child is ever under strain then he/she can go and stay with another family until it’s sorted out. It creates a fantastically strong community. You should definately check out the book for more info and inspiration. It’s pretty famous so some libraries near you may have it.

    Posted by: Dan Bartlett | 08/08/2007

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