Jenny Cyphers is a long-time unschooling mom of two daughters, ages 14 and 22. After reading her answers to unschooling questions online for years, I was delighted to get a chance to chat with Jenny about the teen years. We talk about trust, rebellion, patience, comfort zones, honesty, communication, and just how much we love our teens and young adults as real people.
Quote of the Week
“Scientific research shows unequivocally that the cognitive abilities of teens are, on average, superior to the cognitive abilities of adults. Reasoning ability peaks in the early or mid teens, for example, and so does intelligence. Most memory functions peak in our early teens, and all of these abilities decline throughout adulthood, some quite dramatically. Research also shows that the ability of teens to make sound decisions about health matters, including abortion, is equal to that of adults. Media reports suggest that teen problems are produced by a faulty “teen brain,” but a close examination of the relevant research does not support the claims. The teen brain is, at best, a reflection of teen problems, not their cause.” ~ Robert Epstein, Teen 2.0: Saving Our Children and Families from the Torment of Adolescence
Some Questions for Jenny
1. Can you share with us a bit about your background and your family?
2. How did you discover unschooling? What did your family’s move to unschooling look like?
3. I think that our results-oriented culture has done teens, and adults, a big disservice. It really minimizes the value of the process. I have a short quote of yours I found on Sandra Dodd’s website that I love, “Sometimes what life really requires is calm and patience. A very valuable thing to learn in life is to how to take care of ourselves and others during times of stress and times that aren’t ideal and wonderful. When there is stress and other negative influences happening around us, it’s even MORE important to take that time to seek out the beauty and the softness and the sweet and light and happy things.” Can you talk a bit more about that?
4. You have a great post on your blog about trusting teens. The conventional perspective on trusting teens is trusting that they will make the “right” choices, with “right” being defined by the parents. And it they don’t it becomes about guilt, shame, and punishment. But from the unschooling perspective, you wrote, “There isn’t an issue at all with discipline when you trust your kids absolutely. When they make choices that you don’t like, it isn’t because they are deliberately disobeying you or trying to make your life as a parent difficult, it’s because they saw that they were making the best choice at the time. Since kids are still learning, they don’t always predict all the outcomes that may arise from their choices, and sometimes they need to pick up pieces of the aftermath, but still, it was the best choice they could make at the time.” I think that’s such an important point, can you dig into that for us?
5. The conventional construct of teen rebellion is interesting. I think it’s a reaction to control. Yet it’s not inevitable, as parenting wisdom seems to suggest, because many unschooling parents have discovered that when we aren’t trying to get our teens to meet our goals for them, and instead spend our effort helping them meet their goals for themselves, the conflict and rebellion piece fades away. It’s not that things are easy breezy because it’s life, and our comfort zones may well need stretching, but we know it’s their life to live and we want to help them do that. What’s your take on teen rebellion?
And then we just kept talking. 🙂
Links to things mentioned in the show
Quote of Jenny’s about calm and patience: Moments
Jenny’s blog post: Trusting kids
Jenny’s page on sandradodd.com: Jenny Cyphers
The book Jenny mentioned: Parent/Teen Breakthrough: The Relationship Approach, by Mira Kirshenbaum and Charles Foster
Jenny helps out online here: Radical Unschooling Info Facebook page