Anne Ohman and Anna Brown, both veteran unschooling parents, join me to answer listener questions. Click here to submit your own question to the Q&A Round Table!
Quote of the Week
“As we focus on this Mind Movie—the story playing in our heads—we become attached to it and want it to be real, somehow. The problem is that when reality clashes with the story, we get frustrated, upset, bothered, angry, disappointed. These bad feelings can get in the way of our peace of mind and happiness. They can make us behave badly and harm our relationships with others. This mismatch between the story in our heads, our Mind Movie, and reality causes a lot of our problems. The answer is to mindfully turn from the story to the reality of the moment.” ~ Leo Babauta, Zen Habits: Mastering the Art of Change
Hello! I am mum to four children 5 1/2 and under. My 5 year old should be starting prep next year (Australia) but we have decided to unschool, or essentially just continuing on the path we are already on. We’ve always tried to have a respectful and mindful approach to parenting and our relationships with our children. This has taken a lot of self reflection and work on my part though as I didn’t have this growing up.
Two of my current hurdles at the moment are tied back to relinquishing control. First, is the amount of “things” that come into our home. I am minimalist in the sense that I don’t like to have a lot of stuff in the house. If it’s not used or doesn’t hold special meaning I tend to donate it. The amount of clothes, things etc. I own is very minimal, I feel overwhelmed when there is too much in our home. I like the order and the simplicity when there isn’t too much in the house. It makes it feel a little less chaotic.
I tend to trickle this down to my children. My daughter especially loves to collect things and her room becomes filled with stuff and is often very messy. I try, over and over again to let go, to “allow” more into our, to not care about how messy her room is (it is her room after all), and I succeed at letting go for a bit. However, a rough moment or day arises and I revert back trying to get the control back on how tidy her room is, or how much “stuff” is in the house. How do I reconcile my needs and their needs? I need less to feel less overwhelmed, they need more to discover, explore and learn. We can be different, but how do I meet everyone’s needs?
The second thing I am having a hard time letting go of is around introducing TV, computers, iPads, video games, etc. My husband and I really only watch an hour or so of TV a day after the kids go bed, same with our phones or listening to podcasts, etc.. It is only ever after the kids go to bed. Since they haven’t had much exposure to “screens” they never really ask for it and I have never really had to restrict it… But at the same time they don’t really watch much. A few things here and there like a train show (they love transport) and the recent Olympics. How to do I and should I let more of this in to our home? I guess I also struggle with content. With 4 children so young I suppose I tend to worry about what they would be watching and whether or not limits should be set around that. We watched The Jungle Book as a family movie night a few weeks ago and my 3 1/2 has been terrified of monkeys coming in his room since and my 5 year old asked for it to be turned off after the building collapsed on top of the ape. So I question how much free rein I should give in regards to content. The other noise that comes into play are the studies I have read regards to TV’s “addictive nature,” that most shows are too fast for young children, etc.
Any help, advice, suggestions you have to offer to would be greatly appreciated.
PS I forgot to add that I think part of restricting what comes into the house, in terms of volume, also comes out of the fact that the more there is, the more I have to clean and tidy. The kids help to an extent, but with them being so young, to a large extent, most of it falls on me. As you can imagine, they are still need help with a fair bit. So how do I let go without stretching myself too thin?
I started out parenting thinking that we would have very limited use of TV and video games when our kids were young. I sort of built an ideal image in my mind of parenting my young children in a pretty Waldorf type way – we’d do art, play outside for hours, etc. I’ve moved well past most of that as my husband and I are (almost) fully embracing unschooling with our 3 kids (6, 4, and 5 months old).
However, I am having the hardest time deschooling when it comes to TV and video games. It’s like I keep thinking I’ve done it, and then I feel the fear creep back in. My two oldest kids LOVE video games and so does my husband. And I honestly just don’t enjoy them. I try and join them for a bit each day, and love spending time with them, but it’s just not my thing. And I fall into the trap of comparisons – on weekends I see all the neighbor kids outside playing together in the beautiful weather and often my kids are inside on the xbox or computer.
I just can’t get past my own upbringing and the messages from society about video games and sometimes really wonder if I will always believe that other endeavors are more valuable than watching shows and playing video games. I don’t want to feel this way and I want to support what my kids love. Perhaps I’m just missing when they were younger and less interested in this stuff (and also often think that 4 and 6 is still pretty darn young to spend so much time in front of a screen instead of running around and engaging in active play)?
Perhaps I just honestly can’t embrace this aspect of unschooling? Any advice for when these thoughts creep back in and unsettle me and make me question our approach? I truly want to embrace this and to support and feed their interests, but get stuck when their childhood isn’t looking like what I thought the ideal childhood my kids could have would look like. I think I’m driving my husband crazy by using him as my sounding board every time I get worried.
Can you “not do enough” as an unschooling parent and fail your children? Or is it about changing your values and emphasis from education, to joy? I feel like I’m getting good at saying ‘yes’ to the messy and strange things my children want to do but I wonder if there is more strewing I could be doing. At the moment, I feel I don’t strew very much because most of the time my children aren’t interested in the things I suggest or strew, and so it feels like a waste of time.
I have 3 boys ages 12, 16 and 19. We have homeschooled from the beginning – only in reading and math. My 19 year old went to high school for a semester and had a really bad experience – he now thinks he can’t learn anything! We have been moving towards unschooling for 5 years and fully unschooling for two years. A year ago we moved to another state because my husband was laid off. My 19 year old had a lot of friends but really wanted a new start. He keeps in contact via the internet/gaming. Currently all three boys spend all their time at the computer watching movies, playing games, streaming on twitch etc. They do not want to go and do anything outside the house – except maybe to see a movie. I offer them things to do but they are not interested. They do not want to go to homeschool/unschool groups. We had an unschooling conference in our town and no one wanted to go.
I miss my boys. I go to their rooms and ask questions about what they are doing. They will give me some info and I will watch them play, but usually they ask me to leave. Sometimes they seek me out to tell me new developments in their games. This summer I helped my 12 year old build his own computer and now he is streaming on twitch. It seems they come to me for food or looking for clean laundry. I don’t like to leave the house and leave them at home. I leave only to take the dogs for a walk or go to the store. I have been working on being in the moment with each one of them and loving them unconditionally. However, I worry they will never want to go out and do anything.
Our kids, 9 and 6 (and a 3 year old) have left school since February 2016. Since then, they have watched a lot of Netflix. They haven’t shown any particular interest in anything. I don’t see them being particularly excited to learn anything. They ask questions, but often don’t even bother to listen the answer or find the answer by themselves, “boring” is the word qualifying the research. So fear is growing in my mind. Are my kids so lazy?? Yesterday my daughter had a birthday party with 5 of her “ex” school friends. They seemed so happy to go to school. We discussed about it and they all said this year was fun, they all have para scholar activities and they all have this energy to learn. So I thought, ” Oh my god! I made a huge mistake! My kids were better off to school! We don’t do so much interesting stuff now.”
Obviously. I feel incompetent. I am afraid to ruin their life. It is like they are happy not to go to school anymore just to be able to do nothing!!!! Maybe I am completely wrong or not. I don’t know anymore!!!! I feel ashamed. I believed I was able to show them, but I am not!
Links to things mentioned in the show
- Leo Babauta’s websites: zenhabits.net and unschoolery.com
- Anne’s Shine with Unschooling website and I Am What I Am