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
“[There is] so much you can do to support and honor their game playing by showing an interest in all of it, even if you don’t like to play them yourself. Just so they know for sure that you’re not going to try to take it away from them again by limiting it—that you really embrace and enjoy and trust them with their joy. And that’s how you build trust with each other. They will learn to trust in you, because of your interest and enthusiasm, and you will learn to trust in them, by exploring it more and seeing the depth of the real learning that’s happening through their joy. And let me tell you, that is a beautiful thing.” ~ Anne Ohman
I consider us to be not just unschoolers, but radical unschoolers since we are life learners. It carries over to parenting and nearly every moment of our days. I would say that we are 95% radical, because of me coming from a public school background, I can’t totally free myself from this and just relax. Every time I turn around, I seem to be pulling out curriculum. Well, of course this never works for my kids! I have two adult children, whom I homeschooled. One actually unschooled. Both are doing great.
I have a teen who isn’t as driven as my previously unschooled child was and this concerns me. Hence, pulling out the curriculum. Again! Never works! I also have a 7yo and 2yo. I know that unschooling is the best fit for our family but how do I just relax?!! I’m sure that I need to deschool myself. It’s so hard though because at the end of the “school year”, we need to provide a portfolio in this state. I need to make sure that we have enough to submit for the year. I am looking forward to hearing what advice you may have. Help! And thank you!
Hello, I am unschooling my two boys, 9 and 13 years old, and recently I am more relax about the fact that they were spending so much time on the computer, before I allowed them two hours playing Minecraft, Clash of Clans, Royal… I don’t like video games at all but they love to play. Because I got very tired every day standing up next to them repeating the same words all the time to switch off the computer I stop doing that because they were angry to me later. Now I allow them to spend all the time they want playing and they are happier, but my question is: after six hours watching the screen without stopping, is it ok for their eyes? I am worried about that.
Hi Pam, my wife and I live in France and we are planning to unschool our two and a half year old son. We are a very environmentally concerned couple and take our principles very seriously when it comes to buying consumer products, especially food. We always try to know where it comes from, whether that particular industry or supplier or brand pollutes the environment, and of course how their workers are treated. We enjoy all your podcasts, but it seems you have a rather lax attitude toward how children eat. You basically say that “if they want to drink Coke, then let them.” But this conflicts with our principles, as well as the fact that Coke is pure sugar and chemicals and therefore quite bad for their health, not to mention the fact that Coke steals water from extremely poor regions of the world. In other words, there are very simple facts about some foods and beverages that are undeniable: they are bad for a child’s growth, their health, their performance and brain development, etc. In addition, it is completely irresponsible to purchase them or support their companies and brands if you want to have a planet for our children. What do we do to unschool while trying to stay aware of these facts? Thanks so much for your work and kind regards from France.
Hi Pam, Anna and Anne,
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, I absolutely love hearing your podcast and wait patiently every week for the next one. I really love the Q&A episodes because every question seems to answer so many of my worries and concerns as I continue to deschool. Your answers are so thoughtfully prepared and I just loving hearing the soothing calm and feeling that energy as I listen.
A little background. We have four boys, ages seven, five, three and a half, and 18 months. Our house is very busy and chaotic, but in a good way. We came to unschooling after researching alternatives to mainstream schooling. My now 7 year old had spent one year at Kindy. He did very well academically, but he struggled emotionally when at home, he seemed overwhelmed and exhausted. I started looking into other schools in the area, Steiner, Montessori, and then unfortunately we ended up moving with my husband’s work to a remote place and schooling options were dismal.
My son seemed to show lots of signs at home that he was finding it too much. The pressure of reading and writing and five full days of school with very limited outdoor play or play of any sort. The days he was at home he would be exhausted and turn to TV to relax, he also started to show signs of aggression and lots of frustration. I researched homeschooling, and shortly after we pulled my son out and started homeschooling, which within weeks turned to unschooling.
This was seven months ago and we have been really enjoying learning with each other and spending our days together. My son is still struggling with his emotions however; he has become more and more aggressive at home, so much so that it is frightening for everyone and must be frightening for him too. Since starting unschooling we have released our controls and limits on TV, computers, and so on. My son has been exploring these with such passion. He lights up when he talks about Terraria and Minecraft, and is learning so many things. I definitely have done lots of inner work in this area and am confident in his learning.
The only thing that does worry me as I find the days that he does spend a significant amount of time on his computer or watching YouTube, his aggression hits a high, he also complains of headaches frequently. We have discussed taking breaks, and getting fresh air and I am making snacks and drinks for him to keep him topped up. But he gets frustrated if I suggest that maybe he needs to have a stretch and to move around for a few minutes. With having three other young boys to care for, who are very busy and are always creating and coming up with all sorts of things they need me to help them with, I don’t get to spend as much time connecting with my seven year old. I sit with him and ask him about his games, and try to play along as best I can; I admit I am not very good, he is miles ahead of me.
However, my other children tend to be much more needing of my time. I miss my son and worry that I am failing him, especially because he seems to have such extreme emotions which I feel must be an unmet need. He is very confident, I would say he is extroverted and thrives off being around people talking, and he is always telling jokes and making people laugh. So I am always trying to organise situations where he can shine. He loves the ocean too. When he spends a day at the beach or a day playing with friends out and about, he seems to be thriving and his aggression seems to mellow. However he quite often doesn’t want to come. He will say he has a headache and wants to stay at home, then he seems frustrated and angry. Could his time in front of the computer be aggravating him, or could it be that he is using the computer as an escape from deeper emotions that are troubling him.
We have moved a lot recently with my husband’s work, and my husband has also been suffering from depression as a direct result of his work. This has affected our family in a big way, and we have been living apart recently because it was no longer a healthy or safe environment for our children. My son has always been very big hearted and emotional, he comes across as very confident, but is quite soft and tender inside. I worry that I am not meeting his needs, that he is using these things to escape his feelings. We spent a day together recently, just the two of us and it was magic; we swam at the beach for hours, crashing through the waves while he eagerly said come out further mum come on, telling me about the dangers of rips, telling me about how we can tell the time by the sun. He is amazing and I can completely see all the amazing things that he is learning and seeing and doing.
I remember Pam in one of your podcast you mentioned how you son could only have so many things happen in a day before his cup overflowed and things would go downhill from there. This seems to be my son, it seems if one or two things happen after another, he can’t cope and he will lose his temper. He will throw things, break things, pour food, water, anything on the carpet. If someone is in his way he will push them over or hit them. I will tell him that I have to hold him, to keep him safe, until he feels better. He eventually does after lots of screaming and lashing out at me, but it can take up to 20 minutes. We have tried meditation together and talk about breathing and how else I can help him. I feel like he can’t release much of his frustration in front of a computer; before he would run around, and wrestle with his brother or scoot around, kick a ball, all those things released the endorphins and he seemed to be calmer after he had been active.
Just yesterday, he woke up after going to bed with a headache and I suggested that he have a nice warm soothing bath while I get his breakfast ready—he said sounds good. After that I said would he mind trying a couple minutes of meditation with me, he said ok. It literally lasted a few minutes as he was itching to go play. He then played with his brother running around, wrestling, playing with the dog, building Lego and he just looked so refreshed and happy and he said he felt good. He then got the computer out and within an hour he was grumpy, and said his head hurt again. I mentioned taking a break for a few minutes even just readjusting his eyes and he just said no.
I feel like a bad parent just sitting by and watching but at the same time imposing a limit just doesn’t sit with me either. Is this just something he will learn if I support him and not push it.
I also have lots of concerned family saying that he is on the computer too much. I don’t find myself answering confidently enough, which shows me that I am still concerned about it myself.
Sorry if my question is a bit disjointed, but thank you again. Lots of blessings from Australia.
Hello ladies! I look forward every month to hearing your lovely wisdom!
Today, or these days in general, I think I just need some reassurance. I have two children, a 22-year-old daughter who is in college in the US, and a 9-year-old son. We live in a small town in Argentina.
My son went to public kindergarten for two years and had a very hard time adapting to some aspects. We helped start a new school that he went to for first grade and second grade, based on an Argentine system similar to Montessori or Waldorf, which he seemed to like at first. But although they were very lenient in their teaching, allowing children to learn reading and math at their own pace, they were very strict about their own social norms, and my son eventually started having a very hard time with that. Last year we took him out and formed a small (six families, seven kids) cooperative that we started thinking of as an unschooling experience, although we didn’t really understand what that meant when we started.
In our home we have worked very hard at developing an unschooling lifestyle over the last year, which has involved mostly a lot of internal work on my part, and it all feels very right to me. Each of the families sort of went its own way during the year, and only three of us are planning to continue next year. My son loves the cooperative, even though he complains about the attitudes and activities of the parents who never really got into unschooling, and he is very sad that half of the group will not be there next year (this is the end of the school year down here).
So…my doubts and need for reassurance…he spent 14 hours yesterday watching you-tubers on his kindle. That is his go-to activity lately, and he rarely accepts invitations from us to do anything else. It was a beautiful day outside, and I could see out the window behind him where he was lying on the couch, kids out with their parents playing by the river where we live. He doesn’t even stop to eat, preferring to eat while he watches. He even takes it to the bathroom. And usually wants to watch one more additional episode before he goes to bed.
The only thing that draws him away regularly (lately) is participation in the cooperative that meets at our house every afternoon, or playing with his new best friend, who is in the cooperative and lives next door. He does not like to be in groups of children where he does not know each child intimately. He is not interested in doing any outside activities—no sports, art or music classes that are provided by the government here and that the children in the cooperative who are leaving do. So after this week when the cooperative school year ends, his social circle will shrink even further.
I get Sandra Dodd’s daily “Just Add Light and Stir” words of wisdom, and today she talked about how if he is happy and engaged in what he is doing, he is learning. Well, he is CHOOSING to watch all day, and he certainly doesn’t seem to be bored. I can see some of the things he learns, and enjoy watching some of the videos with him. I know and love his favorite you-tubers, who share their hearts as well as their games with their viewers. So I don’t doubt that he is learning and happy with what he is doing, but I still have so much trouble on a day like yesterday accepting that it is okay for him to do that ALL day and not do anything else…oh, he did take a 15 minute break to shell pecans for me with a big hammer, and he told me thank you for asking me to do that because he had so much fun with it. But other than that, he literally spent the rest of his waking hours watching The Diamond Minecart!
He tends to be obsessive about things in spurts, and has gone through phases such as Sponge Bob and Spanish-speaking you-tubers, for example. He eats that way, too, some days wanting only oranges all day, and others peanut butter, or blueberries, or bread, etc. Some days he turns down his favorite foods, just says he doesn’t feel like eating them right then.
When he was younger, I tried to “mold” him, get him to eat regular meals at the table with us, nudged him towards what I considered to be “good” activities such as playing outside and getting some exercise every day, but it just didn’t work with him. He refused to be molded and I finally realized about a year ago that I could either continue those battles in order to try to get him to fit in and succeed in school and society, or back off and lovingly embrace who he is, and re-construct the bond with him that was beginning to crack.
Then I have these days and these doubts…Does it sound like what I am doing is okay? Am I doing him well by letting him do what he wants all day when all he wants to do is lie around and watch you-tube, or am I letting him down by not helping him find other things that he can enjoy and that could be good for his health and well-being? Is it okay that he is not exposed regularly to a wide variety of children and people?
Sorry this ended up being so long! I go in cycles with this, so by the time you answer I may even be out of this “doubting” slump, but today I feel I need encouragement and reassurance!
Links to things mentioned in the show
- record keeping on the Unschooling Mom 2 Mom website
- Pam’s blog post: Unschooling with Strong Beliefs
- Kids, Carrots, and Candy: A Practical, Positive Approach to Raising Children Free of Food & Weight Problems
- Sandra Dodd’s daily post, Just Add Light and Stir
- Anne’s essay: I Am What I Am