Anna Brown and Anne Ohman join me to answer listener questions. Click here to submit your own question to the Q&A Round Table!
Quote of the Week
“Unschooling is about seeing, honoring, and living in the flow of a child’s life.” ~ Anne Ohman
Shelsy’s Question (from Florida, USA) [TIME: 3:04]
I’m new to unschooling (since December), but I’ve always homeschooled. My daughter is 7 and my son is 5. I’ve listened to hours of podcasts and read scores of web pages about unschooling, but I’m struggling. My son has always been an amazingly individual boy. He knows what he wants, will stop at nothing to get it, will accept no substitutions, etc. I admire his ability to know himself so deeply and to not back down from what he wants. However, he is also extremely physical. He has zero concept of personal space, he is constantly climbing on me, touching me in ways I don’t like, wanting to play roughhouse/tickling games, and hitting (or biting or scratching) when he doesn’t get his way. His primary target is his sister.
His individuality and aggression have led to tons of power struggles and conflicts over the last five years. I feel like I’m to blame because I’ve always been very physical with him when we play and my husband and I also have a difficult time controlling our tempers when our buttons invariably get pushed. I feel like he is both parroting our behaviors and vying for power. Being the youngest and most inflexible he has always tended to be forced into doing things because the rest of the family wants to do something else.
So instead of having a home filled with joy and connection, our home is filled with conflict, fighting, and yelling. I desperately want a reset button but I fear that in 5 and 7 years I’ve already done so much damage. I don’t see any forward progress and I feel full of doubt and guilt. Help!
Tracy’s Question (from Homestead, Florida, USA) [TIME: 18:28]
Hello, Pam, Anne, and Anna.
Thank you so much for this podcast and the monthly Q&A. You are a source of inspiration and encouragement. I have so many questions I have been meaning to send but today I will start with one. I will give you a little intro first.
I have 2 amazing daughters. An 8-year-old and a 4-year-old. My oldest daughter has a huge heart. She loves people. Her gift is encouragement. She can walk into any room and know who exactly needs unconditional love and a big hug. The little one is the life of the party. Her sense of humor astonishes me on a daily basis and we laugh together a lot. I could give you a huge list of all my favorite qualities each poses but there wouldn’t be enough time for other questions.
We’ve been homeschooling for 3 years. I don’t feel confident enough to call myself a unschooler but we have never used curriculum and I have been in Deschooling mode for the whole 3 years. My goal being to move towards a radical Unschooling lifestyle. The most challenging part of homeschooling for me is to be an active witness to the social challenges my daughters face.
I don’t want to sound negative but this is the only way I can think of posing my question: Do you know that kid in the playground that all the other children avoid? We’ve all seen them. They go from click to click, looking to connect and is generally received with a face of disgust. The other children tend to turn their backs in hopes that the child will get the hint or they straight out run from them. That kid is my eldest daughter. She is so friendly and brave that she doesn’t give up and usually does find another child to play with.
I decided long ago that homeschooling park days with big groups was not good for us. We stick to more one on one playdates to give other children an opportunity to see how amazing she is without the “group mentality” interfering. When she was younger, she was more willing to let me help. When I saw that the other child wanted space I would call her over or kneel by her and say something to the point of, “Do you see her body? How it’s pulled away? She’s trying to tell you she wants space. Let’s go look for another friend that might want to play.” Also, I have no problem being the friend that plays with them at the park and I do it often. But, lately I find that she doesn’t want my help. She doesn’t want me to talk her through the social challenge & just gets angry with me and insists on staying around children that obviously do not want to play with her or even be close to her. I think she has started putting together that it’s not that the children want space but that they want space from HER. It breaks my heart and the whole experience is emotionally draining for me. On good days, I’m able to keep it together but on bad days, I tend to break down in ugly ways.
I do not demonize the other children because I strongly believe that all children deserve the respect and consideration that I want for my daughters. I have directly asked the child/children (in a kind way) if my daughter has done something to hurt them or bother them & they usually say no.
Yesterday, the situation reached a whole new level for me and I just don’t know what to do anymore. We attend a class at a beautiful garden. From the moment we walked in, she was being rejected left and right from children that she knows. Children that she has interacted with in the past. She was extremely confused. She tried to sit with 2 children and they both made it clear that they did not want to sit with her. I called her over to me and it took some time but she came and sat with me. Shortly after, my youngest daughter went to the same 2 children and they welcomed her with smiles and she sat with them. My youngest daughter sat with them and my heart sank. I called her over. She did not want to come. I went and carried her off. We were distracting the class so I picked up our things and walked off with both of them. I could feel the tears in my throat. I told my youngest daughter, “If your sister is not welcomed to sit there then you and I cannot sit there either.” We all were upset. The 3 of us went and explored the garden on our own and when we saw the group again, we tried to rejoin but it wasn’t much different.
The wound is still fresh and I feel completely emotionally run down but it is a reality of our life. I do not want to live a completely isolated life but I just don’t know what to do with all of this anymore. I would love your perspective and guidance. How do I help my eldest daughter and my youngest daughter? How should my interaction with other children be?
Bridget’s Question (from Cleveland, Ohio, USA) [TIME: 40:36]
I have 6 kids (ages 18-6) we have always homeschooled. My husband and I are both educators. I have been home with the children since the first was born. We did use, what I’ve called, a relaxed eclectic approach with the first 3. I mostly focused on math and phonics. The kids basically learned to read on their own. I need to diverge a little and say I was involved in a parenting webpage that was gentle discipline, positive parenting, attachment parenting. So, I believe our homeschooling evolved out of that philosophy. I’m in Ohio and have had the luxury of attending an unschooling convention every year (except 1) since it began at a water park in our state. I admit, I first went just for the discount offered to homeschool families! However, I did find through the years, speakers who were confirming the things I’m doing here at home. So, a couple of years ago, after a convention I told the kids we were done with “school” and we have (tried) to not look back.
Here’s my hang up 🙂
It’s the math thing. My kids are thriving pursuing their interests, and I’d write it all out for you. But other “unschoolers” I know personally and on Facebook groups, seem to push math. Specifically, Life of Fred. Like it’s different because a homeschooler wrote it. Or because it’s a reading/math curriculum combined. I bought much of the curriculum before we jumped ship. It doesn’t work for us.
I’ve been working my way through your podcasts. Can I really just skip math? If one of the kids chooses to do math we go with it?
I know the answer, but I have 3, almost 4 teens and I am having a “I’m messing them up for life” moment.
For the record, my husband, 34 years in the public schools, teaches AP and Honors US History and is a better unschooler than me!!! He doesn’t ever want our kids in the schools.
Yanic’s Question (from Quebec, Canada) [TIME: 55:05]
Hi! Unschooling seems like a dream to me, but my son his autistic and I feel like I will have to bend the unschooling “rules” so to speak because he needs structure. I won’t be able to just let it go all the time. He will need my help on many things but rarely asks for it so I will have to hover a bit in order to find that fine balance between entirely child-led and planned homeschooling. I hope this makes sense?
How would you handle it?
Links to things mentioned in the show
- The Out-of-Sync Child by Carol Kranowitz
- Shine with Unschooling’s list of sensory activities
- Pam’s blog posts, Unschooling and the Power Paradigm and When You and Your Child See Things Differently
- Pam’s math post: Math is More Than Arithmetic
- A Mathematician’s Lament: How School Cheats Us Out of Our Most Fascinating and Imaginative Art Form
- David Albert’s article, Just Do the Math!
- Anne’s article, I Am What I Am
- Pam Sorooshian’s article, Unschooling is Not Child-Led Learning and her Ten Questions podcast episode
- Anna’s website: choosingconnection.com