Anne Ohman and Anna Brown join Pam to answer listener questions. This month we dig into questions around the challenge of meeting the needs of everyone in the family, the conventional idea that you shouldn’t do things for your children that they can do for themselves, the interplay of releasing control over food and the real constraints of a food budget, and ways to help our children deal with negative comments.
Click here to submit your own question to the Q&A Round Table!
Alaina’s Question (from the UK) [TIME: 7:45]
Hi! I have a question about balance, which I am sure is something that all families have difficulty with sometimes!
We are an unschooling family of four. The two boys, aged seven and four, have never been to school. However, I was previously a primary school teacher so my need to deschool has been great, and is still on going (probably unending!). We are a neuro-diverse family, with highly sensitive, spirited children who find some forms of communication difficult.
Our main challenge at the moment is in balancing all the needs of our family. My older son is keen to spend time in museums and galleries and taking part in activities related to his interests. It is important for him to have time to explore exhibits and information closely, with a lot of talk with myself and/or his Dad. However, his brother is not in a place where these things are of interest, and he has an overwhelming need to run and climb and shout that is not appropriate in these sorts of spaces.
Similarly, my younger son has a need to control what is being done at home, he cannot tolerate his brother watching documentaries on the television, or reading books with me. He is unable to verbalise his reasons for this, although I think it could partly be about wanting my attention, and does not seem to understand explanations of why his brother finds these things important. We manage it as best we can with lots of options for him (we have a garden with lots of equipment, an indoor swing and trampoline, a range of tablets and Lego which he loves), but often it doesn’t seem to matter what he is doing he still needs to manage what his older brother is doing as well.
I try hard to split my time between them, or find things that will work for both of them, but this seems to be getting harder to juggle with the need to also feed them and do a little housework (I already outsource as much as I can by hiring a cleaner). I also need to balance my own mental health as I struggle with anxiety. We do not have family near enough to rely on regularly, although my parents do as much as they can to support us, and friends are currently unable to take one or the other of the boys as they find their needs to challenging to fit in with their own children.
I do worry that by acquiescing to my younger son’s need to manage and control how our time is spent may be setting him up for difficulty in later life, but I am aware that this may well be due to my need to deschool further in this area. Not acquiescing leads to destructive hour-long meltdowns, which is distressing for everyone, and I feel not part of who he is (in general he is a loving and gentle child). It feels like when he is not able to control the situation he experiences real fear. At the same time, I am concerned that his older brother is missing out on the things he feels are valuable, and he has told me he often feels I care more about what his brother wants than what he wants.
My husband tries hard to help this balance. Relaxing bedtime has really helped because it means we have more time in the evening with two adults around. However, he works long hours, often at weekends as well as all week, and has a long commute, so cannot be around as much as the rest of us need him!
I often feel that what our family actually needs is a major review of how we are living, in regards to my husband’s work and where in the country we live. I am hoping you can help me with some more ideas for short term solutions, however. Or at least reassurance that it does get easier! I am dreading the shorter, darker, wetter days when we will find it harder to get into nature as things seem to be worse on those days.
Amy’s Question (from Oregon) [TIME: 34:13]
I am becoming acquainted with radical unschooling philosophy. I have often read that you should not do something for child if they can do it themselves. Also, that kids benefit from doing regular chores/responsibilities. Based on the principles of radical unschooling, what do you think a parent should do if a child does not want to do something they are able to do for themself (as an example, putting their clothes…I have a 2 and 4 y/o). Same thing for doing chores, what if a child does not want to do a chore or to help with household tasks?
Thanks in advance, I love your podcast.
Del’s Question [TIME: 49:20]
We are an unschooling family with 3 young children – the oldest being 6. I have been really inspired by your podcasts and website to embrace the idea of allowing my children a whole lot more control over their own eating. Everything I have read and heard around this now makes perfect sense, but I feel like I need to get my head around what it is going to look like for us a little more, before I take the leap in that direction.
The part that I find the most overwhelming and confusing at the moment, is how this is going to work within the restraints of our relatively strict food budget. We eat a fairly good whole food diet, but a lot of “ingredients” have to be rationed in order for them to last the time that they need to. In your own experiences with giving your children “food freedom” and control of their own eating, how did the practical aspects of budget play out for you? I understand that this is more or a consideration while my children are young, than it will be when they are older and have a wider understanding of money, cost and availability etc. But for now, I am not quite sure the best way to approach this.
For example, there are certain foods that the children would love to snack on, such as dried fruit and cheese, but if they constantly eat it on its own then our available amount for the month will very quickly be used up. Whereas if I mostly use it as an ingredient to make other things, then this gives us much more food for the month. Once these ingredients are all used up then not only will they not have those to eat on their own, but I also will have very little to work with to make them/us anything too. I have tried explaining the need to make things last, but I can tell they are not at a stage where this means much to them – especially when they want the thing they want. I don’t want to constantly be saying “no” to them, but I am pretty sure that these things are going to be asked for a lot.
I love listening to all your opinions, and I want to thank you in advance for your wonderful insight! 🙂
Cher’s Question (from New York) [TIME: 59:47]
Hi. My 8-year-old boys compete in gymnastics. They are naturally great at the sport and my one son says he wants to go to the Olympics. All the kids on the team are in school and they are constantly calling my boys stupid and asking them to answer questions like, “What’s 11 x11? I learned that in pre-k, I am smarter than you.”
They are all older too (ages 9-14)—I think they are jealous. I am starting to take it personally (I guess I still have deschooling to do). I don’t want to say anything to the parents or coach because I am only hearing my boys’ version of the story.
What should I have my boys say? They keep replying, “I didn’t learn that yet.” I think they are naive and innocent and don’t realize that the kids are really being cruel. I have my tribe of friends who unschool with us and we get the kids together all the time (or online gaming). But the boys love the sport too much to have them quit.
Links to things mentioned in the show
Podcast episode 32: Choosing School with Alex Polikowsky
One of Anne’s fave Facebook pages: Trinity Esoterics
Anne’s website: shinewithunschooling.com
Anna’s website: choosingconnection.com