We learn so much about unschooling and how it works while we’re deschooling. I mean, that’s the point, isn’t it? Yet in my experience, that learning is never “done”. As a parent, I am always learning: learning about myself and my children as we change and grow, contemplating how our unschooling lifestyle flows and adapts to our growing experience; learning about new topics I or my children are curious about and exploring ways I can support and expand upon them. The philosophy of unschooling is consistent—yet its implementation looks different in every family, with every child, and over time. I know I’ve said that before, but each time you read it, I think it will mean just a little bit more.
If you have more than one child, have you discovered that your interactions are a bit different with each? It’s not that you change, but how you interact becomes tailored to each child, to each friend, to your spouse.
Beyond the different topics of conversation based on their individual interests, in what ways might your interactions with the people in your family differ?
- Do you use different vocabularies? (What words and phrases are unique to each of your relationships? Different topics from which to draw analogies and comparisons in conversation? More or less colourful language?);
- Are some more receptive to, and appreciative of, physical contact? (Are they a hugger? Not at all? Sometimes? Do they appreciate rough and tumble play?);
- Do some respond to you initiating conversations more often than others (And conversely, with some do you wait more to respond to their prompts?);
- Do some like to be helped as soon as they hit a roadblock while others prefer to spend some time trying to figure things out themselves?
As you grow to know and understand your children more deeply, you can adapt yourself to their learning and communication styles to better connect with them individually. It’s about building stronger relationships. And from stronger relationships comes deeper learning.
Why is that?
Because with a strong and supportive relationship your child is comfortable approaching you to talk about things—and vice versa. With a strong relationship they aren’t worried about looking “stupid” in front of you so they’ll ask that basic question about something: more learning. They aren’t worried about feeling judged so they’ll share their thoughts about a situation so they can talk through it with you: more learning. They aren’t worried about being punished as a result of their actions so they’ll come to you to analyze situations that went awry, or, if possible, before they go awry without worrying about being threatened with punishment: more learning.
With unschooling you want to support your children’s learning as seamlessly as possible so they stay in the flow: that’s where the best learning is. How you do that is unique to each child, and may change over time. Keep learning. And don’t worry about how “life isn’t perfect and they should learn that so maybe I shouldn’t try to help so much.” Believe me, life isn’t perfect, and no matter how hard you try you won’t be able to make everything work out perfectly. Do your best. Show your love and support through your actions. Show, don’t tell.
And there’s another piece to this “don’t stop exploring unschooling” puzzle. Not only do we all grow and change over time as individuals, but each year they are a year older. Is that a bit too obvious? Probably, but I know I sometimes had to remind myself that even if I’d been unschooling for ten years, I’d never been the unschooling parent of a 15 year-old before, a 16 year-old, a 17 year-old. A 17 year-old girl. This particular 15 year-old boy. It is a different experience with each child because each child is different. The ways I connect with them are different, the ways I support their learning are different, the ways I help them process and analyze situations are different. As they get older some of the situations that arise are new to us as a family. I need to pay attention, always. To stay connected, to keep learning. About them and about myself. It keeps me from getting complacent with life. It’s living fully. Living joyfully.