Anne Ohman and Anna Brown, both veteran unschooling parents, join me to answer listener questions. Click here to submit your own question for the Q&A Round Table episodes!
Quote of the Week
“Whenever we are faced with particularly challenging problems, and we’ve certainly had them, I’m SO grateful for unschooling because I feel like it gives us time and space to breathe, the ability to connect, and to focus on what’s important, which is our relationships with each other.” ~ Anna Brown
1. We took our son (now 9) out of school 2.5 years ago, and are about 6 months into our unschooling journey, after gradually moving from “school at home,” to “relaxed homeschooling,” and finally letting go of the curriculum altogether.
We have been saying yes more often, and are really enjoying the freedom and closeness that unschooling is giving us. The one thing I am struggling with, though, is food. I haven’t yet felt comfortable enough to completely let go. I’m definitely saying yes more often, but I have a fear that stems from my husband’s struggle with weight, which his entire family seem genetically pre-disposed to.
My son has the same body shape as my husband, carrying around the mid-section. I worry about his health, and have read that these are the formative years as far as future weight issues. I don’t want him to have the same struggles as my husband, but I also don’t want to keep making him feel bad for reaching for that extra biscuit or food late at night. I have been trying to help him make the right choices by explaining healthy eating, and if he really wants something then I wont stop him, we all have a sweet tooth, so there’s generally something in the house.
Am I doing the right thing in saying yes, but pointing out the healthier options?? How can I handle this better?
2. I’ve found there are very few published narratives about hard times, yet when I talk with friends, I feel very comforted by hearing they are struggling with similar issues in their parenting and unschooling journey. I’d love to hear more from your guests about their struggles, particularly the mundane, day-to-day-issues. Unschooling can be hard, especially at moments of transition (from school to unschool, deschooling, age transitions, moves from one place to another, the birth of a new baby, etc.) I’d love to hear how others cope!
3. We have been unschooling for awhile, deschooling for awhile even though my kids have never been in public school and our “homeschool” was very relaxed. Our oldest son is 6. We also have a 4 yr old boy, 2.5 yr old girl, and 1 yr old girl. I have a lot of children that all need attention daily, but our oldest boy is the most intense and high-need of them all and has been since birth—we practiced attachment parenting too.
My question is this: How would you recommend that I handle the outbursts that he has frequently? He’ll yell, threaten to hit (although he doesn’t) and scream and it can go on for a long time. I have tried SO many different “parenting techniques” to try to help him calm down and learn what his body is experiencing but some days I just don’t know what to do to help him and it makes the whole house feel miserable.
I too am still deschooling in various ways and allowing more freedom for the children has helped me calm down and my anger has nearly disappeared—which is nice because I handle his negative reactions with much more nurturance. How are we supposed to allow so many options and choices when it just feels like he continually expects more and explodes when he isn’t given everything at the moment he needs it (this includes my time too)? I have three other children that need my time and honestly, they get the least of it which is draining for me and unfair for them.
As a somewhat separate question: In the last few weeks we have left the TV choices up to them—after listening to several of your podcasts that made so much sense-including how much to watch and they are definitely taking it to what feels like an extreme but we are just going with it! I notice that the more shows he watches, the more he uses the iPad etc, the greater his anger. It is a direct correlation and our other children don’t experience the same feelings after any amount of TV or iPad. We try to show him how it affects his mind and body, but it is tunnel vision for him and then we all feel the after affects of his poor choice to watch too much of anything. Any advice is appreciated.
4. Our kids are nearly 7, 5 and 1 and I would love to unschool them but my husband isn’t convinced yet and I have some fears left too. I thought it might be a good idea to “show” him unschooling in action rather than convincing him to read books about it (which he doesn’t want to do). So we were happily enjoying an unschooling lifestyle for the first few weeks of my daughter’s summer break which was easy because the weather was good and we were all relaxed. Everyone loved it, even my husband.
But then some challenges came up, financial worries and stress at work for my husband. We started arguing and discussing things. On top of that our toddler was teething and we didn’t get any sleep at night. I wasn’t able to attend to my kid’s needs as well anymore which caused them to be upset and behave badly. That started a vicious cycle of slipping back into mainstream parenting techniques which made everything worse.
Now it feels like we are back to the beginning and I don’t know how to build up our trusting relationship again which had just started to develop. I’m afraid that I can only be a good unschooling mother as long as things go well and I’m not stressed or worried. How do unschoolers cope with life’s challenges without putting their kid’s needs second?
5. I have 3 small kids 6, 4 & 1.5 and I’ve been radically unschooling for about 9 months. My 6 year old only attended JK part time for 1 year.
I have a couple of questions about how to handle certain situations more gracefully with my 2 older kids. The first is how do I handle supporting them through situations I’m uncomfortable with especially as it relates to animals. Eg. We watched a butterfly cocoon & when it hatched she played with it until it passed. Same with a frog she caught. It makes me really sad to watch these beautiful insects & animals die and I understand she’s learning from the experience however it’s our disagreement in this area that negatively impacts our relationship. Any suggestions on how I can kindly navigate through this exploration with her?
Next, I have a very passionate 6 year old girl. When she believes she’s right she will challenge me. When I attempt to correct her (in the hopes that she’ll learn something from our exchange) she becomes angry & even more firm. Eg. Recently, she argued with me about the details of a particular show or how the butterfly above needs her to give it flying lessons.
I want to be there for her without judgement or fear but these are the areas I get “stuck” in.
6. I’m a mom to three children, ages 16, 14 and 11. We are on our fifth year of unschooling my two younger children, who are both boys. My oldest, who is a girl, chooses to got to school.
Both of my sons had behavior problems in school from day one, and both were asked to leave the public school and were put into the special education programs. We were not aware of unschooling at the time, and didn’t pull them out of school until they had been in the system for a few years. My daughter has had no problems with school and actually tried unschooling for a few months, but decided it wasn’t for her.
Unfortunately, my husband isn’t super supportive of unschooling and often worries aloud how our sons are “spending too much time on the computer,” or “aren’t socializing enough,” or “aren’t learning basic math skills.”
My sons pick up on these mixed messages and sometimes feel as though they are “less than” because they are unschooled.
When we discuss the merit of unschooling vs attending school as a family, I often find myself discussing the negative aspects of school and my daughter gets very upset.
My question is, how can verbally support their unschooling experience without diminishing my daughter’s choice to attend school?
Links to things mentioned in the show
- Pam’s blog post: The Road of Trials
- The books Anna mentioned around question 3: Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles and The 5 Love Languages of Children: The Secret to Loving Children Effectively
- Anna’s podcast episode: Diving Into Parenting with Anna Brown
- Teresa’s podcast episode: Ten Questions with Teresa Graham Brett