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
“When we really hear one another and work toward understanding each other’s needs, finding the solutions that are win-win, life is just easier and more joyful.” ~ Anna Brown
Anonymous Question [TIME: 4:42]
Dear Pam, Anne, and Anna,
I came across unschooling when doing a school report (LOL) on education. I have been following your podcast since the early episodes and it is great! Thank you 🙂 My younger sister is still in school, and my parents are on the helicoptery side: controlling and highly valuing grades. I know it is because they worry and are too busy and stressed to think about the effect they are having on my sister. I feel for them since they are very nice people and feel worried all the time: I think on some level they feel their views about school and control protect them, and their children. So that is my background.
My question is: Some children take to school more easily and I was one of them. My younger sister happens to not be one of them. More and more I am seeing that she feels like she is not good enough no matter what she does, since my parents always compare her to me. They are harder on her, saying that she is lazy (even though she really spends a lot more time studying than I did). She is miserable and feels like she deserves it, and it makes me sad. I see her dissociating from things, like she has given up on joy and on herself.
But I see how she is good at many things like reasoning out decisions well to come to the best one, and she always beats me at every game we play on Tabletop Simulator, and how she tries to save me things she knows I love even though she is hurt by being compared to me. I deeply admire her ability to reach out even when she herself doesn’t feel good. I want her to know this.
I thought maybe if I continue to be there for her and tell her about all the wonderful things I see in her that she would feel more confident, but she doesn’t believe me. She tells me she is useless and lazy and bad at everything that matters. I wish she didn’t feel like grades define her, because I want her to feel good about herself. It feels like the voice of a sister only a few years older doesn’t do much against the voices of two parents.
I have tried talking to my parents about it. I try to explain to them rationally that I know they are worried, but controlling is actually making her have worse grades, because she is feeling so bad about herself. I tell them the effect this is having on her confidence and that I know they want the best for her, but they said that’s good, it’ll motivate her to work harder. They say I should mind my own business, that my sister’s education is her own responsibility. But all I see is that she is being motivated to give up on herself. They say they are too busy to read any articles, and I think that even if they did, they would be offended and hurt. How could I, their daughter, tell them that their parenting needs work? I think it would hurt them too much.
I know it is not my fault, but I always feel like if I were more charismatic, or wise, or SOMETHING, that I could get through to my parents, that I could convince my sister to see the good in herself. I want her to have the tools to craft the life she wants: now and always, and I see that she is being changed by all this, that not doing as well as I did in school is leaving her marked as lesser.
So I am thinking if I am missing any pieces of the puzzle. Perhaps I just need to have the patience to keep trying? Perhaps things will get better when she is graduated? I’m afraid that even after she’s graduated that she will still feel like this. Perhaps there is something I have not thought of that I could say? (And am I too idealistic and need to let go of trying to help things that I can’t do anything about?)
I know you talk a lot about validating; I’m not quite sure how to do it, can you help? Could this be why my sister doesn’t believe me? For two reasons: I’ve never really seen what it looks like in person (I just say I understand and it sucks and to me she is awesome), and because if you know about Myers-Briggs, I’m a young ENTP (who tend to be awkward with expressing deep emotion when young and I see this in myself). These are the things that are on my mind, to give you more of a clue of how to answer the question.
I feel so, so young in this moment, that I really do not know very much about people and how to reach them. So I ask for your wisdom and experience today: how can I help my little sister? (And my little cousins, and all the other young people in my life to see that they are great.)
Thank you for taking the time to read my question.
Veronica’s Question [TIME: 28:31]
I have been unschooling for almost three years now. My boys are 13 and 11. My 13-year-old is a picker. He will go out of his way to annoy his younger brother. He also is constantly trying to parent his brother rather than just leaving that to the actual parents. For instance, telling him he is walking to close to the road (even when we are all there together). By the way he was in no danger and only too close to the road in his brother’s opinion.
All this means there is a lot of friction between brothers. I’ve tried to sit back and just let it work itself out. Very rarely this will work. I’ve tried to just be there and that usually doesn’t work. My last resort is telling the older to get out of his brother’s room, or leave his brother alone and just stop talking. When I tell him to leave his brother alone, he just starts running his mouth to me.
What suggestions do you have that will help my boys get along and bring peace to our family?
Melody’s Question [TIME: 47:11]
Hi, I’m not an unschooler yet, or even a parent, but I hope to be one day. I love your podcast and enjoy thinking about how the questions might apply to my future. I am just wondering, how does unschooling not only apply to children, but relationships. I just got engaged and want to make sure our 5-year relationship continues building towards eventual unschooling of our future children. Thanks!
Links to things mentioned in the show
- Unschoolers Platform conference
- The podcast is now available on SoundCloud
- My audio interview with Grace from Mulberry Magazine is out
- Pam’s blog post about accepting others where they are
- Drew Dudley’s TEDxToronto Talk about lollipop moments: Everyday Leadership
- Pam’s conference talk, A Family of Individuals, text or audio
- Anna’s book suggestion: Siblings Without Rivalry
- Anna’s website: choosingconnection.com