I take a few minutes to reflect on 100 episodes and my unschooling work, then Anne Ohman and Anna Brown join me to answer listener questions. This month we answer questions about when to share our perspectives on stereotypes etc, supporting a young adult while moving to unschooling, anxiety around technology, and helping a partner understand unschooling.
I’d love if you could take less than 5 minutes to complete my 2017 survey!
And, as always, you’re welcome to submit your own question to the Q&A Round Table.
Jen’s Question (from Florida) [TIME: 7:20]
I’m curious about your thoughts on bringing up & discussing difficult topics and beliefs with very young children. Here’s what happened today, though it’s not the first time I’ve thought about it. My son (2) got a Lego Peter Pan set as a gift awhile ago. He loves playing with the Peter Pan & crocodile figurines, so we thought he might enjoy seeing the movie (which he did) but the movie has lots of racist & sexist ideas in it, and I wanted to let him know that I don’t agree with those things about it, but I also don’t want to give him a lecture he’s not interested in! He’s so young that he doesn’t really have the language for in depth discussions of these things. After the movie tonight, I asked what he thought and he just said, “There’s a crocodile in there.”
So, I’m curious how you would share thoughts about something like racism and sexism and outdated stereotypes? During the movie when it’s happening? After its over? Not at all if the child doesn’t seem to have noticed it? I’ve thought about this in other contexts, like in stories when adults are dismissive of children, or use punitive discipline, etc. Its so frequent that what I believe about parenting and about people differs from the mainstream, that I feel like I need to put my voice in there to keep my son from getting all his ideas about social norms from sources I don’t agree with!
Thanks for your thoughts & ideas!
Jessica’s Question (from Ireland) [TIME: 24:27]
Let me start by saying how much I appreciate the work you three are doing. We would definitely not be as far along on our unschooling journey without you!! And we certainly wouldn’t be deschooling with as much joy and kindness without your frequent gentle reminders. I am so grateful for you three women.
I have three beautiful children. An 18-year-old daughter, a 12-year-old son, and a 3-year-old son. I also have a wonderful, handsome, supportive (if kind of skeptical of unschooling) husband. I am an American who moved to Ireland at age 20, met my husband, and have been here 20 years. I have no family here and not very supportive in-laws. It is a tiny community and I will always be an outsider. I was told as a child I was too sensitive, too dramatic, cried too much. I spent my 20’s trying to be perfect, so afraid to make a mistake, my mother-in-law looking for any reason to speak unkindly about me to my husband. I had no guidance except my own and I had been told mine was lacking. I second guessed every move I made. 20 years ago it was very expensive for me to phone my mother or sister for support, I did it sometimes, but with guilt over the cost. There was no Skype or FaceTime. I was very isolated and lonely. My husband and I stumbled through many obstacles and have made it through the other side stronger and with a much better relationship.
However, my daughter was born during this time. With a mother who was angry, lonely, never good enough (in my own eyes). I slowly got better, and she grew with me. I say we grew up together. But she lived through harsh, unkind times. My older son is the one who brought me first to homeschooling then unschooling. We’ve been completely deschooling since May. His story is for another day.
Today I am concerned for my daughter. She went to school all the way through. Her high school years were absolutely awful, she was so desperately unhappy. I had no idea I could bring her home. I finally offered to homeschool/unschool her last year of school, because that’s when we found it and started our journey, but she declined because she had come so far, she might as well finish. We have always had a very open relationship, even when I was being the authority in the house. But here is my question. She was out of the house working and spending time with friends most of this past summer, and has now gone to college in the big city of Dublin.
We haven’t seen her very much, and all these months that she has been mostly away, the home lives, and personalities of my sons, husband and myself have shifted SO DRASTICALLY, for the better, as we move deeper into unschooling. We are different people!! It’s wonderful, but I feel she has been short changed. She missed it all. There is no do over, I can’t change the past, but how do I make the future better?? She is going through so much change. New college classes (she’s going to acting school, and loves it!!), new place to live, a big city to learn to navigate, a new job, etc.
Now I, her mother, her rock, have changed too, for the better, but I’m not the same person. She is needing to relearn how our relationship works now too. It’s so much. She is very sweet, and good and just giving everything to this new chapter of her life. I am kind to her, supportive, help her with any problem she encounters. She frequently calls and asks for my help, and I use those opportunities to show her how amazing she is. Our relationship is good.
I wonder what more I can do for her. She struggles with anxiety over making mistakes and the need to be perfect. She got this from watching me!! She gets panic attacks and has a hard time making decisions. It’s like her brain freezes and fear takes over. I would love for her to be free of this, and I realize it takes time. Do you have any suggestions of other things I could do to help? She is slowly trusting the new ways, she sees how much better things are, and I have spoken to her in depth about all of these things.
If you have any words of wisdom or advice of any kind I would be so, so appreciative.
Abby’s Question (from Chicago, Illinois) [TIME: 39:45]
We live in Chicago with our 3 and 6-year-old boys. We are pretty new to unschooling, but enjoy reading Sandra Dodd, John Holt and listening to your podcast.
We have been trying more and more to let go of rules/control, focus on our children’s interests and cultivate nurturing relationships with them. The majority of the unschooling philosophy resonates with us, but we are struggling in one area in particular: screen time with our 6-year-old.
I really want to let go of the regulating and not be this person in his life who is just there to say, “yes” or “no.” I want him to be able to learn to regulate himself, but I harbor my own anxiety about the hours that he is at the screen. He mostly plays games on his personal tablet or watches videos. But he is not like my 3-year-old who will watch or play on his tablet for a couple of hours and then move on to other things. My 6-year-old can be on his tablet or watching TV all day.
When it is time to go somewhere he is able to turn it off and engage with us in an activity, he does have other interests and moves in and out of things like researching sharks, but if we are at home it is what he most wants to do. He will talk constantly about it, say things like, “I only want to play with my tablet,” or “All I can think about is my tablet.” I try to engage with him in other activities at home like Legos or games, but this usually only lasts a few minutes before he is asking for his tablet again. When he is overwhelmed or anxious he asks for his tablet, sometimes he says, “the only thing that can make me feel better is my tablet.” It makes me sad and anxious to hear him say that, like his tablet is his only way to manage his feelings.
Sometimes I feel like on the days that he is on his tablet a lot that later on he is extra cranky or has trouble falling asleep, sometimes saying that he can’t stop thinking about the games he plays. (Or is it all in my mind?) We are all very close, he is a very sweet and kind boy. He is very sensitive, to the point of some sensory processing issues, but nothing that interferes majorly with his functioning. Just something that I pay attention to and try to help him learn how to manage.
So, is the tablet thing solely my own anxiety that I need to address myself or is there anything to the growing body of evidence that there are negative effects to being at screens for multiple hours a day? Do I go totally hands off and not worry that there is long term negative crutch-like relationship being formed with his tablet? Or is there ever a time where some limiting and parental management is a good idea?
Thank you for your time.
Anonymous Question [TIME: 57:30]
I’m a dad of two awesome kids 3 and 5 and recently came across unschooling. While I’m continuing to learn more about it, I’m having trouble enacting what I’m learning. I’ve always been considered the “easy going” parent, and I get a lot of push back from my partner saying I’m just being lazy and letting them walk all over me. I don’t feel like that at all. To me, I’m trying to let them learn and explore how when and where they want.
It’s become a source of discord among us, but when I try and teach her what I’ve learned, I’m told that since I’m away all day I don’t know what really works. She also went to school for education and feels that her studies make her the more qualified patent when it comes to teaching the kids. I disagree with the traditional style of parenting and see huge differences in their behavior depending on how their being parented. My son in particular struggles with traditional boundaries of specific meal times and bed times and both often turn into hour long crying sessions as he’s forced to stop playing and conform to what’s convenient. I also have concerns for my daughter who is in kindergarten and already counts down to the weekend. I hate to see them both struggle every day.
Occasionally my partner will recognize the difference in behavior, but just chalk it up to them missing me during the day, and not because I let them dictate their own behavior and preferences.
I’m not sure what to do going forward. I feel like unschooling is something both kids need, but I’m not sure how to give it to them without the ability to be a stay at home parent or change my partners views.
Thanks for any insight, Struggling Dad.
Links to things mentioned in the show
You can support the podcast through Patreon
Pam’s new small press: Forever Curious Press
find out about the Childhood Redefined Online Unschooling Summit
take less than 5 minutes to complete Pam’s 2017 Survey (open until December 14, 2017)
Pam’s blog post, Unschooling With Strong Beliefs
Anne recommended the movie, My Neighbor Totoro
Scott Noelle’s Daily Groove emails
Pam blog post, Learning is Learning No Matter Your Age
podcast episode 93 with Robert Gottlieb
Anne’s website: shinewithunschooling.com
Anna’s website: choosingconnection.com