Anne Ohman and Anna Brown join Pam to answer listener questions. This month we dig into questions around when parents are at odds over parenting choices, ways to share information with more conventional parents, teens making connections and considering school, and ways to handle when a child calls themself “stupid.”
Click here to submit your own question to the Q&A Round Table!
Anonymous Question (from Ireland) [TIME: 1:43]
Hi, thank you so much for your great podcast and all the work you’re putting into answering our questions every month!
We’re on our journey to unschooling since November last year and it’s been very exciting. Our children are currently 8, 6 and 2. My question is about my husband. He didn’t like the idea of taking our two older kids out of school but finally agreed to it last year because I never stopped talking about it and felt my daughter (8) wasn’t thriving at all. So he agreed and changed his mind a lot about schools and learning since. He could see how much happier the kids seemed after leaving school and how much they learn every day.
However, he is much stricter than I am and expects a lot of them. The kids usually know the difference and everything seems to go well as long as they are just with one of us but the problems arise whenever we do things together as a family. I just can’t stand the way he shouts at them sometimes or tells one of them to go to their room (when they were younger he even locked them outside the door sometimes) or tells them to shut up moaning etc. So I usually interfere but then our kids have to choose sides and my husband says that I criticise him all the time. He says I don’t want to change and mould my children but I want to change HIM and he is right I suppose. He also says I should find better ways of dealing with the situation before they go out of hand but I’m often at a loss too. When I’m on my own with our children many of these situations don’t even arise because I don’t expect them to “sit still and eat their dinner” etc. I give us a lot more time to find solutions together and don’t rush them out the door or tell them to stop doing something immediately.
How can I value my husband for who he is without letting him hurt our children? He can be very gentle and loving too but usually when they are behaving the way he wants them to. Our daughter is able to play the “good girl” for most of the time now when she is with him but our 6-year-old son is much more emotional and extreme in his feelings and expressions which drives my husband crazy. I really don’t know how to improve these situations. Do I step back and let them have their own relationship without interfering? Or protect my children more?
I told them one day that their father was raised in a very strict way too because that’s what people often did back then, and that’s why he often gets so angry now (he used to smack them sometimes when they were younger but I didn’t tolerate that and he stopped, although he still thinks that a little smack isn’t that bad). I hope I didn’t make my husband sound like a monster. He has many wonderful sides too but the “parenting thing” seems to be something we can’t find any solution to. Thank you for your input!
Amy’s Question (from Virginia) [TIME: 16:52]
Hello, ladies. I first want to say what a blessing this podcast is to me each week and how grateful I am to all of you who contribute to its production. My question is about sharing the parenting philosophies embodied in unschooling with people who are not currently home or unschooling.
I have 5 children, ages 27, 24, 17, 16, and 14. We naturally fell into a respectful parenting paradigm as we saw that traditional parenting seemed to fit the description of “when you keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, that is the definition of insanity.” We are Christian parents who see our kids as our neighbors and friends and apply the lessons we learn in scripture about loving, caring for, honoring, and helping others, not just to those outside our home, but firstly to those inside it. We absolutely love the relationships we have with our teens, and don’t believe that the “typical rebellious teen years” are a given in raising children. It breaks my heart to see my nieces, who or just starting out on this adventure we call motherhood, share the struggles they are having with their kids, and just getting the same old traditionally authoritarian advice from other parents, that isn’t working for any of them. The same goes for hanging out with other parents of teens and listening to them lament their struggles, but then all agree they just need to be tough and survive it.
Are there any books, podcasts, or other resources you can direct me to, so that I may share them with other parents who might want more from their parent/child/teen relationships?
Anonymous Question (from the UK) [TIME: 34:47]
We have been unschooling our 2 children for almost all of their lives (they had just 2 years in school) and my children (now 13 & 10) have been thriving in terms of personal growth, passions, interests, knowledge, skills, making decisions, learning about life and the world and relating to others, knowing who they are and what they like and dislike. In themselves they’re content with the choices they have in their daily lives, within the constraints of our personal situation. We’re always offering new opportunities and possibilities to them, which they are free to choose from. We make family decisions together about our home, pets, meals, holidays etc. But they haven’t really made a strong connection with the local home education community here, which we did have in previous towns and I guess they are looking now for a sense of belonging. They feel they belong in our family and enjoy doing stuff together but struggle with finding their place in our local neighbourhood, despite trying various groups and voluntary work.
All around them they see children going to school and having that sense of belonging and experiencing something together. It’s in the media too. My teenager chose to go to school for a short time recently to make local friends and gain more independence (because we have to travel to home ed gatherings)…She achieved her goal and left school again having made a group of nice friends she can hang out with several times a week. I was so happy for her. Now she is thinking about getting qualifications and is considering school again…it seems easier to her to go and do all the qualifications together with the new friends in one place than taking an alternative unschooling route with some online courses, self-study, tutoring or home ed classes etc. although we have explored all these options and they are all feasible. She knows the pros and cons of school and how much anxiety it caused her when she went there briefly but seems to have really bought into society’s belief in this one route to getting qualifications…Now she is trying to persuade her younger sister to go as well, telling her she won’t learn anything or get a good job if she doesn’t. The youngest has started to consider school.
I feel disheartened. If we had a local unschooling community that they felt they connected with and were supported by perhaps they would feel more confident to be exploring this alternative way of life. It is hard for them to swim against the tide and be different! They just want security and to fit into society as they see it. My youngest child has a few good friends but she admits that she struggles to make new ones and she would like to. She doesn’t like going to the local home ed groups and when we do she is unwilling to join in or even make any attempt to interact with the other children. I want to respect her wishes and not force her to go but she has a dilemma.
I’m not sure going to school full-time at the age of 11years is the best thing for her but I want to support her in making friends and doing what she thinks is the best for herself. I fully entered into the spirit of supporting my older child’s choice to try school but I felt quite disillusioned by the whole process and somehow don’t feel I’ve got the energy to face it again with either of them but that doesn’t seem fair and I feel in conflict because I want to supportive but find that hard if I don’t really agree with the system.
Help! We’ve agreed that perhaps their dad could go through the school process with them this time and that seems fine with them but I feel like I’m letting them down if I don’t get involved and I feel like I’ve failed them in some way by not being able to help them meet their needs through unschooling. Maybe I’m being too idealistic? How do I balance my opinions with theirs? How can I be honest with my youngest daughter about how she feels and how she can get her needs met without influencing her? How do I convey the message to them both that they are loved for who they are and valued whatever they choose and that success can mean different things to different people, but also be true to myself when sometimes I have strong feelings about their choices?
Thank you for your help. I listen every week and am inspired, encouraged and motivated by your wonderful chats.
Marianne’s Question (from Southern California) [TIME: 53:25]
Hello ladies. The other day at the market my son, 9, wanted to write the number on a label for a package of spices. I had already done so and didn’t realize he wanted to as he’s never expressed interest in writing at all, let alone at the market. After being a bit upset, he said again, “I really wanted to write the number.” So I said, “how about we put on a new label and you can write it there.” He said, “ok.” So he tried to write it and the way he was holding the pen, ink wasn’t coming out. I told him to hold it upright and it might work better. He tried to write a “7” but it looked like an oval. He said, “I’m so stupid.” I said, “how about I hold your hand and we can write together?” He said, “Okay.” We did it together and he said again, “I’m so stupid.” And he started to cry. I got close to his face and told him, “you aren’t stupid, you’re learning. I can use your help on writing the label for the tea, can you help me?” Again, we did the same thing, amongst a few tears. He didn’t want anyone to see his tears so we faced away from others. And then I asked him to help with dispensing the almond butter and things got better.
Hearing “I’m so stupid” is disheartening. He’s never been interested in writing, nor have I asked him to do copywork or practice, etc. Only asked him to write his name on his Dad’s birthday card to which I had to show him how to do the letters.
I’m wondering if his statement can mean that as a parent I don’t praise his positive traits enough? Like he’s looking for a, “you’re not dumb” “you’re so smart” from me? Or, are his internal doubts and struggles about learning troubling him? He sees other kids writing at our weekly parkday. I’ve told him I can help him with whatever he wants to learn. Is the weight of learning weighing him down? He’s not a reader and when I or my husband try to write letters down to help him with an online code or command he says, “I don’t want to learn!”
Looking for guidance and insight. Thanks for your generous support and perspective.
Links to things mentioned in the show
Parent/Teen Breakthrough: The Relationship Approach, by Mira Kirshenbaum and Charles Foster
Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s book, Kids, Parents and Power Struggles
How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
Kids Are Worth It! by Barbara Colorosso
Anna’s book list on her website
Pam’s blog post, Unschooling with Strong Beliefs
podcast episode 32, Choosing School with Alex Polikowsky
Pam’s blog post, Do Classes Hinder Deschooling?
Anne’s website: shinewithunschooling.com
Anna’s website: choosingconnection.com