Anne Ohman and Anna Brown join Pam to answer listener questions. This month we dig into questions around helping a child who feels powerless and defeated, how to support a child who left school six months ago, personal hygiene choices, and the challenge of different personalities and meeting their needs.
Click here to submit your own question to the Q&A Round Table!
Katerina’s Question (from the UK) [TIME: 5:19]
Hi, reading Q&A episode 95 gave me goosebumps. Validating someone’s feelings makes so much sense. I know how I feel when I feel understood. Someone once said that to feel understood is to feel LOVED.
My 11-year-old, though, often says: “I have the worst luck in the world.” He gets frustrated often while video gaming and when he can’t do something (like his Nerf gun is jammed, his shoe laces are not cooperating etc) and his explanation is always: it is because of my luck. It breaks my heart to see him feeling so powerless and defeated. I guess what I’m asking is how to help him feel a bit more capable and “lucky.” Apart from validating, which I’m working on now.
Lucie’s Question (from Quebec, Canada) [TIME: 21:03]
Hello Pam and thank you so much for the podcasts you do. I have only discovered them recently and they have been very helpful and reassuring in our journey to unschooling.
I have a 10-and-a-half-year-old son named Julien who was attending our local Waldorf school. I myself am a trained Waldorf teacher and a professional gardener who now works at home growing sprouts. I live alone with my son but he sees his father quite often. He and I are very good friends.
My son has been out of school since May of 2017. He had become very unhappy at school. He showed little interest for most of the curriculum; not understanding why he had to learn what he was told to learn.
Socially, it was hard for him to connect with his peers in the school context. He was often left out, rejected or bullied. Since he was limited to making friends with the boys in his class, Julien found it difficult to find someone with the same interests or with whom he could truly connect.
He was diagnosed with dyspraxia and of course, all written work, handwork or any fine motor skill activities were a challenge for him.
As a result of that school experience, Julien felt that nobody loved him. His self-esteem was degrading and he just did not want to go to school anymore. Every morning was an ordeal: he did not want to get up, get dressed and he almost walked backwards as I dropped him off to school.
Julien has definitely been happier since he has been out of school. He is finally able to live his days at his own rhythm which is so important to him! He plays and plays a lot! He much enjoys the freedom and space he has to do what he wants to do. He is not the kind of child you can force things on.
It has now been 6 months of unschooling basically since I do not follow any curriculum. I felt that my son just needed to be free and rebuild his self-esteem. But now what, I ask myself?
My son’s interests are quite limited to a few things. I am trying to create a stimulating environment but it seems like very few of the things I bring are of interest to him. I suggest activities and outings but he responds with little enthusiasm. I would love to help him research stuff and work on a project together but none of that is happening!
He seems to be mostly happy with his limited field of interests but he also complains about being bored at times. I myself sense that he needs to broaden his horizons and be stimulated.
I am a very curious person who likes to explore and try everything! But he is not. I am a high achiever; he is not. Our interests are not the same and therefore it is not always easy to live our days together. I am really struggling right now. I am wondering if I should follow a curriculum or if he would be better off going back to school after all. It is hard for me to accept him as he is right now. I hear all these great stories about other unschoolers and ours is not like that.
And then the fears and worry creep in. I worry that he will never develop any other interests or passions. I worry that he will always be closed off to trying out new things and not learn a variety of things. And this unschooling experience is supposed to be fun right? How can I make it so? because right now, it is not.
His father is worrying even more and as a result, he tries to force ideas and specific activities on our son. He would like me to push our son to have interests ‘of value’ (besides video games) and to work on them as a research project of some sort. He said he was not pushed enough to perform as a child and he does not want his child to turn up like him.
I too want to be ‘living joyfully’ with my son. My main reason for taking Julien out of school was that he be happy again and that he rediscovers the joys of living on this earth. My deepest wish for him is that he flourishes with all his vibrant colours: colours that are his own. I want him to learn to listen to his own voice and to trust his heart. To never lose sight of who he is and to nourish and honour the great being he is.
So there it is! I hope you can make some sense out of this. I am just wondering what my role has to be now and am I failing my son’s education? I just feel I need to do more but what?
Thank you for your help and taking the time to answer the many different questions in this story.
Barbara’s Question (from South Africa) [TIME: 36:16]
What to do if your 11yo son flat out refuses to shower, brush teeth, etc. We don’t force him and have explained personal hygiene, but he just doesn’t seem to be that concerned.
Shelsy’s Question (from Florida) [TIME: 41:56]
Hi! My question is about honoring family members with different preferences and needs. My husband and I are very much introverts. We tend to stick to home and aren’t very social, but we like to go out as a family on the weekends when he doesn’t work. My son, age 6, is mostly the same. He likes doing things, but a lot of the time he prefers to be home. My daughter, 8, is extremely social. She is always wanting to be out doing things and talking to people. She is also content at home, but I know she would always prefer to be out and about.
The problem is, when I do take the kids out to do something, I often wish I hadn’t. Sometimes it’s because they fight the whole time we’re out, sometimes it’s because my son runs away from me or is mean to other kids. Sometimes it’s because they each have something totally different they want to do can’t agree on anything. I have tried so many times to do things with them and we have had so few successes (by success I mean everyone actually enjoys whatever we set out to do) that I really just don’t take them anywhere during the week anymore. Unless my husband can be with us so we can split up if things aren’t working out, it’s just too much for me.
I don’t like that. I want to do fun things with them, I want to take them places. I’m just not sure where it’s falling apart. When similar questions have been asked on the podcast before, the advice usually includes talking things through and having conversations about what everyone wants and how we can work it out. I haven’t been able to get that to work. My son doesn’t seem to want to listen. When I try to talk to him, if it’s something he thinks he doesn’t want to hear, he just runs away screaming, “Stop talking to me!” We have been able to work out compromises with him if we can get him to tell us why he wants a particular thing, we can sometimes make it work. But usually he doesn’t want to cooperate long enough to get to that point.
So, I stay home. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, but I worry that I’m not exposing them to enough interesting things. I tell them no a lot when they ask to do things because I’m just tired–I don’t want to go through it all again. When outings go downhill I start to doubt my choice to unschool–they certainly don’t act like the other unschooling kids mentioned on the podcast (if someone saw my kids at the park they probably wouldn’t describe them as kind and respectful.) I feel like I’m doing something wrong, but when I stay home I feel like I’m holding them back.
I’m trying to get my daughter involved in groups where she can go regularly to be social with other kids and help fill her up that way. But is it okay to stay home and only go out on weekends? How can I get to a point where doing things with them is actually fun? I had hoped that it would get better as they got older, but that hasn’t really been the case so far.
I hope this question is clear, I had a hard time finding words for it. Thanks so much for your help!
Links to things mentioned in the show
Anne’s article, Validating Our Children
Pam’s article, Unschooling Passions
Anne’s website: shinewithunschooling.com
Anna’s website: choosingconnection.com