This week Anna Brown joins me to answer some questions from listeners. We talk about finding friends, letting go of worry and fear of the future, the teen years, and more. I think you’ll find some helpful nuggets no matter where you are on your unschooling journey.
We are an Italian family. Here in Italy unschooling is almost unknown and very few families practice it. Last year my older son (now 11) did his first unschooling year. It was successful. He found out his passion for wood handcrafts and enjoyed free time.
Last September our second child (6) was ready for 1st grade. We were going to unschooling both of them and I (the father) was the one taking the daily responsibility of this family choice. I felt overwhelmed to have to handle not one but twp children of different ages at the same time. Having to work, and when they asked for children to play with, we decided to move and live where there was a solution for them. The older one, is now attending two days per week a private educational project founded and managed by some parents (me included).
My question: how can you handle two or more children unschooling? So much is required!
I’d love to hear more about unschooling teenagers. My daughter is 13 and has ASD with PDA (pathological demand avoidance), so unschooling works best for her. I love the unschooling philosophy but often have wobbles because I wonder if she is learning enough or rather, deeply enough!
I’m impressed by how much she does learn by herself but wonder if she will get enough depth on certain subjects she’s not so keen on. For example, she learns a bit of basic maths through things like baking and shopping, but how will she learn at a more advanced level? Or does it even matter?
We are 1 month into deschooling our 15yr old son. And, I feel I’m being chased by an emotional roller coaster ~ demanding I get on board. Our once physically active son is delving deep into fortnite gaming—and into the wee hours of the night. My husband and I cannot differentiate between this as an addiction or a new passion and we are unraveling.
Our son, has always been a MONO-focused fella regarding his interests but, in the past, those were all outdoor activities that my husband and I admired. Now, today, I recognize we are deeply lacking faith and trust and that we have projected this emotion more than I’d like to admit. We’ve been living a middle of the road semi alternative lifestyle between early elementary where my son first felt and said: I’m not smart. From that point we dove into 3rd and 4th grade homeschooling and then at our son’s request, entered back into four years of public school until now.
It’s hard to have faith when your child’s uninterested in what we view as worthy. The fact that he ONLY wants to game right now—and stays up till 4am if we let him—makes us want to jump off a cliff. We are certainly in need of finding some like minds in this journey and only wish there were people in our own community to lean on. Any resources you can turn us on to would be deeply appreciated.
Truly, we want to have faith and patience in the journey toward committing to unschooling but find that we are impatient and feel we accept the journey intellectually but feel spiritually challenged by it.We can’t help but want to manage his gaming, bedtime and eating habits but feel that every time we open our mouths with desire to direct him we are defeating the purpose of allowing the momentum toward him finding his own motivation and self care.
There are two aspects that are starting to worry me a bit nevertheless and I appreciate this opportunity to ask specific questions.
I have two children, my son is 5 and my daughter 3 years old. My son is very shy and quiet around new people and larger groups. He loves being with friends and family and is very social amongst them, and also needs a lot of time at home to read, draw or play with Lego. There are no other kids his age in our neighborhood and friends don’t live nearby, we only manage to see them about once a week. So far, he seems to be happy the way things are but I do notice that after meeting friends he is even more content and balanced.
So, I have started wondering whether school might be an opportunity for him to make friends because he might benefit to be around the same people every day and thus building trust and getting to know them. He is not the type of person to chat up other kids at the playground and he is not interested in attending any sports club or other structured/weekly activities. Also, our friends with kids around that age are getting busier now that their kids are all starting in school (which is “compulsory” from 6 years on).
We have been attending meet ups at a park with our local unschooling community, but he does not enjoy these meetings very much and has not made friends there, either. I am wondering how he will be able to develop friendships without this continuous contact with the same group of people. (Basically, all of this applies to my daughter, too. I see that her personality is a little different, though, and her getting a bit older I can imagine her attending clubs/courses and finding friends there.)
This leads me into my second question: Apart from the “friends topic” I am so confident that unschooling is the right choice for us! I am loving to observe the kids explore their interests and games their own way. It is so fascinating. I would love to continue like that.
However, we live in Europe, Austria and the legal situation here does not completely allow for unschooling. Children who do not attend school need to take exams once a year from the age of six, based on the Austrian curriculum. In these exams they will have to prove that their base of knowledge is equal to that of schooled children. So, even if my children will be able to determine what to do and learn themselves for the most part of the year, come spring, I will have to make sure that the curriculum is covered. If they don’t pass the exam they will have to attend school the following school year, according to law.
Do you have any suggestions on how to keep the unschooling spirit alive in the face of this legal requirement? I am worried I will be feeling stressed and adding pressure on them and lose the great relationship we have now. It is such a joy seeing them develop their interests and exploring their questions together without having to follow any curriculum.
I am looking very much forward to hearing your ideas and opinions on these two areas. Thank you so much.
My son is 16 and my daughter is 14, and we have been living the unschooling life since they were born (and even before that, now that I think about it). Can’t even imagine living any other way. : )
The teen years have thrown me for a bit of a loop. The emotional / developmental stuff I can handle (most days). But my faith in our unschooling life regarding ‘schooly’ things got a bit wobbly. Both kids have dyslexia in varying degrees, which affects their writing, spelling, and math skills (reading is fine). They tend to avoid anything to do with these skills, and I find myself panicking about it and doing crazy things like insisting that they go to a math tutor a couple of years ago. Yikes! Eight months of torture for all.
In spite of all of the challenges, my daughter feels that she must get her high school diploma, which she’ll start working on through our home learning program starting next fall. She loves to sew and wants to design formal wear, and for some reason feels that her “real life” can’t start until she gets that diploma.
My son is not remotely interested in schooly things; he has a lot of anxiety around academics (even before the math tutor fiasco) and basically becoming an adult. He spends his time gaming, researching gaming, reading sci-fi, watching movies, and thinking about a fantastic story that he would like to turn into a film one day. Getting his high school diploma doesn’t appeal to him at all.
So, one has anxiety about getting that piece of paper, the other about not getting it. How did this happen?! I wasn’t pushing high school, just worrying about basic skills. And I guess that they’ve picked up on that worry and may be feeling that I don’t have faith in them, which was not my intention at all.
They are both such creative and wonderful people, and I know in my heart that they can create the lives that they want for themselves, even with all of the challenges that they have. They have our love and support and lots of time to figure things out. I do miss the days when I was able to enjoy the day to day wonderfullness of living and creating our lives together without worries about their future and ‘what ifs’ keeping me up at night. I’ve had my ups and downs with feeling this way, and I’m doing my work around this. For the most part, I’m back to following my children’s leads and remaining curious and excited about this incredible journey that we’re on as a family and as individuals.
Links to things mentioned in the show
Everything Bad is Good For You by Steven Johnson
Podcast episodes mentioned