LIVING JOYFULLY NEWSLETTER
Issue #12 | Apr 19, 2013
APRIL’S THEME: Unschooling Families
I think unschooling families are beautiful. The respect and love is palpable, even in the messy times. I could watch them interact all day. Not in a stalker-ish way … in a way that soothes my soul. This month I’m looking more deeply at some of the issues or challenges that may come up in our family life and talk about them within an unschooling context.
ON THE BLOG … so far this month
Do you have strong beliefs or principles that you choose to live by? Do you expect that your children live by them too? That’s pretty easy to accomplish when they are young, but what about when they discover that other options exist? It is possible to respect your principles while still supporting your child’s drive to explore and learn and in this post I dig into some ways to do just that.
Why is it important to explore what makes us tick and what does that have to do with unschooling? I talk about some reasons why families choose to extend unschooling beyond academic learning. And that discussion leads me to ponder a question often asked by people upon first hearing about unschooling, “How will they learn to get up for a job and become independent, successful adults??”
A coincidental addendum: later in the day after publishing this blog post, I realized that morning I had texted my daughter in NYC and when she replied immediately, I replied, surprised, “You’re awake?? LOL! I didn’t expect such a quick reply.” She replied, “Lol gotta get to XX to shoot YY.” She was all up and ready to go to work without years of practice. It was life, it wasn’t particularly notable—until I remembered I had just written about that very thing.
LET’S TALK ABOUT … “I could never do that!”
I have had this experience a number of times over the years, and I’m thinking you probably have too. Or will soon. You’re at a social gathering, or maybe picking up your child from an activity, and you find yourself chatting with another parent. As the conversation meanders, you share that you are homeschooling your kids. Their response is, “That’s cool, but I could never do that! My kids would be fighting all the time.” Or “my kids would never listen to me.” You might choose to just nod and murmur “ahh,” or maybe to plant a seed: “You’d think, right? But in spending our time together we’ve figured out ways to get along.” The conversation strolls on to something else.
It’s such a different paradigm isn’t it? You can feel the attitude of parents versus children wrapped up in their words. And if the parents are firm on maintaining that paradigm, homeschooling probably won’t be very enjoyable for them or their children—they’re right! But for those who choose to pursue unschooling, it’s amazing how much the family dynamics shift in even a short few months.
How does that happen? How do kids go from constantly arguing with their parents and siblings to being more open and amenable?
By gaining trust that their parents will respond to them in a timely manner and do their best to help them get their needs met.
Think about that for a minute. Imagine the sense of stability a child feels when they know with all their heart that they will be heard and helped. Each and every time. Lovely! Knowing they won’t be ignored until they get loud enough. Knowing that even when there are disagreements—those don’t fade away, there’s no fairytale unschooling land—screaming isn’t a requirement to bring forth a loving parent who responds, cares, and tries to help.
You’re building strong relationships with them. Building trust.
When you decide you want a different kind of relationship with your children, take action to change the environment. Choose to be a parent your child can develop trust in. How? By responding quickly, by really listening, by being compassionate, by putting real effort into helping your child accomplish their goal—show them you are trustworthy.
As each child develops that trust, they build a real sense of safety and security. They have less need to fight with their siblings for their place in the family because they feel secure. They also observe their parents doing their best to help each of their children and through those experiences they learn that when their parents help their sibling, it doesn’t take away from the help they receive. Help isn’t a fixed amount, doled out based who can make the most fuss. Help is there when it is needed. Some days and weeks it’s needed often, others not so much.
When children no longer feel in competition with each other, their need to argue for attention or things lessens. Their trust in and respect for their parents grows. Communication flourishes.
It just takes parents willing to move beyond convention and choose to create a different atmosphere in their family.
If you’re interested in reading more along this vein, you might like to check out the blog posts from last November when the topic was parenting to support unschooling.
LIVING JOYFULLY … with unschooling
I love the relationships I’ve developed with my children over the years through unschooling. There is mutual respect and understanding and caring. Not only with me, but amongst themselves as well. They are very supportive of each other. It doesn’t mean they are best friends—they may not share many of the same interests—so don’t expect that, it may or may not develop. Yet there is an atmosphere of genuine interest in each others’ lives and support is just a request away. “Can you help me with this?”
As they were growing up I would take a moment to explain a sibling’s motivations or needs as we were trying to work out plans. It was only really meant for a greater understanding of the moment, but what a nice surprise to see that they came to really understand each other from a pretty early age and did not ask another to stretch beyond their comfort zone without a solid reason. For example, if one was not wanting to leave home much for a season, the others were happy to accommodate that as much as possible, knowing they had been accommodated in the past, and trusting they would be again in the future.
As they’ve gotten older I’ve seen them extend this understanding to friends, who gratefully accept this compassion. And we’ve also had conversations surrounding times when others seem to take advantage. This understanding of human nature, of how people have differing needs and that accommodating them often needn’t happen to their own detriment, alongside an well-honed ability to see outside the box and brainstorm a myriad of ways to accomplish things, are wonderful tools to bring into the adult world. I see them use them all the time.
And fyi, the paperback edition of Free to Live is now available for purchase atamazon.com—it should propagate out to the international Amazon sites over the next couple of weeks.
Wishing you a joyful weekend with your family!