LIVING JOYFULLY NEWSLETTER
Issue #21 | September 22, 2013
SEPTEMBER’S THEME: Reader Questions
I’ve really been enjoying answering reader questions on the blog this month! I’m a bit behind as I’ve found these posts take longer to write (more on that below), but I’ll catch up this week.
I hope things are well with you and your family. 🙂
ON THE BLOG … so far this month
Wrapped in this question are two perspectives, both understandable: one parent takes on the bulk of the day-to-day childcare tasks, discovers unschooling, and, seeing the benefits, works hard to put the ideas and principles into action; the other parent goes along, but they see an ever-increasing disconnect between the school-style learning they understand and their children’s day-to-day activities, and their concern grows. Now what?
“How much “getting out of the way” and how much instigating would you encourage? I know all kids and families are different but isn’t it just as much our responsibility to teach kids how to work together, respect each other and learn through organized activities?”
LET’S TALK ABOUT … when you question your unschooling lives
It’ll probably happen at some point. And that’s okay—it’s good to revisit our choices to see if they still make sense. With that in mind, and seeing as our theme this month is questions, I thought I’d share another one I recently answered online elsewhere, though I’ve paraphrased and removed personal details.
Observing other kids going off to college and working while her teens are sleeping late and “fiddling around”, the mom is wondering whether she’s made a mistake in choosing this lifestyle for her family.
I know that you know that comparisons don’t help. But it’s really hard to avoid them sometimes, isn’t it? I’m going to pull a few things out of your details and talk about those because it’s in those bit and pieces of life that you can do things, and those things will, in the end, answer these kinds of bigger-picture questions.
She’s feeling frustrated that some college and more formal learning opportunities have appeared and her children aren’t pursuing them.
From what you’ve written, it seems like the idea of school/college is being held up as a more worthwhile goal than other choices. I’d encourage you to think about why that is.
Though her eldest son is a big help at home and he seems happy to do it, she feels like he really doesn’t want to leave.
It also seems like it would be worth exploring what seems to be your deepest worry—that your son (and the others to follow) might chose to stay living at home forever. What would be the worst to come of that? The judgment of others that you have an adult child at home? Why does their opinion matter? Would you feel like you’ve “failed” somehow? Why? What are your long-term goals for your children? Happiness? Living on their own? Why? Lotsa whys. 😉
You might want to mull over these kinds of questions and see where they take you. Take some time to imagine what life might be like if your worst fears came true. What might a multi-generational homestead look like?
In my experience, when we finally and truly release our pent-up expectations, it frees everyone up to move beyond them. So many things that we didn’t even think were related to our fears soon seem to come unstuck. Yet, don’t have expectations of that either! LOL! Once you are really okay with the situation, it won’t matter whether or not things change. But doing the work to remove the filter of fear through which you’re seeing everything now, usually gifts you with clearer vision that allows you to see the real things that are blossoming in front of you.
I’m thinking it might also help to try to step deeper into their perspective.
Another child is making some personal choices that make her uncomfortable and she’s trying to wait it out (these choices don’t affect others directly).
Instead of trying to wait it out, try to figure out why. You don’t need to ask him right out; and that’s probably not a good idea right off the bat because he probably senses your “waiting it out” mode, which he may well feel as disapproval in disguise. If you don’t want to disapprove, that’s a clue to you that there’s a reason why in there somewhere—try to find it. Because whenever we do things “in disguise”, meaning we’re doing what we think we should be doing, we lose some of our real connection with the person. Absolutely, you don’t want to judge a situation you don’t yet understand—but “yet” is the operative word. Try to figure it out. Try to understand why he’s making this choice.
I also wonder if waiting it out means you’re not talking with him about it. If so, take a moment to ask yourself why. If you’re afraid to make a comment about it because you anticipate a negative reaction directed at you, that’s a clue that your connection could use some strengthening. If not, any other response you get will give you some more information towards figuring out how these choices fit into the bigger picture of your child.
Sure, there may be the odd time you just can’t figure out the motivation behind an action from your observations and conversations—and that’s okay! The odd time won’t have lasting effects on your relationships. But I think it’s something to watch for. As our kids get older it’s pretty easy to mostly leave them to do their thing. Yet if we drift too far away, our understanding of and connection with them lessens.
Granted, that doesn’t really affect our day-to-day lives—they are probably pretty comfortable with the daily bits of life at this point—but it does have a couple consequences. One is that without this deep understanding of our children and where they are emotionally and philosophically, sometimes when we take a look at their more superficial comings and goings we can feel a bit disconcerted, like you are feeling now. We can no longer see the thread of life that links their actions. We no longer understand the motivation behind some of their actions; we just see stagnation. The other is that if a difficult situation / crisis arises, we are less able to support them quickly and well because our understanding of their goals, their dreams, and “where their head’s at”, i.e. their current POV, is compromised. We have to figure that out first to help them explore ways to navigate the situation.
I’ve been asking myself these kinds of questions lately too! With Lissy not living at home, it’s just myself and the dudes left and it’s a LOT less talky. LOL! Sure I’m busily taking Michael to his activities most nights, and conversing with Joseph when he comes to hang out, but I have stretches of my days now where I’m loving pursuing my stuff. But I’m touching base with myself here and there, watching to ensure I don’t lose my understanding of and connection with the boys. I’m doing the same with Lissy! It’s another kettle of fish exploring ways to stay connected when we live apart. Lissy and I were chatting (texting) about that just the other day.
When I have questions about my children, I’ve found that it helps most to look to them for the answers. Feeling “judge-y” is a clue to me that I don’t know enough about what’s going on with them. As unschooling parents, we know our kids are wonderful and unique beings in their own right, so the odd time we lose sight of that, in my experience it’s usually our understanding of our kids that’s slipped. Time to gain that back.
LIVING JOYFULLY … with unschooling
Now to get back to the “behind” comment I opened with, here’s where it starts: after writing the second blog post this month, I thought it was interesting that the word count for both the reader question posts were longer than usual. It was an intriguing enough observation that I wanted to share it with you. But a fact on its own isn’t enough—what does it mean? So, forever curious, I asked myself, why?
Well, obviously, it took more words to answer the questions. Okay, why? Hmm, they were pretty straightforward questions, yet they still touched on so many different aspects of unschooling. Does that make sense? Yes, in my years of experience answering questions online, the answers often pull out a number of ideas that the person hadn’t at first realized were related to the question. Ha! So that it took me longer (in both words and time) to answer these questions fits snugly in with my existing understanding and experience. It makes sense. Interesting!
At that point I didn’t want to stop contemplating. So why does that happen?Because learning about unschooling is a complex journey. For me, that’s part of the fun of answering questions: I love digging in and teasing out the unschooling principles and perspective tangled in the roots of everyday life. But why is it so complex? Because unschooling becomes a lifestyle, a way of living. Unschooling involves real people that we aren’t trying to mold into a generic model child so there are as many variation of living unschooling as there are people. Unschooling is an approach to learning, but there is no start or end to learning in our days—living and learning are intimately entwined—so that means unschooling principles are wrapped up in pretty much all the choices we make throughout each day. As part of our journey to unschooling we end up reconsidering most of what we thought we knew about learning and living in this new light. Talk about complex!
So take heart if you sometimes feel overwhelmed as you learn about unschooling. You have chosen to undertake a huge adventure. One that, at least for now, is unconventional in many ways. But if the ideas and principles of unschooling continue to make sense to you, keep at it! It’s definitely worth the time and effort. 🙂
That got a little more philosophical than I imagined at the outset. Yet that’s the beauty of unschooling: keep asking questions, of yourself and of the world, no matter your age.
Wishing you a wonderful week with your family!