LIVING JOYFULLY NEWSLETTER
Issue #29 | February 1, 2014
JANUARY’S THEME: Exploring Beyond the Family
Hello! How are things since last we were in touch?
The weather around here has been challenging the past week or so, with blowing snow and whiteouts rendering our roads unsafe. We’ve stayed home from the dojo a few days. The snowbanks are already hitting six feet and more snow is expected today. I’m pretty sure I’ll be shoveling a few times this weekend!
This month on the blog I’ve been talking about ways our children may choose to engage with the world around them. From organized activities, to finding friends, to connecting with others online, our support helps them explore and learn about the world, and themselves.
ON THE BLOG … this month
Is your child interested in taking a class or joining an organized activity? Swimming lessons? Ballet? Hockey? Let’s talk about some of the things you can do to support their interest: considerations for choosing where to go, ways to help them get out the door, and why quitting might be the way to go.
One of the questions that seems to come up pretty regularly in the lives of unschooling kids is finding friends.
Our children are growing up with online technology, it’s more intuitive for them, so it can often be us parents who are concerned, while they are happily chatting with other kids in different time zones. Do they really count as relationships?
LET’S TALK ABOUT … when you and your child want different things
There was a great question from a reader in response to the Exploring Outside Activities post. I wanted to share it here because I think it might speak to others as well.
Thank you, Pam, this post really speaks to me and where we are at as new unschooling parents. My kids are very young, and we have intended to unschool from the beginning. Still, my husband and I continue to need deschooling. My oldest is 6. He rarely wants to leave the house, loves Legos, video games, TV shows and fantasy play with good guys and bad guys. He is also very adept at bike riding, swimming, ocean play, and learning new physical skills. I support his love of games and shows, we battle together, I watch him play video games and watch his favorite shows, I research with him when he gets stuck in a video game. And, I am an outdoor lover, and see that he “could” do so much fun, physical, outdoor stuff, but he never chooses it himself. We do the things you suggested for transitions, but my main concern for him is finding the line between trusting and waiting, or putting him in situations without asking permission first. He has quit Tae Kwon Do, which he really loved for a while, and now wants to quit swimming lessons. We are signed up for weekly free swim with friends, but I am struggling to let go of the lessons, because we want to do a lot of ocean/water based activity. The place where I am at now is that I will go do the fun, physical, outdoor stuff, with whomever wants to join me, and the money we save on lessons could go to someone staying with him in that time. But is this selfish? Punitive? Reasonable?
I’m happy it got you thinking—this is a great question! And I love that you put “could” in quotes, because you see that those thoughts are about your expectations, not about your son. 🙂
The first thing that jumped out at me was how you kept putting “fun” in front “physical, outdoor stuff.” I can tell from what you wrote that you love outdoor activities. And that’s great! But it’s important to realize that your children are different people. You can hope that they like the same things you do, maybe even be a bit disappointed if they don’t, but the challenges come when you value what you like more than what they like. And I think that’s why you’re feeling uncomfortable right now, because what you are considering is feeling manipulative to you. That’s a good clue that there’s more to consider.
If you want to think about it in terms of money for a moment, I’d be inclined to think of the money you might spend to have someone stay with your son as coming out of the “pot” of money you spend to pursue your interests i.e. outdoor activities. It’s a cost of going out. That means if you were happy to spend $X on lessons to support your son in enjoying an activity, and lessons aren’t his cup of tea right now, you could take that $X and spend it to help him pursue his interests in ways that he does enjoy. Granted, you could look at it like that $X allows him to stay home and pursue his interests there, so it’s not cut and dried. But the fact that you’re feeling uncomfortable probably means that it seems more like the former than the latter to you.
From what you said about transitions and the fact you’re considering leaving your son at home with someone, I’m assuming his preference is to stay home. And if you keep trying to coax him to join you, you’ll likely breed resistance, which can damage your relationship. So the important question is, what does he think about it all? Is he happy to stay home with someone? If you find a way that seems to meet everyone’s wishes, try it out, see how it goes. Is he adamant that a parent stay home with him? Maybe for a while you and husband will will take turns going out to do stuff while the other stays home and has a great time with your son. There’s no right or wrong, there’s how it well it works for everyone in your family. And remember, people change—what works well now may change in a few months. Keep an open mind.
I also love that you wrote this: “my main concern for him is finding the line between trusting and waiting, or putting him in situations without asking permission first.”
First off, this likely feels like a concern to you because putting him in situations without his permission seems wrong—and you’re right, if you want to develop a strong and connected relationship with him that won’t work. So let’s look at the other option you see: trusting and waiting.
When a parent and child have differing wants (in this case, you want to do lots of outdoor activities, he wants to pursue his indoor fantasy play), and you consider taking a “trusting and waiting” approach, it’s helpful to ask yourself, what are you trusting will eventually happen? Are you waiting for your child to “come around,” to see things your way? That doesn’t seem right, does it? Crap, now what?
In these situations I don’t see my role as being trusting because, as you clearly described, that implies I’m waiting for things to change. And that’s a rather hands off approach to take. I prefer to think of my role as actively learning. When my child and I hit a disconnect, it’s a strong clue to me that I have more to learn about my child. Instead of trying to wait it out, “trusting” things will turn my way, I dive in deeper and try to discover what life looks like through my child’s eyes. When I’ve done that, when I’ve stretched, I’ve never been disappointed. I have always learned more about my child and myself. And do you know what inevitably happens? I come to understand their choices—no trust required. And now I can wholeheartedly support them in their choices moving forward because I get it. Through this process you are building their trust in you.
For me, the trust comes in when I’ve experienced that pattern enough times that the next time I don’t quite understand the choices my child is making, I’m okay with it. I trust that they have their reasons.
As for the link you see between swimming lessons and ocean/water-based activities, if he wants to, why can’t he participate in the ocean/water activities now, without the lessons? If you love being at the ocean, let him play at the shore, wade with him into the water. If you love being on the water, he can wear a life jacket. If you’d like him to join you in your favourite activities, do all you can to make the experience fun for him. Just remember that what he enjoys about it may be different—help him explore that. Building sand castles? Playing catch or frisbee in shallow water? Searching for shells? Exploring tide pools? How might he and water connect?
And at the end of it all, remember, he’s only six. Life won’t be this way forever—at a minimum, in a few years he’ll be old enough to stay on his own. My eldest loved that! And my other kids weren’t really interested in group activities until they were around ages 8-9. I wonder how it will play out for your family. 🙂
LIVING JOYFULLY … with unschooling
My son Michael, 16, loves astronomy, which means that he marvels at the stars on clear nights as we come home from the dojo, in the summer he pulls out the constellations app and lays outside at night, there are astronomy magazines in his stocking and light displays as gifts, and on our last vacation we visited the Kennedy Space Center, thrilled to catch a rocket launch. He also loves the space travel aspect of it all: we chat relativity as we listen to the many books in the Ender’s Game series and he explains to me the time travel bits I miss in Doctor Who—he loves the puzzle of it all. It’s rare that I come across some space-related tidbit that he hasn’t already found.
This week an edX course crossed my radar that I thought he might find interesting. I sent him the link to watch the course intro video and he was very interested, so I signed up to audit the course: Relativity and Astrophysics—exploring the powering and intriguing connections between astronomy and Einstein’s theory of relativity. Right up his alley! He mentioned the math bits (it says it generally requires high school math and physics) and I said I think we’ll have a great time chatting about the thought experiments mentioned, and if finds he’s interested in the math side of expressing these concepts we can play with those too.
The course starts next week. If we go through the notes posted and it’s not what we’re imagining, we’ll happily drop it and go on about our lives. If some of it sparks conversations—in the moment, in the car, a month down the road—that’s great! If it’s so interesting that we dive into the course forums and play with the math and physics, that’s great too. They key is we’re excited to explore, but we don’t have any expectations.
Like yesterday. I came across a one day writing colloquium happening in a few weeks. I thought it looked interesting (I’m starting to play with speculative fiction), and that Joseph, my eldest, might find it interesting as well as he pursues his writing. I showed him the website and some of the topics being discussed that I thought he’d like. He did not. Haha! But I’ve decided I’m still going to go. It’s interesting to me, and I can share with him how those topics actually played out. More information we can both incorporate moving forward.
The unschooling lifestyle is about exploring our interests in the world, no matter our ages. 🙂
Wishing you a lovely weekend with your family!