photo by Sandra Dodd
Unschooling depends on children being able to follow their interests, but just as with food, it's hard to know whether they want to just taste it or finish off a case. If a child wants to bake a cake, you don't know in advance whether she just wanted to mix the batter once or whether she will end up creating wedding cakes for millionaires. You don't need to know.
I had an amazing experience with [breathing] last night. At bedtime (which is about midnight in our family) I had just tucked in and said goodnight to our two youngest (8 and 11 yo boys) and was climbing into my own bed when I heard one of them calling me. My knee-jerk reaction was a blast of annoyance—very typical of me in that situation, exacerbated by the fact that I'd felt crummy all day and was really looking forward to collapsing into bed.
I huffed out an angry breath, started to head back to their room and suddenly had a thought from something I'd read here recently (or maybe on Sandra's website or the RU Network): "First, breathe and center yourself." So I took a deep breath, and as I inhaled I felt my whole being kind of slide into place—it was weird, almost a tangible sensation—and suddenly I felt completely peaceful. I walked into their room with a smile on my face and asked if either of them had called me. It was ds 11, he wanted me to set up his extra pillow (which was on the floor leaning against his bed) behind him so he could sit up and read for a bit.
Normally in this circumstance I'd have walked into the room annoyed and impatient and would have responded to this request by going on a rant about why he couldn't just reach down and pick it up himself, why he had to call me all the way back into his room for that, how tired and crummy I was feeling and there is no reason why I have to be the one to do it since he's perfectly capable himself! (You get the picture.)
Last night I just said, "Sure!" and set his pillows up behind him and gave them both another kiss goodnight and then went to bed feeling exhausted but very peaceful—and very thankful for my networks of unschoolers, from whom I'm learning the precious principle of abundance.
I do unschool but I obviously do not subscribe to your radical view of unschooling where children are expected to learn by osmosis and television shows.To the Always Learning discussion list I wrote:
When the environment is rich, children learn by osmosis, if the membrane through which ideas pass is their perception of the world. What they see, hear, smell, taste, touch and think becomes a part of their experience, and they learn. And they learn from television shows, movies, paintings, books, plants, toys, games, movement, sports, dancing, singing, hearing music, drawing, sleeping.... as if by osmosis, they live and they learn.
|You don't know what your children need. They won't know either, if they're never allowed to live in such a way that they will learn to pay more attention to their bodies than to a book or a menu, a calendar, a clock, or to their parents' fears and prejudices.|
Maybe the child is seven, though, and Italy isn't on the state's radar before 8th grade geography.
So I don't look at the state's requirements. I look at my child's opportunities. And I think the moment that the light is on in his eyes and he cares about this tiny bit of history he has just put together, that he wants me to say "YES, isn't that cool? I was much older when I figured this out. You're lucky to have great thoughts late at night."
And if he goes to sleep thinking of a camera obscura or the Vatican or gondoliers or a young teenaged Mozart seeing Italy with his dad, meeting people who thought they would remain more famous than Mozart... I think back to the circumstances of my own bedtimes as a child and I want to fill him with pictures and ideas and happy connections before he goes to sleep, if that's what he seems to want. I could be trying to go to sleep and being grouchy and he could be in another room trying to go to sleep and being sad, or we can go on idea-journeys and both go to sleep happy.
|If the "control force" is great with you, maybe use it to control your own clutter or organize your papers or rearrange your books or clothing. File your photos and negatives. Scan some stuff. Don't turn that awful control beam on people you love.|
|Funny songs, stories, pictures and poems amuse babies and adults all. Amusing food and unusual table settings can be fun. Comedy movies or TV shows are good for relaxing, passing time, and for exposure to different geographical, social or historical settings.|
Unschooling can prove itself if it's not thwarted.
"Unschooling can prove itself if it's not thwarted" wasn't suggesting her husband was thwarting it, but that passivity and a lack of sharing it with a spouse thwarts it.
I like the sound of the word "thwart."
Don't thwart unschooling by using it to divide the family. Move toward it methodically and thoughtfully. Read a little, try a little, wait a while, watch. Note and share the results with your spouse. It can take a while to come to shared confidence, but don't fail to see it as a family-improving project.
|In an attempt to "be fair," parents can be very UNfair. Children don't all need the same things for the same amount of time. Measuring with rulers and timers and charts is often shortchanging one child or another. What they could use more than that is the opportunity to decide when they're finished for their own reasons.|
|Taking food to someone who is reading or playing a game or watching a movie and just putting it where he or she can reach it without any instructions, warnings or reminders is a great gift. It is a simple gesture, and a profound service.|
Maybe they're coming to you as a font of "yes!"
That's a cool thing, if every time they want something loving and positive, they run to mom, huh?
If I say "Sure," they're drinking a soda I gave them, and I bet it tastes better than one they snagged knowing they had "the right" to drink it, but they wanted the blessing.
Any unschooling parent who hates anything is at a disadvantage.
If an unschooling parent REALLY hates something, or five things, or ten, the spaces around those dark places will be harder to fill with wonder, joy and curiosity to learn.
Hoping to begin unschooing while clinging to hatred isn't healthy, physically, socially or philosophically.
P.S. You don't need to learn to love everything, but learning to move toward neutrality from "hatred" (even using the term "I hate") WILL make a difference in parenting and unschooling.
Do the best of the high school graduates know everything they need to know? No, and at some point, ideally, they start learning on their own. Some fail to get to that point, though. Unschooled kids have a head start. They know how to find what they need to know, and they have not been trained to ignore things that won't be on the test.
When parents see how and what their children are actually learning instead of just scanning for the half dozen school-things, unschooling will make sense to the parents. If you wait for school to congeal from a busy life, you'll keep being disappointed. If you learn to see everything instead of just school things, unschooling will start working for you. When you see it you will believe it.
I wish I had thought to put them out and talk about them, in those days, but they were private with me, and she would have told me to get them off the table, probably, anyway.
They talked over quilting, she and the older female relatives. My papaw didn't have a truck. But the men talked walking slowly down to fish, and while fishing, and while walking slowly back.
If time spent here gives you confidence to unschool that will save you TONS of money and energy and worry and heartache and interpersonal repair, that's good.
If you took a course on unschooling and had to go to class a time or two a week, with commuting time, and reading and paper-writing time, and if it cost what a college class costs in tuition, but you could just do THIS instead, that would be good. (And hey! It's true!)
|Sometimes it's even easier if the humor comes first and the "real" information later. Someone who has seen Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, the Simpsons episode about Hamlet, and the Reduced Shakespeare Company's little Hamlet will have many hooks to hang the real Hamlet on, if and when they see it.|
Accidents sometimes make the world worse, and carelessness, and flukes of weather and acts of God. But if a personal decision makes the world worse, then what?
There are different levels of "oops"—didn't know, didn't think, forgot, didn't care, was pisssed off or drunk, was furious and wanted to do damage... What can be undone? What can be atoned for?
The world starts to get better when people stop making it worse, and a person's life starts to get better when he consciously decides to do what is better instead of what is worse in any given moment.