Saturday, December 10, 2011

Should YOU Unschool?

It's hard when you have found something wonderful, and then you come to realize its not going to work for everyone.  

It’s possible that “anyone” can; but many would have to really live outside their comfort zone, learn and adopt completely new communication styles, change their world view, and maybe even spend some time in therapy getting to the root of why they keep making the same mistakes.  Just to name a few.  So, yes, it’s possible that everyone can do this wonderful thing. But are the chances likely?  Slim to none.

I’m talking about unschooling  your child.  So many times people ask questions, trying to identify if they are the kind of parent that can unschool their child and end up with happy independent adult children.

Perhaps we should look at a list. I love lists! What are the characteristics of “good” unschooling parents? And what would be the sign that this style of homeschooling might not work for you?

Unschooling = A Good Fit
Unschooling = NOT a Good Fit

Parents who enjoy being around their children

Parents who really prefer adult contact and look forward to their kids being happily playing …elsewhere.

Parents who look for pieces of their vacations that will inspire and engage their child to learn more about the area or something new

Parents who prefer vacations FROM their children. It’s a good time for them to bond with Grandma!

Parents who work on not having a shocked or judgemental reaction when their kid tells them something shocking that is going on with them.

Parents who really prefer not to have conversations with kids about controversial or difficult subjects. 

Parents who want their child to be happy with their decisions about career goals which may or may not include college;
and parents who don’t categorize periods of time in their child’s life by the parameters used in schools.

Parents who see college as the only correct decision after “the high school” years

Parents who speak to their children with respect.

Parents who think children need to toughen up so they won’t get their feelings hurt.  Sarcasm and teasing on sore subjects is common.

Parents who enjoy watching their child weigh out the pro’s and con’s of a decision.

Parents who don’t have time for weighing it out and just want to make the decision for the child and move on.

Parents who let their children read books that make them happy.

Parents who create a booklist and want them to finish THIS list, before reading the books that make them happy.
Parents who are more cheerful.

Parents who have a negative outlook/attitude toward life.

Parents who are creative and enjoy adapting ideas to new situations

Parents who get a little panicky if they have to adapt the information they obtained/purchased.

Parents who believe children are good at their core

Parents who believe children are sneaky or trying to get away with something at their core

Parents who trust that their children will learn, just as birds learn to fly and fish to swim.

Parents who struggle with trust and fear that children will take "the easy road and not get around to learning."

Parents who are ok with letting kids play video games all day, because they know it will lead to something.

Parents who cannot stand it when their child TRIES to play videogames all day - what about the learning???

Parents who are ok with a more tangential approach to thing leads to something which leads to something else...

Parents who prefer to go through their checklists in a more orderly fashion

Parents who see themselves as mentors and role models, allowing their child to “sit with the grown ups.”

Parents who prefer that the kids hang out somewhere else while the adults talk, or they REALLY like the idea of The Kids’ Table at Thanksgiving. ;)

Parents who enjoy and see value in hearing children’s ideas and ways of approaching situations.

Parents who believe children should be seen and not heard, speak only when spoken to.

Parents who want to give their child academic opportunities because it gives them exposure to various learning opportunities and is a way to fuel new interests or strengthen old ones.

Parents who see academic advantages as advantages they want their child to have to beat out the competition.

Parents who want to role model respect

Parents who use an authoritarian approach, and want to be sure their child understands that they must defer to “the authority”

Parents who are comfortable with thinking for themselves

Parents who need a lot of reassurance

Parents who value flexibility and want to learn about life as each day presents itself.

Parents who really like lesson plans, worksheets, and more schoolish things...too much flexibility leads nowhere.

This is my start at a list. I'm sure I'll have more, and then I'll add to it!

I don’t really understand the push to be called an unschooling parent.   It takes a lot of commitment. It takes a lot of trust. And it takes a lot of effort to keep the child's environment engaging and stimulating. If you find that you have more characteristics that fit with the list on right but you still like the unschooling concepts, fear not! Lots of the time, this is simply a trained mentality that you have from growing up in a school setting. It can be undone, or opened up - if that's what you want to do!  Life is really lived in the Present tense, so past traits aren't necessarily the given. And when we recognize past behaviors and want to change them, well, that's the first step.

So good luck with your child as well as your own self-discovery! I hope you have a long happy loving time learning with your children!

**Because I received a little criticism from this post, I've written some more on the topic:
Black and White... or Gray?


Rachel said...

I just stumbled upon your blog. I think it's really cool. Gotta say tho, that as a parent dealing with occasional depression, I don't think that should be a deal breaker for unschooling. My husband and I have 3 kids, the middle one of whom is classically bipolar. He and I can get into some screaming matches. However, we are quick to forgive. Also, we are a really loving family. I am human and I am dealing with a family dynamic that involves a teenager with a mental illness. He is not like a regular teen. Often times he becomes so impulsive or compulsive and won't even hear me if I try and engage him calmly and peacefully (which is how I always start). But unschooling is the best thing for him. His brain can't handle school type stuff, he tried school for a while and it was a disaster! He needs to be following his passions, he is so much happier that way, and I do my best helping him to do so and expose him to new things. However, occasional depression comes with the territory of living with and loving someone with mental illness (my late dad was bipolar too). I would be even more depressed (and more often) if I were not unschooling my kids. Unschooling also helps keep more peace within our family which goes a long way toward keeping our bipolar son stable, and me less likely to be depressed. So, I gotta disagree with you on the depression thing and on the parents likely to scream at their kids. Also, our family has a crazy sense of humor and we are all sarcastic and engage in self deprecating humor...but that may have less to do with not being good candidates for unschooling and more to do with all the British television and movies we have watched as a family. :-)

Sue said...

Thanks for writing, Rachel. This blogpost is getting quite a bit of attention lately!

First, I want to clarify that identifying with a couple of points on one column or the other wouldn't be any sort of a deal breaker/maker. These were just examples of what I've seen over the years that makes it harder or easier for families to embrace unschooling.

From your description, it sounds like you all have done a great job with handling a very difficult situation. And I'm so glad that your son has the opportunity to learn as an unschooled teen.

Someone also mentioned that since I paired the depression comment with "parents who are cheerful overall," maybe it should have been better to be against "parents with a negative outlook". I think I'll make the adjustment in the blog post. I know a lot of parents with depression, but their medications keep them on an even keel. And they have the support of friends and family to step in when they have a rough time - so it doesn't fall only on the child's shoulders.

Thanks for commenting. It's an interesting discussion.

Coach Casie said...

Thanks for your post.

I'm a newish mom to a funky 10 month old living in Singapore. While my peers are already thinking of what kind of pre-school to get their kids in I find myself lost in knowing that conventional schooling is NOT what I want for my child.

As I live with my in-laws, I find it hard to explain to them my wants for my child. My husband is on board with my decision but just not the rest of the family. I feel torn at this.

But somehow with your posts, I can feel more confident and conviction with my stance.

Thank you.

Sue said...

Hi Coach Casie,
Thanks for commenting. I had the same problems when we first started out. I don't think my mom ever really came to terms with the idea of homeschooling. She DEFINITELY wasn't a fan, but as the kids are grown now, at least she can admit that I didn't RUIN them! My best advice to you is to keep reading. As you identify with some things, reading the posts will help you articulate what's floating around in your head in a kind of fuzzy way. At least it helped me like that.

Remember, you, your husband, and your children are the ONLY votes who count. ;)
I'm glad some of the blogposts here help you. Good luck - have FUN!