Thursday, December 06, 2007

December 6

Someone posted on my local hs board (the usual one that provides me with such material) a few days ago a statement resembling "I think my teenage son needs more guidance... I like unschooling, but if I let him he'll do nothing but play video games and watch television."
I came in three days later, as I don't visit but every two weeks or so, and no one had yet responded.
So I did.

I had two points that I really wanted to make. One was that we all have fears and worries - be we parents that unschool, homeschool, or have our children in public or private school. It's part of the package. But that with real unschooling you start to pay attention - perhaps in the beginning to see if it's actually working - and pretty soon you start seeing the magic happen.
The other that I really wanted to stress was that one of the greatest things about always unschooling is that we don't have to have a child look at us in confusion and anxiety and beg us to give them some school work to do so that they can have evidence of their intelligence or aptitude. The learning has always been there, and they are perfectly adept and confident that they have the skills and resources to find the knowledge they seek. Though I said it more gently, I think.

Today there was a resulting reply by another that really bothered me (not necessarily addressed to me)- and I'm trying to pinpoint what exactly that is.

I'd respond on the list, but Melissia (damn it) has shut down all dialogue on the subject. :)

One - the person wrote that only honest unschoolers are unschoolers. Implying that we all (homeschoolers) are pretty much the same, in as much that all parents have preferences and initiate learning - thereby all homeschoolers who throw in subjects that are less torturous and actually interesting to the children are unschoolers. Indeed, these are the true unschoolers, and everyone else is a liar. (My words and interpretation.)

The next thing that bothers me is that the person said something like "I've seen unschoolers in action, and when it comes down to it... they parent the same way the rest of us do." She related an example of "hurry up and finish your dinner so that we can get on time to our movie," and that unschoolers are claiming that we put a choice in there that 'we can hurry and eat', 'or we can miss our movie'. (Actually, [grin], most ru.ers would say "are you done? we gotta go... wanna take it in the car, or stuff it in my purse???)
What I wanted to say to her and others - and am saying to you, instead.... :) ... is that some of us do have such things come out of our mouths (I don't think this one in particular makes you a failure at being a radical unschooler) but that One - it's usually not what we want to come out of our mouths, that sometimes we get frustrated and can't think fast enough to stop ourselves and our habits, and Two - we don't do such things because if we don't our children need to be controlled or they will purposely make us late to our movie and therefore our lives hell.

It comes down - yet again - to a different perspective of life. It is her opinion (I'm not trying to flame anyone, her email was just such a great example of how differently people think) that children will just naturally be unruly and rude and inconsiderate unless we make them be nice.
And even that "so called unschoolers" have been heard or seen trying to get their child to be nice to others. And that makes us hypocrites - or at least, kicks us off our high horse and brings us to the same level as everyone else. (Again, my words and interpretation.)

So after reading this, I started thinking about my feelings of ru and parenthood, and my initial post.
Was I being judgmental and arrogant?
Yeah, actually, I was. It is my opinion that if I do the work now - live consensually, raise my children with respect for them, co-sleep if and when they like, let them make the decisions that proclaim best (and loudest, most inconveniently, and most efficiently for them) Who They Are, then I shall have an entirely different relationship with my children than most.
That my family will not be that family on the minivan commercial who makes fun of each other and holds each other in contempt. That it will not take a holiday or special occasion for one to admit begrudgingly that the other is "not so bad".

Do you know what I find so vile? Have you seen that commercial - I haven't seen it in a while, but I don't watch much tv, either (someone else always wants a turn, it seems :) )- where the parent and child scream and yell eachother about the cell phone? The parent says "You'll take this phone, and talk as much as you want!!" and the young teen says "You always listen to me!!!" and they're shouting in a violent way things like "I love you!!!" and "I know you do!!!", etc. It's s'posed to be a parody, I guess, making fun of real family fights and socially accepted differences between children and their parents. I find it disturbing and tragic.
Abysmal, actually.

We all know that living ru is not a free for all.
People are people.
Just now, as I got up, I heard a big "thump!", it was the front door slamming. I am about fifteen steps away from the front door.
"Hey, Bud? Lock that door and stay inside, will ya?"
Evidence, some might say, that I am not a successful radical unschooler. I did, after all, just issue a supposed order.
"Hey, Bud?" I expand... "It's dark outside, and getting cold, and you're in your underwear, and I have a need for knowing that my children are in the house and safe while I'm writing, okay? I'd like to know that you're safe, and warm, and dry."
"Okay, Mom. No problem."
There you have it.
No problem.

An interesting thing that developed for me in working through this is noticing that I am not offended, nor do I feel I have something to prove.
I was bothered, as I said, but I think it was in a more questioning way - Did I come across as a know-it-all, and as a supreme parent?
Could I have appeared as judgmental to the others, and could maybe they have interpreted my ideas or words as "if it is done right, this is how it works...", similar to how friends or relatives might think we are rejecting their chosen way to do things in our decision to homeschool.
It's been an interesting forage.
I can't help but marvel at the gentleness in feeling serene with my own heart and sublime in my intent, finding peace even among this particular adversity.


carri said...

Hi Stephanie, I have been reading your blogs for a little while. I found you through Evie. I really enjoy reading what you have to say.

This post is great. It amazes me how labels can create certain impressions on people. The fact of the matter is that even though there are many of us RU's out there, we are still individuals who are dealing with our own issues. I do think that with most of us though, are more mindful of our circumstances and actions.

And of course there are times that kids get a little unruly. Don't we all? And that little reminder helps us all to take a step back and make sure we aren't hurting anyone. I also think that for us life learners, the definition of unruly isn't quite the same as some other parents.

Anywho, all that to say, I do really love this post.

Mama Podkayne said...

First, I have to say, I love getting up in the morning and reading these posts of yours!

Second, I have had similar issues. My child is young (3) and we've always unschooled, even before she was a twinkle, because it is how we live. When I post at my local HS or parenting boards about such issues I also get the brush off OR the"your child must be a superhero" or "you must do nothing wrong ever as a parent, miss perfect" or the like. It is hurtful because it is either dismissive or calling me a liar and neither is very nice or good.

RU works for us. I want to share that because it is such a happy life! I wonder if it would be so happy for moms who have control issues that they will never give up. I feel the same way about video games and TV personally- I hate them BUT I see the value in them as a tool so I am working on making peace with both. The problem I see it is similar to something I said to my sister recently about a problem she was having with a boyfriend who chose Internet role playing game over going out on dates with her....I said, be more interesting so he chooses you. (She chose to nag at him until he left.) That's just it, we need to live and be interesting to have our children follow us. Does that mom watch a lot of TV? Is the child modeling after his parents? Those are questions we need to ask ourselves when we see a behavior that is unsettling. No? What other choices are there for the child to learn what she is interested in, what opportunities are made available?

Ok, I have to attend to Lil'Bug now!

Stephanie said...

Hi there Carri.
"Dealing with our own issues" is exactly right.
It's sort of strange that she wouldn't take that into account. Like if we accept an idea we automatically are able to follow it, immediately shedding the patterns and pains that were developed in our own childhoods.
I wish!!
I'm glad to know that you read the blogs - I'll be sure to jet over and visit yours in just a minute!

Stephanie said...

MP - well thank you, Ma'am! :)
"I wonder if it would be so happy for moms who have control issues".
I think that's the greatest thing about it (and hardest) for me.
When I have a need for that control IT controls ME. I have to fight my way through my days.
It's an amazing secret, I think, that in letting go of that need, you are not actually "giving up" yourself or your power, as we so fear, but being liberated and set free!
(which might take me to another post.) :) - You're always good for that! :)

Stephanie said...

One other thing -
when I said there was a "resulting post" I didn't mean that she was writing to me. I just meant that after I wrote there were a few others, too, and hers was just a result of those posts.

KMDuff said...

I don't know how NOT to feel superior sometimes. Something to work on I know, and probably something will happen to help me figure it out...but I feel like yelling out sometimes "LIFE DOESN'T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY! YOU COULD BE ENJOYING YOUR KIDS!"

Because I LOVE that our lives are more joyful and happy and fun now that we are on this gentle parenting and respectful living ride. I want to share it. I want people to know how great it is!

But I don't, I keep my mouth shut unless asked. Then, if asked, I try to share in a here's what works for us, here's what I read about it kind of way, and hope I've helped and not sounded like I feel superior.

How not to appear judgemental? I've been thinking about this alot lately as a result of some of your posts. Life is full of judging. Next post you talk about labels, and don't see them as judging. But most people see it as judging. That's what we do to make sense of our world. Arrange it in ways that we understand. - And in doing so, we are judging, because instead of asking and observing alot of times we are juts assuming things. And we miss alot as as result.

So sometimes, I like to just watch and look for the good, even in the parenting styles that make me cringe. Remind myself that they do love their kids and are trying to help. Try to see what I can learn from the situation.

Life. It boggles the mind sometimes. :D

Stephanie said...

Thanks, M!
I think for me judging and labeling differ in that "judging" to me means grading it as equal to, inferior to, or superior to something else.
Labeling just means a description, for me. Like red. Or blue. Or chocolatey. Or cold. Sunny.
It just seems "it is what it is", and a judgment appears just that, a thing that is Judged, and is more subjective.
I read quite a while ago on DakinisCrossing (sorry for any misspelling) about her feeling that way about judging - that it was a mere reflection of what something was, or was not.
I was bothered by that one, but switch the word to "label", and I agree.
There's something here for me to learn, I think! Not able to put my finger on it quite yet.

Lena said...

I hate that commercial too. Yuck.