the network for radical unschooling families
I'm new to the RUN forum but have been unschooling with my partner Chris and our son Aidan (7) for about, well, seven years now. The only traditional school experience Aidan had was when he was 4-years-old and we decided to enroll him in the "preschool" program offered where I work. I still remember the first day when the director of the program instructed us to leave him in the schoolroom with the teachers while we along with the other parents met down the hall in a separate room. I can still feel my heart breaking as my boy looked towards the door as we left him in the company of complete strangers in a place he had never seen before. We told ourselves this was a normal feeling that we had to work through--that it was somehow a normal part of letting him grow up. We told ourselves this two times a week, two hours a day, for the next 30 weeks or so. (The school kept pressing us to leave him there for longer periods of time, but we resisted feeling it wasn't right for any of us.) Aidan did not like his time there, and we feel rather guilty for doing that to him. Needless to say, since that time, Aidan has not returned to school, and we've been learning naturally ever since.
We started off saying we would "homeschool"--not really knowing what that would mean for us. We got involved with some local homeschooling groups and coops, which Aidan enjoys as something fun to do a couple times a week with us. While at first we didn't understand much about "unschooling" we new that we didn't want to invoke the whole "school-at-home" thing. We wanted Aidan to direct his own learning. We called ourselves "eclectic" as we were open to learn from those we met along the way (as we still are) and lacked the understanding and confidence to call ourselves "unschoolers." Today, however, we understand quite a bit more. Our minds have shifted into new spaces--as we are much further along in our own deschooling process. About a year ago, Chris and I took another big step in this process as we began to understand unschooling as more than just an approach to homeschooling but also as mindful parenting and as way of living our lives as a family. Maybe this is a shift towards the radical? (Honestly, I try not to get too hung up in labels.) All I know is that I feel like the world is open to us all now. I feel really good about how we are and the path we are on. Of course, many challenges remain. We are growing and learning every day, but it is so very exciting to me.
I'm really excited to be a part of this network and look forward to learning from all of you.
-=-We wanted Aidan to direct his own learning.-=-
I hope you're looking at it more as learning all the time, without anyone (not even Aidan) "directing it." That will help.
Yes, thanks, Sandra. I think we are in that frame of mind (most of the time). Our biggest challenges now are more along the lines of parenting/control issues. There are a few things we are having trouble letting go of--eating habits, excessive screen time, etc. Sometimes it's easy to feel like you know what's best for your child, and you want to help him make certain choices. We're working on it.
By the way, I saw you speak at the InHome conference last weekend. I really enjoyed your talk and wanted to chat a bit with you at the conference but couldn't overcome my shyness. Anyway, thanks for your insights. I welcome and appreciate them.
*** eating habits ***
It will help to not think of them as habits but as choices and preferences. Though what they find easy to get can be a factor in what they choose. Have you seen Sandra's monkey platter pages? Making more nutritiously dense food as easy to get or easier as snacky stuff can help. Kids generally want food to be simple and fast so they can get back to more interesting things :-) At certain ages they also have small stomachs and quick energy needs so sugars and fats will be preferences. You can help them meet that need with quality choices like homemade cookies and muffins.
*** excessive screen time ***
Do you call reading, drawing, writing, origami, present wrapping all "paper time"?
What shows and games do they enjoy? What activities do they do in the games? What types of shows do they enjoy?
It will help to get involved with what they're doing so you're not just looking at the surface. Do you sit with them and play? Do you know enough about their games or shows to have conversations? Do you know what they love and dislike about them? Have you found related things like YouTube videos, books, related shows?
*** Sometimes it's easy to feel like you know what's best for your child, and you want to help him make certain choices. **
I think that's the default for most people! It takes awareness to avoid it.
It can help to see what making the best choices for someone else feels like from the other side. What if your wife saw in you a great chef? What if all her choices were oriented towards helping you see how right she was? What if she tolerated your little "picture taking hobby" by grumpily letting you spend your own money on that but would eagerly pay for anything that looked like you were finally getting it that she was right and cooking was the right choice for you?
We don't learn best by memorizing someone else's "right" choices but by exploring the choices that seem right to us. By experiencing the pluses and minuses of the choices they make, kids find out more about the world and about themselves. They gain confidence in their ability to figure things out for themselves. If someone else is always second guessing their choices, making them feel wrong, it can undermine their feelings of growing competence.
Sandra also has a good page on Choice.
Welcome! We are in the Chicago burbs and just started unschooling this year. I wish I would have listened to that feeling more when I watched my kids ride off on the bus. My youngest had the strongest aversion to school and has really taught me so much. Here's to listening to our instincts!
Thanks for the welcome. I think it's great that you've started unschooling. I don't think it's something that folks can come to immediately. There's that whole "deschooling" process, I guess, and it takes a while. At least that's how it's been for us. I couldn't agree more about your comment about our children teaching us so much. I guess when we're not so sure about instincts, we could just ask our kids what they think. :-)
So whereabouts in the burbs are you? We're in the southwest suburbs but travel out to the Naperville/Plainfield area quite a bit (and all around really). Maybe our families will cross paths one of these days.