the network for radical unschooling families
I was wondering anyone could give me some advice on unschooling teenagers. To give you a little background about us I have three boys who are ages 16, 14 and 4. I've always homschooled the older ones minus a year here and there when I would toss them into a cyber school because I was freaking about about me not teaching them "all they needed to know".
I've bounced the idea of unschooling around in my head more than once, but I was always afraid to fully commit to it for fear of messing up my kids, and them not being able to make it in this world. So, now I'm ready to go full steam ahead with it. In my heart I feel it's the best for them, and I just hope it's not too late. I want to learn from my mistakes, and avoid doing to my youngest what I did to my older ones.
Most of my top concerns are probably very common. At this point is it really ok if they just play the X-box and/or watch TV? I've tried asking them about what their interests are so I can look into what's out there in my area so they can explore it as fully as they want too and all I get is "I don't know".
I've talked about unschooling with my husband and he thinks all they will do or want to do is goof around all day. So is there a way I could approach this get my husband on board?
Thank you so much for any advice,
Melissa in Pa.
*** I've talked about unschooling with my husband and he thinks all they will do or want to do is goof around all day. ***
Your husband is right. They will want to do what will look to him like "goof around" all day. If he has a narrow vision of what learning looks like, even when unschooling is running smoothly, it will probably still look like goofing around to him.
And it's important for your relationship to treat his understanding with respect. He may be wrong ;-) but from his point of view he's right. And the gentler, more understanding you are of his understanding, the more likely he'll be to shift as you focus on the positives. The more you try to rip his understanding from him to make him take yours, the tighter he'll cling to his own.
*** At this point is it really ok if they just play the X-box and/or watch TV? ***
What's you're goal? It's hard to know if you're heading in the right direction if you don't know where you're going ;-)
Is your goal to help them recover and discover who they are and what their interests are? Then, yes, it's perfectly okay. The games are serving a three part purpose: They need time to decompress and recover from forced learning. They need time to fill up on what was formerly (I assume) limited in some way. They need time to fully explore an activity that is hugely involving.
If your goal is to create productive citizens by the time they're 18, it won't feel right to let them do that. They'll pick up on that worry. They'll hold onto what they feel will be taken away, hold onto what's soothing them, and feel bad about it because they're "wasting their lives."
And, another factor, is that if *they* don't trust unschooling it won't feel right to them in the long run. And it's likely by their ages that -- even if they don't like school style learning -- that they've bought into the myth that they need to learn what school offers in order to be successful. After a few months when they've decompressed, they'll feel directionless.
To work unschooling needs no time limits and kids who are doing it willingly. And it takes a husband who isn't opposed.
I'm not laying all that out to say it's impossible. I'm saying it because unless someone is aware of the obstacles they can't figure out ways to tackle them. They'll be spinning their wheels behind an invisible barrier not understanding why they aren't making progress.
*** I've tried asking them about what their interests are so I can look into what's out there in my area so they can explore it as fully as they want too and all I get is "I don't know". ***
Listen to them. They don't know. They're even showing you and you don't know. ;-)
They're showing you that some of their interests are the games they're playing and the shows they're watching. Society doesn't treat those as interests so even they can't (yet) see them as interests. Games and TV are what people do in their "free time". They're "wastes of time." They're entertainment.
Start making little forays into their world. At first they won't trust you. (And be aware that the games are *also* a way of withdrawing to recover from forced learning so they need their space.) Bring them food. Watch, ask a few questions to grow your understanding of what fascinates them. (They may not entirely know since part of their need to play is to escape.) Treat their interest with respect.
As for other interests, they'll need time to recover and then explore and *trust* that what interests them is worthy of being labeled An Interest. (Just as you and they aren't labeling their games and TV shows as interests.) For a while forced learning will likely have tainted anything that feels like it's something they would have learned for homeschooling. They'll need time for that to fade.
Sorry, the above is more about what's likely to be in your way than ways around it. But until you've spent time really being with your kids and getting to know who they are and what they want, you won't truly have a handle on what's in your way. What's in your way won't just go away by believing in unschooling and going through the motions. It will take awareness and thoughtfulness of the dynamics and who people are and what they want. Help them get what they want. It may not, right now, be unschooling.
Here are a couple links - the first is a whole page of links to articles, essays and comments about unschooling teens by a variety of people:
And this is my favorite unschooling blog, with a nice index page to help you find unschooling specific posts, including some about teens: