the network for radical unschooling families
Thanks, Sylvia, for bringing up this question!
I'm a single mom, who's been divorced since 2006. The divorce was ugly and now there's custody dispute. Also, because the universe couldn't seem to pile enough crap on top of it all, my ex husband is deployed to Egypt and my domestic partner had to stay behind in Austin when I had to move back to Albuquerque (my ex did not honor his agreement to allow my son to visit regularly and to eventually move to spend the "middle school years" with my partner and I in Austin). I could go on and on about background and circumstances, but I will simply stick with the status quo:
1. We are brand new to unschooling (actually, my son, 11, is still in school, though I don't place much emphasis or importance on the schoolwork)
2. I have almost no support structure here. I have no family (including my partner) in the area and a few friends who don't really "get" unschooling.
3. I work full time in a hotel and I do not have the option, at this moment, to work less (as I am up for a promotion that I have only considered (thoroughly!) to improve our financial situation (my ex sporadically gives money for help in really insulting quantities, and who knew that the Child Support Enforcement Division takes their "fees" out of support that is collected!?!?). My plan is, once I get my promotion (I am willing the universe, here, to do as I bid for once ;o), to pay for a lawyer to win full custody of my child (and I can go on and on about why I am fighting for custody, but I will sum up that my ex is not a nice person, in any measure)
4. Matthias and I are staying with friends (because of the financial circumstances) and must share a room. (anyone here ever share a room with an 11 year old boy.... it looks like the room threw up on itself!)
Here are my wishes:
1. To have my partner move back to New Mexico (he has not because of a lack of work in the area, and in Austin, to boot) so that I can have at least one person to support our efforts full time.
2. To develop more of a relationship with my local unschoolers.
3. To find ANY support (online or in real life) structure that is going to NOT ask me if I can somehow pare down the hours I need to work, because that simply is not an option at this point.
4. That I knew what the hell I'm doing, at all!
5. To NOT share a room with my child!
6. To have some adult time (since I've been back in Albuquerque, I've been in "Super Mom" mode and I'm tired!)
6. I'm sure there is more....
My frustrations, at this very moment:
1. Matthias seems to want to stay up till 6-8 am, playing computer games. This would be fine, if we didn't: a) have to share a room (I'm a horribly light sleeper), and b) he didn't have to still go to school, and c) if I could leave him home by himself while I have to work or run errands (he is still young and immature and I'm not confident that he'd know what to do in the case of an emergency)
2. Not having any money! to do the things he wants to do and go places he wants to go.
3. That he just doesn't want to do anything with me, or anything I offer. For example, last night, I asked if he wanted to see if a bunch of the unschoolers wanted to meetup and go to First Friday Fractals and he didn't know what that was, so I explained it to him (tie dye, mathematical equations that create/cause the really awesome designs in plants and nature) and as soon as I sign "math" he completely shut down the idea.
4. Not knowing how to go about getting him to help out with cleaning up his crap in our room!
I would love to find some support here and any words of encouragement and points in good directions.
Thanks, y'all, for being here, and chugging along! I'm learning what you're all learning: that the already difficult task of single parenting, made more difficult by breaking the mold that our society puts us into by institutionalizing our kids and sucking the life out of them!
Some things which help unschooling in general:
*"Read a little, try a little, wait a little, watch." It takes time to learn the skills involved in living an unschooling life.
*Take the words "have to" out of your vocabulary. Unschooling is about making thoughtful choices and doesn't happen without a whole lot of them. Any time you find yourself thinking "have to" stop and question that and look for one more option. It gets easier with practice.
*Step away from the idea that you have any real control over your son - ideas like "letting" or "allowing" or "getting him to do something" are an illusion and that illusion will become more apparent the older he gets.
*Look for the positive - in your kid to start with. That's important for partnership to have any hope of growing in your relationship. What do you love about your son? What's wonderful about him? Cherish him - consciously and actively. Go past "love my kid" to having a passion for him so that meeting his needs meets at least half of yours.
*Look for odd-ball, out of the box, creative options for the moment rather than perfect solutions for all times. "Try a little, wait a little, watch."
*Look for what can make life better - softer, kinder and more joyful - and move toward better. Take little steps, at first. Right now, the onus of partnership is on you - it's up to you make his life better, not to "get him to help". If he's not not helping, he doesn't have the personal resources to help. He needs time to heal, first and foremost, before unschooling can even begin for him. The healing time is called deschooling and you can read more about it here:
More specifically, while you're both deschooling (and if he's in school, neither of you are even deschooling, yet) actively avoid suggesting anything which even remotely looks or feels academic or educational. Right now he "hates learning" and he will for a good long while after leaving school. If you pull him from school now, it will be at least six months past the end of what would otherwise be his summer vacation, and some kids who leave school in the early teens take as much as a couple years. And any time you suggest anything which pushes his "hate learning" button you reset the clock to some extent, so avoid it like the plague. Take him to Game Stop for an outing, or an anime convention, or skateboarding. Play video games with him. Watch tv with him. Watch movies with him. Look for free/cheap concerts if he likes that sort of thing. Ask him what He wants to do, and do that, soaking up every moment of time you have with him.
Look for creative alternatives to all those things you said you didn't want advice about. Think about all those things in terms of what will make your son's life softer and more peaceful. When you find yourself getting bogged down in old thoughts of "have to" and "my life is hard" actively look for sweetness and wonder and joy. Actively open yourself up to gentleness and softness so you can make your son's life - and your own! - lighter and more precious.
Good stuff here on the process of change:
Thanks Meredith. Great rec's. Really appreciated.
This has been a really trying time, for many many reasons and it helps a lot when there are people around that know what you might be feeling/going through.
I realize there will be a ton of deschooling for us to go through. I can heap on top of everything that I come from a very abusive household, and sometimes, in spite of myself, I'm not a very patient person. I work as hard as I can at all times to be aware of this and to be kind and patient with Matthias.
What do you all do when you've reached a point of being full when you feel that you just need to step away from it all and be quiet and alone?
When Ray was little, I felt that way a lot - he needed an enormous amount of direct interaction, and I'm a pretty staunch introvert. But I learned (partly through reading unschooling lists) that I could take "breaks" that were really tiny - no more than a good, deep breath - and that could be enough if I shifted my mindset to allow them to be. If I was hoping all day long for five minutes of peace and quiet, I spent the whole day stressed. If I savored each chance I got five whole seconds to breathe (and that was usually all I got), I could enjoy my break, relax, and go back to being Ray's partner.
i'm a single mama solo-parenting 2 kids, ages 4 and 9. they are the loves of my life. :) i work from home right now making $10 an hour but am working on becoming financially free w/ Arbonne International. i want more for us than just getting by. i want to be able to go places together...Disney Land, wherever they wish to go i want to be able to afford to do it and make it happen. plus, i'm vegan and an animal rights activist so Arbonne being 100% vegan with every product they offer and not tested on animals helps me live within my personal values. i can't say my current job does that for me. i'm getting by but i want MORE. i actually enjoy being without a partner most of the time... :) i love being able to be home working with my kids nearby... :)