the network for radical unschooling families
on unschooling and marriage, by Schuyler Waynforth:
If I'd seen my parents happy and sharing and working together I would have thought it was possible to be happy in marriage in ways I didn't realize until long into my own marriage.
People talk alot about modelling the behavior you want to see in your children. So, if you want politeness, you are polite, if you want generousity, you are generous, etc... It seems to me that if you want your children to have happy marriages you work to make your own happy and you live that happy marriage in front of your children. If you want your children, girls or boys, to see that men are stupid and wrong and powerful and women are smart and right and powerless, than nagging and complaining and making bitter asides are a good route to take. But if you want them to see that a loving, supportive relationship is possible, with work and with kindness and with giving without expectation of reciprocity, then live that, then model that.
David and I were talking about gifts tonight as we were making dinner together. He said that he doesn't work at our marriage, none of the things he does for me are work, because those things are gifts. And if he can see them as gifts then toil is no longer a part of it. He's right. When I fold the laundry with the image of Linnaea dancing in her dress of choice it isn't labor at all. Or when I wash the dishes thinking about how much easier and more pleasant fixing the next meal will be, it is less about the toil in that moment and more about the joy in the next. But if I think about how many times I've done the dishes recently and how I don't want to do them tonight and I'm tired and why can't someone else do this and I always do them... it is all about labor.
Being happy in your life isn't a bad example. Giving to people you love isn't a bad example. Loving someone enough to not see every fight as a win or lose situation isn't a bad example.
Unschooling results are in the moment. Peace. Learning. Joy.
by Jenny Cyphers:
Unschooling is seeing children as real people. It's seeing teenagers as real people. If a parent can take the idea of that real person right in front of them and see their ideas and insight as valid, then they'll be one step closer to truly respecting their children.
There is a shift that happens when a parent is down this path of unschooling, where the comments of more traditional parenting appears loud and glaring and dismissive.
What prompted this thought was a parent of a teen seeing their child's very real thoughts as stemming from being a hormonal, rock and roll, typical teenager. If a man were to see his wife in the exact same way, she'd likely feel dismissed, whether she was hormonal, into rock and roll, a typical woman, or not. Why is it different for kids?
What I've found, is that the more I examine how I view my children, the more my language changes when I write or talk about them, or to them. If one of my children came to me with a very serious, to them, issue, and I decided that they were too young to know better, too hormonal, or just being a typical kid, the advice I gave them may be dismissed. They may learn this sort of behavior and dismiss my thoughts, as the parent, because I'm too old to relate or really understand, as I've proven through my actions and words.
This is the sort of thinking that drives kids to their peers. Peers can understand and relate to each other and tend not to be dismissive because they KNOW how big it is to feel these things, these big, natural, life things. An unschooling parent is someone who is their child's partner, someone they can truly come to with ideas, problems, and issues, and feel really heard and understood as a REAL person with REAL thoughts.
It's not something that I ever expected to come out of unschooling. Yet, for unschooling to really work well, a parent really needs to see the world through the eyes of their child.
"When we see the level of thoughtfulness and competence a small child can have when he hasn’t been belittled or discouraged or shushed, we can start to think that if we undo the discouraging, belittling and shushing voices inside of us, we might regenerate our own native thoughtfulness and competence." Sandra Dodd
What is the goal? Is it to remain connected to your child? For her to know,
deeply, that you treasure her company and value the things that are important to
her? Or is the goal to have peace and quiet and not be annoyed by a child's
umpteenth viewing of Sponge Bob? Is the goal peace? Can you have peace while
supporting everyone in the family? Yes. But you'll need to first consider what
is *most* important to you, and then be flexible in your decision making
This is a photo that I took this summer. Noor wanted to watch something that
Michael and I had already watched with her many times, including earlier that
evening. She suggested that we all watch together, even if we watched separate
things (it is very rare for Michael and I to find something we want to watch,
but we'd become engrossed with a sic-fi series called Firefly). It took over
two hours for us to watch this one 45 minute episode, because we would pause for
Noor to show us something she found interesting/funny in her video, Michael got
up to make a special treat for all of us, he accompanied Noor to the bathroom,
we stopped to check out the lego project, ect.......but that's okay! We'll have
many years after Noor is grown to watch endless hours of uninterrupted programs
There are almost always more than two ways of doing things. Make choices based
on what will help learning, trust, love.
Thanks for these quotes and opening this discussion.
For me, radical unschooling is an extension of my seeking to live authentically. It's not something I started when I had a child but another label applied to the joy in each moment. I don't mean to sound like I'm rejecting the label, I'm not. It's just that, having come to motherhood in my 40s, I was already seeking to realise much of the wisdom of radical unschooling before having a child. Having a child has certainly added a new perspective to the journey, but I'm still on the same path, whatever it's called.
That said, I particularly love the comment above about appreciating what our child/ren love, "Value what they value ...". I find that doing so doesn't just extend love to the child it uncovers the love within. It shows us what we're capable of behind the judgements and value preferences. It reveals peace to us.
What's more, it works with adults too! I mean, who doesn't like someone who shows an interest in what they love?!
Yes, it does work with humans of all ages :-) That's why it works! It's based on fundamental human needs.
I think it helps to see these quotes not as defining radical unschooling for other people but describing the topic that's explored here in this forum. Parents will be unschooling from a wide variety of view points, for a variety of goals, prioritizing the principles in different ways. Suggestions are based on the forum's definition and then parents can think about and decide whether ti will help their own goals.
I didn't see the quotes as defining unschooling for others, I saw them as a starting point for the question, "What is radical unschooling?" I then sought to define it for myself - a little too openly perhaps but there you go, I'm no longer one for hard definitions of any kind :-)
My post certainly wasn't intended to be a challenge to anyone elses definition. Of course I appreciate that parents are approaching unschooling from a wide variety of view points - I would expect no less. I'm always fascinated to hear how other people try to define just about anything, let alone such a multi-faceted topic as unschooling!
My children have never asked, "Do we have to learn this?" They don't have to learn anything. So everything is equally fun for them. The joy of unexpected discovery is the substance of a typical unschooling day. ---Sandra Dodd
Colleen Prieto wrote this today:
All three of us (my husband, me, and my son) do things for each other throughout the day, asked and unasked, that we’re all certainly capable of doing for ourselves.
For example, yesterday, I placed my iPad on the table as I went to get a glass of water. Apparently I missed and it was only balanced at the edge of the table, not all the way on, though I didn’t realize that until I saw my 10 year old walk over and push it over so it wouldn’t fall. Last night when I walked into my son’s room, I noticed some bins of legos on the floor and pieces scattered about, so I asked if I could put them away so he wouldn’t step on them and he said sure. Earlier today, I was on a conference call for work and my husband brought my morning cup of coffee while I was on the phone. At dinner, my son wanted more parmesan cheese and asked me to go get it for him – while I was on the way, my husband asked me to bring back the pita chips for him. A few minutes ago, my water bottle was empty and I asked if anyone wanted to fill it – my son jumped up and offered, as he loves using the water dispenser in our fridge :-)
If my son let my iPad fall, I let my son step on Legos on the way to get his clothes from his closet, and my husband hadn’t thought to make sure I was caffeinated this morning, I’m sure life would have still gone on :-)And I could have filled my own water bottle, everyone could get their own food… we could each do what we could do ourselves, and we could each attempt to do as little as possible for each other. But our lives would feel so much different – so much less connected – so much more detached and rigid. We’d be keeping score and passing judgment (probably saying things like “10 years old – can’t you do your own laundry?” or “how old do you think you’ll have to be before you can make your own breakfast??” and all sorts of other things that are said in many a conventional-parenting household).
And that wouldn’t be nearly as cozy and comfortable and positive as a life where we all look out for each other and show our care for each other throughout our time together. A life that got this way in large part because my son has grown up watching my husband and I say to each other “Can you…” – and watching whoever’s being asked most times say “sure!” And because he’s grown up with his dad and I saying “yes” over and over again to his own requests for assistance and attention. Saying yes, and more yes, and more yes can indeed lead to wonderful things
Jihong Larson is my current favorite source of good unschooling quotes:
A nice overview of the unschooling journey by Sandra Dodd in response to a mom worried about what her kids know compared to school kids:
Generally speaking, unschoolers seem ahead for a while, and then behind for a
while, and then ahead again.
Young kids can be all sparkly and impressive.
When the school kids are learning arcane things like paragraphs and equations
and conjugation, and maybe mentioning it at home, the unschooled kids can think
they don't know ANYthing for a little bit.
Then something happens; I've seen it lots, when the parents don't screw it up,
when conditions are good.
The school kids figure out, when they're 14 or so, that school just goes on and
on (kind of like "what do you mean Next Semester" :-)) and that they're starting
to miss out on some real-life experiences in exchange for little slips of paper
that only have a column of letters written on them. Not even money, just the
names of subjects and (if they're lucky) some A's and B's. The kids at school
start to balk. LOTS of schoolkids shut down, stop liking school (if they ever
did), start becoming hardened, start showing their brokenness.
Meanwhile, the unschoolers come into puberty and, without being broken, having
had all that time to play, and to think, and to talk to adults and kids of all
ages, they start to put all their thousands of bits of trivia into patterns and
connections that (turns out) are useful in real-life ways. And when they see
the abilities they've gained to synthesize information, they are eager to get
MORE information and find MORE cool channels, sources and resources. When their
parents are able to get them into the world, some of them find wonderful things
to do—real things, with adults, like adults, as adults—sometimes for money,
sometimes not, but they are IN the world.