Welcome to my life. It's a whirlwind of kids, chaos, pets, people, family, art, and being home (most of the time; I like to get out here and there). We unschool, so the unexpected is, well, expected...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Unschooling is: post #7

Unschooling is about seeing the world from the perspective of the child and taking that into consideration.

The day before yesterday the neighbor girl ran away from home. Her mom had sent her to her room and grounded her for being disrespectful. To me, the irony is clear, the mom was clearly being disrespectful of her child by grounding her and sending her to her room. As if somehow, because she is younger and smaller she can be controlled and manipulated to the parent's idea of how she should be.

There's a lot more to that story, much of it could have been avoided if the mom took her kid's perspective of the world into consideration. I drove the mom somewhere that same night that the girl ran away and in the car, we talked about stuff. She keeps allowing bad men into her life, she says, and this is her wording not mine, "My picker's broken." I get that, it's a cycle of violence that she probably grew up with.

Her kid's "pickers" aren't broken yet. They knew immediately that the last guy she brought home was a bad one. Her son knew it, he came over to my house and cried the day he moved in. A year later and another kid, that man landed in jail for giving his girlfriend a black eye and breaking a radio. That was the least of all that he did. The daughter that ran away had been removed from the home because of that man. She was forced to live with her estranged father and while there, witnessed him brutally assault his mother. She was able to go back home because her mom's boyfriend was in jail.

She's angry and frustrated and ran away. She called the police and made allegations of abuse. Personally, I don't think it's true, I think she wanted to punish her mom. It worked. I don't know what the outcome is. I've been a crying shoulder for that mom so many times. She's so caught up in her own emotional trauma that she can barely parent.

If I had to give a simple set of instructions it would be this; put yourself in the perspective of the child, be calm and gentle, don't allow men to be involved for a while, GET help, seek counseling.

I wonder sometimes how parents can be so unaware of what goes on within the minds of their children. How can a mother, who gets a second chance at having her daughter back home, the abusive man gone, NOT see that she needs to be the voice of her children and be understanding of the huge emotional trauma that they dealt with and should recover from?

So, that's not really unschooling. From my perspective, seeing the world through the eyes of a child, gives me pause to do things differently. It would be easy to do just what feels right to ME. Kids are born with this innate ability to see things from their own eyes, from their own perspective, it's what makes us all individuals. As they grow and learn and see and do, their perspective grows to encompass more and to see things from many angles, including the view of others. How much better can that happen, than to model that for them? To be a person who does that, as their parent, the most trusted person in their world, is a gift, not to be taken for granted.

Yet, I see parents doing this in big and small ways all the time. Every time a parent tells a child something that isn't true, they take it for granted. Every time a parent sees multiple choices and only give their child one, they do that. Every time a parent says "no" and doesn't have a good and logical reason for it, they do that. Every time a parent's idea of what is "right" trumps the child's idea of what is "right", they do that.

Children are PEOPLE! It shouldn't be a radical idea to acknowledge this, but most parents don't see that. Sure, children have less experience and may not always make the best choices. What I've come to understand through unschooling, is that if you can see that a child can learn what they need to learn to live happily, then certainly you can see that they can make decisions too, that they can think for themselves as real bona fide PEOPLE, and what better way to help them along, as the more experienced person, by being there as their partner and validating their very person hood and choices, by being their soft landing when they make mistakes, by helping them find better and better ways to do things.

These are the things that make unschooling work. How in the world can a parent angrily swat their child's behind for not obeying an order, if they first see that their child is a real person NOT to be ordered around? If a big adult male person did that to a woman, they'd go to jail. It dehumanizes people. Might does not make right, no matter how much people feel that it does. It's oppressive. Children are people, and as people, should be treated humanely, asked, talked to, and respected by those around them as REAL PEOPLE, not objects to be ordered about. If a child says "no", then gosh darn it, it should be respected. The more I respect my children's right to have a say, the more they say "yes" to me.

When parents can see that their child has a perspective that requires the answer of "no", even if it causes inconvenience to the parent, they'll know that much more about how their child works, how they view the world and find out why they are saying "no". It so often is something so simple to accommodate that I wonder at parents who expect obedience, and if a parent shows how life can be one of accommodating one another, they will do the same, for you, for others, and for their own children. It's a selfless act to accommodate a child, but one with HUGE rewards that come with a child who becomes accommodating in the most unexpected ways.

It's a whole different way to view the world. We live in a culture that puts children away from their homes to be raised by strangers, a world where they must follow rules and "get along" with all those around them. We train them to not question authority, to put up with bullies and not recognize their own comforts and feelings. Parents perpetuate this at home, kids must eat when they may not be hungry and sleep when they may not be sleepy and do homework that they may not want to do. All of this is called NORMAL childhood. There is NOTHING normal about living in this way. Most adults I know, if put in that environment would react terribly to it because they KNOW it's wrong. Enslaved people know that enslavement is wrong, they feel it to their very core. It's exactly what we do to children though, we treat children as if they are somehow less than adults, that they must do and go along with every thing that adults around them say they must. Then, people are left wondering why so many teenagers misbehave, why college students binge drink and why children disrespect their parents by "talking back" or do their chores in anger.

There is nothing wrong with being a child. Children are people, younger and less experienced people, people capable of greatness! They aren't disobedient, they aren't rebellious, they aren't disordered, or diseased, they aren't any less than any adult. Children react to their environments in the same ways in which ALL people react to their environments. The difference is that children so often don't get to create their environments the way adults have the power to do for themselves.

Unschooling is seeing the world through the eyes of their children and creating an environment that matches it, that fosters it.


Tracy said...

A very inspiring post, Jenny! Thanks for sharing. :)

Sandra Dodd said...

-=- All of this is called NORMAL childhood. There is NOTHING normal about living in this way.-=-

I think it is "normal," but it's not natural and it's not smart.

Some parents can't see their children's pain because they're so clouded by their own pain. The cycle is broken only when someone consciously chooses to step away from the same-old "normal" and make the ongoing effort to THINK and to act in such ways that their children will know a new and different "normal."

Your children are fortunate not only to be treated with warm respect, but also to see you helping others learn to do that. That, for them, is normal. You're making the world better beyond your own family.

Jenny Cyphers said...

My secret underlying goal is to change the definition of "normal"!