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...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Kid power

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Unschooling is: post # 2

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.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Unschooling is: post #1

I've decided to keep a semi regular idea post about this topic.

So perhaps once a week or so, I'll do a continuation of this.

If I had to sum it all up right now, I'd say that unschooling is trusting children to learn from their environment, what they need to know when they need to know it. It's knowing that everything, every idea, every action leads to something else, to something new or revisiting something old that's new again. It's knowing deeply that kids that are happy and trusted will learn better and easier than kids who aren't. It's following rabbit trails that are interesting and stopping and checking things out, collecting ideas and information, and continuing onward, possibly finding the rabbit at the end and possibly ending at the river and following that instead.

Friday, April 23, 2010

ahhhh unschooling

It seems everyone has their opinions about unschooling this week!

Rather than doing all the work over, I'll rely on my friend Ronnie...

Thanks for compiling all that! I had considered doing it, then saw that you had done it already, so I'll piggy back yours!

I liked this one too.

...and of course, who could talk about unschooling and NOT talk about Sandra Dodd, who was kind enough to do an interview here.

...or Pam, who is also super amazing! Who I will get to meet next month in real life!

Cheers to all you unschoolers! You guys, all my cool awesome super wonderful unschooling friends, kick ass! What a busy week of damage control! Geez, you'd think that the idea of learning had been co-opted by school or something.

And if you still believe that people don't need experts to spoon feed them information then perhaps you can join this facebook International Freedom In Education Day

Never fear, it's not just for all us radical unschoolers, it's for anyone who believes in freedom of education. Here's the weblink if you aren't a facebook person. Although it appears that the facebook link is way more up to date.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

So many thoughts floating around in my head

I recently set my facebook page on private, prompted by a parent sending me a message thinking that his son shouldn't be reading my status updates because it wasn't helping him do well in school.

I waited a week to write back. I wrote and edited and wrote and edited and finally wrote something I was willing to send. Chamille suggested I ignore it and pretend I never received the message. For some reason I really thought I could help in some way. If I say and do nothing, what changes? If I say and do something, what changes? I decided that I really had nothing to lose, this person already dislikes me and everything I believe in and everything he *thinks* I'm about.

I took out all inflammatory wording, anything that would evoke a defensive response. I really do care about this kid. I wish so much that I could help this dad be a better parent, a nicer person. I had Chamille read it and got her approval to send it. She said it was nice, but that he wouldn't get it.

I sent it. He didn't get it. He was defensive. I sent him a link to Sir Ken Robinson's website because he has some really great things to say about how the educational system destroys the creative process. I thought if he would understand anything, this would be it. He's an artist who knows the system is broken, yet forces his child to fit right into it and all it's brokenness. That's not even the worst part though. He's just not a very nice dad to his son. I know he loves his son very much, but he's seriously lacking parenting tools other than yelling, shaming, punishing, and grounding.

Right now this kid is in parental lock down. His dad is taking him to school and picking him up and then he forces him to sit and do his homework until he falls asleep, ready for the same thing the next day. He's grounded from coming over to our house, which also punishes Chamille. I really hope good can come out of all of this. Parents should spend time with their kids, they should connect with them. Hopefully the forceful lock down and babysitting will create positive interactions where father and son can work together on helping homework become something positive. The part that concerns me, is the sheer negation of what this kid loves, keeping him from seeing Chamille, may do more harm than any good that could come from trying to connect, assuming that connection is the goal.

I've decided to put this all out into the open...

Here is the original message sent to me:

I'm having a hard enough time getting X threw high school as it is and to have constant unschooling quotes (about the "horrors" of the school system) fed to him on facebook doesn't help. I do not have someone else to support me while I school him myself. I have gotten him into classes to make it easier for him (smaller class sizes and more chances to get ahead), but he doesn't even try at all in some classes. I know the high school system is not perfect in any way, but I expect my son to put forth some kind of effort...at least try. I am in no way putting the blame for his apathy in school on you. I just saying the constant
the advocation of unschooling, something which is not an option for many parents, doesn't help.

Here is my response:

I'm really sorry that you and X are struggling. I can almost, about 99%, assure you that X doesn't read anything I post on FB. He goes there to chat with Chamille or Aly, usually. He also very rarely uses FB, not even at our house. I'm also not his only friend who posts things about school and educational reform. Last I checked, we had 30 mutual friends and 25 of them are other homeschooling ones.

I rarely post status updates on FB and even more rarely do I post anything about school stuff. However, most of my FB friends are other homeschoolers, family members and old school classmates. The primary purpose of my FB usage is to connect with other homeschoolers. X probably sees more pro-homeschooling posts and/or anti schooling posts from his peers, both schooled and non schooled ones. If you don't believe me, imagine how many of his school friends write "ugh, school sucks, I hate school so much!" and the other popular "ugh, my parents suck, I hate them so much!"

I don't want to have to censor myself because you are concerned about X having influences to his thinking that you don't approve of. Like I already mentioned, X has 25 mutual homeschooling friends, some of whom post lots of status updates about educational reform. If you want to be a bigger influence in X's life and how he thinks and believes, it's simple, be nicer to him. Be his partner in life, stop yelling at him, stop punishing him, stop shaming him, stop grounding him. Love him up while you still can, these last few teen years are fleeting, then gone. X is an amazing individual and he needs to hear that from you.

That being said... you don't have to go it alone. I can help if you let me. I have a great deal of experience in helping parents help and deal with their kids. I understand why you feel like you do. You very much love X and want what's best for him and simultaneously feel up against a wall in how to go about it. If you're being completely honest with yourself, you may even recognize that what you are doing isn't working very well with X. That's got to be really hard. Being a parent isn't easy, especially being a single parent, I really do get that!

X has talked a lot about his experience with school. If you care to listen, I'd share some of it with you. He knows how I feel about school, which, believe it or not, I don't hate. School is necessary for some people, and in general, educated masses of people are good for the world. There is a great deal that I very much dislike about school, things that you might actually agree with since you are an artist who has a leaning towards counter culture. Schools very much perpetuate the political/social status quo. This is an area that you and X are a lot alike in, one of many actually, and perhaps even a good talking point between you two.

I can't tell you what to do. There are no right or wrong answers, just better ideas and better choices, only you get to decide what those are. X will either comply with your ideas and choices or he won't. Ultimately, X will, in about 3 yrs or less, decide for himself whether or not he'll agree or disagree, or whether or not he'll maintain any sort of relationship with either of his parents. That's the way it works. What you, as the parent, do now will determine much of that.

I have always encouraged X to do better in his classes. I have also taken him to school when he's missed his bus, so that he isn't inclined to say "screw it" and ditch. I also really believe that X does try in school. He does put forth an effort, it's just not the way that you'd like it to be. His effort involves simply being there, in a place he hates, every day. Imagine for a moment that you had a job that you hated and yet you couldn't leave for years, a place where people were mean to you, stole things from you, and treated you as someone inferior. All of those things happen to X in school.

If you've read down this far, cool and thanks! There are things you could do to change the way X views school and ways in which you could make it easier for him to get through. There are always options! I mentioned this before and I stand by it, if you really want X to get through school you need to let him own the experience for himself and stop trying to make him perform to your standards. Whether he does well or not, it will be his choice, something he does for himself, not for you or anybody else. That is ultimately how all humans behave.

It would help a lot if the kids were to hang out at your house every now and again so that you could get their awesome company every once in a while and maybe get to know them better. They are fun and interesting people to talk to and hang out with! Chamille even said she'd help X with his homework and keep him on task with it (girls can be like magic that way). That so far, hasn't been an option because you don't like having her over and you don't let X do his homework anywhere but at home. Whatever you decide to do, I really do wish you well and I really do care a lot! My intent, assuming I have one, has never been to thwart you in any way. What I want more than anything is for you guys to be able to find a way to be kind and loving towards each other. X knows that too, I make it abundantly clear.

His response (loaded with lies and defensiveness):

Well four F's does not exactly tell me he is trying. He is sitting in a chair staring off into space and you think its better for me to say "good job, son". I would like him to show me he is putting forth some kind of effort. As for me always yelling at him, that is not true. I am a pretty kind easy going person and he has it pretty easy around here, I just expect him to take care of his responsibilities. At your house he has none, doesn't have to wear his retainer, take a shower, do his homework, wake on up time, anything a responsible parent expects his or her child to do. Of course he loves it over there...your his friend NOT his parent. The next time he misses the bus he needs to call me NOT you, you are NOT his parent. I love X very much and that is why I am doing these things for him. I would spend more time with him if he wasn't picked up at 7:30am and dropped off at 12:00pm every day he possibly can. Life is not just fun and games, it is also taking care of your responsibilities, once you have taken care of them, then you can have some fun. That is what I want my son to learn. My mother is a kind person who worked a full time job and raised me and my brother, she expected certain things of me and I love her for it.
And I never said I don't want Chamille over I just don't want her over when I am not here and X rarely ever asks if she can come over cause he is always at your house. As for X doing his homework with Chamille, I just don't see much work getting done in that scenario.

My final response, which caused him to "bitch about us and talk shit" about me and my family according to X:

I'm not afraid to be wrong are you? Live life and have fun! Best wishes to you!
**with the Sir Ken Robinson link mentioned above attached**


I do understand that he's scared and defensive, that's clear from what he says and how he responds. In the past, he's chosen to call and yell and scream at me, so I guess writing is a huge step up from that! I feel completely powerless to make a positive impact on this. I really do care for X and see clearly that the father has set himself up for a power struggle, one that he won't win. That, to me, is even more sad than any of the sadness that I, or Chamille, experience through this.

He hasn't responded to the link I sent except to do what appears to be arrange his work schedule so that X is dropped off and picked up by him without any chance to do anything other than school, home, sleep, school, home, sleep.

I'm not going to message him anymore. I'm going to leave it be for now and let him cool down, since he does tend to be hugely reactionary and say stupid thoughtless things in the moment, then forgets he ever said or did any of those things.

In the meantime, Chamille is deeply saddened by all of it. She's sad because she can't see him and even more sad at how miserable he is and angered at how ignorant his father seems to be.