Learning to read on the list
How to benefit from Always Learning and Radical Unschooling Info

From: ripgray... (Rippy Dusseldorp)
Subject: [AlwaysLearning] Learning to read on the list
Date: January 5, 2011 3:35:21 AM MST
To: AlwaysLearning@yahoogroups.com

**Parents who want to unschool don't have the luxury of a 4 yr degree program in unschooling, taking leisure classes and electives along the way. They need to fast track it.**

This realization was a huge turning point in my journey into unschooling. I first came in contact with this list (or perhaps it was another one) where I read some responses from Sandra and others to a mom who had asked for advice. In my opinion, a mom had asked a simple question about t.v./sugar/video games, or something along those lines and I remember being SHOCKED by the responses. I was breathless, felt personally attacked (although I was an invisible, first time reader), and confused - I had never heard anyone say out loud, or read that restricting t.v./sugar/video games for children was harmful for unschooling children. I think I only read for about 5 minutes before feeling ill, closing the laptop and leaving the room, feeling totally overwhelmed. It was such a different paradigm that it profoundly unsettled me. I avoided the group because I thought people were unsupportive and undermining the mother's confidence to unschool. To me, it sounded like people were being purposely mean to her.

Two things happened to change my perception.

1. I went to my first unschooling conference. Sandra was going to be there, and to be honest, I was a bit frightened that she would discover I restricted my children's sugar and t.v. content and publicly ridicule me. I have a big imagination.

To my surprise, Sandra's talk touched me the deepest and inspired me the most. If Sandra hadn't been at that conference, I know I would not have left *inspired*. I would have learned a bit, felt more comfortable, but not really made much more effort to *grow* and *expand* my parenting tool kit. I would have been happy to putter along, picking things up here and there, for my children's entire childhoods.

Sandra had a presence - she was soft-spoken, articulate, and obviously knew what she was talking about. I had been reading from other lists and feeling much better because there was no confrontational style among the writers. It was gentle encouragement and suggestions and I loved it and felt more secure in my decision to unschool. However, after I listened to her talk, I realized that I had been spending my limited time and energy following the advice of people who had much less experience. Unschooling is difficult to understand and some people are not doing it well and still giving advice to others. Others cannot express the ideas as clearly. I realized I needed to follow the advice of people with A LOT of experience and wisdom. I had to be more discerning about what and where I was reading. I felt safer being with 'supportive' people who would not hurt my feelings, but I wasn't learning fast enough and clearly enough how to be a better unschooling mother. My children were growing older all the time, but my learning was hindered because I wanted to avoid looking too deeply within myself.

2. The second thing that changed my perception is a personal correspondence I had with Sandra and my reaction to it. I asked if she had a section on her website that had to do with chronic fatigue and feeling depressed as a parent. She wrote the following back:

----
I don't think there's anything specific, except to be responsible. If you can't make unschooling better than school, school's still there. If you're going to unschool, it needs to be better than school. If that involves getting mental, emotional or physical therapy for the parents, then do it! The house doesn't work if the roof is leaking and there's no heat. Parents don't work if they're in an emotional fog and can't pay sweet attention to their kids.

http://sandradodd.com/nest maybe
---

My interpretation of her email was that she was saying I should probably send my kids to school. At that point in my life, I felt so guilty for being depressed and tired, that I prioritized this information above all else from her email. I probably only read her email once or twice and felt embarrassed and unsure that I was providing a better environment than school. Many months later, I recommended this list to a girlfriend and somehow I ended up telling her that Sandra had written to me saying I should probably send my children to school. She wisely asked to see the email and then read each little part with me, helping me to really look at the words for the first time, without the heavy veil of shame and guilt that I carried that I was shortchanging my children because I was struggling emotionally.

 photo x038.jpg This list has helped me think more clearly and maturely. It has helped me change unhelpful patterns and most of all helped me step into the *JOY* of life, connection, partnership with my children and husband. I know how scary it is to feel examined, and I think some other readers interpret examination as meanness, like I once did. I think to do unschooling well, it is a fundamental element to have an examined life. To be mindful of our choices and understand our thought processes.

For me, this list is like being in a graduate class at university about unschooling. A rapid flow of ideas, critical examination of those ideas and the encouragement to really think your thoughts through. Fortunately, it is a free university run by expert volunteers that make sure the discussion stays firmly on the philosophy of unschooling, attentive parenting and what will help unschooling and what will hinder it. I learn every day how to have a better partnership with my children and spouse, how to connect, inspire, trust and help. And now that I have learned how to read without my emotions interpreting the emails for me, the message is consistently the same - be loving, gentle and sweet with your children, *be* with your children, live joyfully.

Thank you for all the daily reminders and all the effort that everyone puts into this list.


(That was Rippy Dusseldorp, who lives in the Netherlands.)
My response on the list at that time (January 2011):


This is the biggest paragraph I've read for years. It's like that enchanted bag Hermione's carrying in The Deathly Hallows.
-=-Sandra had a presence - she was soft-spoken, articulate, and obviously knew what she was talking about. I had been reading from other lists and feeling much better because there was no confrontational style among the writers. It was gentle encouragement and suggestions and I loved it and felt more secure in my decision to unschool. However, after I listened to her talk, I realized that I had been spending my limited time and energy following the advice of people who had much less experience. Unschooling is difficult to understand and some people are not doing it well and still giving advice to others. Others cannot express the ideas as clearly. I realized I needed to follow the advice of people with A LOT of experience and wisdom. I had to be more discerning about what and where I was reading. I felt safer being with 'supportive' people who would not hurt my feelings, but I wasn't learning fast enough and clearly enough how to be a better unschooling mother. My children were growing older all the time, but my learning was hindered because I wanted to avoid looking too deeply within myself.-=-
[Without the author knowing,]It refers to the whole history of this list, the one before it, and some that have sprung from this and those. It references two decades of the lives of unschoolers I could name, and five or six years of the lives of some others. It touches on every criticism that has ever come up from people who want to change the list to be what they imagined it should be.

If there were a Room of Requirement for new unschoolers (now that Harry Potter's world is in my head), how many people would enter a room of soothing sound and comfy chairs, not knowing what unschooling actually does "require"?

I put a new page on my site yesterday, and rushed the finishing of it so when people clicked the link from Just Add Light they would get the "finished" page. It's not finished forever, but finished for now:

http://sandradodd.com/success

It made me think, while I was working on it, that maybe the next level of "completion" of my site will be when every question anyone might imagine will lead to a page that introduces the site to them from that angle. I've been trying to have three links from any page I put there, which is a reasonable prairie-dog-village design. If each hole leads to three tunnels...

Some people don't want "to read all that," and they'll say "just tell me what I have to do."
Then the next person to come along will say "Don't tell me what to do; I don't have to do anything you say."

So my plan is to keep doing what I've been doing until I don't do it anymore for some reason.

Sandra (on Always Learning, January 5, 2011)


February 2014, Maria Randolph:
When I first started reading here, I would get irritated at how this group was administrated. At the 'rules'. At what I perceived as 'snotty attitude'. I rolled my eyes, I hurumphed, and got irritated. I felt people here were a bit sycophantic. I tried to get what I could out of what was being said, and one day I decided it was all to negative so I left. I joined other groups (some of which I'm still a member of), I read other websites, I kept to many of the online sources that are listed here in the description, just didn't come back to the group too often. Meanwhile, I also started tweaking my 7 year unschool journey in places that I could see needed it. From things I was learning. I spent time with my family implementing those things I had read here.

I came back here more often because I could see that the suggestions were working. I would still get irritated, but less so. What I was starting to find frustrating, however, were people who complained and derailed the conversations from the main point of building relationships within families, who started making their comments all about how personal they were taking whatever was being shared. I started to care less about who was making me feel good or not and more about what I could be learning and trying to implement in my mind, heart and relationships. I could see more and more why the administrators here kept the rules they do. I don't have to like anyone's attitude, but if what they say works? Then it's worth sticking around for. I wanted to get to the good parts of the conversation, not be derailed, and I was thankful the admin's kept it that way.

You know that attitude I complained of? It's people taking their volunteer time shooting from the hip because they want me to 'get' it.

You know that 'getting picky about every little word we say' I complained about? Watching before I speak and what I speak has improved my relationship with my family so much.

This group promises NOTHING but trying to help us figure out from our own words what improving our unschooling path can look like. It does not promise best friends or a feel good soundtrack as we read. It does not promise it will never rub us the wrong way. It DOES promise a wealth of experience that has WORKED and that we have the option to try.

So Jen, take a break if you need to, but from someone who can relate to how you feel, I highly suggest that you sit down, close your mouth, open your mind and read without getting your feathers ruffled. Get some incense and a soundtrack if you need to. I am serious and heartfelt when I say that. If you are here to trip up or prove a point about any of the admin's or Sandra in particular, it's already been done. You aren't the first. I have never met a perfect admin. I belong to a ton of groups on FB and off. They all have imperfections. Focus on the take away, not the perceived presentation. I speak from experience.


Anna B., January 2016, Radical Unschooling Info:
When I first started posting on Sandra's unschooling lists, I was a little taken aback when I was questioned, disagree with and had my words and thoughts examined and held up to fairly rigorous criticism with very clear unschooling principles as the guidelines.

But I soon found it refreshing and far, far more useful than any more soothing, 'anything goes' list. I know if I ask a question here or on Always Learning I won't be mollycoddled or protected from the truth. I will be respected enough as a grown adult to be given real information and to be shown where my thinking is muddled and unclear.

As for being corrected, it has made me think much more carefully about the words I use and how I write. Sometimes in the process of honing a question until it is as clear as I can make it, I find the answer.


Frank Maier changed his mind An apology and thank-you Feedback (negative stuff is in the lower right)