Unschoolers and their Relatives
notes by Sandra Dodd, and links to others' ideas and experiences

It's a problem, departing from the culture. There is no one way to summarize this, nor even to advise, because families are so different.

There is no magic solution, but you might find hope and ideas from others who have been there.

HOLD ON she said, years later. Kelly Lovejoy has come up with the closest to a magic solution I've ever seen:

Ask them whether they think that they did a good job raising you.

If they think they *did*, tell them that they need to back off and trust that you know what you're doing. *You* and your husband are your child's parents, not them. They had their chance; now it's your turn. If they are happy with how you turned out, they need to trust you to do what *you* think is best for your child.

If they think they did a *bad* job, then they DEFINITELY need to back waay off because you don't want to follow suit.

Either way, you win.

~Kelly

The "Certificate of Empowerment" might help, for starters. It was written many years ago for a conference at which I was speaking, and I ended up distributing it at conferences for years after. Some of the other unschoolers at the AOL message boards in those days helped me refine it. It's *here* but the text is

CERTIFICATE OF EMPOWERMENT

As bearer of this certificate you are no longer required to depend on the advice of experts. You may step back and view the entire world-not just your home, neighborhood or town, but the whole Earth-as a learning experience, a laboratory containing languages (and native speakers thereof), plants, animals, history, geology, weather (real live weather, in the sky, not in a book), music, art , mathematics, physics, engineering, foods, human dynamics, and ideas without end. Although collections of these treasures have been located in museums for your convenience, they are to be found everywhere else, too.

This authorizes you to experiment; to trust and enjoy your kids; to rejoice when your children surpass you in skill, knowledge or wisdom; to make mistakes, and to say "I don't know." Furthermore, you may allow your children to experience boredom without taking full responsibility for finding them something to do.

Henceforth you shall neither be required nor expected to finish everything you start. Projects, books, experiments and plans may be discontinued as soon as something more interesting comes along (or for any other reason) without penalty, and picked up again at any time in the future (or never).

You may reclaim control of your family's daily life, and take what steps you feel necessary to protect your children from physical, emotional or social harm.

You have leave to think your own thoughts, and to encourage your children to think theirs.

Each person who reads and understands this is authorized to extend these privileges to others, by reproducing and distributing this certificate or by creating another of his/her own design. Those who don't feel the need to obtain approval to experiment, to think, or to do things they've never seen others do are exempt, as they didn't need permission in the first place.



Sandra Dodd

There is a danger in living an entirely reactionary life. If you do everything the opposite of what your mom did, it's as bad as doing exactly what your mom did without knowing why. Be discriminating and thoughtful. Don't chuck the ghost of the baby you were out with the bathwater of your emotional memories.

Our parents grew up in a different time, with different pressures and realities, and there's no profit in trying to persuade them they should've had the sensibilities you might have now (or that you're developing or would like to have). If you focus on what you want to do with and for your own children and why, the rest of the family can begin to fade in importance. If you're going to let them dictate your every move, that's an easy and sometimes comforting way to live. If you decide not to do that, try to be clear on why and what you do intend before you announce your departure from the parade. It's okay to change gradually. It's okay to say "I'm working on something," or "We're looking into something," or "We're going to try this for a while." It's good to wade in and understand it before trying to defend it fullscale.


More on responding to family members, friends, and curious or critical others