Lisa Cottrell-Bentley organized a Teleconference with various people making brief videos on a range of topics. I was asked to create on on unschooling, and it's below, with notes and a transcript.
The original is here: Meet Sandra Dodd as she tells us about Doing Unschooling Right! [And here it is in Portuguese: Fazer o "Unschooling" Bem, and in French: Bien mettre en œuvre le unschooling
This video has been created for the Doing Life Right Teleconference, in two thousand and twelve.
There is no one single right way to unschool, but there are many paths that ultimately lead away from success, so I would like to outline a map to becoming a successful unschooling parent.
Unschooling is based on the school-reform movement and the research of the late 1960's and early 1970's. John Holt wrote, in those days, about school reform, but by the end of the 1970's, he was recommending that parents keep their children home.
In the United States, school at home came along in the 1980's, with fundamentalist Christians who thought schools didn't control children well enough, and gave them too much information. But unschooling was already being done by families who felt that schools were too controlling and gave too little information. So there is quite a dichotomy.
John Holt wrote
To parents I say, above all else, don't let your home become some terrible miniature copy of the school. No lesson plans! No quizzes! No tests!My definition for unschooling is "creating and maintaining an environment in which natural learning can thrive."
The environment I'm talking about—what we sometimes call an unschooling nest—is not just the physical home, though. It's the relationships within the family, and the exploration of the world outside the home by parents and children both. The emotional environment is crucial—the relationships.
There's another good piece of advice in general— not just about unschooling, about anything you want to learn.
Read a little, try a little, wait a while, watch.
And gradually you will notice more and more learning happening, and soon it will be happening all the time!
Parents need to become unschoolers—need to become unschooling parents—and that process doesn't happen all at once.
While you're finding new ways to see the world,
your child will be learning by playing and by asking questions.
Be the kind of person you want your child to be.
Find and meet other unschoolers, and emulate those whose relationships within their family and understanding of learning seem best.
Read a little. Try a little. Don't do what you don't understand.
Wait a while. You probably won't see an immediate change. But don't pull your plants up by the roots to see if they're growing. That's not good for any plants or for any children. Be patient. Trust that learning can happen if you give it time and if you give it space.
Watch your own children. Are they calm? Are they happy? Are they curious and interested in things? Don't mar their calm or their happiness with arbitrary limits, or with shame, or with pressure. Be their partner.
Abraham Maslow said in his heirarchy of needs that learning can't happen when people feel afraid or hungry, so feed your children happily. Share food and smiles and laughter.
If you can envision the kind of relationship and the life of learning you want to have, then every time you make a choice, choose the one that takes you nearer to that goal. Learn to make many choices a day and choose the more peaceful, more loving options whenever you can. Choose to make your life more positive, and less negative.
Some things are not possible, but don't have arbitrary rules.
Create good memories for your children.
Look directly at your child without filters or labels. Even a newborn baby is the person she will be when she's grown up, and old.
If you can learn to choose to live a life of learning and joy with your children, unschooling can work for you.
Thank you for listening to "Doing Unschooling Right." For links to some free resources from Joyce Fetteroll, Pam Laricchia and other great unschooling thinkers and authors, please go to Sandra Dodd.com.
Before that, though, go and do something sweet for a child.
Colleen Prieto wrote this when I was communicating with people about having agreed to do the video. She doesn't want to speak this and be recorded, but when I read it, later, I wished I had said all these things. So as an addendum, here's what Colleen thought I should consider saying. :-)
Look at your kids. Really look at them and see who *they* are and not who you want them to be. Get to know them. Be nice to them. Nicer than nice. Be kind to them. Love them and kiss them and hug them and Be with them. Play with them. Listen to them. Talk with them, not to them. Be patient and calm.