Certificate of Empowerment

Just Add Light and Stir

Questions sent in advance of the Cairns gathering on Monday, March 10, 2014

People from Cairns invited me, but the gathering was in Kuranda.

From what age did she allow her children / would she suggest allowing children free access to tv / computer games / movies etc?
There are collections on my site of information about
Video games and Movies

"Free access" is not the best way to think of it.

There are better times and worse times to do anything. There are arbitrary rules sometimes; we didn't have those. I let my children watch TV or videos if it wasn't a bad time, and I was not arbitrary about what was "a bad time."

My children have always been encouraged to explore, and to have music and stories around them.

They were allowed to play a game until they were tired of playing it, and then it would be another person's turn.

Please discuss the difference between Unschooling and Radical Unschooling.

"Radical" means from the roots—radiating from the source. The knowledge that learning is natural to humans can radiate forth from that point in every direction.

"Radical Unschooler" vs. just an unschooler
follow-up on "Why 'Radical Unschooling'?" HSC presentation 2012

Finding the balance between what my husband thinks can be "expected" from a 2 1/2 year old and what I think. For example, our child occasionally takes all the books out of the bookshelf. Husband may think a 2 1/2 year old is old enough to know not to do that, where as I think it may be too early.

What a two year old can do is not decided by what other people expect. If you had a third person and took a vote, would two out of three adult opinions change what the child could do?

But whose books are these? Why is the child taking them off the shelf? Where were the adults? Why are the books that low? What about child-proofing? Does he need blocks? Books? To be carried more or played with more?

What does he need, when he's taking books off the shelf?
MAYBE he just needs to take books off the shelf, and for an adult to sit there with him and put them back.

Young children and unschooling


Physicality—when kids need more activity

If your child is more important than… (see the full quote at Just Add Light and Stir)

I don't feel very good at making decisions myself - how can I better help my children make decisions?

If you think of two things and choose the better one, then you've made a choice.

If you act without thinking first, you have acted thoughtlessly.

Considering Decisions

"It Depends"—thoughts on choice making

The value of choices

Thinking about "Have To"

Logic and Parenting

I'd like Sandra to talk about "making the right choices" also commonly known as self-regulation, self-control, limits etc with regard to technology/screens/video games, especially what video games are appropriate.

For example, if a teenage boy is given a violent, addictive xbox game to play from a friend... What are her suggestions on the parents' involvement in that boy's decisions about playing that game…

In the 'unschool world' technology is a huge battle. I see so many families trying 'no limits' and then, in despair, having to reclaim control over this aspect of their children's lives…

I commonly object to anyone using the terms "self regulation" or "self control."
Control and its related problems

I object to arbitrary limits.
Limits and Influence
Economics of Restricting TV Watching of Children by Pam Sorooshian (unschooling mom and economics professor)

Video games aren't violent.
Thinking about Violence

"Addictive" is misused here.
What about addiction?

That last paragraph is rich with problems, from a radical unschooling point of view.

In a way, clearing ideas that are roadblocks from one's thoughts and language is the main tool of deschooling.

In the 'unschool world' technology is a huge battle.
"Huge battles" are indicative of adversarial relationships. If you can learn to be your child's partner, rather than his adversary, the battle dissipates.

I don't believe in an unschooling world. I know the writer used quotation marks (In the 'unschool world' …).
The problem of "Unschool World"
There is not a different world for unschoolers to live in. In the life of a radical unschooling family where things are working well, technology is a huge blessing and benefit. If technology is a huge battle, that family is not unschooling well, and not having good relationships with their children.

I see so many families trying 'no limits' and then…
Two problems: "trying" and "no limits."

If a kid knows the parent is only "trying" something, he will certainly take all he can get, desperately and in a frenzy.

"No limits" is not something any family should believe in, or promise their children The world has limits of all sorts. Parents don't need to add to that, but parents can't guarantee "no limits." They CAN give children lots of choices and options.

Gradual change would have helped.

Saying yes a thousand little times is better for everyone than one big confusing "Yes forever, don't care, OH WAIT! Take it back."

And the worst, the "have to" idea. Have to
What you think you "have to" do makes you powerless and frustrated. What you choose to do is empowering, and should be done thoughtfully and sweetly.

Sometimes I feel lost in the 'boundlessness' of unschooling.
How to organise? How to prioritise? Do this? Or that? Now? Later? When?

And how to assess when is enough of one thing or another. Disposable Checklists for Unschoolers

Moments: Living in moments instead of by whole days.

Don't assess "enough." Pay attention to your child and don't try to press him to do something he doesn't want to do, and don't try to make him stop doing something while he's still having fun.

See learning as your priority, and you will begin to see it more and more.
Seeing it

We have a compost pile, and it's kind of amazing how it seems at first that the food and leaves and sticks and banana peels and dog poop will never do anything but sit there looking like garbage, but when I stop watching it, it turns to solid black, rich dirt! I can't find any parts of the elements of which it's made. It's kind of like that with my kids. It took me a few years to quit watching them and trust that it would compost.

It did.

(from Substance)


Sometimes it feels like there is so much to get done each day that I don’t seem to get to the activities I thought I would like to do with the kids. The basic tasks of looking after all the kids, feeding them, and simply managing the house consume a lot of time, and before I know it another week has gone by and we didn’t get to read as many stories as I was hoping, or do all those activities I thought we’d get to. I feel guilty about this, and it seems my children spend their days playing lego.

It feels like my input into their lives is a bit haphazard and I worry that it’s not enough to provide them with all the stimulation they need.

Do I just need to get more organised so that I can make time with them my first priority?
Or am I being a bit too hard on myself.
(My children are aged between 0 and 10 and I have 5 children).

Time with them should be the first priority.

You can be with at least one or two of them all the time—while you're cooking, while you're cleaning. Don't think that learning required "activities" planned and executed by the mom. Answering questions, making jokes, playing with words, singing—those can be done while doing other things.

Lego is wonderful, if they're enjoying it. To ask them to stop playing Lego in order to hear a story or "do an activity" isn't a good idea. But there should be outings, things brought in—new input.


Preventing Regrets

Precisely how to unschool (including a graph of how much time to spend with children)

I have a 10 year old son and he is my oldest child. He enjoys reading and reads quite well. He also enjoys maths and can do all sorts of practical real life problems. He hates writing. Occasionally he will choose to write something small e.g. rules for a game he has made up. Or a short note, or a sign. But he mostly avoids writing like the plague.

I have possibly influenced his attitude by requiring him to do some writing even though he hates it.

At the moment I’ve mostly asked him to copy a paragraph from a favourite book he is reading. Should I take the pressure off him entirely and follow his lead? It is so hard to trust that he will learn to write well – when his father and uncles struggled with that (they were at school, and my son is already reading better than they could at his age simply because he learnt at his own pace).

I do feel like writing is an important skill for him to have. How can I best encourage his skill development in this area, while not pressuring him, and ideally having fun with it with him?

"Writing" meaning penmanship? Mechanics? Organization of thoughts? Narrative? Dialog?
Consider school "reports."
Consider real-time writing.

Writing SandraDodd.com/writing
"Language Arts" SandraDodd.com/language

If school is an institution that perpetuates certain cultural values, then if everyone unschooled, would we have a different culture?

Are there fundamental differences between an unschooled child and a schooled child?

What values?
What culture?

Is there a way that school (or anything) could prevent culture from changing?

Aren't there "cultural values" that school imparts that harm some people for life? There are people in their 60's who are still ashamed of their school performance, or ranking.

If there were no differences between unschoolers and school, it wouldn't be worth unschooling. Nothing is guaranteed, and people are different (the disclaimers), and some families do this better than others, but some of the changes I saw in my children that I didn't expect are listed here:
Unforeseen Benefits of Unschooling

Also, there are no guarantees.
Huge Gambles (or small gambles)

The Most-Repeated Questions about Unschooling Beginning things for unschoolers Why do people unschool?

Notes following gatherings in Adelaide Melbourne Gold Coast