Not so crazy after all

Jonathan Ford wrote this in public in February 2014, He gave me permission to save it with his name on it here.

Years ago, back in the old AOL days, way before Sandra ever came up with the read a little, try a little, wait a while, watch, she (and others) would write things and I'd be like, these ladies are crazy! But I didn't say anything; I just didn't agree with what they were saying. After all, MY kids would have chores, and MY kids wouldn't watch TV all day, and MY kids would clean their plates and eat their vegetables. That's the way I was raised and I turned out all right, right?!

But as I continued to read and watched my kids grow, and read some more and watched my kids more, I realized, hey, those crazy ideas? They really have merit. And wow, they really work. And my kids and my family are far happier for it, because I read and absorbed and read and absorbed and ignored until I finally GOT IT. And I am thankful every day that I logged on to those homeschooling forums way back when, when my daughter was under a year old, when I was already considering homeschooling.

(Read a little, try a little, wait a while, watch)

"It was so crazy, I was really drawn to it." —Melissa Yatzeck (about when she first read about unschooling) (Inspiration)
De Smith, from a July 2008 discussion at Radical Unschoolers' Network
We came to the "whole life" aspect of it bit by bit as well. The "academic" part was easy, with Wyl leading the way. The respectful parenting and trusting in children came much more slowly.

In fact, when I first came across Unschooling Discussion, I had some serious reactions like, "that's crazy!" and "that wouldn't work in MY family!". But I was mesmerized by the conversations and I kept reading. I read about the results of radical unschooling and suspended my disbelief for just enough to hear a tiny, distant voice whisper in the far recesses of my brain, "what if they're right?" I wanted that joy and harmony for MY family... was there some way to get that without restricting t.v. and sugar?

So, I read voraciously and absorbed what I could and gradually, bit by bit, I came to believe. The "understanding" came slower and more painfully. I really wanted instructions-I wanted step by step directions on how to go from point A (where I was then) to point B (where I'd be a full-fledged radical unschooler). I just didn't understand, even though I thought I did.

I am pretty sure I understand, now! LOL Sure, I misstep sometimes, but less and less as time goes by. Storm has helped me on my journey immensely. He has been trusted and honored from birth (I wish I could go back and give that to Wyl!) and the results I see are the proof in the pudding. I occasionally wonder if it is genetic rather than being raised that way, but the longer I live the more I believe the large part of it is radical unschooling.

Dave is coming along, as well. I get frustrated sometimes because he's not on the same page as I am, but I know he'll get here eventually. He still has some hang-ups with stuff like chores and pop and candy, but we wouldn't have this wonderful family and this amazing life if he hadn't been willing to give these "crazy ideas I found on the internet" an honest try.

De wrote on her blog not long after that. I'll just quote the "crazy" comments, and then leave links.
I would have been the first to tell you, 13 or 14 years ago, that you were crazy, if you'd have told me what kind of parenting I'd be practicing today! I had my ideals and they were nowhere near then what they are today.
. . . .
I've been thinking about how I started learning about partnership parenting, lately. I know I've told the story so many times, but I still am kind of awed by it. Reading about unschooling on the radical unschooling boards elicited strong reactions from me. Things like,
"They're CRAZY!"
"Oh, that's just stupid."
"Well, that would never work *here*!"
Very strong, adamant responses—almost to the point of being shocking. But the other things I read with those "crazy" ways of doing things was about results. About kids and parents who wanted to be together. Who shared with each other. Who *listened* to each other.

Most amazingly, though, were the teens—teens who *wanted* to hang out with their parents, who were kind and thoughtful and open and *talked* with their parents openly, who came to their parents first and right away when there was a problem. Families who *trusted* each other. I knew teens. I'd been a teen. This concept was totally foreign to me. I wanted this—and the more I read about it, the more I wanted it. I was not easily convinced that being a partner to my child would end up with those results, but I grudgingly, slowly accepted that the alternative rarely got those results (and never the trust spoken of, that I knew of), and so I dove in.

There's more of that, by De Smith, on my site on Unexpected Benefits lefthand column
and also at Who knew? August 15, 2011 on De's blog

MomLogic asked: Did your kids have rules like bedtimes, no candy before dinner ... that sort of thing?

I wrote: We didn't have those rules, but our kids went to bed every night and didn't eat candy before dinner. It seems crazy to people who believe that the only options are rules or chaos, but our children slept when they were sleepy, and ate when they were hungry (or when something smelled really good, or others were eating), and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that they were able to know what their bodies needed. I grew up by the clock, up at 6:30, eat quickly, bus stop, school, wait until lunch, eat, wait until dinner, go to bed. I had no idea that sleep and food could be separated from a schedule like that, but they can be.

The rest of that interview is here: Why I Unschooled My Three Kids — Sandra Dodd

Alex Wildrising / Alex Arnott:
I remember reading here on FB in Radical Unschooling Info and Joyce’s website when I was Unschooling-contemplative. One time I read Joyce’s words on chores and I literally slammed my lap top shut in horror...I thought she was nuts! 😂

I’m glad I had enough curiosity and openness to stay with that emotional reaction, rather than react with defensiveness, for long enough that I could learn something from what I was reading.

That was 6 or 7 years ago now. (←written in late 2020)

Nicole Kenyon:
Yep when I first talked to Jo Isaac I was like "that sounds nuts" but some of the things she said made me realise that my perception or ideas were copied and not mine. It made me stop and look at things from different angles.

I changed, became softer and let go of a believe system that wasn't mine while observing my son and our family. Are we happy? Do we live in harmony? What can I do to bring more joy?

From Extras with Sandra Dodd — #52 of 50, of The Unschooling Life Podcast
So they say, "Okay, well I have heard and I've read that people have done... something? and then they get good results?" That's not enough to move on, but it's enough to read a little and try a little. Because they've seen other people say it worked, they can start trying it. And still they ought to be skeptical. Everybody ought to be skeptical about anything this crazy. So see how it's going at your house. Tweak it. Move more toward a good relationship. Move toward being more present, and then you start to understand. Then you start to be one of the people who's saying, "I tried this, and this was the result I got: my kids seem to be getting along better. My kids seem to be interested in more things. They're curious. They're conversational. They can deal with younger people, and older people."

I thought the concept crazy until one day... (about picking up after kids)

I know it sounds crazy, and I also know a LOT of families who thought it sounded crazy and now have that same feeling about serious discussions of "self control" or "impulse control."

Once in a while you might want to explain or justify. Many more times, you could just pause, and breathe, and think "She likes my kids," or "Yeah, unschooling DOES seem crazy to people who don't know much about it." And you do not have to respond.

"Your child is not you"—that one stopped me cold, way back, when I was resisting, thinking it All sounded odd and crazy.

Getting it ("I knew that. Now I *know* that.") Stories of how families changed Thoughts on Changing

Quite a harsh read, but I saved it when someone said "It's hedonism gone berserk!!", and more.