The most beneficial thing radical unschooling has taught is empathy. True empathy. There may have been a time when one of my kids would have been doing something that irritated me tremendously and I would have lashed out for them to "stop it! I'll get rid of all those ______ if you don't stop bugging me with them!" I cringe to remember that old self. That very reactive and unthoughtful self. And guess who I learned it from? My mom. My own mother, whom I love dearly and tenderly today, was a most reactive and quick tempered woman while I was growing up. She asked me questions and never listened, she was more concerned with men than me, and as a child, I was always much happier at my dad's house.
And then, the day after my 14th birthday, my oldest sister died and suddenly my mother realized that her children were mortal and she worked on changing herself. The change didn't happen overnight, and like most of us, she's still working on becoming a better person. Even though she made big changes to herself, it took a long time for me to forgive her and when I had my oldest child at the young age of 22, a lot of the hurt she had caused me flooded my memory and heart in full force. Once I held my son in my arms, I thought "how could she ever have treated me like that? She never loved me!" And then as my son got older and more babies came, I found myself unconsciously mimicking her behavior toward me. I was reactive and short tempered. I didn't want to "play" with my children. I wanted lots of kids, but I thought being a mother meant keeping them clean, polite, and conformed to what society wanted them to be, even though I have been a rebel my entire life! As my oldest son floundered, I realized something had to change. And that something was me. I found radical unschooling and as per that short-tempered, do-it-now self, wanted to jump in head first and be a radical unschooler!!
But, I listened to the sage advice given on this forum and went slowly. One thing at a time, I told myself. I am SO GRATEFUL that my kids were all still quite young when I came to radical unschooling because they are getting the best of me and my husband! And I have truly forgiven my mother because if nothing else, unschooling has taught me empathy. Now, when my children are playing joyously, I feel inner joy and peace. When we're in the car and they want to play car games, I am so happy to play with them! I love that they consider me fun and attentive. I love that they give me big hugs and tell me how much they love me. And that when they're having a problem with something, or my oldest son is crying because he can't get his PS4 to work, I don't do what my mother would have done (get impatient and act incompetent as a helper), I EMPATHIZE with him and help. I tell myself "imagine if you were him and something very important to you isn't working, how would you feel?" And my husband does the same. We are all working together as a team and helping each other as though our own joy depended on it. And it does! Our children know that we are on their team—something I never got from my own mother. And that's okay now. I've really forgiven her and she is now learning from me! She says to me all the time "Oh, I wish I would have had your wisdom and raised you all this way."
Little does she know, it's not really my wisdom :). It's the wisdom I've learned here.
And, now I can empathize with her. And the way she was raised. In fact, she pours her heart out to me over the traumas she experienced with her own mother. She can still be reactive and she's still not the best listener in the world, but my children love her and so do I. She stays with the kids sometimes and raves about them and they about her. They know the difference—with Hunny (what they call her), they watch whatever she wants to watch on TV because she can't stand cartoons, and they're okay with that. They complain a bit, but the whole sum of the experience with Hunny is greater that the parts.
My point in all this writing, is that radical unschooling can bring about such a sense of peace with one's own self, that it can be poured into the being of another. I *enjoy* finding ways to make other people around me comfortable, including my children. I *want* the people who come to my home to enjoy their experience here. Sometimes, we have to bend a little for others, and isn't that empathy? To feel another's feeling and adjust your own reaction to fit their need? Keeping peace has become the number one priority in our home, so sometimes we have to get creative to make that happen! Consideration for others is key.
December, 2015, in a discussion on Always Learning
The parent needs to be so aware of the child that the parent automatically thinks of him/her and partially sees the world through h/her eyes.
This is all a tall order. Overly self-centered people can't do it because it requires a lot of empathy.
But best of all is the way you write. There is something special about it, I'm trying to put it into words but I can't do it justice. It's non-threatening and soothing. And it's so brimming over with wisdom and understanding and compassion and empathy that it makes me want to consider what you are saying, even if it so goes against all I 'know' is true."
I once wrote that the development of empathy in a child is like the tide coming in, gradually the waves get higher up the sand, but we can't consider the process done and get disappointed when the occasional really big wave is followed by an apparent retreat.
Empathy goes a long long way and may often be all your child needs or wants.