Over the past year I’ve wondered if this group was too critical or cruel. I’ve floated off and paid to do courses that really only brought me back here with renewed appreciation for the wisdom and experience you all offer in an ongoing conversation.
I’ve been following this group since my 14 year old was 3- stopped for a little while when he was very young because I wasn’t able to see good feedback as feedback instead of criticism, came back pretty quickly when I realized it was the best information I could find. The years of reading have helped me (and continue to help) in every step of my journey as a parent and have rippled over into my other relationships- I would encourage you to stick around!
I’ve posted in other Unschooling groups in the past expecting validation and a pat on my back. When I didn’t receive what I wanted I thought the admins were hard on me. But when I look back, they were actually giving me solid advice that needed me to introspect, something I was not willing to do back then or didn’t have the maturity to understand.
I left and came back. I'd say your tone saved my relationships.
More and more I am beginning to understand what you say about the power of our words, the semantics of them, and what they reveal about our thoughts deep down. I used to think long ago this was a bit nitpicky, but really can see what you mean when I really stop and think about it.
Chris E., of Always Learning: It is possible, even likely, that other groups, or individuals will have a different set of definitions that are not necessarily any less valid than the ones used here. However, this is Sandra's sand box and she has quite clearly stated that here the definitions that she is using are specific. We homeschoolers are a nervy, independent bunch and those of us who unschool are even more so, and, like many, I chafed at her audacity at first. "Who is this person to tell me what unschooling or radical unschooling is and how it is to be done?!?!?!"
This first reaction that many have isn't helped by a blunt manner and
concise writing style. Sandra does not mince words and does not waste
energy trying to cushion a blow. Many people do not appreciate this
approach. I was miffed by it at first myself. But, this style of
communication shakes a person up and, hopefully, spurs them to examine
their thoughts and words. Of course, this takes a willingness to be
flexible and a willingness to look at what you have typed with clear eyes
and see that perhaps your message wasn't clear and could be
misinterpreted. In short, you have to check your ego as well as all of
those defensive behaviors that have built up over the years from having to
defend your decision to homeschool and then to unschool and then to
I read your reply and at first it angered me. Of course, I don't "prefer" to think of him as just a child with autism. I think of him as my sweet and wonderfully talented little boy. Since you all don't know him, I felt the diagnosis was a valid part of what I was saying. His name is Providence. He is 7, and has always been at home, never schooled.
I used to find some of the things here a little harsh, especially when you're new and trying to figure it all out... But after several years of unschooling, watching my son start reading on his own and being insanely curious about math and how to add and multiply things and just having a conversation with him and seeing how wicked smart he is and how much he knows that I don't even know where it came from, I get it. You're absolutely right. And if I wouldn't have heard it in the way that you said it, or it would have been sugar coated to try and make me feel better, I doubt I ever would have just gone in 100% And allowed this unfolding to happen. I guess sometimes you just need to hear the truth even if it hurts at the time.
I used to read things on here and think they were harsh but honestly in time I found them to be the best information I could get. A lot of other unschooling groups especially prominent ones just validate anything that is posted.
I also balked at the tone in the beginning. But looking back I think the root of the attitude I had was the overwhelming emphasis in parenting advice to alter a child’s behavior through some kind of control and manipulation. It’s almost universally assumed that the goal of parenting is to control in one way or another. This puts the focus on the child’s actions, with the parent’s only secondarily considered as either successful or not. There’s almost no philosophical exploration in traditional or mainstream parenting advice of WHAT it is ok to expect a child to be or do. It’s taken for granted that whatever behavior a parent wants to elicit is probably fine and now let’s move on to how you can make that happen.
With Sandra Dodd’s group, for the first time EVER (and I had been voraciously consuming books and then blogs on parenting for over a decade by then) when I asked how to make my son brush his teeth, the very notion of making him do something was questioned. And the focus was on me and whether I was being the best parent I could be, with him secondarily reaping the benefits of my improvements. I’m so grateful to have found a place that was more concerned with helping people be better parents to their children than with maintaining members by diluting their message.
I went to my first unschooling conference. Sandra was going to be there, and to be honest, I was a bit frightened that she would discover I restricted my children's sugar and t.v. content and publicly ridicule me. I have a big imagination.
To my surprise, Sandra's talk touched me the deepest and inspired me the most. If Sandra hadn't been at that conference, I know I would not have left *inspired*
It wasn't until I got the internet and read the stuff that Sandra and others said, that I finally got to really understand unschooling. I really didn't like Sandra for a while because she says things so plainly and clearly and reasonably and logically I was unable to wriggle out of understanding, and that was uncomfortable. I'm so glad she's like that — my life and my kids lives are so much better for it.
Needless to say, I really like and admire her now.
I must admit, I came to your site out of curiosity after reading some negative stuff on another forum. I wanted to "see for myself" who this woman was, who was only talked about in hushed tones (almost like Harry Potter's Voldemort). After reading some UnschoolingDiscussion archives on yahoo, your site, and some you link to, all I have to say is
KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK!!!!!
I was reading all this with rapt attention and have been inspired by alot of it.
"I opined to Ronnie that it seemed to me that that Sandra Dodd person was pretty blunt and maybe newbies would be put off by her style"
(and how he changed his mind, here: SandraDodd.com/feedback/frankM)