My response, once, to Do you urge completion of projects?

Completion of a project someone has lost interest in or which is stressing them out is one of the worst things to urge. If others are depending on them to do their part in a group project, yes. That's different. But if they start to dig a big hole in the yard and decide they're done, or they start to write a story and decide they'd rather do something else, or they had a plan to make something and they think they're not ready to do it, no. I encourage them to stop if they're not having fun.

I encourage everyone else to complete projects later if they've lost interest too. The person is almost always more important than the project.


the empowerment link is what I shared that day, January 8, 2003

Another person, years after that:

-=-I just have one concern. I want my children to finish what they start.-=-

Sandra Dodd's response:

If you start a book and decide you don't like it, will you finish it?

If you start eating a dozen donuts, and after you're not in the mood for donuts anymore, will you finish the dozen?

If you start an evening out with a guy and he irritates or frightens you, will you stay for five more hours to finish what you started?

If you put a DVD in and it turns out to be Kevin Costner and you don't like Kevin Costner, will you finish it anyway?

The only things that should be finished are those things that seem worthwhile to do.

When I'm reading a book, I decide by the moment whether to keep reading or to stop.
Even writing this post, I could easily click out of it and not finish, or I could finish it and decide not to post it. Choices, choices, choices.

Wanting your children to learn to ignore their own judgment in favor of following a rule is not beneficial to them or to you. It will not help them learn.

(otherperson)...-=-Sometimes, NOT MOST TIMES, but sometimes, you cant' go at your own pace and have to do what needs to be done, like college.-=-
College doesn't "need" or "have to" be done. It's an option among many options.
-=-I was somewhat unschool as a child, before there was a name, or my mom knew what it was. Now that I am in college, I am having problems finding motivation in the classes I take.-=-
If your mom didn't know what it was, I don't think you were somewhat unschooled. Perhaps you intend to say you were neglected or left to fend for yourself, but that's not unschooling.

If you're having problems finding motivation, don't take the classes. It's a choice. If you decide you Do want to take the class, then you have chosen that, and you can choose to do the work because you're fulfilling your own desire, not because you want to finish everything you start.


Rippy Dusseldorp, on how she has decided what to do in different times in her life:

It can be confusing to choose between things that you really love. For me, it's helped to make choices based on my priorities, my relationships and/or how I would most prefer to spend my time and energy at that particular point in my life.

I had a great job as an education consultant that I loved in my 20s. I decided to give up this well paid position to take advantage of some international working holiday visas that are only valid for people 30 years old and younger. I wanted to experience leisurely living, traveling and working in different countries. My employer was happy to send me overseas, but the position would have involved some compromises that I was not willing to make. For me, it was worth giving up the job I loved, for something I loved even more - the adventure and excitement of the unknown.

While I was in Australia, I met a really nice boy (now my husband). Even though I had planned on working in education, I took a job at a call center because we were both offered work together and we wanted to spend as much time together as possible. He was Dutch, I was Canadian, we didn't know how our story would end. We had both come to Australia with semi-formed work/internship plans to go to different countries after our work visas expired (me to Ghana, him to Japan), but we never followed through with them because we decided we'd rather be together.

When I was living in the Netherlands with my now husband, I got a good job at a publishing agency about a 5 minute walk from our house. That week I found out my father was diagnosed with lung cancer. I decided not to take the publishing job, but found an employer that gave me a ton of work flexibility and paid me in air miles so I could travel frequently between the Netherlands and Canada.

I have been really fortunate with finding work, and most of my past employers have found ways to give me freelance work if I have asked for it. What has worked really well for me is to divide a job into different elements such as income, energy, responsibility, service, skill, experience, etc. My work as an education consultant had all of these elements. But when my priorities changed, I made different choices. Sometimes my priority is learning a new skill, sometimes it is doing something that helps the world be a better place, sometimes I focus on being paid well. The element(s) I focus on depend on what is happening in my life at that moment.

(in early 2012, when her children were these ages: Gianluca 7, Gisele 5)

Schuyler Waynforth:

What does finishing what you start mean? You've finished your classes even if they aren't technically finished. I recognize that you think if you'd been trained to finish what you start that it wouldn't be such a problem, I doubt it would have made a difference.

I start and finish lots of things before others may declare them finished. I have a pair of socks done to the toes, but I've found other things that engage me more. I dropped in and out of college a few times. I needed to figure out what I wanted from the degree and not what the degree wanted from me. Finishing something is about my personal stake in it, it's about my investment, my commitment and it isn't about the thing, the degree, the class. I have commitments that are different from university. I am committed to my marriage, to my partnership. It would take a lot, and I can't quite picture what that would be, but a world of changing for me to not be with David until the end of my days or his. I am committed to the dance troupe I'm a part of, because they need me, because I enjoy it. If I wanted to leave I would have to make sure they weren't stuffed for the performances I've agreed to do.

Yesterday Linnaea joined a group of folks on-line to play a match on a real time strategy game. She walked away part way through it to roll felt with me. I asked her about her commitment and she went back to it. She was frustrated with the game, but two other people were relying on her skills to make their game more fun or at least playable. I didn't nag her or yell at her I just asked her if she was still playing and she went back and finished the game. It may be worth talking to your kids about what it means to be in a game with other people. It may be worth talking to them about joining something where they are depended upon. The more they bail on activities the less likely they'll be asked to join. And the less others will trust them.

"I feel like there is got to be a way were I can still unschool and have them finish what they start."
Maybe you can see how quitting what you don't want to do is a good thing. I've quit lots of things, jobs, relationships, books, drugs, cigarettes, lots of things that weren't helpful, that weren't good for my life. Quitting them made room for other things. It also helped me to think about what I wanted to do. Some of the things I quit I went back to like photography or knitting, I quit knitting regularly. Others I've not yet returned to like smoking or working at a plastics factory. Mostly my quitting hasn't left others in the lurch, although that probably hasn't always been true.

It seems to me that the reasons to continue doing something either are better or worse than the reasons to quit and that a personal decision is made based on that. You are continuing in classes you are no longer finding valuable because you believe the degree will add value to your life. You are not quitting something that you might otherwise quit because the reasons not to quit are better than the reasons to quit. I would assume that your children are capable of assessing things in a similar manner. Sometimes you can mention a benefit that you see that you think they might not see, like being considered trustworthy or a good playmate. Add depth to their perspective. But I bet you, mostly, they are pretty good at weighing the costs and benefits of an activity being continued.


Joyce Fetteroll's responses to this:

-=- I just have one concern. I want my children to finish what they start. Sometimes, NOT MOST TIMES, but sometimes, you cant' go at your own past and have to do what needs to be done, like college. -=-
Wanting someone to be different from who they are will be a ginormous roadblock to unschooling.

On the other hand, helping someone find better ways to accomplish what *they're* trying to do will turn you toward unschooling. But you need to let go of your agenda for them, let go of what you think should be accomplished and tune into what goal the other person has.

-=-Therefore I have to stay and learn the stuff that isn't to interesting to me. I never learned this as a child -=-
First, one of the big ideas of unschooling is that people can learn what they need to know when they believe it's valuable to their goal.

Second, your assumption that you would have learned it as a child is false. Schooled kids are made to *act* like they're sticking with a task, but many do that by temporarily shutting down their feelings of what's important to them. Some don't learn how to turn the feelings back on and by the time they're adults they have no idea what their interests are. Many learn to tune out the voice that tells them when something doesn't feel right and tune into the voice that says experts know better than I do. That's the training you missed out on: how to shut down your feelings, how to allow faith in experts to drown out your inner voice.

Third, let go of the idea that you missed some important training and you're now stuck. You can accept your personality and see how switching gears quickly can be an asset in many professions. You can also find techniques to stay focused when your enthusiasm starts to wane. Search online. Here's some things I stumbled across a bit ago. They're more about procrastination but they might help and the Positivity blog might have some that are more targeted:

Seven Ways to Move Beyond Procrastination

25 Simple Ways to Motivate Yourself

It's not your childhood that's getting in your way. It's your right-now self who is making excuses why you can't.

Let go of how much easier you believe life could be if your past had been different. You can't know that. It's very likely you could not only lack techniques to get through something that bores you but also feel incapable of learning. (One of the effects of forcing reading (or history or math) on kids before they're ready is they can decide they're stupid or that reading is stupid.)

Even if you had missed out on something, that's not an excuse either. Wishing the past were different to make the present different doesn't change the present. Only making changes in the present does that.

-=-I just don't want my kids to do this. My oldest (9) is already starting to do so. In playdates and other group activities, he stops midway and says "okay, lets do something different." -=-
From his point of view, everyone's brain works too slowly and they refuse to keep up 😉

It's part of his personality. Many parents who are worried about their kids learning to read, end up seeing only the kids who can read and not the kids who can't. You're not seeing the kids who move quickly from topic to topic probably because being out spoken and taking charge is not as common a trait as going along. So you're less likely to see kids who want to direct others along their lively paths.

At some point if he's frustrated with what's happening, you could coach him on ways to help others transition and get them moving in another direction. But at 9 it's not reasonable to expect him to be able to think that far ahead.


Lyla responding:

hi, not sure what "somewhat unschooled" means - but I wasn't unschooled at all. and yet my parents were very lax, and essentially the way they parented me was as unschooly as one can be, with a child still in school. and I didn't "learn" to finish what I started, through mandates or requirements, or even guidance or modeling (my parents weren't so into finishing what THEY started), but - and here's the main point I am trying to make - I was ALWAYS some one who liked to finish what I started - it was part of my temperament. so I was able to do that in SPITE of everything stacked against those odds. I have had to actively learn, in my adulthood, to be ok with NOT finishing what I start, sometimes, if it seems like my time or energy would be better spent on other things (such as focusing on my kids.) that's a skill that more people could benefit from learning, I think...

so - some people tend to be driven to finish things, some people are wonderful at starting things (and pair up well with others who like to implement and see to completion, but don't necessarily have the initiative to create or conceptualize something. the world needs all types.

the other point I want to make is that having the flexibility as a kid to NOT finish everything that's started makes it much more appealing to try lots of different things, which is at the heart of unschooling, really. if a kid fears (and rightly so) that they will be required to "finish what they start" they will be much more selective about what they start, perhaps missing out on so many things that could end up being very meaningful to them.


Sandra Dodd:

[Lyla had written:] -=-having the flexibility as a kid to NOT finish everything that's started makes it much more appealing to try lots of different things, which is at the heart of unschooling, really. if a kid fears (and rightly so) that they will be required to "finish what they start" they will be much more selective about what they start, perhaps missing out on so many things that could end up being very meaningful to them.-=- Yes.

I had a friend when my kids were single-digit ages. After she hung out with our family a while, she decided she would unschool just like we did. Before long she explained to me her liberal total unschooling policy on her son's reading. He was eight or nine. She told him he could read any book he wanted to, as long as he finished any book he started.

Quicker than training a cat not to get on the table, she trained him not to start any books at all.


Some of those quotes are from Unschooling Discussion at googlegroups, in November 2010.

The title art is by Karen James, in September 2012. She wrote, "I took a selection of a painting I recently finished that was a lot about *not* finishing what I started, and made a title for that page. It seemed appropriate 🙂"
An image of the full painting: Small Steps to the Moon and Back

Choices Logic How To Unschool