You made a sudden change.. You tried to jump to where long-time unschoolers are [but] you tried to skip the process of getting there.
Here is something Joyce Fetteroll saved, and it's part of some longer writing about "bed times" and if/then contracts here.
With anything, if a family moves from rules (about food, freedoms, clocks, what to wear) to something new there's going to be the backlash, and thinking of catapults (or trebuchets, more technically, or of a rubber band airplane, or other crank-it-up projectile vs ...) the more pressure that's built up, the further that kid is going to launch if you let it go all at once. —Sandra Dodd
Eileen Mahowald saved something I wrote in December 2013:
Some people seem to hope that "becoming an unschooler" is like joining a church, professing faith, being baptized, and after that things are just different. No, it's a build-a-different-life situation that takes many years.
Pam Sorooshian, to someone whose child was "given food freedoms" and was eating everything in addition to "his meals."
You are having trouble thinking clearly and calmly about food, and you made a sudden change and adopted an extreme position. You tried to jump to where long-time unschoolers are in relation to food—you tried to skip the process of getting there.
THIS IS IMPORTANT, oh ye who tried to get unschooling too fast, and told your kids "From now on you can do whatever you want to." Someone wrote thoughtfully (of the idea of kids jumping on other people's couches), on AlwaysLearning:
I think some people, in their journey to *get* unschooling and put it into practice, think it IS ok for their child to do just about everything. They believe if their child *wants* to do it, then they should go along with it.It's a Very Bad Idea to "start unschooling" before you know what you're doing. The more rules a family had, the more gradually and sensibly they need to move toward saying yes.
A: to say "yes" hundreds of happy, surprising-to-the-kids times, about whether they can stay up a little later, or have another cookie, or visit the neighbors, or jump off the porch. Hearing "YES!" is a huge thrill to kids who have been told "no" thousands of times.
B: to say, to kids who have been told their whole lives that "NO" was good for them and was the only thing between them and hell or prison (or both), "Oh, I've changed my mind. Do whatever you want!"
A is months of fun, resulting in a growing mutual trust and joy
B is a frightening sense of "mom's gone crazy or doesn't love us anymore," resulting in a frenzy of "rule breaking"--doing all the things that were forbidden before as if there's no tomorrow, because the kids figure that as far as the freedoms go, there is no tomorrow-- the restrictions may return at any moment, so they stay awake eating and watching crummy TV shows for hours and HOURS because they've never been able to make choices before and they're crap at it.
Parents have come to this list and others and said some subset of this: "Okay, I told my kids we're unschooling now so there are no rules. Tell me again what unschooling is. They're jumping around like monkeys and going crazy and my husband wants to leave me and my mom is calling the county. I told them lots of people do it and it was perfectly legal. Now what am I supposed to do?"
FIRST read and understand and have a realistic grasp of the principles and start saying yes to your children for sensible and good and generous reasons you understand. SandraDodd.com/yes
Keep your kids off other people's furniture both during and after your deschooling process.
Lisa J Haugen, August 2014, on Radical Unschooling Info (here):
I didn't even know what gradual change meant, until I'd failed enough at trying to change too many things too quickly; and then slowed down so much I was pretty much at a halt for a long time. It's still like that at times. Sometimes my gradual is a little *too* gradual, where we're not moving toward better hardly at all.
Pam Sorooshian, with a follow-up by Leah Rose, on the Always Learning list in July 2010:
Pam: One of the phrases that helped me with this was to say, "Well, OR we could try ......." (fill in the blank). This was something I've said inside my head, to myself, over and over. It was a tool to get myself to think of alternatives as being okay to try out. Sounds too simple, but it overrode the other voices in my head saying things like, "Family dinner table is important." I'd respond with, "Well, OR we could try...." and then my brain would fill in the blank with something else - like "Well, OR we could try eating in the garage while he works on his car." (Or whatever he's doing in there.) Being open to experimenting was easier to do than suddenly switching to something new—maybe that's a fine line, but trying something new seemed way less risky than completely switching.
Joanna Murphy wrote on Always Learning, in May 2009:
The biggest mistake I made in transitioning to radical unschooling was that I didn't transition. I thought I needed to make a pronouncement about bedtimes and food. I really didn't. I now, many years later, see that I just needed to make MY shifts in seeing how to support them and facilitate their lives—and then do it.
We are still deschooling and very new to all of this, but based on what was shared I wanted to share our experience as well.
I didn't tell my children, "no more chores." I DID begin just doing some of "their" chores for them and wherever I have seen situations that they appear tense or stressed in, I've stepped in and taken the pressure off by whatever means necessary. The changes I have seen in such a short amount of time have been amazing. My son and daughter have also had their fair share of arguments and my son had been showing progressively aggressive behavior towards my daughter. My son hadn't hugged my daughter in months...maybe even a year or more. That is all turning around. He hugs her almost daily now.
Izzy told me just tonight, "Mommie, I'm really starting to like Darius' personality". The ONLY thing I can credit this change to is moving towards radical unschooling. I can tell they are so much happier and less stressed and this has affected everything.
Last night, we all worked together to get the house organized and clean for the evening. We didn't even think about what chores were the others responsibility or whose stuff we were cleaning up. We just all chipped in wherever we saw the need and it was beautiful. They really enjoyed working as a team. We are still so early, but I'm loving the peace and joy we are experiencing.
more on chores
This is most of something I wrote to a younger friend with four children and food issues:
Instead of just going from lots of control to "do whatever you want," a really sweet way to do it is quickly but gradually. Quickly in your head, but not all of a sudden in theirs. Just allow yourself to say "okay" or "sure!" anytime it's not really going to be a problem. If something really isn't going to hurt anything (going barefoot, wearing the orange jacket with the pink dress, eating a donut, not coming to dinner because it's the good part of a game/show/movie, staying up later, dancing) you can just say "Okay." And then later instead of "aren't you glad I let you do that? Don't expect it every time," you could say something reinforcing for both of you, like "That really looked like fun," or "It felt better for me to say yes than to say no. I should say 'yes' more," or something conversational but real. The purpose of that is to help ease them from the controlling patterns to a more moment-based and support-based decisionmaking mindset. If they want to do something and you say yes in an unusual way (unusual to them), communication will help. That way they'll know you really meant to say yes, that it wasn't a fluke, or you just being too distracted to notice what they were doing.
Pam Sorooshian, March 2013, to a question about how to transition:
Maybe talk about them only as they come up. If you have a rule about eating only at the dining table, you could suggest: "You could take your sandwich to eat in the living room if you want." If she says, "What about the rule?" then you can say, "It's okay - we can be flexible."I wrote:
It is scary at first. You're thinking of it as a ten-car pile up at high speeds, it seems!
Choices and Incremental Change
Part of the UCA (Unschooling Canada Association) First Annual Online Conference, September 19, 2015. This is shared by permission of the organizer, Judy Arnall, June 27, 2018. Judy Arnall is the author of several parenting books. Her newest book is Unschooling To University.
If no video shows here because of your browser or settings, please go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zXJPpNS7Di8 and start about 4:48.
For New Unschoolers:
More on problems arising from moving too quickly: Too far, too fast
Would you rather listen than read? There are sound files free to hear here: SandraDodd/listen
There is another page on my site called "Do It," about not waiting too long. Now that you're all calmed down and ready to change gradually, gradually move toward doing it right now. Halfway between "very gradual" and "do it right now" is the place to be, while you're learning about unschooling.
after I said "Gradually move toward doing it right now," liked it, and wrote it down.)