"We can’t promise it will happen in every family, but we know it can happen in lots of them. It doesn’t “just happen,” though. It takes some work, and some change."
I remember when it really started sinking in, that there are no guarantees. Sandra had written that and I'd read it a few times without *really* thinking about it. After a sort of chaotic, misguided start, I was reading here more and really starting to get it better. Our lives were becoming more peaceful, I was really enjoying being with my kids, my marriage was improving drastically, and then we had these six wonderful months where even on really tight finances, unschooling (well sorta unschooling, my kids were 5ish and 3ish) was working wonders in all our lives. And I really glossed over phrases like "no guarantees" because of course they didn't apply to me!
Then some stuff went really bad in some extended family just over two years ago now, and it brought out a bunch of yuck issues from childhood I thought I'd dealt with (pre kids) and I spiraled down really far really fast and got stuck there. I hadn't realized just how much there was for me to examine and sort through in order for me to work my way back up again. Sandra has used an analogy about chutes and ladders, and some things can cause people to slide backward. I felt sometimes like I'd fallen off the board completely.
That wasn't entirely true though, and it's getting easier to see that as I've gotten better. I did get help (I was really, very, extremely fortunate to be able to work with a close friend of Amy Childs' - she never unschooled her own children but was familiar with it through Amy and her children) and made steady, slow progress. I was able to get through it with much more joy and peace and fun and light than would have been possible without the people in this group, and without a lot of focus and intention and as much mindfulness as I was capable of.
Anyway, we had a rough year over here in my little family, followed by some minor medical issues and then a pregnancy-- the last two years have been a lot! I've worried at times that it was all too much, that it wasn't going to work out for us.
If I hadn't been reading here and already starting to really get it, if I hadn't already had some major faith that peace and joy and connection and positivity and working through things slowly really worked and really mattered, based on not just other people's experiences but my own too, I don't know how the last two years would have unfolded. On one hand, I think that being healthier and happier as a person was exactly why it all hit me the way it did, like I was finally able to face all the terrible things (lots and lots of terrible things) with my real feelings and awareness. It was a lot though, and I was caught completely off guard.
It felt like I don't know, like getting hit by a huge tidal wave and washing up on a cliff wall, walking through the dark on a really narrow ledge, knowing there was a big pit below me, but wonderful people here (some of whom I'm friends with on facebook) were out there holding up candles and lanterns and fairy lights (it's a better phrase than christmas lights), pointing to the stars in the dark, the pretty clouds during the day, the colors in the sunset, the peaceful sunrises-- all both literally and figuratively--- and all that light and joy kept me walking and kept me steady and I learned that there really are no guarantees. I still can't guarantee that it wasn't too much for my kids, and what will come up in the future because of it. But things are getting better day by day (even with a new baby in the mix!). I've felt over the last few weeks that I'm back on really solid ground, and I'm starting to climb up some ladders.
Some little things I've noticed lately. My 7 year old can get really irritable and grumpy, and was more often irritable and grumpy than he was happy. Little changes, little shifts in the quality of my attention, I don't know exactly how to describe it. I'm doing a lot of the same things, just with all of me there doing it way more often. He still isn't getting much of my time right now. But he's getting chattier, helps occasionally around the house in little (but that's huge!) ways, he fed the guinea pigs this morning and ran in excitedly to tell me one let him pet him (that's a big deal too!), he has an extra bounciness, is sharing more of his observations with me-- I can't even keep up with it! I can in the moment but just now I'm thinking back to when we were in the car earlier today, and he was full of happy chatter about the plants vs zombies game he's been working on again, letting one observation or idea flow into another, going off on tangents, I couldn't even tell you what half of it was about --but it made me so so happy to hear him talk like that, and share his musings. It's been so much less of that til recently.
I remember talking like that as a kid (and, I'm embarrassed to admit, I do it a lot as an adult too still), and just knowing no one was listening, if they didn't outright snap at me to shut up. But I get to listen to him. It makes me feel so good, and it helps the little girl parts of me getting to grow up better now feel happy and at peace. He had trouble finding someone to play with when we got to the park play date today, and he came to me and I picked him up (oh my little boys feel so big and heavy now that I'm mostly holding a little baby) and let him rest his head on my shoulder and it makes me a little teary to remember how he just sagged and relaxed into me. I was a safe place for him in that moment, and I had been afraid not that long ago that that opportunity was gone forever (now I'm really getting teary!).
Then he got down and approached a kid in the group and asked if he wanted to play and they ran off. He chatted the whole way to pick up his brother and then to target, and at target, and on the way home, and I am so so grateful not just to get to listen and comment now and then, but also to even get what a major privilege and honor it is.
My younger son has had major problems with intense anger and aggression for the past two years, with screaming and kicking and head butting and punching that could last over an hour. He's been getting steadily better (partly that's age, but a big part of it too is I handle it better, I prevent it better). His speech has drastically improved over the past few months and the last few weeks he's also making friends at the playground. Earlier this year his pediatrician recommended him for autism testing. It turns out she recommended him to the wrong department, which bought us some time, and now he's quickly shedding many of the "red flags" and can do many more of the things on the developmental questionnaire she gave me. Two days this week he spent nearly an hour playing complicated pretend games with other kids, talking and given directions and following directions and just really blossoming in a way that's really good to see. He's got his quirks and we are switching pediatric offices.
He too has been chattier and happier (he's always been more cheerful than my older son, but the younger one is also dealing with the challenge of sharing me much more often than before, and lately he's even tolerated extended times where I can play and talk with my older son more cheerfully more often than before) -- And he's also spent more time lately sagging into my arms and being held in a safe place, instead of continuing to lash out in anger for such long periods of time. The angry times are getting much, much shorter, and much less frequent.
I'm so so so grateful and relieved--so relieved-- to be able to be a safer place for them both again.
Anyway this is getting really long, I'm sorry if it's got long rambly sentences or is hard to read, I'm feeling a little overflowy and words haven't been coming together as well lately either. I was able to go back through some of it but my middle son just got out of bed and it's late and I should wrap this up!
I know there will be new challenges ahead as a sweet cuddly baby (they love their brother so much, especially my older, less supplanted son!) turns into a toddler! And I don't know what else life will bring. There are no guarantees. But for now I'm taking things moment to moment far more often, and making the most of the moments, and able to feel the preciousness of so many more of the moments, with a lightness I haven't felt in two years.
I've felt grateful for this group before, many many times, I've said it before more than once. I don't know how to say it differently or better, and I don't think I need to. Those of you here who write and help and keep this going-- thank you. I get to hold my boys and be a safe mom for them again. I've got a lot of climbing to do still, but luckily climbing is a lot of fun.
Always learning, always in awe of this group,
Lisa J Haugen
On Always Learning, August 12, 2017
I responded, when I saw that, above, to Lisa by e-mail:Always Learning used to be a public group anyone could see, but when Yahoo revamped, I was looking around the new moderator area and accidentally made it closed. I can't change it back.
Is it okay with you if I put this on my page, though? Lately it seems more and more people think unschooling is nothingness and then they get pissed off when it doesn't work.
Lisa (to me, by e-mail):Sure. :)
I keep starting to write more about what you said about people who think unschooling is nothing. It's so much what I've come to see every person local to me, even the people who claim to be doing it, seem to think. But I don't feel like talking about it right now, it's sort of depressing and I dont have the time to be thoughtful and critical in ways that would help me be less depressed about it and more hopeful. I'm saving it up in my mind. I dont doubt there will be opportunities to talk about it at some point when I have more time (is that a good thing or a bad thing? I don't know, but probably good).
I want to write a little bit about why I like your chutes/snakes and ladders analogy so much, but first I want to research what you've said about it more thoroughly and make sure I'm not repeating what has already been said about it. About what changes because it's a horizontal climb and not a vertical one, and also the nature of playing a board game and stuff about competition.
. . . .
Baby just started to cry, thank you!
Getting It (accounts of understanding unschooling more deeply) Thoughts on Changing
Huge Gambles (or small gambles) / No Guarantees Other Voices