How the Unschooling Discussion can Help You

Joyce Fetteroll's responses to a new reader's complaints:

What IS the problem, is that I don't know what to replace Traditional Methods with. I wanted some suggestions.
Actually people *are* giving you suggestions! They are showing you how the principles of mindful parenting look when put in action.

Conventional parenting focuses on what children are doing. So you're expecting answers in the vein "When children do x, then do y."

Mindful parenting looks for the why and then often the answer is "I wasn't mindful enough. I needed to be there *before* it got to this point."

Distraction is a good thing when they're headed in a meltdown direction.

Being mindful so their needs can be met before they get to meltdown is even better.

Avoiding situations that they've shown you that they aren't ready to handle yet is really really helpful to them and to you.

Tantrums aren't ordinary. They're "MY GOD WHY AREN'T YOU LISTENING TO ME!!!!" They are the breaking point.

Though, if a child has learned with time that their more subtle signals are useless and tantrums get attention, then tantrums can become their first line of communication. And some kids are more easily frustrated by their inability to communicate and their powerlessness that tantrums are more common.

Life *is* frustrating. Being mindful won't prevent kids from getting frustrated but it will be a huge step in the right direction. Seeing the world from kids' point of view will help you understand why they are reacting to the world as they are. Treat your kids as though they're doing the best they can with the knowledge and skills and understanding of the world they have.And often when they're at their worst, what works best is a hug.

I used to give them a time out (with explanation), then talk about what the behavior mistake was, ask for an apology (or request that they give their sister one), and then a hug & forgive & forget.
They're too young for you to expect that to work. Kids do need information but we can't depend on them understanding and then changing their behavior. So the answer is to prevent as much as you can by avoiding those situations, jumping in sooner, whisking them away to do something else. They won't be three forever! Their understanding and needs will grow and change as they get older.

Conventional parenting is not about being present with kids. It's about giving kids rules as a replacement for being there. Same can go for information. Information shouldn't be a substitute for being there and being aware. We should let kids know that cars can hurt them, which is why we steer them clear of the street. But we shouldn't then depend on kids understanding. We need to be there. We need to be aware of our child's tendencies to run to the street when in that type of situation. We need to avoid as much as we can places where they can run into the street until they can understand.


Importance of Definitions

Sandra Dodd:

So I was watering my yard with my thumb over the end of the hose, playing with the water, and seeing the sun reflect off various drops, where it came through the trees, and this topic (old as much of it is) flooded in. I had a new idea.

Some people define unschooling as a relationship (or lack of one) with school.
Others define it as a relationship (or potential damage to a relationship) with their children.

It seems our detractors say "If my kids aren't in school and I'm not using a curriculum, I'm unschooling."

It seems to me that stopping there will lead to frustration and failure and the continuous little additions of rules and lessons and requirements.

It's enough if one is looking toward school and wants to declare the kids are out AND they're not going to use a curriculum. So at that point in the sort (if we were writing a computer program), they've passed through
School? if no, then homeschooling
Curriculum? if no, then unschooling

But will that last years? It's the label of a moment. "Now what?"

It's not a computer program. For me it's about natural human learning, not about not-school and not-curriculum.

For a short while I had a column in a homeschooling newsletter/magazine in California. I was dumped for writing the "unschooling choice" article Public School on Your Own Terms because it didn't match the organization's strong anti-school stance.

So maybe the regular radicals are more often answering the deeper questions. Not "what is unschooling?" but "how can it work best and how can it be maintained for years and lead to these transformations of which people write?"

My husband is out making a cinderblock wall. Maybe I should be out helping. But knowing the definition of masonry won't get that wall built nor help it be solid. The more he knows, the more he can draw on his experience, stories of others' successes and failures, ideas from books, and the more choices he considers and makes as he proceeds, the better that wall will be, and the longer it will last.

Buying blocks and a sack of cement isn't building a wall.

We're helping people with unschooling that will last and be strong.

Sandra Dodd is where that first appeared.

Unschooling Discussion