Unschooling requires you to take joy in life. It requires you to appreciate the wonders of the world. Every minute you spend being cynical and paranoid is a minute of your life with your children that you have wasted and can never get back again. During that minute, you could have had a relationship-building experience together, but you created negativity in your lives, instead.
Karen James, 2014:
When I first moved to Pittsburgh from Vancouver, BC, I was seven months pregnant with my son Ethan and a bit intimidated by our new home. Every night on the news, stories of aggression and crime fed my fears. It got so that I was nervous to go outside.
A more joyful and engaged mother
Jen Keefe, in December 2015:
I am learning about negativity (and the value of not being negative anymore) from this group, and the writings of Sandra. Negativity puts up distance between me and the people I love. For a long while I complained about motherhood, and my marriage. I've (mostly) stopped, and my relationships with my husband and kids have become ones that I truly never knew could exist. They are authentic and loving, and that distance (that I really didn't know was there) seems to be gone. We are all more real, because we hide behind negativity less.
Negativity also allowed me to keep distance from myself. When I complain, or speak negatively, it justifies *not* making things better. When I recognize and acknowledge that something isn't working, or feels bad, I can change it without fanfare. This allows me, and my family, to get to a better place faster.
Negativity was a scapegoat for me—if I blamed somebody else (for anything), I didn't have to accept responsibility, I could be lazier, and could be less connected with my children.
I don't usually comment here, but I want to jump in because this may be the single biggest catalyst for my family being in the place it is today. Looking for joy doesn't mean living in la-la land. Quite the opposite. For me, it means being grounded in reality instead of fear, and connected rather than living parallel lives with my family members.
Interestingly, my once significant anxiety is disappearing too. I might even say that negativity does change reality. As someone who lived in anxiety, negativity, and fear, I can say that my children's reality was very different than it is today. What if they spent their lives with a scared and negative mother instead of a more joyful engaged one?
(the original, on Radical Unschooling Info)
More Aware of my own Reactions
In a chat on positive attitudes, Renee Smock wrote something very inspiring about her journey from negativity to better unschooling and better relationships.
Renee S.: I've recently come to realize how my attitude hindered my unschooling for a long time. I felt like I "got" unschooling right away.. but could never figure out why it wasn't working for me. Initially when we decided to homeschool - (mostly because of an article I read about unschooling when my daugher was 5) I was so happy and saw joy everywhere. Then somewhere along the way.... I started seeing a lot of negatives - I didn't like the way my husband interacted with the kids, didn't like being around people at park day, my kids were fighting a lot, and I didn't know how to make it stop. Luckily, I had someone in my life willing to tell me that it was coming from within me and If I changed my perspective on it, it would change. I think initially I thought if I unschooled, I would magically have the kids I read about online (like some of yours) ;) I thought they just wouldn't have outbursts (fights, etc) anymore.
But, now I think I have accepted that no parenting/schooling/unschooling will change some of the stages, emotions, etc. of the kids. But, as I am more aware of my own reactions to it all—it passes more peacefully and I feel better about myself and how Im interacting with the kids—which of course has led to better interactions with my husband and he is interacting with the kids differently. I really feel like the biggest shift is how I see it and how I am reacting. But, the complaining about it was pretty comfortable for a long time..... but never brought me any happy results.
Rebecca Allen: Renee, complaining about what?
Renee S.: Complaining about my husband, how long it took to get out of the house, how I didn't want to go to the store on the way home, how I was cold at the park... you name it, I complained about it.
It was done in humor and I told myself it was innocent venting to friends, but it was shaping my attitude about parenting, homeschooling, etc..... which led to more unhappiness and more complaining ;)
Sandra Dodd: How long ago did you see that negativity and start to change?
Renee S.: I started seeing it more than 6 months ago.. and have only really shifted my attitude in the last 3 months or so. (the catalyst for change was your talk at the HSC conf)
It was the closing talk—it was Sandra's talk. Specifically she said that each relationship can only withstand so many mean comments, actions, etc. and I started taking stock of how many of those things I had done (mostly to my husband) but also to the kids. It was a wake up call.
[Some discussion of where to find that talk to buy, and I called Pam Sorooshian to ask her to check.]
Sandra Dodd: Renee, so now that you're settled into believing that being positive is (what... crucial? Necessary? Beneficial?), what advice would you give to a new unschooler?
Renee S.: First... I would follow the advice you're already giving -- go gradually and learn before doing. I didn't go all "no rules, go crazy" but I did get rid of somethings (like a pretty good, non-arbitrary bedtime routine) that were really working - and caused a lot of disruption in the meantime. If I would have gone at it a bit more gradually I think I would have had less frustration and less conflict with my husband.
JulieD: How old are your children Renee (sorry if I missed that)
Sandra Dodd: And were they in school before?
Renee S.: My kids are 7 and 5. They were 5 and 3 when I found unschooling and decided not to send my daughter to school. Never been in school
I think that I have also shifted from looking for a result (like tradtional parenting sort of produces) - to accepting that is more about a way of being.
JulieD: I love that whole "way of being". My mother in law is with us at the moment and she commented this afternoon on how much learning Adam has done today. And she's right - he has - but I kind of take that for granted these days because it's all part of our way of being. Which is nice. And all the learning was just part of what we happened to be doing today. But when she listed it all out it sounded quite impressive!!
Renee S. I used to read stuff like that and think all that learning would just happen..... I now know that way of being and all that learning comes from a lot of time together. That is what I was unprepared for I think... all the time we'd be spending together. - even though the reason I didn't want Kaitlyn to go to school was because I wasn't ready to be away from her.
I see that sometimes at museums.. parents wanting kids to "learn" and they miss what the kids are really wanting to discover or look at. ... That part of unschooling (stopping to watch the escalator for 30 mins. or something) has always been easy for me. It's the parenting stuff that has always been hard for me.
Renee had agreed to be quoted. I e-mailed her:Okay, THANK YOU for all this great writing.
Schuyler Waynforth, February 2010:
Often if I'm stuck not being able to see the positive in something, I need to quit looking at it. I need to look at other things. I need to find something to move forward to instead of whirling and twirling around the angsty thing. Make the angry thing small and insignificant, turn away from it, look for bright and shiny things to distract you, look at tiny things that give you pleasure, look at large things that you didn't appreciate fully the first time around. Turning toward joy will definitely make it harder to feel stymied in the negative.In April 2011, Schuyler wrote this, about a mom feeling underappreciated in her marriage:
What makes you feel good? I like a root beer float and a chip butty when I'm feeling particularly low. It doesn't make anything external better, but it does help a lot with my internals. Stock your cupboards with things that bring you pleasure, fix meals that make you happy, play games that you enjoy. Smile, laugh, swing, skip, dance, listen to music and play. Sometimes it may feel contrived, but try not to dwell on that, try and move it forward to not being contrived, like laugh therapy.
Deb Lewis responding to someone new to the ideas:
***Because im still not convinced.***What made you consider unschooling? Why did you decide against school? It's not our job to convince you of anything. We offer ideas to people who are interested in how unschooling works. But if you think there is something of value in this philosophy then it's up to you to do the research *you* require to be convinced either way. To either say, yes there's something here or no, it's not for me. We can answer questions along the way.***Because some just watch TV. End. Then just play video games. Period. No tangents. No inspired learning. No pursuits, no follow up. No questions. No discussions. ***I've asked you before and I think others have too, tell us what your kid likes.***And all the cool stuff your kids did only makes me feel that much more frustrated.***
I like what Sandra said about trying not to dwell on negative stuff. I can get negative sometimes...that's usually the time I take a nap. Always helps. Or I go for a walk outside, or take a small amount of time for myself. Sometimes I just go to my husband and say, "I'm getting really stressed out, I am feeling like I'm on the edge of losing it" which is honest to God, the truth, with having a large family and farm and business. He will usually then find something for the kids to do, or put a movie no one's seen on, or he'll ask them to help us out with this or that. We don't have set chores, but everyone does help with things. And we make sure the kids share in the bounty. Knowing they're appreciated really kindles their enthusiasm to help, as well as money (they keep most of the money from the farmer's market) and freedoms.
Better is a dinner of herbs where love is,
Tina Bragdon wrote:
The "moments", "negativity" and "nest" links that Sandra shares.....I would encourage everyone to read it. I am not ashamed to share this testimonial here with you all, in hopes it will help someone.
"Find the best in each moment, the best moments in each hour, and by focusing on what is sweet and good, you will help others see the sweetness and goodness, too." —Sandra (from e-mail, to Just Add Light and Stir, to here, and all around the world between)
"It sounds too good to be true, but it isn't. Being connected is better than being controlling. Being interested is better than being bored. Being fun is more fun than not being fun!" —Melissa Wiley
Here's a quote Chris Sanders saved from a post I wrote:
"When people are very cynical, they seem to imagine that if all the things they think are stupid are eliminated, what's left will be non-stupid. Smartness. Cleverness. Art. Good music. But once so many things are eliminated, what's left is a cynical person who has rejected half the world, and has the memories of all the details of that negativity." ~ Sandra Dodd(I changed one "think" to "imagine" so it wasn't so much they think they think that the things they think... I think that was better. :-)
From Randy Pausch's Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams
President Cohen, when I told him I was going to do this talk, he said, please tell them about having fun, because that's what I remember you for. And I said, I can do that, but it's kind of like a fish talking about the importance of water. I mean I don't know how to not have fun. I'm dying and I'm having fun. And I'm going to keep having fun every day I have left. Because there's no other way to play it. So my next piece of advice is, you just have to decide if you're a Tigger or and Eeyore. [shows slide with an image of Tigger and Eeyore with the phrase "Decide if you're Tigger or Eeyore"] I think I'm clear where I stand on the great Tigger/Eeyore debate. [laughter] Never lose the childlike wonder. Its just too important. It's what drives us. Help others.
Someone full of negativity posted to AlwaysLearning:
***I agree with you wholeheatedly, that corporations are evil and that they can be unscrupulous in their advertising AND that this can have negative impacts on our children as they grow. The impact may not be obvious and unless you yourself are aware of these strategies you may unwittingly make your children pawns in the corporations evil intentions. ***Jenny Cyphers responded:
Good Golly! So the impacts aren't obvious unless one is aware of them... That speaks volumes!
Happier and more positive
From November 2016:
When people ask about being happier and more positive, the answer can't help but be the same. BE happier. BE positive.
New York Times article on how a workplace can become "a complaining culture": How Offices Become Complaint Departments (Thanks, Cara Barlow, for that link.)
TED-Ed, How Stress Affects your Brain Madhumita Murgia
Note from Sandra: Right at the end, it says "Get in control of your stress..." I think "control" should not be the goal, but avoidance. Turn away from negativity, repeatedly, until it's easier, by making more peaceful choices in many small ways, day and night, as you move toward being better, more mindful parents.
On Ted-Ed's facebook page, in case you want to go there and share it on facebook: How Stress Affects your Brain, Madhumita Murgia
Here's its page on Ted-Ed, if you want to see credits and background.
This is some serious humor, from The Onion. [Language Warning!]
"If I let him, he would...." Dire Predictions from real parents
Condemnation —how to avoid it
To provide more peace for children, Avoid the News. (More peace for mothers, too.)
avoid Antagonism (Us vs. Them)