Parents of Unschoolers

These are stories of parents being surprised at the way their children interact with them. Related topics are at Siblings   and   Unforeseen Benefits of Unschooling.

Yesterday two of Marty's friends were going to pick him up to go run around, but they ended up staying here. Then another friend came over to see all my kids. Then a friend of Kirby's from work came over. I hadn't met her before. She was nice. So my three (14, 17, 19) plus four more (17-21) were all having a great time laughing and looking at stuff on Kirby's computer and around our house, and Marty's big Lego viking village, and so forth.

They decided to go out for ice cream and then to see "Over the Hedge." I asked Holly if she needed money, and she didn't. (She saves her allowance up.) Every other person there has a job. There were no couples. Two of those kids do have steady others, but didn't bring them over. So it was four teenaged girls, four teenaged boys, no romantic tension (unless Kirby and new-girl; didn't see any).

And here's the big success part: They asked Keith (the dad) if he wanted to go. I didn't know they had, when Marty came and asked me if I wanted to go. So they would have taken me, or Keith, or both of us, with them.

We separately thanked them and declined and found out later they had asked us both. Pretty sweet!

We didn't "teach them" to invite their parents to the movies. 🙂 One advantage of our not going was that then they could fit into the big van and didn't have to take two cars.


Pam Sorooshian:
Hey—I DID go to the movies with a bunch of teenagers on Friday night. A late show—started at 10:30—by the time we saw it and stood around in the parking lot and talked about it for a while, it was 2:00 am when we got home.

It was 8 boys ages 16 to 20, my 15 yo daughter, and me. Breakdown— two other radical unschoolers, two pretty relaxed homeschoolers, one school-at-home homeschooler, one who goes to public school, one who graduated from high school, one who got himself out of high school and is taking back his own life—after getting to know unschoolers. They mostly know each other through their karate studio. We went out for ice cream, first, then we went to see Mission Impossible. I hung out with them easily, naturally, and didn't give it much thought except I do remember saying to one of them that it had suddenly occurred to me that this was a really unusual group of kids who didn't think twice about including a mom in their Friday night out plans and that I was really lucky to know them. There were two other adults who I thought might go along, too, but didn't. And there was another mom and her son who had ice cream with us, but didn't go to the movie. Maybe I'm deluding myself, but I honestly think they like me just fine and it never even occurred to them that it was in any way odd for me to go with them. I was there when plans were being made and was included very naturally.

Now the other unusual thing was the 8 boys to 1 girl ratio, among the teens, I guess. but that is not unusual for my daughter—she has some girlfriends and has overnighters with them and hangs out some with them, but most of her close friends are boys. There was another girl who had been with them earlier in the evening, at the karate studio, and we thought she was going, and also a sister of one of the boys was planning to go and then backed out. My other daughter was planning to go—I was actually on my way to pick her up and she called and said she'd gotten hooked on watching recorded episodes of LOST, so she'd changed her mind.

So—two back-to-back stories of movies and teens and parents being invited/included. Cool!

By the way, it was really good to see Mission Impossible with a bunch of teenage boys. They LOVED it. They were all charged up by it, lots of adrenaline—made it that much more fun for me, just observing their reactions to it.


Yeah it's like that with us too. Our kids actually like us and enjoy our company. The feeling is mutual of course, which is just as unusual in our society. I've learned, since I've been unschooling that teens are great people, not the inevitably angry, confrontational, unhappy people I used to think they were. My teens still go through some difficult stuff about finding their way in the world, but having a good relationship with them allows for communication and real help and support.

I used to feel so powerless and scared when my first 2 kids (now 24 & 22) were teenagers. I just hung in there and waited for it to be over! Now I have 3 teens (17, 16 & 13) and life is sweet! I'm starting to organise activities for teens in our homeschool group, with the kids choosing what they want to do. And they all want the adults to join in. Super cool.

Kerrin Taylor

Join him in what HE chooses

Pam's response to:

And the other worry I have is that he prefers a life in front a screen now than he does his life outdoors and interacting with his family.

If he is choosing to watch tv instead of going outdoors or doing other things with his family then, yes indeedy, he DOES prefer it.

So—join him in what HE chooses. All kinds of talk about how much he watches, but not a word about what he loves to watch? Get INTO it with him. Don't judge it—revel in it.

When my now-about-to-turn-16-year-old was younger and madly in love with the Arthur tv show, she'd watch for hours every day. I watched with her pretty often—we cuddled and sometimes she'd tell me what was going to happen (Watch, Mommy, DW is going to tell a LIE!!!). Over a period of a couple of years, I bought her all the little Arthur books and an Arthur lunch box to keep them in. We bought the Arthur dolls. And we ran into a phone number for the author, Marc Brown, where he would leave a recorded message about how he got the ideas for his books or what books were coming up, etc. We got a cassette tape of music from the show.

Guess what? I didn't really like the show all that much. I learned to see it through my daughter's eyes and appreciate it, but it really didn't appeal to me, for various reasons. But, now, it is a sweet memory—those warm cuddly mornings together with Arthur and his friends. I'd give a lot to get to have one of those mornings back, again.

This is good practice for you—learn to support your child where he is NOW. Support his interests with your whole heart and you'll be rewarded by your child growing into a person who HAS passions and interests and shares them with you.

Pam Sorooshian, in a discussion at Always Learning.

Laurie Wolfrum, on Always Learning in March 2014, in response to the quoted statement:

**As a new unschooler, I am working toward being less of a "helicopter parent" and more of a watch-from-a-distance parent. While I *think* the latter is best, I, often times, *feel* the need to be a helicopter parent. I understand that this habit is solely fear-based and I am now choosing to move away from fearful thinking and reacting.**
While moving towards being calmer and more thoughtful is good, you don't have to think of yourself as any certain kind of parent to do so. It is good if something helps you think of how you can be a better parent. However, I would let go of trying to fit into any kind of label and *be* the responsible and thoughtful parent you wish to be for your child.

Children go through many stages and phases, some of which warrant our close presence and others which warrant our respectful distance. Don't let a label coax you into doing something you don't feel good about. Trust your gut and watch your kid for cues.

I'm not sure that parenting labels are helpful. Sometimes when I read about "helicopter parents," I wonder if people are trying to justify not paying attention to their kids. Parenting labels may also encourage judgement and comparison which can move the focus from meeting kid's needs to parents wanting to feel good about themselves and how they parent. As much as we want to feel good, we can get that good feeling by doing right by our kids, not by trying to do what our culture, friends or some article says is right. Meet your particular kids needs and let go of what other people think! Rather than look at labels that try to pigeonhole people into being this sort of parent or that sort of parent, be the parent that is right for your child in each moment.

—Laurie 🙂

Sandra Dodd, (following Laurie's comment, then):
"Better" is a good, simple label. 🙂

Making the better choice, when you're able to think of two options, will make you ever "better."

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