in a good way, for unschooling parents

This page is not about the magical sacrifices some moms make to try to guarantee that a child will be creative (throw out the TV) or healthy forever (banish sugar). A page like that is linked below. 😊

This page is about the sorts of trade-offs parents make to provide for their children in ways they don't "have to." Unschooling parents give up some "rights" they have so that their children can share in decision-making, and so they aren't penned in by so many rules and traditions. Jen Keefe wrote, "I started out thinking I deserved a lot of things because I had "sacrificed" my career/life/etc. to be a stay at home parent..."

[SPOILER: She changed her mind. You can read more at "I deserve..."

Unschooling parents can sacrifice their right to "deserve" a return for their sacrifices.

Incremental change

Change takes time. Don't send the bill. Don't "be nice" for two months and then say "I was nice and you weren't any nicer to me!" Be nice because being nice is better than not being nice. Do it for yourself and your children.

(from Becoming a Better Partner)

The topic started off, about moms saying "Drive carefully," and whether it's a kind thing to say or irritating—is it a blessing or is it nagging? I was responding:
I sacrifice my peace to allow my boys to drive away in vehicles powerful enough to kill them and others.

My husband sacrifices money and "power" to let them use two of his cars as though they were theirs.

It's a loving sacrifice, but it's a choice we've made. If it's not our choice, it's not really a sacrifice. Without choice, we would've been just trod upon, and robbed, and abused.

The notion of valuing generosity or inconvenience or sharing or compromise in terms of something spiritual is
1) beyond some people's understanding
2) embarrassing to many
3) "not in the Bible" (pick your religion, but probably not on the short list of what one "has" to do)


(Quotes from driving; sacrifice at Unschooling Discussion's archive)

In related sacrifice, Keith and I decided to pay the extra insurance for our two sons, so they could drive before they were 25 years old, as is the requirement where we live. (It was less expensive for their younger sister, because she was not male.)

We know other families who encouraged the boys to stall before learning to drive, or required them to pay for their own liability insurance. We figured learning to drive, in New Mexico (and in many places) is helpful to the family, and is a part of growing up and being independent. We didn't "have to," but it was an unschooling decision—the cost of them learning to drive when they wanted to.

Objections to any sacrifice at all...

Some parents sigh about their sacrifices. Other parents have said there should be NO sacrifices. I tried to get people to see it in a less extreme way (without martyrdom or rules). This was written in 2005 (by me):
Blanket statements about sacrifice being wrong tend to lead toward selfishness on the part of the parent.

Whether new unschoolers are extreme is unlikely. Whether they are easily confused is just about guaranteed. We're asking people to come into water they never knew existed.

If someone believes that a mom should have several hours to herself each day, she will need to sacrifice (give up) that idea. If she thinks kids should take care of themselves and she doesn't have to do a thousand things for them, she will need to sacrifice that notion.

Only by giving up some fond fantasies does the generous giving phase come. For someone to do housework willingly and openly, she has to lose the fantasy of assigning chores and others happily doing her bidding.

For many, *that* is the great sacrifice.

Thinking "I wanted to be a person, but I threw it all by the wayside to exist as life support for you and now you didn't do what I dreamed you would do"--that's more than sacrifice. That's a mire of codependency. First, to get to the kinds of relationships being advocated here, a mom needs to let go of many things, two of which are the image of the person she wanted to be separate from her children, as though she didn't have children at all, and then get rid of the vision of her children as ideal mother-worshipping accessories.

For some that is a sacrifice.


Danielle Conger agreed with me, and wrote:
A gracious and generous "sacrifice" for someone else is a good thing in my mind. It makes the world go round more pleasantly and creates an economy of care that combats some of the selfishness inherent in the individual, pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps mentality of capitalism.

Perhaps the word sacrifice can be replaced by the notion of shifting one's perspective to see the world from another's (one's child's, for instance) point of view that enables a more generous, less resentful form of "sacrifice" to occur—empathy driven sacrifice. But, the much-maligned notion of sacrifice as a bad thing is a remnant of the Victorian version of the all sacrificing Angel of the House, a reactive remnant of first-wave feminism, as I see it anyway. The usefulness of its critique was short-lived and the unseen ramifications far-reaching, imo.


Sandra Dodd:
[some skipped over, and...]

Doing something because everyone else does is easy and you can sustain a life on it, but it's not a mindful place to be. Doing something because a small inspiring subgroup said to do it can be exhilarating, but if you don't truly understand why, your "belief" will only last as long as their pep rally lasts.

Another sacrifice to make, for unschooling to work well, is the ease of just borrowing a philosophy as a part of temporary friendships. It has to be deep and individual. You might have to sacrifice some of what you lifted from the Women's Movement AND some of what you inherited from your family if you want to have a relationship with your children that's bigger and better than their visions were.


(a bit more at Re: sacrifice, August 2005, Unschooling Discussion)

Pam Laricchia in response to a question about a child "having to" be made to do this and that to earn a martial arts belt:
[A] person who feels they "have to" do these things to meet their goals could quite easily find themselves complaining about it along the way—"I can't believe I have to fight another match (grumble, grumble)" or "I'm taking so many hours this semester that I'm always tired!" and expecting people to congratulate me for getting through the semester. It can lead to feeling that you have had to sacrifice to meet your goals.

But when I keep the fact that it is my choice to continue with the actions to meet my goals front and center in my mind, I also continually reaffirm that this is my goal to achieve. That though I may not find certain actions "enjoyable", I choose to participate in them to achieve my goals. Then I'm not as likely to be complaining to those around me about how I "have to" do this and that just because I want the end result. That I have not made any sacrifices, I have made choices. And with that attitude, I'm a lot nicer to be around. 🙂

Pam Laricchia
(below the peacock, at Thinking About "Have To")

Magical sacrifices (not the kind that work; not the things that help unschoolers)

Discussion of martyrdom (and lack thereof), Schuyler and others, about being generously present. About halfway down.

Serving Others as a Gift , one of the most powerful pages on my site, seems