If unschooling makes us hopeful, problem-solving people, what an unexpected bonus!
(I wrote it, but Marta Pires saved it and showed me, or it would have just gone by.)
This one needs background. Holly Dodd had put up a Just Add Light and Stir post that she liked, on a little-used page for such re-posts, on facebook. Janine, whose family had recently moved from London (West Molesey) to a place in the country (near Rotherfield, East Sussex), responded (quoted below)
First, the post:
Laughing and smiling
photo by Sandra Dodd
Sandra, I know you sent an email recently thanking all us 'Just add light' readers for photos and quotes and things, and you sent apologies too - for missing the odd post here and there. Well, I want to say thank you to you! These daily posts (almost 😉) are an inspiration of such value that they are truly priceless. This quote above made my heart sing! Most of the things that have happened I didn't foresee! And they continue to happen and surprise me every day! To name just a few: spirituality, healing, realisations and awakenings, and most of all, a closeness and deep connection with my boys (and partner) that warms my heart and fills it till it's fit to burst! We spend every day laughing and smiling, most days side splitting laughter over a shared joke or something.
On the day this quote was posted; we spent part of the day enjoying some rare February sun in our new garden. swinging in hammocks, searching for just sprouting daffodils, Sam attempting to polevault with a large stick - with hilarious results, Kes making things out of sticks and playing with his cat Fudgy. All the while laughing chatting and smiling. I sat there on a tree stump basking in the warmth of the sun and in the warmth of the laughter and fun and pure joy we were all feeling and thought I can't bring myself to think any of this is bad either! How could it be!? At 9 & 14 years old my mind does wander sometimes to what their days could be like if different choices had been made....and I know some of that would be bad...
We ended that day all taking it in turns to colour in a huge comic like map of London that the boys were given at Xmas. Sam is particularly enjoying doing it, and taking such care and pride in his work. A 14 year old, very mature boy enjoying colouring in, looking up each monument or building and landmark to get the colours right, or if famous people - to get their clothes right.
I didn't foresee this, how could I? when before unschooling we are led to believe such contrary expectations around teens, (expectations that can still sometimes be hard to shake off...) and it made me so happy to see my boy so happily and unconsciously colouring in. ☺️
Thank you Sandra, and to all who write and quote and share lovely photos, they are all priceless inspiration, and they go such a long way to helping a late starter like me to shake off those old expectations that can still randomly pop into my head...THANK YOU! ❤️ Xx
The big upside of unschooling, in my opinion, was that it also created an unexpected peacefulness, fulfillment, and happiness for all of us.
My 10 year old has about $75 saved up from the weekly spending money we give him. A couple days ago, he told me he didn't want an allowance for a while, because there's nothing in particular he's saving up for. He said "I don't need to keep getting money just to have more - if there's something I want, then you can buy it for me, or you can allowance me again til I have enough."
My husband looked at him, looked at me, smiled, and said "This is another one of those side-effects of unschooling isn't it? He has enough, and he's happy. He's just HAPPY."
I said I think so, yes. A pretty cool side-effect of unschooling - knowing when you've had enough (food, cake, money, candy, TV, or anything else). And being happy.
Just going though the unschooling blog links at random, I found a post called "Unexpected Benefits," and it's a good one. The mom is being anonymous, but you can read it here:
I'm amazed at the changes in T -- and we've only been unschooling since December!
I wanted to comment on something, and I’m sure others have noticed this and it’s probably been mentioned many times but anyway: All the side benefits from unschooling besides having healthy relationships with happy children. The one thing that I can single out that has most helped my marriage is unschooling. After I started treating my children nicer, more respectfully and gentler, it just sort of spilled over into my marriage. What a difference it can make. And then it just spills over into friendships and family at large. And now I notice my husband being more respectful and kinder. He wasn’t raised in a respectful home. His mother never treated any of her children with respect. But my husband is starting to get it. Not from me telling him or yakking in his ear about it but by just letting it spill over into his life.
Unschooling seems to develop a life of its own and grows. It started with me letting the seeds of respectful parenting grow inside of me and now it just seems to be taking over. Slowly. There are days that I think I lost it, but they don’t happen so often or we get back on track way quicker. And then sometimes it seems as though good things just happen all around us. It’s really amazing.
So we start unschooling for the sake of our children and it ends up making all parts of our lives better. I think it’s great marriage therapy!
The changes we've made (resulting from what we've learned on this list and other unschooling groups) have made our lives better, brought us closer together and we are all much happier. Deeply happy.
The things I've learned from this list over the past few days about spouses and being a team rather than me and the kids against hubby are forcing more changes for the better. I am being nicer to the spouse as of yesterday although I haven't told him. I am looking at him differently already and really took to heart the parts of several posts that helped me realize (in 2 days of reading) that he will not ever be the person I want to mold him into. He is the perfect man I married with all his flaws and I am actively trying to change my actions towards him and be the wonderful, loving person he married rather than the nag I've become because he isn't meeting my needs. I am helping meet his needs more and I feel better about our marriage already. Two short days of reading...a crash course.
Sandra, Joyce, Pam and other wise posters here, my family thanks you for spending so much time helping us. My kids thank you especially and my husband. Thanks for helping me see the light in our marriage where darkness had been.
Robin in Cape Cod, MA
It feels so good to help my children follow their dreams. I learned to stand up for myself by standing up for my children. I learned to follow my own dreams by helping my children to follow theirs. Sometimes the things that you think stand between you and your dreams aren't as hard to vault over as you think they might be. Life is so good!
Angela S. (game-enthusiast)
I loved Sandra's talk about the unforeseen benefits of unschooling and was thinking about that in the context of "What I never could have expected when I went to that first Live and Learn Conference in South Carolina." I never expected....
To climb up onto a death trap several stories high with my 16 year old daughter saying.."This is FANTASTIC!" as I tried not to look down.
To feel such joy for four wonderful days surrounded by children's laughter and families living lives like ours.
To learn how to hug from a guy in a skirt!
To be so happy to have my daughter stay out till 4:00 in the morning with her friends.
To meet people from Alaska to Minnesota to Florida to Massachusetts to Illinois to South Dakota and beyond and realize how much I'd miss them when the conference was over.
To watch my husband in a silly hat tell horrible blonde jokes.....!
To see my 12 year old son happily playing with kids both much younger and much older than him (and to follow him through a tunnel in city museum that was meant for a much smaller butt than mine!)
And best of all for feeling like I'd found my way home and I finally was where I belonged.
Thanks Kelly....and Ben....and Cameron and Duncan.. and everyone who helped make this weekend such a success.
It was the best.
Jacki (GoldStandard) wrote of her kids having tried school, and their success at only going when they wanted to:
I also have to say that this is somewhat of a multi-layered situation. My kids are LOVED by the teachers at this school...they are great students...tend to be a bit more mature in class, pleasant, contribute meaningfully, help when help is needed, they take care of the school space, they respect and talk easily to their teachers. But this is NOT because they have been in school for years. It is all a result of living in a respectful home and a result of unschooling. My kids are probably some of the few happy kids there.Sandra Dodd:
This is true of my kids, though not in school.
It was true of the boys in drivers' ed.
It was true when Marty went to the junior police academy.
It was true of Kirby at the karate dojo.
It's true of Holly in various little situations.
It's true of both my boys at their jobs. Their supervisors and co-workers just GUSH about how they are.
The other day there was a little emergency, and I walked up to tell Marty about it. He asked if he should go to the hospital, but we were down by one car and I was going to need to go to the airport in a few hours. I told him he might ask to get off early, because the store was pretty quiet, but he looked at me like that was quite unreasonable and said no, he needed to finish his shift.
A side effect of school is that kids know all KINDS of ways to get out of it, and my kids don't have that trick. When they go to the orthodontist they get a slip that has a tear-off note to the school, and it has the time they left. As a longtime former school kid, I look at that and think "darn," and calculate the amount of stall-time that would be acceptable before reporting back to school. I COULD get there in five minutes, but would twenty minutes be "too long"? I still have those habits. I still see five minutes till 3:00 on an analog clock and think "almost time!"
There is something HUGE that comes from that non-exposure to school.
|"I think unschooling has done as much for me as it has and will have for my son. When you get down to it it's just so simple and so beautiful. It's helped me to reconnect with my older kids too and make amends for all the times that I made mistakes. So many things that you don't even know will be changed when you start living that different kind of way."|
De Smith, on her blog, wrote:
Who Knew?I wanted to be a mommy from early on. There were many loves and desires wrapped up in that goal, but I always knew I'd be one. I spend more time planning my parenting skills and daydreaming about how I'd handle certain situations and what I'd name my kids and how many were enough than I spent planning careers - and there were *many* different hats I tried on in the career department!
It is so funny... I was *sure* I knew pretty much how parenting would go, how it would be... Almost all I imagined was so far from the truth as to be almost inconceivable. Then there are the things that never occurred to me...
I would have been the first to tell you, 13 or 14 years ago, that you were crazy, if you'd have told me what kind of parenting I'd be practicing today! I had my ideals and they were nowhere near then what they are today. I had planned out how I'd handle the "tough" stuff... never even dreaming that those things might never come up, and was totally blindsided by other things that I'd never considered: like my 5 year old being terrified of death and dying and his parents dying and not really being able to wave a magic wand to make that fear disappear in a motherly wave of compassion and gentleness.
I fully believed that a parent should not be a friend to their child, and today I am thrilled to count my kids as my friends; they are awesome people and I'm glad they consider me to be their friend, too.
I had no idea that my kids and I would enjoy the same kinds of music - even having the same favorite songs! It never entered my imagination that we would regularly ride along in the vehicle, singing happily together... Nor could I have imagined the peace, joy and contentment that would bring me. Tears-in-my-eyes happiness. Granted, they're often telling me to, "Turn it down, Mama!" - gee... who'd've thought?!
I couldn't have dreamed up a first-born kid that could catch me off guard with his quirky, smart humor - to the point that I spew laughter unexpectedly. :~D
I'd never have conceived that my almost-teen son would not only still want to hug me, but snuggle with me, want his head kissed, want me to tuck him in—prefer that I lay down with him for a while.
I still find it almost incomprehensible that I have a youngest kid who routinely, *daily*, runs around sing-songing, "This is the best day ever. This is the bestest day ever. This is the best day ever." It seems to be his mantra. How incredibly awesome that each subsequent day is the *best* day! And when I think about it, he's right! It really is!
I've been thinking about how I started learning about partnership parenting, lately. I know I've told the story so many times, but I still am kind of awed by it. Reading about unschooling on the radical unschooling boards elicited strong reactions from me. Things like,"They're CRAZY!"Very strong, adamant responses—almost to the point of being shocking. But the other things I read with those "crazy" ways of doing things was about results. About kids and parents who wanted to be together. Who shared with each other. Who *listened* to each other. Most amazingly, though, were the teens—teens who *wanted* to hang out with their parents, who were kind and thoughtful and open and *talked* with their parents openly, who came to their parents first and right away when there was a problem. Families who *trusted* each other. I knew teens. I'd been a teen. This concept was totally foreign to me. I wanted this—and the more I read about it, the more I wanted it. I was not easily convinced that being a partner to my child would end up with those results, but I grudgingly, slowly accepted that the alternative rarely got those results (and never the trust spoken of, that I knew of), and so I dove in.
"Oh, that's just stupid."
"Well, that would never work *here*!"
At one point in my early struggles to grasp the concept, I "threw in the towel", thinking that it wasn't "working", and decided I was going back to traditional parenting! Within a day, I knew I could never be that parent, again—if I ever had totally been that parent. I found that once you learned how to respect someone, you couldn't ignore that and treat them with less value, with less honor just because you decided so. For a day or so, that had me desperate and flailing. Eventually, I found it strengthening—it backed up the ideas I so loved and wanted for my family.
When you find something that makes your heart sing with joy and makes you radiate sunshine and happiness, you want to share it. You wish everyone could be as happy as you are. As I look back on conversations that happened online this week, I see the enthusiasm with which people share these ideas of partnership... I can sometimes get a infintessimal glimpse at how some others might perceive the rush to share as intolerance for other ideas that don't mesh with partnership and respect. I still don't see the threat, though. Even though I experienced a little tiny bit of that when my ingrained ideas were challenged, I had no sort of "fight back" kind of reaction. Maybe I'm just tired, but even after all these years, I still am a bit baffled by the vehement reactions to unusual ideas—to ideas that challenge one's assumptions and ingrained societal "norms"... Is it because it is parenting? Is it because it is personal, rather than a difference in the workplace? When does something change from being two differing viewpoints to an "attack"?
I thought writing it out might help me process it, but at this point, it hasn't. I'll let it stew in my brain for a while.
Today has been music, games, movies, good food, hugs, laughter, learning, idea-bouncing, helping each other—the best day *ever*!
Below is a dump of the outline and notes I had for my closing talk at the Live and Learn conference in 2005. This isn't what I said exactly, but when I get a recording of the talk online I'll link it here.
In the years since this page was built, others have written things that are shorter and more recent, so this has been scooted down.
Outline/notes for the talk "Unforeseen Benefits of Unschooling"
Description of the talk from the program:
When my oldest was five, I could see the potential of unschooling. I knew unschooling families and was familiar with alternative education. I had no doubt things would work out well. There were unexpected outcomes, though, and they continue to arise.
Tell what I first expected.
Tell what I first started to see.
Some of the material from this presentation was turned into an article for Life Learning Magazine, and now it's here: SandraDodd.com/unexpectedarticle
Tell what I’ve seen since and in retrospect.
I didn’t expect this to change my children’s ability to make eye contact with people.
It surprises me that they have friends of such a range of ages.
I didn’t expect them to learn so much without me.
I thought I wouldn’t miss a single thing.
I missed Roman numerals (MegaMan)
If the life is all a-swirl, they WILL learn, so you guarantee the learning
I didn’t expect Kirby and Marty to be offered jobs they didn’t even apply for.
won’t happen with everyone
HAS happened with some other unschoolers
(not JUST with unschoolers, but I don’t think
these jobs would have come to these boys
had they been in school)
I didn’t know that our relationships could stay so good even when they were teenagers.The side benefits are family togetherness, common experiences, and fun!
As partners and supporters, if one of us is having fun, the others are glad, and happy, and often right in the midst of that same fun.
I didn’t know they would be so compassionate.
Partly they weren’t taught to be cold, by school prejudices.
Partly, they have had a gentle life, and they NOTICE harshness.
being compassionate about kids' changes can help affect how adults respond to their own and each others' needs and changes.
GAIL Higgins WROTE:I've been thinking about some things along these same lines for several days. I'm noticing all the unexpected bonuses that came along with our unschooling lifestyle. As I became more aware of my kids needs and responded to that it just naturally carried over to my husband.Jill P. wrote at unschooling.info:
Our relationship is so much stronger now and part of it is just because I'm nicer now! :-)
I think I used to be so controlling of our lives that it affected us all in a negative way. I'm still working on it but just the awareness of what I was doing has led to changes.
There are very few times when our lives don't seem in harmony these days...it's the best bonus I could have every imagined.When I started unschooling and consequently mindful parenting, I didn't realize the effect it would have on my kids, an awareness about how conventional parenting is disrespectful and downright nasty, how upset my kids would feel when they saw it, and their disbelief that most of society condones it.=====================
One night dd, Addi (almost 11), came home from her neighbor friend's house full of stories about how the parents (a mom and stepdad) treated the daughter, wondering how it could be like that, and what she could do about it.
While the girls were playing the parents told the daughter to help them clean up branches and sticks in the backyard. Addi chose to participate. Well, the daughter wasn't helping enough and so the parents, after making comments about how helpful Addi was and the daughter wasn't, told the daughter to clean up the rest.
Addi couldn't believe parents would treat someone like that,
and it was very sad to her to see the look of pain on her friend's face.
So, she helped the girl clean up the rest of the yard,
and tried to comfort her.
The nasty treatment continued at dinner. Addi said her friend's face dropped into deep sadness when she asked for some ice cream also. I understand that Addi had just been given some.) And the parents said that she couldn't have any until she finished her salad. Addi was appalled, and took her ice cream back in the kitchen and asked that it be put in the freezer, and she would eat it when her friend got some. Addi told me that she just couldn't eat it, it didn't even taste good! unless she could eat it with her friend.
When Addi came home and told me how those parents "shamed" the daughter, she asked me how she could handle that situation...what she should "say to those parents". I said that her actions spoke louder than words, and that she and we could treat her friend with kindness and respect.
About five years ago,
Holly was swimming with a young neighbor and her youngish uncle, who was pretty much her primary caregiver.
He was house-sitting a third neighbor’s pool (so right near) and… he would not let his niece get out and get her towel.
She was cold, and wanted to get out and sit with the towel.
The answer was no.Holly looked at all that, got out of the water, walked over, got the towel and brought it to the girl.
That was brave, I think. Holly probably didn’t think “brave.”
I’m impressed when they show real-world courage.Holly at the zoo.
Marty with his friend from hockey.
I didn’t expect to like to lose arguments.
I enjoy it when my kids win an argument with me or Keith. We've laughed about that later when we're alone. Keith used to be bothered if they were that way, years ago. He didn't call it "talking back" or anything, but he was surprised each time he saw it. I told him I figured if they could win arguments with me, they'd do okay for themselves out in the world. That made sense to him, so he started willingly engaging them in "yeah, but..." kinds of discussions, and as time passed we all got better at it and clearer about our priorities.
I didn’t know I would be so accepting of kids saying “no.”
We have a piece of furniture Keith built years ago, a corner shelf with electricity built in in three places. Unfortunately, it's not heavily grounded three-prong stuff. Still, for several reasons it needed to be moved, and we were talking the dump, because I thought I remembered it having had its cord removed when we moved it to this house. It was in the sewing room stuffed with books and patterns and cloth.
When I unloaded it to take it to the dump. I became nostalgic. It's big and bulky, but it used to be our stereo shelf, and hold the turntable and speakers and tapes and... And the electricity WAS still working, every outlet. And it would hold Marty's TV. And Marty's been talking about getting the little old couch out of his room.
So I thought if Marty wants it, that could be lots of good.
Marty did. Now? Not right now.
Oh. He can take it in a few days.
And that was really okay. Marty had good reasons to wait and we were just as calm with a kid saying "wait" as we would've been with one of us saying it to the other. And there's a place it can wait, and since we parked it in the corner where the cat box was, near the washing machine, we've had time to consider where Marty needs to cut a hole for the Playstation cords to go down, and what he might need to hold controllers, and what else he can get rid of in his room. "Wait" has been more beneficial than any of us knew.
I think most parents would have said, "No, we're doing it now; stop what you're doing, cancel your plans for tomorrow, it's our house..." and the furniture would've been imbued with sorrow and frustration, the kids would have remembered those things when he saw it, the parents would have thought less of the kids, the kid thought less of the parents, and so in on several directions. But here because we really listen to Marty and he's accustomed to making good arguments instead of just building up to an outburst... "things are good" is so light and lame for the many levels, the depth and the breadth of the benefits of us having allowed and encouraged argument from our kids that it's almost embarrassing for me to try to describe how good it is.
I didn’t expect it to make things so sweet between me and Keith.
PARTLY KEITH’S JUST A NICE GUY, BUT…
Principles that applied to the kids applied to the adults, too, though, and we all experienced and shared more patience and understanding.
The more I got to know Marty, the more ways I saw him like Keith, and because I was sympathetic to those traits in Marty which had bothered me in Keith, I became more sympathetic and understanding of Keith.
That was cool.
I didn’t expect unschooling to make the grocery store so fun.
Holly and I went early to the store that just opened VERY near us. I didn't know there would be a ribbon-cutting, or we'd've gone a little bit earlier, but we did see the giant scissors and the leftover ribbon, and the podium where the speech was made.
There was live music (classical guitar, doing some local stuff and some jazz and pop too). There was "congratulations" cake. There were flowers being handed out. The store was PERFECT. Everything was amazingly arranged, and when I told the manager how beautiful the produce was and that I thought nobody would buy any today because nobody would want to mess it up, he laughed and admitted it was pretty wonderful. Said it took eight guys, and the green beans were laid in individually. I was talking about the peppers, which were clearly laid in like people do mortarless stonework.
Everyone was being REALLY nice to everyone else even though it was crowded and the carts were nearly all being used. The kids we saw besides Holly were very young and babies, and strangers were cooing over babies, and oohing over the beauty of the inner remodelling done on that building. Stone this'n'that, Mexican tile. It was as exciting a trip to a grocery store as I will ever hope for.
And Holly went hungry, and of all the foods in the world she could bring back for breakfast she wanted microwaveable pizza. So we got Tombstone deepdish, and I though I tried to talk her into orange sweetrolls or donuts or something, she said (in front of two older women), "No, I don't want anything sweet. I just want the pizza."
I didn’t expect to see school so differently.
“School is what you make of it” they used to say. I can see some possibilities in that, but school is only so soft, and only so safe.
What I made of it, when I was a kid, was a contest.
Keith – SCA tournaments – 2nd place! “I lost.”
Me, school, seven league boots.
I usually won easily.
I didn’t expect my ongoing review of school to make me wish I had not walked through those races. I wish other kids had won more.
Part of that, though, is freefloating guilt and shame.
I didn’t expect unschooling to create a shameless life, but one day I said to Holly, joking, “Aren’t you ashamed?”
She didn’t know what “ashamed” meant. She was twelve; maybe thirteen already.
People used to say “you should be ashamed” lots, to and around me, when I was young. And I was, I just hadn’t found the reason for it yet. Shame is like an indwelling virus that surfaces when we’re weak, in those who caught it.
I didn’t know people could grow up without having a wad of shame inside them, waiting to surface.
I didn’t expect this to improve my relationships with pets.
I noticed one morning I was really patient with my irritating cat. That was cool, and announced to one of the discussion lists that I was going to work it into my talk about things that surprised me. We've long been sweeter with our current dog than we ever were with a dog before, and somewhat the cats too, but usually I hiss at the cat to get away from me when he gets in my face early in the morning and this morning I told myself that the cat can't open a can, and he's excited that I'm awake, and the dog probably ate their canned food, so I just very calmly followed him in there and fed him and he was very happy. I doubt it's my last frontier, it's just my current frontier.
We leave food down for our dog. Sometimes the neighbor dog comes in and eats it. We have a friend, who’s housesitting for us, and she was surprised that our dog and cats didn’t mind her dog eating from their dishes. Her dog is fed separately, and finishes it all. Ours know there will be some more later if that gets eaten, so they only eat when they’re hungry.
I didn’t know how much people could learn without reading.As their reading ability unfolded and grew, I learned things I never knew as a teacher, and that I wouldn't have learned as an unschooling mom had they happened to have read “early.” Reading isn't a prerequisite for learning. Maps can be read without knowing many words. Movies, music, museums and TV can fill a person with visions, knowledge, experiences and connections regardless of whether the person reads. Animals respond to people the same way whether the person can read or not. People can draw and paint whether they can read or not. Non-readers can recite poetry, act in plays, learn lyrics, rhyme, play with words, and talk about any topic in the world at length.
I didn’t know I would come to feel like an expert.
I started learning about ballads when I was fifteen, and read and listened to all I could find, read research and theory, studied it some in college, read people’s “published papers” (barely published). Within ten years I could tell bad scholarship when I saw it, and flimsy premise, and bad methodology. I had thought that might be my life’s work, but I dropped out of grad school twice and then got pregnant and did other things.
Still, without a special piece of paper, I could tell good research from bad. I knew when a writer had missed reading another prominent folklorist’s ideas.
I haven’t kept up with that field. That period of intensity passed by, and I was involved with children instead.
Now when I read articles on education, or research, or the best ideas teachers have had, I see flaw and lack in a way I couldn’t have if I hadn’t unschooled, and if I hadn’t spent so much time sharing back and forth with people about the meaning of respect for children, and how to put these things into everyday practice.
Principles and practicalities are different without school.
Sometimes learning seems calmer and slower
but then it can flame up quickly without notice,
regardless of time of day or night,
without permission from the office, and
without a bell ringing to say “no more.”
I was a little surprised to find out how much of unschooling is DOING, rather than just not doing.
We are not sitting in the back corner of the homeschooling world doing nothing.
We’re doing something profound and direct.
When Paths of Learning ceased publication, subscribers were sent “Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice.”
Show the cover and read the excerpts.Bliss, like love, I think, is a biochemical reality and it can pass, it can fade. Bliss can be extinguished.
On the bliss-following point, remind them of Certificates of Empowerment.
Unschoolers have experiences other homeschoolers don’t have.
Unschoolers know things that teachers can’t learn in or around school.
Unschoolers who start early enough can have relationships with their children for which there are hardly any words.
I hope you saw and felt some of that here over the past few days.
Thank you for coming and being part of this incomparable experience.