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I need help deschooling myself- radical unschoolers, please help!

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 

So we have been unscshooling for almost 6 months now, I was hesitant to try radical unschooling, but it has become more and more apparent that other forms of discipline are not in line with our values. It has been so hard though.  I feel most of the time like I don't know what I'm doing, I'm finding myself acting like my mother as a default, and I don't know how to stop being like her. I also don't know how to trust myself and feel confident that what I am doing is the right thing, that ds will end up ok, and not a total brat.


I guess I want to know how to change myself. How do I deschool? How do I change the way I think about my son and our relationship so that our relationship can be healthy? He often says he doesn't want me around, when we were visiting family this weekend he asked me to go into a different room almost every time I tried to be near him, and this makes me so sad. It is even sadder because I sort of feel the same way, I am so tired of interacting with him in the way that we normally do. It seems like every suggestion/comment/conversation ends up in an argument, and I am NOT a nitpicking mother, I am extremely laid back. I think that he wants more freedom, but if I give it to him he acts terrible (screams a lot, is mean, throws tantrums etc.). Other times he seems to respond well (meaning he behaves very nicely) to a more restrictive parenting style. And yes, I go back and forth because I start to question myself. :(


I would like to hear others thoughts, especially unschooling parents, but any advice would be appreciated. Oh yeah, I'd also like to hear about other parent/children deschooling experiences...?

post #2 of 23

You might get more responses if you link to this thread in the unschooling forum; however I will leave this here too since it is a discipline related question.

post #3 of 23

How old is your son?


Radical unschooling does not translate into a uniform approach to discipline. Discipline can be a hotly debated issue in radical unschooling discussions.


I think most parents would agree that if you are miserable and your child is miserable and you don't enjoy being around each other, something needs to change.


So with that in mind I would want to know more about the specific behavior of him wanting you to leave the room. When did this start? Does this happen in every room?



post #4 of 23

I wish I had more time to write. I can identify with your lost feeling.


As for when he says he doesn't want you around, I suggest you just honor that, even if it makes you sad. One of my own guiding principles has been that my child has the freedom to like me or not. If he hates me at any particular moment, I don't try and fix that or force myself into his space. He might even be using a strong word like "hate" when he really just means he's mad and wants some space. Sometimes kids don't know how much impact certain words can have.


And this, I can really identify with: 

"I think that he wants more freedom, but if I give it to him he acts terrible (screams a lot, is mean, throws tantrums etc.). Other times he seems to respond well (meaning he behaves very nicely) to a more restrictive parenting style. And yes, I go back and forth because I start to question myself. :("


We had this whole freedom debate too. As a result we have sort of arrived at a compromise....he has lots of freedom in some areas, like how he spends his time at home (outside of my screentime limitations, that is). I don't micromanage or suggest things for him to do. He is free to twiddle his thumbs or draw pictures or , like today, dash outside in his pajamas to chase squirrels. I don't care, unless there's something pressing that has to be done.


Anyway, I could talk about this all day and anyone who knows me, knows that given half a chance, I *WILL*   :-)

I have to close down my computer now to run an errand, but feel free to send me a private message any time. I'd love to help.

How old is your son?

post #5 of 23

My first thought is that your ds is seeing if he can make you leave. "Do I have this power?" Lawrence Cohen's "Playful Parenting" addresses this extensively.


What I'd try is making it a game, He says "leave the room" and you start talking about how you really want to stay and you try to stay but you are pushed out by an invisible force (think miming a wind storm, leaning forward, but walking backward), then when you're out, play "I'm going to come back in to be with my snuggle bug(whatever affectionate nickname you have for your ds)!" and then pretend there's a forcefield on the doorway and bounce off. "Pleeeease let me in!  Give him a "mom remover" power (through dialog) "oh no!! the MOM REMOVER!"


What you're looking for is him to interact with you in the context of the game. So instead of it being about him pushing you away because of not wanting a connection, it's about connecting through a game.


You could also change things up by pretending that he has the mom remover (or whatever) stuck on reverse and that it's sucking you right into him. "Oh no! The mom remover, hey, wait a minute, Yay! It's pulling me in this time!"


Goal: Utter goofiness.



Note: I had the feeling from your post that he gets into that mood at times when it doesn't seem like he's actually mad at you. If he is actually mad, then I'd ask if he is mad and wants space. Actually verbalize what you're doing instead of just following his orders and letting him feel that he can make his mother abandon him with a word.

post #6 of 23

I think that playful approach needs to be used very carefully. If my son were acting out because of a legitimate, strong feeling that he was having, and I made a joke out of it, it would blow up x100, and rightly so. He is very intense and wants to be taken seriously (as do I) so playfulness in some settings would be seen as mockery....fuel on the fire.


On the other hand, if the time is right, the playful approach works wonders. Discernment is key.   :-)

post #7 of 23
Thread Starter 
My son is 6 years old. We are expecting a new sibling in a few weeks too. The asking me to leave does not happen all the time, he usually wants me away when we are at a family member's home, or out of our own house. He doesn't mind hanging out with me when we are at home. My partner thinks this is because he wants to enjoy the time away from the house and with others without me interfering. I think this is part of it, but I also think it also has to do with a dislike of me too. His behavior was fine, he was not misbehaving in anyway (that I know of) , he just would see me coming into the room and say "mom, will you leave?" It's not the circumstances that surround his question, it is that he doesn't want me around sometimes. Maybe I shouldn't be so sensitive? NellieKatz: our sons do sound very similar. Your approach seems to be what I am moving more towards, but I wish I didn't have to be restrictive at all. But it's silly, I don't want to be restrictive, so I will let a behavior go on until it starts to drive me crazy, then I nitpick, and then we are arguing over everything. That's the thing too, when I am less restrictive EVERYTHING turns into an argument. I wish I had more time to type, but I am at the library, so I have to go for now. Thanks for the input, and commiseration!!
post #8 of 23

Hmmm... I have no insight on unschooling, but I don't think you're wrong to feel hurt when he asks you to leave the room as soon as you enter.  Wouldn't you feel hurt if a friend or anyone else did that (unless you walked in on them in a private place like the bathroom or something)?  I think it would be a good idea to talk to him about how it makes you feel when he says that.  Sometimes, in a place that's open to everyone (say the living room), barring special circumstances, it's not really anyone's place to say "will you leave" as soon as someone enters the room.  I think I'd want to be sensitive of giving my child his space, but at the same time I don't think it's really acceptable (to me at least, or probably in most society) to say that to someone as they enter the room.  Maybe you could brainstorm with him of ways of dealing with this issue that are acceptable to both of you.  Maybe that would mean him having a word with you *before* he went into a certain room that he was looking for some time alone.  And/or him having to deal with the fact that it's hurtful and not ok to exclude you in the context of a family gathering, or that he needs to find a different way of talking to you about it than a curt "will you leave" when he sees you at the door.  I'm not even sure what the unschooling philosophy of discipline is (if there is just one), but shouldn't it also include basic respect for other people?  Or would you like your own family philosophy to include basic respect for other people? 

post #9 of 23

My first inclination is to ask whether he's getting his social needs met?  I am not an unschooler or even a homeschooler, so I am coming at this from a pretty different perspective, but I know my kiddo and I get really sick of each other if she doesn't have some time away from me or just with other kids (like a play date or some time at the Y or a museum).  I don't take it personally at all.  I get that way with my DH and I love him to pieces.  I think some children really thrive on social interactions.  My kiddo goes to preschool and ballet and a church nursery and sometimes the Y nursery and the library and our children's museum and usually some playdates.  Usually we do all of these things in a week.  I know that this sounds whacky and over scheduled to a lot of people, but it really is how we're at our best.  


I also am a really strong believer in following our children's leads.  If he's at his best when you set limits and are restrictive, follow his lead.  I think you can set limits in a kind and gentle way that respects him.  

post #10 of 23

Does he have time away from you? We are fortunate to have the ILs nearby, so both dds get time with them and not us, as well as occasional times apart from each other with their grands. I really think that's essential for all of us.


There was a period when dd1 was almost 4 and she was impossible to be around. She challenged everything I said or did, refused to cooperate with me at every opportunity, etc etc etc. I got so fed up and at my wit's end that I decided to enroll her in preschool to see how well somebody else could do with her. Turned out she LOVED preschool and as soon as she started, her behavior changed a lot. I think what she needed was to assert her independence and separation from me. That happened to be one way allow her to do it.


Now she is in KG and I do have lots of reservations about school. I'm definitely not sure it will always be the best option. But, I do think at least for that period it was exactly what she needed.

post #11 of 23

 It's really hard to know what is going on without more info like what your previous discipline method or philosophy was, what type of education history he has, what do you mean my "I'm finding myself acting like my mother as a default". 


I started out what a consentual living type philosophy without knowing that is what it was called before I learned about unschooling, but I've never had a child in a classroom so I have no experience with deschooling. I can see how it would be really confusing for him to go from a structured school environment to RU ( if that is the case here)

post #12 of 23
Thread Starter 

Sorry I haven't given much information, I try to write while I'm at the library, so my internet time is pretty short.  He has been in school until now.  I was working full time, was a single mom,  and we rarely saw each other.  His environment was MUCH more restrictive.  Acting like my mother= yelling, whining at him, just interactions that are in general showing him that I am annoyed :( .  


I think you all are onto something, that we are spending too much time together.  He is VERY social, but we have moved to a new city, and are still trying to find good friends for him.  We go swimming at a recreation center by us, to homeschool meet ups/field trips, but that is pretty much it.  Richella, I have thought about putting him back in school, but I think for me it's for all the wrong reasons (not saying that your decision was wrong AT ALL). 


post #13 of 23

Did he want to stop going to school? Does he say that he likes unschooling? 

Are you still working?

post #14 of 23
Moving to Unschooling Forum
post #15 of 23

Sounds to me like your son is experimenting with independence. I think it's quite normal for kids to go through stages where they want to feel independent of their parents. If I were in your situation I'd simply say "okay, I'll be out here if you need me" and leave it at that. I don't think it has anything to do with him disliking you (of course I am only going on what you've posted). I think it's so important to validate and respect our children's feelings. Often when my kids are mad at one of us they'll say something like "You are out of the family!" or "I wish I didn't have any parents" or even "I hate you!" (though this is uncommon, it does happen). Kids have all the same complex emotions that adults do, but with very limited vocabulary to express exactly how they are feeling. Expressions like "that's STUPID" can result from being uncomfortable with something, angry or frustrated, upset and frightened, etc.


As for the RU thing, to do a style of discipline that you were not raised with is sort of like learning a new language. You need to spend time reading about different scenarios and how others have handled it. Hang around people who practice that style of discipline and observe how they deal with various situations. Eventually you get a feel for it, but it is important to learn some basic coping skills for common situations and conflicts. There's an RU board somewhere out there, Google it, and they can provide lots of support and advice.



post #16 of 23
Originally Posted by Natalya View Post
  Richella, I have thought about putting him back in school, but I think for me it's for all the wrong reasons (not saying that your decision was wrong AT ALL). 


I wasn't at all sure at the time that it wasn't for all the wrong reasons! I hated it, like I had failed at homeschooling before even trying. Plus other family dynamics made it hard for me to concentrate strictly on what was best for dd, and ignore other people's opinions. I really wanted to prove to certain people that we could do it, and better than the school system. But I had to let go of that. Then it all turned out to be good.


. . . then today she REALLY didn't want to go to school, I wasn't sure why, and she cried all the way there, so now I get to wonder if this is right for her now. Isn't it part of being a conscious parent, that we always question everything we do?

post #17 of 23

I would not leave a room because a child (or adult - unless it was their house of course) asked me too.  I wouldn't follow someone to a room who clearly wanted alone time or private time...but I am not leaving a communal room that numerous people are hanging out in because my child wants me to.  Not to sound harsh - but I do not think we do anybody any favours by supporting our children in acting like tyrants.


Now the fact that he wants you gone needs to be addressed.  I would let him know it is Ok to want alone time (we all do!) but he needs to go to his room or some other quiet place to get his alone time.  It is hurtful and innappropriate to try and kick people out of rooms.  He is the one with the issue - he needs to remove himself.


I am more of a consensual lifer than a RU - but I think we help children to be empowered and  to take ownership of their rights and their life by taking/ role model ownership of ours.  

Edited by purslaine - 12/4/10 at 6:09am
post #18 of 23
Thanks for posting additional info, I don't know that you are spending too much time together, it sounds like a pretty normal transition period because he is coming from a highly structured environment and he probably is unsure what is expected of him now. A little bit fish out water.
post #19 of 23

new to homeschooling myself, but I have to say that I think it may be a bit of a respect issue that needs to be addressed. I agree with Kathy, if my kids acted that way i would tell them that it is not OK to talk to me that way.Maybe because he came from such a stuctured enviroment he's is acting out a bit to see where the new boundries are. I've always felt that its alright to let my kids know when they say or do something hurtful, that they need to know that their actions caused this feeling or that one. Sorry, this is my first time back to the forum in a long time and I'm a bit out of the loop. BTW, what is "radical unschooling"?

post #20 of 23

I just wanted to add to my previous post that I was assuming the situation to be a bit different than others did. I was assuming that the boy was off in another room playing with other kids and the Mum went in to check on him and he asked her to leave.


If the child was in the same room as everybody else, like where a social gathering was taking place (or where the mum wanted or needed to be for a certain reason) then I wouldn't just leave b/c the child asked me to. Instead, I would start a conversation that went something along the lines of "I want to be in this room b/c I am (talking with your Aunt, watching a show, etc)", if you want to be alone you can go to (the Den, the playroom the kids room, etc)". The key here is to validate what the child is feeling, perhaps help them express those feelings in a way that is socially acceptable or not hurtful if that is the case, then work with the child to come up with a solution that meets everybody's need.


It's not about "giving in to the child", it's about honouring what they are feeling and giving them the skills to express their needs in a respectful way and then working to find a solution that works for everybody involved.

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