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The balance between unschooling and chaos

post #1 of 40
Thread Starter 

OK, maybe not the perfect title, but here's the gist:

 

I was going to ask about other unschooling families' experience with untidiness, esp. toys (and things made into/ used as toys).  Then I realized that this is a much larger issue.  Unless you are a radical unschooler (and yes, I'd love to hear from you) there is much give-and-take in the course of a day.  OK, maybe even RU families, too (don't want to assume anything here!)

 

In child-led learning we indulge our kids *a lot* in what they want to do, and often what and when to eat, when to go to bed (I'm still a bit of a dictator on that one, I'm afraid), how much screen time.  Often I find this leads to demands-- snotty demands from my POV.  Obviously this give-and-take is part of the unschooling experience, part of (gasp!) SOCIALIZATION.  But it grates.

 

What the hell am I posting for?  Yeesh!  Just to vent I guess.  I know much of this has nothing to do with schooling vs. unschooling, etc.  To some extent, though, I think giving kids the relative freedom of an unschooling life can make this issue particularly difficult.

 

Am I making sense?  This is not a hair-puller for me, but I'd looove some support.

 

hammer.gif

 

post #2 of 40

 

 

A little story from yesterday.  DD has been on a bath kick - up to 2 a day.  Yesterday she managed to get the floor, bath mat and a towel absolutley drenched.  In the past I have cleaned it up - but I  have become a lot pickier in the last 6 months or so in insisting she clean up all her mess.  She had to bring all of them to the drier, turn it on and mop the floor.  I also had her do another 5 minutes of housework as it took me 5 minutes to supervise the cleaning  (and yes, she does need supervising or it would not get done).  

 

So.... you are fee to do what you want (I do not limit activities) but you must clean up after yourself.

 

With regards to attitude - I must admit I have had few problems in this area.  I do have some right now with my 12 yr old but I am going to chalk it up to being 12 for now.

 

I embrace consensual living more than I do USing in regards to attitude.  I do not take it to extreme, but otherwise it seems to work.  I approach it from a POV  of "what can we do so we both get our needs and wants met?"  

 

I also try to say yes a lot (I do not say no for the sake of it - ever) and that seems to lessen the frustration when I do say "no".

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

post #3 of 40
Thread Starter 

So right now I'm staring over the kitchen counter into the play room.  There is literally no place to step.  In busy weeks I take a broom from the back door and sweep a path from it to the kitchen into the living room and around.  Every couple of weeks I do "toy finding".  For this particular problem it's partly my fault.  My parents were pretty terrible in their methods to get me to clean my room, mainly involving verbal abuse and very little help.  Being a distracted child, I never could do it.  I swore I would never give my kids that kind of hard time.  The other part of the tidy-up-puzzle is that the girls (especially the youngest) make large, elaborate games out of many many toys (we have too many toys, not entirely my fault) and sometimes they will have these games going for *weeks*.  I like not having to dismantle this grand game.  Then normal busy-ness comes along and more games get piled on top.

 

So, the tidy-up is not too much of a trouble, though it's annoying sometimes.  I've tried making rules about at least putting toys into a basket before getting out another one, but I just don't have the stamina for a struggle, and I am still every bit the same person I was when I was 5-- distracted and not particularly tidy.

 

No, the real struggles come when my oldest gives me some sass.  Or when I am helping to set up a project for them, but they keep their demands going.  Demands.  I calmly correct, sometimes talking about how that makes me feel (actually it makes me feel pretty contrary, always being one for dropping everything and walking away, though I try not to do this with the girls).  But still the demands go on.  *Sometimes* they remember "please".  Or sometimes they demand "please."  How many years have I said it's the sweet asking and not the "please"?  That I probably won't even notice that the "please" is missing if you "put me in a helpful mood".  I've made this into a silly game.  Many different ways of encouraging polite requests.  They work, briefly, then it's back to the demands.

 

That's the part that is particularly related to our unschooling days.  The rest is typical parent-kid frustrations.  But I do try to handle it in way that is consensual as I can.  I want to give them more autonomy during their day, but in some ways it seems like the more autonomy they get, the more like a servant they treat me.  This might not be the cause and effect.  It could also be because I can be a very effective tyrant when I feel I need to be and they act like that too.

 

Yesterday afternoon was particularly bad, with raging, angry demands to READ.  I did walk away from that one, but where do I begin to cultivate more respectfulness amongst us?

post #4 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by SweetSilver View Post

 

 

Yesterday afternoon was particularly bad, with raging, angry demands to READ.  I did walk away from that one, but where do I begin to cultivate more respectfulness amongst us?



I hope other people answer as demands are not an area I have had much experience with.  

 

As per the above, i probably would have given a time period when I would read  - assuming they can tell time.  

 

for an older child:  I will read around 4:00  (and give the latest time - no one minds doing a fun thing early, but doing it later may cause some frustration)

 

for a younger child :  I will do it after I have done all the dishes.   If you help I will be able to read sooner !  If they bug you to read, remind them they can help with the chore so you get to reading faster.

 

Do you have further example?  I am not sure what you mean by sass and demand.

 

Would structure to you day help?  you know:

 

8-10 is free time

10-11 is clean up

11-12  is mommy/child activities (including reading)  etc

  

 

Lastly, you tidying sounds a little like mine.  I have been wondering lately if perhaps I have ADHD.  I am distractable, hate cleaning and do not seem capable of getting it done.  These are common traits of women with ADHD.    http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/1638.html  I have found being able to label this in myself somewhat helpful - it is great to feel that I am not just inept or undisciplined!

 

Good luck!

 

 

 

 

post #5 of 40
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by kathymuggle View Post
As per the above, i probably would have given a time period when I would read  - assuming they can tell time.  

 

for an older child:  I will read around 4:00  (and give the latest time - no one minds doing a fun thing early, but doing it later may cause some frustration)

 

for a younger child :  I will do it after I have done all the dishes.   If you help I will be able to read sooner !  If they bug you to read, remind them they can help with the chore so you get to reading faster.

 

Do you have further example?  I am not sure what you mean by sass and demand.

 

Would structure to you day help?  you know:

 

8-10 is free time

10-11 is clean up

11-12  is mommy/child activities (including reading)  etc

  

 

Lastly, you tidying sounds a little like mine.  I have been wondering lately if perhaps I have ADHD.  I am distractable, hate cleaning and do not seem capable of getting it done.  These are common traits of women with ADHD.    http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/1638.html  I have found being able to label this in myself somewhat helpful - it is great to feel that I am not just inept or undisciplined!

 

 


I have definitely noticed that I have symptoms of ADHD or ADD (what the heck is the difference?)  To top off what you've described, I need a fair amount of calm to focus.  And when I get upset I need the quiet and calm of a cocoon or I just can't deal.  Definitely the opposite of what the girls give me, and thus my reason for walking out from screaming demands, not for any need to punish them.  It is an act of self-preservation.

 

I do some of what you suggest, some days I have better luck than others.  Really, my kids are pretty young still and much of this is to be expected.

 

Today we were sitting reading Garfield By the Pound on the couch.  Someone suggested snacks, with a "Mama, could you make me a biscuit?"  Perfect.  I had been thinking about snacks myself, so I offered to get some snacks.  Not 2 minutes getting the snacks I get a "Mama, READ!"  That one was pretty easy, pointing out what I was doing.  This is just a matter of teaching manners, appreciating when others do you a favor, etc.  

 

Last week was more along the "homeschooling" lines.  We had just read and I was helping getting the girls set up doing whatever project or game.  While I was helping to collect what my youngest needed, she started really griping about "finding the binoculars."  Totally not part of the game she wanted help setting up.  Now I was getting yelled at for not doing a 180 and finding the binoculars.  I was a little worn out from fulfilling requests (in a much advertised bid to have time to tidy the kitchen) and her demands just wore me down.  

 

A little background on this one.  *She* makes 90% of all the toy mess then if she loses one tiny toy she has an amazing tantrum.  (Age appropriate, I know).  I have a choice, help look for it for the 5th time that day (I'm not exaggerating) or drop everything to deal with this tantrum.  (She was like that since *the day* she was born and first learned about that nipple.  She cried in a way that prompted every adult to fall into line with a "yes ma'am!".)  Dealing with her tantrums is a serious commitment.  You do not say "no" to her about these things without writing off the rest of the day.  Again, I am not exaggerating.  Luckily she is not a brooding grump like my oldest.  (OK, I'm in a sour mood.  I'm being pretty harsh here.)

 

Things would be a bit easier if I felt like they hear me talk about this stuff.  (Are they too young for that?)  They are pretty good at ignoring me.  They have their spats--daily it seems--and I pretty much stick to the sidelines.  Eventually, somehow, they work something out.  Great!  But I'm feeling a bit like an accessory here.  

 

Well, thanks for hearing my vent anyway.  Summertime schedules always mess us up.  Because extras like gymnastics cater to school kids this get jostled around come June, then again in September.  4-H starts October.  Camping is done.  I hope that reestablishing our schedules will help make creating routines easier.  I just hate adding extra rules.  Routines, yes.  If they need to become rules, well, that takes a lot of effort.  I'm still trying to get them to brush teeth in the morning (winning that one, slowly).  So much to do.....

 

post #6 of 40

I struggle with all of this myself.  How old are your kids?  I find that my 10 y.o. within the last year has really turned a corner in terms of being able to step up and be helpful and see the bigger picture.  Her almost 7 y.o. sister, not so much.

 

Some things that help me are:

 

-Having some zones that I/we try to keep clutter free.  For example, I really discourage doing projects on the dining room table, because then it can be hard to sit down and have a calm meal together.  I find that if there are even a few clear spaces it makes all the difference.  If they want to set something up that's going to last for days (or weeks), it needs to be in their room or in the basement playroom.

-Getting rid of stuff.  As much as possible.  Really, this has made the biggest difference for us.

-Staying up 15 or 30 minutes at the end of the day and tidying.  I listen to an audiobook so that makes it feel like less of a chore. Starting the day with a clean slate can transform how things go for us.  I don't do it all the time, but when I can make it happen it really makes all the difference.

 

It's still a challenge, but I do find that it's gotten better as my kids have gotten older.  good luck!

post #7 of 40
Thread Starter 

My kids are 6.5 and nearly-5.  Getting rid of stuff is a bit of a dance, ongoing.  My youngest has a really good memory and is quite attached to even basic things.  She will play with every toy eventually.  So I quietly tuck things into the closet of the "little bedroom".  They hold there for a while or forever until I feel I can safely get rid of things.  Kitchen floor is off-limits, unless the game is at the sink and the dining room is OK.  Bedroom stays clear for dust mite control.  (That's probably a big part of our tidiness problem, all the toys are in the living areas, but the bedroom has to be an allergy-free zone.)

 

Morning starts with a video for the girls, computer and newspaper and coffee time for me.  Then the girls are off playing.  Sometimes, on good days, this goes and goes and goes.  Other days, quite often, it ends quickly with brooding and fights.  Not unexpected, given their ages.  I am always able to sit down and read at this point, if they want.  I like the idea of a guaranteed reading time, just like bedtime, but the reality is that some days and some times they don't feel like being interrupted.  Reading aloud can really disrupt another's game.  I try to get some of the play into the little bedroom, but no one wants to play there.  Every day is pretty different.  I do think it would be helpful to get some more rhythm in somehow during the middle part of the day, perhaps starting with a regular lunch time (my evil, cynical half is laughing at me for saying that, excuse me while I beat it into submission!)

 

The demands happen at any time.  Sometimes I just pretend not to hear until they ask politely.  When my patience is thin I'm really sensitive to the bossiness--like when I've spent 2 hours reading with them on the couch (my grumpy older one calms down with reading, so if she's in a grumpy mood all day I either have to sit and read, sit and knit and get whined at, or simply go about my activities and get yelled at.)   But if the energy is high, I'll spend a few minutes getting them set up with an activity before doing some chores.  This is when I get grumpy when the demands start--when I'm already doing something for them and especially after the situation mentioned above.  

     When I already operate on a child-led learning philosophy I *feel* like I am indulging them to the nth degree and this is nurturing the bossiness.  Because I *will* give them the binoculars to look at the kittens across the street.  Because I *will* lend them the camera.  Because I will figure out a way for all of us to fit into the kitchen sink.  If they have the idea (and it doesn't involve painting the house with mud), I will help make it happen if they want.  Maybe I need to set things up in a way where they can help themselves more?  But is that teaching them to speak respectfully to me?  Are *my* bossy moments teaching them bad habits?  I had to pile the kids into the car against their will (and with much screaming and kicking) to meet one of the contractors at our property and ended up giving up my second cup of coffee ("naughty coffee").  DD1 wanted to punish me.  Was that a fair trade?  I chalked it up to negotiation, but did I just encourage more of this?

post #8 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by SweetSilver View Post

 

 

     When I already operate on a child-led learning philosophy I *feel* like I am indulging them to the nth degree and this is nurturing the bossiness.  Because I *will* give them the binoculars to look at the kittens across the street.  Because I *will* lend them the camera.  Because I will figure out a way for all of us to fit into the kitchen sink.  If they have the idea (and it doesn't involve painting the house with mud), I will help make it happen if they want.

 

 

I really like this.  I did this, too.  I think it really help cultivate a sense of empowerment, love of learning, etc.  It is, however, draining.  I would not recommend stopping from doing this - but I would recommend some down time for you.  Can your partner take them out regularly?  Can you do a bit of stuff out of the house - if they paint at a drop in centre, or even on the porch, it won't destroy the house as much.    

 

Maybe I need to set things up in a way where they can help themselves more?  But is that teaching them to speak respectfully to me?  Are *my* bossy moments teaching them bad habits?  I had to pile the kids into the car against their will (and with much screaming and kicking) to meet one of the contractors at our property and ended up giving up my second cup of coffee ("naughty coffee").  DD1 wanted to punish me.  Was that a fair trade?  I chalked it up to negotiation, but did I just encourage more of this?

 

Gently - I think giving her power to decide how much coffee you drink is encouraging her bossiness.

 

I think it is fine to negotiate with DD on things that affect your DD - can she play in the yard by herself, what time can she stay up till, that sort of thing.

 

I think it is very inappropriate for her to try and negotiate with you how much coffee to drink.  It is your business.  

 

I am not surprised she is trying out intervening where she should not (everyone likes power!) but it is your job as mom to role model and set boundaries around what is your business and what is hers.

 

 

 



 

post #9 of 40

I have mama ADD to, i think i've always had it to some degree, i'm all over the place with my thoughts and things i want/try to get done. Like right now....i was making breakfast and was called to nurse the baby, now i'm on the computer and still havent finished breakfast. So i cant demand to much from my children when i cant even keep it together myself.

I do try a few things when i need toys to be picked up...."how fast can we put these in the basket" . I am very lucky that we live outside of America and children and toys is not an issue. We have access to little toys...so there are not that many. We also have a house helper who picks up things during the day.

When the house helper is  not here....she called in sick today....the house will be left to the powers that be...we will enjoy life and the mess that comes with it.

I would say we are about 95% radical unschoolers....we live life and that's about it! We have no restrictions at all....the children pretty much live life as we the parents do. Eat when and what they want as long as someone is available to fix it for them. They play and play and play. Watch TV as long as they want...game as long as they want....it all works out very well for us.

They go through periods of watching dvd's for a week or 2...all day....to playing outside for a week or 2..all day. They go with what their mind and body tells them.

Im so glad i found a name for how we live. Makes me feel normal in some aspects....:)

post #10 of 40
Thread Starter 

DH's schedule has eased up a bit, giving us some breathing room and calming some of the intensity of the trouble.  Now that it's calmer I have a little more time to think clearly and look at what has been different recently.  DH has been leaving the house before the girls wake up to beat the heat (he's a professional gardener.)  No wonder I've been getting yelled at to get out of bed in the morning!  I do get up, but I wake up as quickly as a log. I've trained my body not to fall back to sleep, but I need 10 minutes or so before I can haul my wooden a** out of bed.  

     We've needed a string of medications.  Staring with ringworm, then antibiotics for an infected bee sting, then impetigo and medication in the middle of the night baths most every day (up from one a week!)  Plus the realization that we are indeed going to move to our new house.  My oldest is very attached to this house.  My youngest is OK with this.  I sympathize.  I've moved many times in my life.

 

So, I understand the power struggles now.  I really like our routine of video only in the morning (that's for all of us) and how they *never* whine about having TV any other time.  So DH and I worked out another routine for treats.  This has turned out well, so far.  

 

I credit this turn around (temporary?) to a little reversal on my part, planting myself in view doing something like knitting and making myself seem more available, paying attention to their rhythms of activity, being more agreeable to reading.  Today I read from "Farmer Boy" while dd1 shelled dried peas for next year's seed.  

 

I've been putting a priority on doing a yoga video, mine or theirs, even for just 15 minutes.  Our more open schedules have given me time to go for my "lonely walk".  I forget how healing this time is for me, like a meditation.  Walking yoga.  Remembering to breathe now and again.

post #11 of 40

I *SO* hear you on this one.

post #12 of 40
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by NellieKatz View Post

I *SO* hear you on this one.


I was thinking about this thread the other night.  We had a *great* day of free play and stories, very child-led but not much trouble.  I even convinced dd2 to help me clean up some toys in our (momentarily) pristine playroom before she went outside.  Victory!  (Momentary, of course.)  Then bedtime.  Sooo much trouble corralling these kids.  So much sass and unmindfulness.  Being summer, I tried giving them bedtime autonomy but we just had major meltdowns.  (Maybe I'll try again next summer).   So, I have trouble with this.  I give them so much freedom to direct their days, then when it comes time for them to be mindful I can have a really hard time (usually only at home, out and about they seem fine.)  I almost (but not really) believe that you need to say "no" just to get them used to it!  

 

I should have called this thread "The balance between unschooling and mutiny"!!

post #13 of 40

Are you me? Am I posting things under your name? It seems it! You and I apparently have the very same thing going on....

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by SweetSilver View Post

 Victory!  (Momentary, of course.)  Then bedtime.  Sooo much trouble corralling these kids.  So much sass and unmindfulness.  Being summer, I tried giving them bedtime autonomy but we just had major meltdowns.  (Maybe I'll try again next summer).   So, I have trouble with this.  I give them so much freedom to direct their days, then when it comes time for them to be mindful I can have a really hard time (usually only at home, out and about they seem fine.)



 

post #14 of 40
Thread Starter 

NellieKatz, it's good to know I'm not alone in the world.  I would love to hear your story.

 

Today was something of a victory for us.  Not only did I get the house completely tidied, but I had some help doing it!  I will bask in the momentary victory and won't get my hopes up.  Here's the background on today.  DD2 is the main trouble with the toy mess.  Her games can become....epic.....that's the only word for it.  I am both proud of her phenomenal ability to create games and make every toy in our home feel wanted and dismayed by the impact of her creativity.  The other day, in one of those quiet-and-everybody-busy-with-their-own-stuff kinda mornings, I go into the living room and find that she has emptied the contents on EVERY BOARD GAME IN THE HOUSE into her shopping cart and was playing with all the bits and pieces (she'll be 5 in October).  Jumping Pixies, Parcheesi, Sequence, Quirkle Cubes, Primo Calculino, Secret Door, checkers, playing cards, Go Fish cards, di, Hi Ho Cherrio (I know!  Frightening....) and I'm sure there were others.  I was a bit shocked and overwhelmed since the playroom was also a mess.  But this game kept her quietly busy for--I kid you not--3 hours!!  What is an unschooling parent supposed to do about this?  This game was going to be beyond her abilities to put away herself and a meltdown ensued until bedtime.

 

Well, next comes schedules and busy days then sick days (we've each taken a turn) and the house is a swamp of stuff.  Finally, I get the playroom clean.  Then I'm getting the corner clean that had every game out, plus pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, hairbands made into leashes with a bit of string, puzzle books, ribbon, all the detritus from so much playtime and she starts helping me sort out all the game pieces in their proper places, without be asked or told or anything.  I'm glad it was so much fun for her.  Plus, she was really mindful about cleaning up her games before I pulled out the watercolors, readied her watercolor set-up (Waldorf-style) all by herself.  She even tucked away all the Risk game pieces that have the misfortune of being shaped like horses and men and cannons.  DD1 actually helped put her game (her one favorite game) in baskets.  She doesn't make as many messes, but she is defiant and melodramatic about picking up the messes she makes.

 

So, for everyone reading our soap opera, there is a faint light at the end of the tunnel.  Hopefully it won't get obscured by the pileup at the end of a busy week.  I need that ray of hope!!  I will say this is all good practice for me.  If they ever leave the nest, my house will be as tidy as my grandmother's!

post #15 of 40

For us here, with three (8, 6, and 3) and another on the way, there is not often a wonderful balance that I feel good about. More so, we spend a day where I am totally engaged with the littles and feel great about active unschooling, and then the next day, I spend most of the trying to clean up the chaos from the day before :). More of a pendulum swing really. 

 

I am anal about games. I admit this. If a game comes out, it goes away when we are done with it. This is because we've invested a lot of money into having a good selection of games to play together and I want to be able to use them with all of their pieces intact :) 

 

I claim the living room for my own space in our house. We have a family bed still, and each of the kids have their own bedrooms as well, so their toys can fill their rooms to their own pleasure (although I do help them clean up once in awhile when the chaos feels overwhelming and they refuse to spend time in there. Toys are allowed in the living room, but when the game is over, the toys get cleaned up. Otherwise, I have no space in the house where I can be peaceful or tranquil (I have a really hard time sitting and reading, etc, if I am surrounded by chaos.) The kids are old enough now that I get them to help clean up most of the time (admittedly not always in the most patient of manners, but I'm working on that. I find that setting limits for one relatively clean space in the house (they also have a playroom they are free to fill with chaos), helps me to have less meltdowns and freak outs. They each have the space of their rooms, I don't. I feel like it's fair to ask for a space for me as well :)

 

Echoing what someone else said as well, it makes a huge difference to get rid of toys and clutter that we aren't using (this applies to my own clutter as well). I feel like the less possessions we have to trip over and clean up, the happier we are. (again, the pendulum swings here though...although I like that the kids are also learning to let go of things they don't really want or use, and can now go through their rooms and find those unwanteds.) The trick there becomes that I need to be willing to let go of the thing that they don't use that I bought for them because it was wood, handmade, and beautiful, as well as the plastic monstrosity noisemaking whatever :) 

 

 

post #16 of 40

Oh I feel you with a lot of stuff that's been mentioned.

The only thing that has really worked for us with regards to the scattered toys everywhere (arg, do they even play with them or do they just tip them over the floor for us to walk over?) is to GET RID OF AS MANY AS POSSIBLE! But that's easier said than done when you're like me and like to hang onto everything just *in case* you might want/need them one day.

Where we live though there are many underpriviledged children which helps to motivate us to donate toys we don't really use.

 

They also have their "play room" which I try contain the mess too...rather unsuccessfully some days, but at least there's one main room for the chaos and if I don't have time for a clean up I can just chuck things in the pile in that room and have the rest of the house looking ok.

 

I do have my Dad busy building a toy storage unit which I am hoping will solve some of my problems, fingers crossed!

 

Other than that I still have basic boundaries I expect my children to follow.  We don't have many rules as such, but we have time to play, time to eat, time to bath (they aren't strict and hard times, but more a rhythm to our day)...also I expect them to treat other people, animals and property with respect.  I tried having a time to clean up...but it was too painful, so it's a work in progress lol.gif

post #17 of 40
Thread Starter 

Oh, yeah, the "time to clean up" is easier said than done sometimes.  I suspect that the mamas who say, "Well, I've just always had them put away a game before another one came out" never had much difficulty in getting their kids on board.  (It also helps to be good about it yourself.  I tend to be a bit of a slacker about tidying up when I have other things going on.)   My girls resisted from very beginning.

 

I remember that "dumping it out" stage, and it is incredibly frustrating.  My girls are beyond that now thankfully.  Now their games are just simply colossal.  When they started these mega-games with every toy in the house they called it a "festival" and they would eventually have them all lined up in a parade.  One *huge* parade.  

 

Yes, the issues about receiving and keeping toys are huge.  I do keep a fairly steady trickle of possessions headed out the door.  Extended family gifts make the toy issue tricky, doesn't it?  For some reason, convincing Grandma to give us a Children's Museum membership instead of a toy hasn't been received with enthusiasm.  But this issue shouldn't have to be about the number of toys.  If the tidiness happens, it happens regardless.  (Think about it.  Theoretically it shouldn't matter..... theoretically..... Sheepish.gif)  I do dream about the storybook Laura Ingalls with just her paper dolls, her rag doll and her little wooden man.  Makes a "festival" a little less overwhelming!

 

The last few days I've been a stickler about keeping the floor clear and it's exhausting keeping up with it.  It is nice having a tidy house, but I just want to sit down and kick back for a while.  But no, I have some momentum and I'll try to keep up with it.  What's difficult is that it hasn't been a huge priority for me, but now it has to be because their games can get out of hand very quickly and all it takes is 2 or 3 busy days in a row and we will need another month to climb back out of it.  (Quite literally it seems sometimes!)

 

 

 

 

post #18 of 40
Thread Starter 

  I'm still hoping to hear from some radical unschoolers on this issue as well.  I lean more in that direction on the unschooling spectrum and wonder if you think that kids get used to directing their day so much that they resent and resist parental intrusion more than other kids.  I mean, compared to families who keep unschooling in the realm of education.  (OK, that's a problematic statement on so many levels, but I hope you get my meaning.)

post #19 of 40

I'm not really sure whether my perspective is as a radical unschooler or a not-quite-unschooler. We have always had child-led bedtimes, no assigned chores, no top-down parental rule-setting. So in that sense we are a radical unschooling family. But in other ways we look more like not-quite-unschoolers: my kids have often chosen to do regular academic book-work, they take music lessons and practice every day, we are pretty much a TV-free family, for example.

 

Anyway, for what it's worth, here's my story. When my eldest was about 9 I felt I was reaching a crisis point in terms of chaos and my kids seemed aimless and difficult to live with. I decided to spend my parenting energy not on reining in the chaos or controlling their aimlessness with a schedule and parental expectations, but working on our family dynamics. I was pretty sure that we were not necessarily following our bliss as much as we were aimlessly following a rut we were stuck in. The kids flitted all day from mess to mess. I was wrapped up in trying to contain the mess and help everyone get along. Were we really all doing what made us happiest? I didn't think so, so I resolved to provide some leadership within the family so that we could become happier, so that we could figure out "how to make our family work better." I framed it for myself as a year-long project. I would put relationships first and hope that the rest (the mess, the aimlessness) would fall into place as a result.

 

The crux of it for us was family meetings. I would serve hot chocolate and muffins and announce "Hey, family meeting time!" and they came willingly. And at least once a week for that whole year we talked about how to make our family and home a better, easier, happier place. Not "how to make mommy pleased" or "how to tidy up better." Those topics would have been all about my demands and my needs. Instead we gradually identified the values that we all felt were important. A certain degree of tidiness emerged as a value everyone shared. For instance, once I got the kitchen sparkling clean and tidy, and everyone remarked at Family Meeting how awesome it was to be able to see the counter and find clean places for food prep and have clean cutlery and know where everything was. So through natural learning the kids discovered they enjoyed order in the kitchen. Over subsequent meetings we gradually identified a bunch of different strategies for creating and maintaining that order. For a week we would try one approach at their suggestion. If that worked, great! If it didn't work, or wasn't sufficient, we'd look at other strategies and change something up the next week. The suggestions most often came from the kids. And surprisingly, if they were involved in the discussion as equals, they were incredibly reasonable.

 

Within two or three months we had developed a set of themes of family harmony and balance that became our standing agenda for meetings, things we'd touch on every week to see how we were doing and discuss improvements if necessary. For us these were things like balance of active and sedentary pursuits, reasonable housekeeping of common areas, balanced nutrition, balance of social and solitary time, sleep-wake balance, balance of in-home and out-of-home time and so on. 

 

The real magic in these meetings was in realizing that we were really all on the same side. We all wanted a happy, smoothly-functioning family and home. We were all working towards that end. It was no longer a case of parents seeing kids as uncaring and self-absorbed people living only in the moment, and kids seeing parents as intrusive task-masters always trying to interrupt the fun. We saw each other as all struggling towards the same common values, each with our own challenges.

 

We have never really solved all our problems. We still have family meetings and we still need to work away at elements of chaos and imbalance in our household. Sometimes it all gets away from us and we struggle from a pit of chaos and ill-will to get back on track. Sometimes it seems like as soon as we get a handle on one thing another slips away. It's always a work in progress. 

 

But I really think it's been the right approach for us. We see each other as human beings, we see the difficulties we share through each others' eyes, and we are constantly engaged in working towards mutually agreeable solutions. It's the best life-learning of all.

 

Miranda

post #20 of 40
Thread Starter 

Thank you, Miranda.  It doesn't feel right to me, all these top-down solutions, even though they aren't particularly draconian compared to other households.  I am not enjoying reminding them to clean up before getting down another game.  Sometimes it works beautifully, and I'm always happy to help because I like help with my work as well.  It's when I get resistance that something feels wrong to me.  Not just that it's hard work.  I am really, really good at fighting the good fight if need be.  It just feels wrong, that's all I can express.  I see unschooling as not just dealing with education.  I feel it in my heart that it is much, much more, but when I've let things "go" it just gets crazy and no one is that happy with it.

 

I have wanted family meetings, but my husband resists.  I want him to read your post.    I've gotten more organized as a parent and an adult, this could be my next motivation.  Seriously, for me it's a victory to have dinner on every night before 7pm. (My sister is confounded as to why this should be a problem.  I lovingly described her a Portobello Wellington I ate at Cafe Flora in Seattle, she said, "Why don't you make it for dinner?"  She who has the kitchen spotless before the Thanksgiving turkey is on the table with no help in the kitchen whatsoever....)  I have made it my goal these last two years to create habits for myself that would help with homeschooling.  I've had great success; I've really incorporated these pretty well.  Clearly, I still have a long way to go, but I'm happy to keep learning.  

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