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Unschoolers ~ Is it ever ok to impose your will?

post #1 of 51
Thread Starter 
First, I want to say how cool it is to watch my child learn on his own. The other day he picked up a workbook we have and wanted to do a page in it where you name the animal then pick the letter that the animal name starts with. I didn't think he'd be able to do it because we've never done anything with recognizing letters in that way other than reading Dr. Suess' ABC book. He surprised me, though. He got every letter correct. He'll be 4 in January, by the way.

Now, on to my question. Please correct me on any of this if I'm wrong. The way I understand it, the main goal with unschooling is to allow my ds to learn what he wants when he wants and how he wants without imposing my will on him of what I think he should do when. The other thing is to recognize that children learn through everything they do, even "just" playing. How does this translate into toys? If my ds wants a toy that I don't like or don't see any educational value in, is it wrong of me to refuse to buy it (assuming I can afford it)? I find myself at the store showing my ds the "educational" toys that I will buy for him and trying to steer him away from Diego or Elmo or the Backyardigans guitar that's just buttons to push that make sound for you. I told him I'd buy him a real guitar when I can afford it (probably either a Christmas or birthday present). Is this wrong of my because I'm imposing my idea of what I think is of value on him?
post #2 of 51
Quote:
Is this wrong of my because I'm imposing my idea of what I think is of value on him?

You'll likely get a mixture of answers to that question. *I* wouldn't do it because the reason we unschool comes from a desire to respect our kids' interests and thoughts and ideas. So, to impose my idea of what I think is of value to them would be contrary to that.

What we do do is to discuss things a lot. If my child was looking at a guitar with buttons, I might point out the one with strings and explain the differences. We've talked about brand names and do price comparisons, weigh the pros and cons of purchases, etc. But even if *I* think the real guitar would be better, they might disagree, or might just want something that has buttons to push. I believe they know best what they want/need. I'm there to share ideas, but the choice is theirs.

As far as "educational" toys go, I've actually found the things labeled "educational" to be pretty dull. Most of the stuff on the shelves is electronic abc drill or similar stuff that lacks imagination. I don't classify my kids' toys as "educational" or "just for play." That seems restrictive to me as they learn from all sorts of things.
post #3 of 51
I guess it would depend on how strongly you felt about unschooling, and how widely-spread in your lives you wanted it to be.

It sounds like you are thinking about how to respect and honor your child in more areas of their life than just education. So, keep thinking about it and contemplating it - and you will come to the right conclusion for your family.

In our family, we do not unschool in every aspect of our lives. Sometimes they simply must take a bath, help clean, aren't allowed to watch TV, etc. - but even when they don't have much choice in something, we find we can still accomplish respect and honoring of our children.

Have you heard of NVC (Non-Violent Communication)? This helps us when there is a conflict between what we need and what they want to do. Using this method of communication can help both us and them get to the root of what their needs our and ours and be able to come up with a solution that meets both.
post #4 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by MarineWife View Post

I find myself at the store showing my ds the "educational" toys that I will buy for him
I don't take my kids toy shopping, so that eliminates a lot of their wanting toys I'm not comfortable with. They aren't exposed to them in the first place.

I do give my children allowances, and they are allowed to spend them on things they want to buy (although I do impose some limits: no Bratz, for example, although that has never been an issue). My dd (5) has bought herself a giant Koosh ball, a Tinkerbelle dress-up outfit, and some plastic horses. My ds (4) has bought some Thomas trains and accessories. My dd (13) has bought a beach bag, some clothes, food, a movie, a purse. We ask that the kids know what they want to buy if they want to buy something; we don't take them to the store to browse.

Anyway, even though we unschool, we are not whole life unschoolers. I don't subscribe to the "there is value in everything" line of thought, and I also feel that it is my job/privilege as a parent to set the tone for our home. There are certain things that are so far outside my values system or comfort level that they are simply not allowed. And I don't think it makes me not an unschooler, it just means I am not a "radical" unschooler.

I have deliberately kept my kids away from junky, mass-marketed stuff, so they don't ask for it. When they do have the opportunity to play with those things, they tire of them quickly (just as, since I have consciously steered them toward quality books, they prefer them and don't enjoy junky ones).

To me, it's an issue of the type of life dh and I want for our family, and I don't see anything wrong with guiding my kids in that direction. Yes, my kids have some schlocky toys. But they were mostly gifts from other people, and the kids don't prefer them, and they are learning that schlock usually equals low-quality, easily broken, uninteresting toys.

dm
post #5 of 51
Quote:
Now, on to my question. Please correct me on any of this if I'm wrong. The way I understand it, the main goal with unschooling is to allow my ds to learn what he wants when he wants and how he wants without imposing my will on him of what I think he should do when.
This will only work so far. At a certain point , depending on the age and "grade" of the child he is going to have to learn certain core subjects. He is going to need to have good reading, writing, and math skills if he is ever going to want to go to college. You do not want to set your child up for unrealistic expectations in life. Sometimes we all have to do things we do not "want" to do. That said, during my child younger years, the core subjects were learned and things pertaining to science or history , art, or whatever were learned according to the childs interests. Now we are in the second year of high school and there are certain things that are required to learn to have a good transcript if my dc would like to go to college.
post #6 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by oliveoildog View Post
This will only work so far. At a certain point , depending on the age and "grade" of the child he is going to have to learn certain core subjects. He is going to need to have good reading, writing, and math skills if he is ever going to want to go to college. You do not want to set your child up for unrealistic expectations in life. Sometimes we all have to do things we do not "want" to do. That said, during my child younger years, the core subjects were learned and things pertaining to science or history , art, or whatever were learned according to the childs interests. Now we are in the second year of high school and there are certain things that are required to learn to have a good transcript if my dc would like to go to college.
Not an unschooler but want to chime in and say I disagree with you. Many "radical" unschoolers have had little to no problem getting into college. I know this because of experience and studies. I know many unschoolers who have never been forced core subjects but have had amazing scores on their SAT.
But, I totally understand why a parent would choose to push core subjects. Its our comfort level.
post #7 of 51
I am not 100% sure what you are asking...you said you were showing your child some specific toys you liked...did you think he would like them as well? I always 'introduce' my children to ideas, books, topics, movies that interest me, and I think might interest them. Conversely, my children introduce me to music, books, films, YouTude videos that I don't know exist. Some things interest me, some things don't. My kids aren't forcing their interests on me and I am not forcing mine on them. We share what we are thinking.

I've said before I don't think I am 100% an unschooler (although that is the best way to describe us) because I am pretty hands on with my ideas. (Which they can take or leave). I don't think there is anything problematic with saying "Hey, look. I think this microscope is interesting because (add your reasons)". Some people say that's not unschooling and some people say it is. What does your educational/life philosophy mean to you?

Questions to ask yourself, lables notwithsatnading: Were you forcing him to get something he didn't want? Did you disrespect his interest in something you felt was worthless/ didn't approve? (I can't get behind that, even if it is Diseny/Dora Princess/sword/whatever).

What was your will, and how did you impose at his expense?
post #8 of 51
Some of these things are pick your battles.

Diego isn't all bad he rescues animals....this leads to cool learning about animals, animal protection, et.


IMO if he likes the Backyardigans guitar he isn't physically capable of a "real" guitar. There is motor skills issues you have to consider. Trying to replace something he wants won't make him like your idea. Impose your will and your money to move on re-visit guitars when he is bigger. If you want him to get interested in real guitars/music instruments do by example.

He likes some of this stuff because it is flashy. I agree with keeping him out of toy isle. It reduces the I wants. Think of it like this you impose your will of what he eats by only providing him access to nutritious foods the same is with toys and TV.
post #9 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by beansricerevolt View Post
Not an unschooler but want to chime in and say I disagree with you. Many "radical" unschoolers have had little to no problem getting into college. I know this because of experience and studies. I know many unschoolers who have never been forced core subjects but have had amazing scores on their SAT.
But, I totally understand why a parent would choose to push core subjects. Its our comfort level.
So far, I don't think any studies on hsers have separated radical unschooling and structured hsing, however. But I do think readical unschoolers who choose to take SATs would do pretty well, even without having studied core subjects their whole lives. But at some point, even RU will prepare.

Kids who do well on tests tend to 1. Be good test-takers, and 2. Exposed to the information on the tests.

So, even radical unschoolers scoring well would have prepped somehow for the SATs. The difference is that radical unschoolers made their own decision to study something for reasons that are personally important to them.
post #10 of 51
Thread Starter 
Thanks everyone. I should maybe clarify that what I consider educational toys aren't usually the toys that are commercially presented as educational. I do not like nor do I buy the electronic, computer, talking toys and the like. We have a few of those toys that were gifts that my ds hardly plays with at all. I am so completely opposed to the mass-commercialized stuff. I don't want to buy it just on principle alone. I also don't take my ds toy shopping. We had to go to the store yesterday to buy some baby supplies and, of course, all the stores that sell baby supplies also sell toys. My ds knows the stores have toys and asked if he could get something. I told him I'd buy him one inexpensive toy so we looked around. I'm not a shopper, anyway. I only go to the store if I need to buy something and I know exactly what I want.

"Were you forcing him to get something he didn't want? Did you disrespect his interest in something you felt was worthless/ didn't approve? (I can't get behind that, even if it is Diseny/Dora Princess/sword/whatever)." from UUMom

I guess this is part of my concern. I did not force him to get anything he didn't want but I refused to buy him many things that he did say he wanted. We kept looking until we found something we could both agree on, a small, rubber shark. I do have a very hard time expressing anything positive about those highly commercialized toys. I usually at least scowl if I don't outright say that I can't stand them, they are useless, etc.
post #11 of 51
Personally, I think there is a place for 'junk' and 'education' in every person's life. I don't think we should always be so quick to say what is junk and what is educational. I think there is room for both, and sometimes they can't be separated. I know lots of wonderfu, sweet, intelligent, respected children who have some pretty 'junky' toys. So what, imo. (Human rights violations and lead notwithstanding, of course). One of the greatest, smartest, kindest 19 yr old girls I know was a *Barbie* freak when she little. She is doing Peace Corps (It's actually not the peace corps-- but something like that. I can't recall the name of the program right now) work before she starts college. Her mother was so uncomfortable with it for a few years, but she trusted her child to know her own play needs. There are a lot of emotions etc to be worked out in doll play-- even if the dolls do have weird plastic boobs.

That said, I probably wouldn't bring a young child to a toy store unless we knew why we were there to begin with. We go when 1. The child has saved up for something (and that's not about me) particular. 2. We know we need a certain lego set or a new board game. Toy store browsing is pretty dangerous. Although, we have gone to look for fun, and with agreement that we were just going to windowshop.
post #12 of 51
I've always tried to show the kids their options. I'm all about options and seeing what is available before making a decision, so I have passed some of that on to the kids I think. I've shared the things that I usually think about when making a purchase. Things like: how sturdily made is it, have things like this kept my interest long in the past, is it always going to need batteries and is that practical for me, is it worth the money/what else can I buy with that amount, etc. What do I like about it? What don't I like about it?

Sometimes we just buy something and run with it though.

I don't really think it's appropriate for me to impose my want on things like style or brand. If my child has money, or I can afford what they want without issue (being able to afford big things is a rarity for us most often) then so be it.

Certain brands, like Bratz or Disney stuff aren't off limits here. I bought Dd her first Bratz doll actually. I share any concerns about the thing, and we talk. We don't think kids must have all or even mostly "educational" toys.
post #13 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by oliveoildog View Post
This will only work so far. At a certain point , depending on the age and "grade" of the child he is going to have to learn certain core subjects. He is going to need to have good reading, writing, and math skills if he is ever going to want to go to college. You do not want to set your child up for unrealistic expectations in life. Sometimes we all have to do things we do not "want" to do.
You might want to do a little bit of reading on the subject of unschooling! There are tons of threads here, and quite a bit of info on google and the like.
post #14 of 51
What UnschoolnMa said.
post #15 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by UnschoolnMa View Post
We don't think kids must have all or even mostly "educational" toys.
Neither do we. My kids have plenty of toys that wouldn't be considered "educational." But there is also a difference between "not educational" and "cheaply made, environmentally unfriendly, worker-exploiting schlock."

dm
post #16 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by dharmamama View Post
But there is also a difference between "not educational" and "cheaply made, environmentally unfriendly, worker-exploiting schlock."
Those are also things we talk about as part of our decision making process. But sometime we just can't find shoes or something particular that aren't made in China.
post #17 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by 4evermom View Post
Those are also things we talk about as part of our decision making process. But sometime we just can't find shoes or something particular that aren't made in China.
What about grown up 'toys'? Computers, cars, ipods, and other things that harm the earth in their creation & non-biodegradeability, and very often have the same questionable human rights issues, yet we don't deny ourselves these things. We are quite quick to disrespect our kids desires, however. A car, even a hybrid, or a computer that keeps needing 'upgrades' is doing far more damage to the earth than any one child's 'junk toy'.
post #18 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by UUMom View Post
yet we don't deny ourselves these things.
Well, I'd wager that some of us do. Some of us probably try very hard not to buy things we don't need, and we probably try to buy from the most worker/environmentally friendly sources if we do determine that we need or just simply want something. Perhaps some of us even try to make sure that these things are recycled/disposed of properly in the event that we cannot use them anymore.

All of these things can, of course, be done when buying children's toys, as well, but I think that the gist of most of these discussions is "my kid wants/keeps receiving schlocky junk, is it ok to say no?"

I think it's fine to say no, and I also think that the parents who worry about these things probably are the type who worry about their own purchases, as well.

I don't aspire to have zero impact, because I don't think it's possible in today's world. I don't, however, run out and buy slave-labor clothes for myself just because I like them, and I don't buy disposable everything just because it's convenient, and I don't generally buy my kids cheap, worker-unfriendly, environmentally unsound schlocky toys.

dm

ETA: I don't mean for this post to sound snarky. I'm not trying to draw a line between some people (implying myself) and other people (implying everyone else) in terms of how we make purchasing decisions. I was just saying that, this being MDC, I'd imagine that there are plenty of Mommas who DO deny themselves lots of things for environmental and human rights reasons. I know I do, but I am sure that there are many more here who are even more vigilant about it than I am. But I do think that the choices we make define our values, and for me personally, letting my kids purchase things that don't align with my values means I am no longer living my values. I don't think I hold my kids to a higher standard than I do myself.
post #19 of 51
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by UUMom View Post
What was your will, and how did you impose at his expense?
My will was that I do not like the plastic, electronic, commercialized toy that he wanted so, although I could afford it, I refused to buy it. I steered him toward the toys that I thought were good and told him I'd buy him one of those.
post #20 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by UnschoolnMa View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by oliveoildog View Post
This will only work so far. At a certain point , depending on the age and "grade" of the child he is going to have to learn certain core subjects. He is going to need to have good reading, writing, and math skills if he is ever going to want to go to college. You do not want to set your child up for unrealistic expectations in life. Sometimes we all have to do things we do not "want" to do. That said, during my child younger years, the core subjects were learned and things pertaining to science or history , art, or whatever were learned according to the childs interests. Now we are in the second year of high school and there are certain things that are required to learn to have a good transcript if my dc would like to go to college.
You might want to do a little bit of reading on the subject of unschooling! There are tons of threads here, and quite a bit of info on google and the like.
: Well said UnschoolnMa! :

Take Care,
Erika (I don't wear a fro, I'm just a sister who likes this smilie!):
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