Unschooling and clothing - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 14 Old 09-23-2010, 03:44 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I have 4-1/2 yo twin boys. We live what would be considered a radical unschooling lifestyle. We don't have a specific bedtime, we don't limit screen time or have food restrictions. It's working out GREAT for us. Because of the trust and freedom, the boys seem to be making "good choices" on their own -- they ask to go to bed when they are tired (around the same time every night), they are not addicted to TV or video games (even though they can play them as much as they want) and, more often than not, they make healthy food choices.

Where I'm a little conflicted is in regard to clothing. We live in California, so the weather is generally mild. My kids prefer to go naked -- winter, spring, summer and fall. Fortunately, they somehow intuitively understand that, when we go somewhere in the car, they must get dressed, but it's always the very last thing they do before we walk out the door. And the moment we return home, they both immediately shed their clothing and basically stay that way until the next time we go somewhere.

My husband and I are fine with their choice, although we prefer to wear clothing ourselves...we aren't actually modeling nudity. And most of our close friends and child care providers are used to the boys being naked. When they were little guys, visitors mostly found it adorable (one time I opened the door for the UPS driver who was delivering diapers and he exclaimed, "looks like I got here just in the nick of time!). But, as the kids get older, the appropriateness of having naked boys running around when visitors/plumbers/salespeople arrive at the door seems questionable. Not to mention, the boys like to run out into the front yard to wave goodbye to guests (which is complicated by the fact that we live along an open bike trail, so lots of exposure to strangers).

Naked children almost always provoke a comment, sometimes jokingly, other times not so much...one passerby actually called the neighborhood security patrol because she was concerned for the children's safety (in terms of predators...something I naively hadn't considered). So it's becoming apparent that we may need to impose "rules" around wearing clothing.

Anybody else have a 4yo that prefers nudity? Do you make your child get dressed when the cable guy comes? Or when he/she is within visual range of neighbors/strangers? Or when other children come over for a playdate? If so, what are your rules/guidelines? And how do you explain this social convention to a child without invoking some sort of body shame or fear? Is it possible to explain it in such a way that they can retain the belief that their body is beautiful even though people prefer they cover it up?

Amy â Unschooling my twin boys, born April 2006 (12 weeks early at 2 lbs each). Astrology for Parenting -- helping parents attain authentic and respectful relationships with their children and families.
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#2 of 14 Old 09-23-2010, 04:39 PM
 
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Do you think rules will be necessary? Wouldn't it be possible to have a conversation about it and get them to understand the issue? Discuss with your boys the reality that nudity makes some people uncomfortable, especially nudity by children and adults. Babies and toddlers? Most people are used to that. But with older kids, not so much. Seeing older kids naked is not what they're used to, because they think of bodies as private things. Beautiful wonderful things, but private things. Many people are like this, which is why you don't see very many naked people around. Some people even think it's wrong, not just weird, to be naked in public. Who's to know whether they're right or wrong about it, but that's what some people think. And of course we don't want to make people uncomfortable on purpose. So now that they're getting older they need to start thinking about other people's feelings. When they want to be naked, they need to think "is there anyone around who could be upset or concerned about this?" Or "do I know for sure that the people who might see me naked are okay with it?"

And then talk about places and people who are okay with nudity. And brainstorm situations where it might not be okay. And nurture their understanding of the issues over time, revisiting the issue regularly as they meet different situations and make their choices.

At least, that's what I'd try first.

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#3 of 14 Old 09-23-2010, 04:53 PM
 
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I don't think 4 is too old to be naked, on the other hand I think it's perfectly reasonable to expect them to wear clothing when guests or maintenance and repair people come over or they go out in an unfenced yard to play.

I would just talk to them, with my dd even when she was young just explaining that this is what we need to do and why would be enough. Even though she might need a gentle reminder once in awhile.
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#4 of 14 Old 09-23-2010, 05:08 PM
 
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I'm not an unschooler, but i do have a nudist 4yo!

I insist on clothes:

to go outside (i'm in scotland, there aren't many days a year when nudity outdoors is a good idea in terms of the temperature/weather!)

when guests are coming

when we're going out

for lunch/dinner mealtimes (DD helps me cook which simply isn't safe naked, and also isn't the tidiest eater, ditto on the safety - hot lasagne on your thigh? YOUCH!)

The rest of the time she can wear whatever she wants and when i say "put clothes on" if it's to cook or go in the garden she can choose whatever she wants, if we're going out or guests are coming then there is a range of acceptability (i.e she can't choose to wear only her super hero cape i made her...).
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#5 of 14 Old 09-23-2010, 05:22 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post
Wouldn't it be possible to have a conversation about it and get them to understand the issue? Discuss with your boys the reality that nudity makes some people uncomfortable, especially nudity by children and adults.
Thank you so much for your ideas about what to say -- I tried a few months ago to explain to them that nudity makes some people uncomfortable, and DD1 said "Why? Don't they think my body is beautiful?" I don't even remember how I responded it made me feel so sad...I think I just hugged him. But, I suppose they are old enough now for a dose of reality.

Amy â Unschooling my twin boys, born April 2006 (12 weeks early at 2 lbs each). Astrology for Parenting -- helping parents attain authentic and respectful relationships with their children and families.
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#6 of 14 Old 09-24-2010, 06:02 AM
 
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I would take them to buy, if they don't already have, some really comfy shorts and let them know that when someone comes to the house they can just slip those on. It has nothing to do with people not thinking your sons' bodies are beautiful, so I would make it very clear that it's not anything about them, but also that people are not wrong or sad to be more comfortable when your sons have a bit of clothing on.
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#7 of 14 Old 09-25-2010, 01:49 AM
 
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I just tell my son, "In our society people wear clothes when they're in public." He hasn't asked more and I haven't said more.

Created an instant family (7/89 and 5/91) in 1997. Made a baby boy 12/05 adopted a baby girl 8/08. Ask me about tandem adoptive nursing. Now living as gluten, dairy, cane sugar, and tomato free vegetarians. Homeschooling and loving it.

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#8 of 14 Old 09-25-2010, 02:17 PM
 
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My ds preferred nudity until around 3 or 4, then suddenly became very modest and would always make sure that he was wearing clothes if anyone came over or when leaving the house. I am not sure what changed though.

Jen 47 DS C 2/03  angel.gif04/29/08/ DD S 10/28/09 DH Bill '97.

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#9 of 14 Old 09-25-2010, 10:07 PM
 
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We have a couple of nudists around here, much more so with DS. He is the one to strip off his clothes as soon as he gets home.

We just explained to the kids a few months ago (when we moved to an area where neighbours actually do stop by unannounced) that in our society people wear clothes, that it's okay for little babies and toddlers but that it is not considered respectful for older kids or adults to appear naked in public or when guests are over. They seemed to just accept this.

Certainly I think overall we have a pretty open attitude towards sex and body image, so I don't think it would occur to them that there is something "wrong" with being naked. It's the same thing as going to the bathroom: a normal human function, but not one you usually do in front of others.

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#10 of 14 Old 09-26-2010, 07:32 PM
 
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My boys generally prefer to be naked, although it varies depending on their moods. I rarely have to make clothing an issue. They can roam the house and backyard nude but I don't generally allow them to go out the front door without pants (don't want nosy neighbors assuming the worst.) They both learned early on that pants in the carseat are a requirement for their own personal comfort, so it's accepted that if we're going somewhere they need to get dressed.

I encourage clothing if guests are coming over, but it sometimes depends on my perceived comfort level of the guest(s) in question. Usually if someone is expected over, the kids want to get dressed - of course if we're having company I usually put on something a little nicer than pj's so they want to get "dressed up" too.

If one or the other is nude and an unexpected guest arrives, I judge the situation before addressing the clothing issue... UPS guy? Distract kiddo away from the door for a minute. MIL? Let's go put on clothes so you can visit because she will make an issue of it. My mom? Eh, whatever, she doesn't care.

Mama to two crazy boys (8/05 & 9/07) and happy wife to one wonderful hubby.
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#11 of 14 Old 09-26-2010, 08:32 PM
 
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Originally Posted by SundayCrepes View Post
I just tell my son, "In our society people wear clothes when they're in public."
This is how we treated it as well--similarly, we had conversations about what's considered appropriate clothing (ie: An old t-shirt and ripped jeans to go dig in the yard? A-okay. The same outfit to go to a funeral? Not okay.)

We didn't make any references to whether or not people thought the human body was beautiful--it was just discussed as a cultural practice, much like removing hats indoors, shaking hands, putting the napkin on your lap, etc. etc.

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#12 of 14 Old 09-28-2010, 12:41 PM
 
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We didn't make any references to whether or not people thought the human body was beautiful--
Just wanted to say I agree there's no need to bring that up. I meant if the OP's son said that (as he had previously) I would make it clear that it had nothing to do with that and not just feel sad and hug him (which could possibly make him think it did have something to do with that). Though I would still hug him and I can definitely see why the OP wasn't sure what to reply when he told her that. That would catch me off-guard too.
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#13 of 14 Old 09-28-2010, 02:29 PM
 
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Our only rule around the house is to cover your bottom (i.e. wear undies or pants). It is more sanitary, and if DD runs out the front door in her undies she doesn't get any weird looks/comments.

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#14 of 14 Old 09-30-2010, 05:51 PM
 
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i doubt this will comfort you but with both my daughter and an older friends daughter the issue quit being an issue with the appearance of public hair, but dd will still strip down to her panties if it is hot and there is water nearby (which there always is where we live between ponds and the river.) She doesn't seem so concerned about her breast buds yet, but since you have boys that won't be an issue.
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