I don't know what to title this and I do this every year, sorry - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 29 Old 01-14-2011, 10:47 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Every year about this time I have a bit of a freakout. Mainly because it's winter and it's hard, but also because we have cycles of stress and depression that come about now. My husband has been in grad school our children's entire lives, finishing a masters, then we moved here, then he's had a couple of major setbacks, I almost died a couple of times, etc. - things have been rough and especially stressful and without an ongoing sense of normalcy, whatever that is. Our normal is struggle, I guess.

 

At the end of the day, we've done okay with it. I think though, that when the kids were little(r), I thought that this would get easier once they could walk and talk and choose things of their choosing and whatnot. That may have been true if we didn't have the internet. I don't know. We struggle with balancing screen time and motivation. That may always be the case. Most adults I know have that same struggle, myself included.

 

There's part of me that thinks they could probably play video games these next ten years and still grow up with an idea of what it means to have a productive life and still be able to read and form sentences and so on. Their whole family has advanced degrees and strives to engage in productive, meaningful work that benefits the larger community/world/culture. They'd get that message, I think.

 

At the same time, I'm not sure what precisely my job is here. I am a big believer in unschooling, but now and then a question comes up and I wonder. Right now I'm wondering if it isn't a good idea to make sure that my children are challenged. I hear other (non-homeschooling) parents talk and the things they value are really success in a well-balanced sense. They believe this includes rigorous academic scheduling and both cultural and physical extra-curriculars. There's a part of me that agrees with that.

 

As a child, though, I never had to try very hard to achieve that. I was readily interested in joining clubs and activities. My children are decidedly not, however. These days I struggle to get them into the front yard to play in the snow. That's the really exhausting part - my children would rather stay inside and play video games. They don't want to get ready. They don't want to put on shoes or head outside or get moving at all. I can motivate them but it's hard. I'm not always motivated to do so. Especially lately. I've been coping with some pretty severe depression and anxiety and I find it difficult to move or wake or work. I'm impressed with myself for keeping up with the house, for making appointments, for trying to plan anything at all.

 

I'm doing what I need to be doing to move forward with that. I've reached out to the homeschooling community here. My sons do not want to participate in the co-op days, so I'm searching for kids that aren't involved in that specifically. A lot of the other unschoolers live further away from us and those that we started out with which were closer dropped into school awhile ago. Regardless, I'm trying to plan the things I can and participate in what I can.

 

I just feel a little lost here philosophically, I guess. What am I doing? Where am I trying to go with this? What do they actually [i]do[/i] in school? Why do we as unschoolers paint this false dichotomy of unschooling/school? Isn't there some in-between? I'm sick of planning activities and my children not wanting to do the things or me primarily being the one doing the activity. When does that stop? There. I've hit it. There's my real question. I'll bold that so you can skip the whole first boring part.


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#2 of 29 Old 01-14-2011, 11:15 AM
 
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no answer mama, i just wanted to give you big hugs and say i understand. i am a "kind of unschooler" myself.  i don't want my kids playing video games so i don't have them at my house. we also don't have tv. if we watch any youtube i do limit it and explain why (because i think it is bad for kid's brain, especially when they are young and developing. we didn't evolve in front of tvs and i do think our brains can't really handle it well. *I* take the responsibility for it when I explain why and yes, it is not true unschooling but i am not aiming for a badge in unschooling :))

 

i am learning for myself that i might not be a true, radical unschooler. i might just be a life learner and a mama. and that's okay. 


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#3 of 29 Old 01-14-2011, 11:24 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I feel like I am a true unschooler. Most of the things that we say no to generally are really about our boundaries. Sometimes I say, "I'm not comfortable with this anymore." It's really imperfect. I see it as a dialogue. It probably actually looks a lot more authoritarian than my intention or philosophy says, but you know, we deal and work toward an ideal. Eh. shrug.gif


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#4 of 29 Old 01-14-2011, 11:46 AM
 
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Sounds like you're suffering from a bout of Periodic Unschoolers Panic Disorder. Happens to all of us. It's easy to get fixated on the negatives, the lacks, the deficits, the gaps, and instead forget that (a) everyone has various "deficiencies" in their lives and (b) there are positives, benefits, advantages, and nifty things that our kids have in their lives that others lack. It's important not to make any big decisions while in the midst of an episode of PUPD. Once your freak-out is over and you're feeling more balanced and like you've got the big-picture view back, that's a good time to consider your options and decide if some adjustments are in order.

 

I would suggest a couple of approaches to help get that balanced, big-picture view back.

 

First, focus on journalling the good things that are happening. Pick something for each kid each day. Look under metaphorical rocks if you have to, but find something each day to jot down about each kid that you're pleased with. A curious question one of them asked, 90 minutes of intense focus and persistence in trying to get to the next level in a game, a gesture of kindness witnessed, a weirdly creative art installation made with balls of yarn. Whatever. Use technology tools to help if you like: a private blog, a camera. The idea is to appreciate what is happening, rather than being obsessed with what isn't.

 

Secondly, I would hold regular meetings with your kids to talk about family flow, dynamics, happiness, productivity and such. Not to complain to them about what you wish they would do, but to brainstorm together about ideas to make family life happier and more interesting, to solve problems, to discuss feelings. Bring to the table a nice snack, a rough agenda of things to discuss, and at most one "concern." Our agenda includes things like nutritional balance / meals, sleep/wake cycles, balance of out-of-home activities, learning interests, sharing housework, stuff like that. Rather than saying "You guys aren't helping with housework," I'll say "Okay, housework. How are we doing at sharing housework? Anyone got any thoughts or ideas?" Generally I find that my kids recognize the same imbalances that I do, but when they frame them instead of me, I get far more useful information and help in solving them and a much less defensive response. Or "Okay, next item: learning interests. How are things going? Do you feel you're learning what you should be learning? Is there something I could be doing or getting to help you with what you want to learn? Anything new you're interested in that I should know about?" Family meetings also give us a gentle, cool-headed opportunity to raise any contentious interpersonal issues. If there's a problem with persistent sibling conflict I'll say "Let's put that on our meeting agenda." And sometimes, rarely, I'll put my own baggage on the agenda. For instance if I feel the kids are being rude and unappreciative and my feelings are getting hurt on a regular basis, I'll bring that up. 

 

We do our meetings every week. That means we don't have to solve much at each one. We just pick one or two things to try to make progress with. Then we re-evaluate. 

 

For me the magic in family meetings is that it allows us all to see that we really are on the same side of most issues. We all want to be helpful, happy, appreciated, loved, well-educated, competent human beings. We all want to live happily together. We all want good health and enjoyable food and to feel grounded, curious, secure, energetic and proud of ourselves and each other. So really we are working together for all those things, not against each other. Knowing that my children actually want to be responsible, competent, thoughtful people makes me feel a lot less panicked about the things that crop up in the day-to-day that aren't necessarily serving those ends. I know that we're all going to keep working together towards the same worthy goals.

 

Miranda


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#5 of 29 Old 01-15-2011, 12:00 PM
 
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What am I doing? 

Being human and a mom! Unfortunately, both come with lots of pieces of BS. Total bummer if you ask me, but it does keep things interesting. wild.gif

 

 

 

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What do they actually [i]do[/i] in school?

Well, reading, writing, math, worksheets, tests and quizzes, lots of busywork, lots of shuffling to and fro, planning, time wasting, some art and music if you're in a "good" school, some PE. Games? Is that really what you want to know though? I bet it isn't...because you already probably had at least an idea of what they do there. The real question? Do you want forced education/curriculum for your children? Do they? Because that is happening there.

 

 

 

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I'm sick of planning activities and my children not wanting to do the things or me primarily being the one doing the activity. When does that stop? There. I've hit it. There's my real question.

So stop doing that? Maybe? I know how hard it is. It's instinctual in some ways in our culture. We're very "OMG activities, fun activities that are educational hurry up!" aren't we? It may never stop. Plan things you want to do. Ask them what they want to do. Ask them if they want to do an activity you are interested in with you. Unschooling is about life and interest and that learning happens 1. always 2. because we are interested 3. when something is useful, fun, or necessary to get us to somewhere we want to be.  In other words we ask "Why do this (enter whatever subject/activity here)?"  What's the reason? 

 

I like the idea of a journal of something you observed the kids doing that struck you in some way. It need not be "educational". Everything is. Hang in there.


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#6 of 29 Old 01-16-2011, 10:58 AM
 
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:hug  My ds is a year older than your oldest.  I still do quite a bit of organizing activities.  There simply isn't that much he can access and make happen himself at his age.  There aren't neighborhood friends that he can just go see.  There isn't anyplace to go on his own.  I organize a weekly parkday because what we want the most is a regular get together with kids and having something on the same day every week has more success.  I'll host it when the weather is too bad for an outside get together.  I'd rather not host because it takes a lot more energy but I think it's good for ds to have kids over and he does like it.  This year, there is another family that can host, too, so I'm happy about being able to rotate.  The other main thing we do is exchange playdates with another friend.  They live pretty far away and we alternate weeks (and stay for hours because it's too far for drop offs).  So on a  good week, ds has 2 things which are basically unstructured play with other kids.  This week, we missed one of the playdates due to the other family's schedule but had a couple of bonus hours of snow play with a younger schooled child on our street.  Our schedules don't usually coincide and there is too big of an age gap for seriously satisfying interaction.  But we'll take what we can get.

 

Other than that, ds will ask to go someplace like a museum if it comes to mind for some reason.  Then I'll plan on going soon if it's a place we have a membership or reciprocity.  He's generally happy to go someplace if I suggest it, but not just outside to play unless we are meeting other kids.  And he doesn't like most organized activities which is good since we can't afford them, lol.  There is so much waiting and odd authoritarian instructors in even the one hour fun classes which turns him off.  I'll only suggest things that are easy, convenient, go at your own pace unless I truly think he would like it.  At home, he gets bored but then will start playing a computer game or building with legos or messing with some science stuff.

 

These days, I'm real pleased with how he is increasing his typing through the chats on online multiplayer games.  It's really a small amount compared to how much other kids his age write/type/text.  But it is progressing the same way his reading did.  He is asking for help less and less.  He points out when I mistype things so I know his spelling is taking off, too.


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#7 of 29 Old 01-16-2011, 11:45 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm sick of planning activities and my children not wanting to do the things or me primarily being the one doing the activity. When does that stop? There. I've hit it. There's my real question.

So stop doing that? Maybe? I know how hard it is. It's instinctual in some ways in our culture. We're very "OMG activities, fun activities that are educational hurry up!" aren't we? It may never stop. Plan things you want to do. Ask them what they want to do. Ask them if they want to do an activity you are interested in with you. Unschooling is about life and interest and that learning happens 1. always 2. because we are interested 3. when something is useful, fun, or necessary to get us to somewhere we want to be.  In other words we ask "Why do this (enter whatever subject/activity here)?"  What's the reason? 

 

I like the idea of a journal of something you observed the kids doing that struck you in some way. It need not be "educational". Everything is. Hang in there.


The problem with stopping - which I've done before, for long stretches - is that I'm not really comfortable with what happens in its stead. I need to force us out the door or off the computer to make things happen. Even open-ended play, sometimes. I suppose I don't mind that, but it's effing exhausting. I suppose that's parenting. I dunno.


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#8 of 29 Old 01-16-2011, 11:52 AM
 
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I just feel a little lost here philosophically, I guess. What am I doing? Where am I trying to go with this? What do they actually [i]do[/i] in school? Why do we as unschoolers paint this false dichotomy of unschooling/school? Isn't there some in-between? I'm sick of planning activities and my children not wanting to do the things or me primarily being the one doing the activity. When does that stop? There. I've hit it. There's my real question. I'll bold that so you can skip the whole first boring part.


Try doing less.  I kept asking DD if she wanted to do stuff, and she never really did.  I slowed down because she did not seem interested and the last time I asked if she wanted to go to the museum she was quite eager and we had a good time.

 

Finding the correct balance for out-of-the home activities can be hard.  If you do a lot out of the home, it can become commonplace and not sought after.

 

Otherwise, it is winter in many places, which is not always easy.  Find ways to celebrate the cocooning seasons - DVDs, books, winter cooking etc, and get outside when you can.

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#9 of 29 Old 01-16-2011, 10:40 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Sounds like you're suffering from a bout of Periodic Unschoolers Panic Disorder. Happens to all of us. It's easy to get fixated on the negatives, the lacks, the deficits, the gaps, and instead forget that (a) everyone has various "deficiencies" in their lives and (b) there are positives, benefits, advantages, and nifty things that our kids have in their lives that others lack. It's important not to make any big decisions while in the midst of an episode of PUPD. Once your freak-out is over and you're feeling more balanced and like you've got the big-picture view back, that's a good time to consider your options and decide if some adjustments are in order.

 

I would suggest a couple of approaches to help get that balanced, big-picture view back.

 

First, focus on journalling the good things that are happening. Pick something for each kid each day. Look under metaphorical rocks if you have to, but find something each day to jot down about each kid that you're pleased with. A curious question one of them asked, 90 minutes of intense focus and persistence in trying to get to the next level in a game, a gesture of kindness witnessed, a weirdly creative art installation made with balls of yarn. Whatever. Use technology tools to help if you like: a private blog, a camera. The idea is to appreciate what is happening, rather than being obsessed with what isn't.

 

Secondly, I would hold regular meetings with your kids to talk about family flow, dynamics, happiness, productivity and such. Not to complain to them about what you wish they would do, but to brainstorm together about ideas to make family life happier and more interesting, to solve problems, to discuss feelings. Bring to the table a nice snack, a rough agenda of things to discuss, and at most one "concern." Our agenda includes things like nutritional balance / meals, sleep/wake cycles, balance of out-of-home activities, learning interests, sharing housework, stuff like that. Rather than saying "You guys aren't helping with housework," I'll say "Okay, housework. How are we doing at sharing housework? Anyone got any thoughts or ideas?" Generally I find that my kids recognize the same imbalances that I do, but when they frame them instead of me, I get far more useful information and help in solving them and a much less defensive response. Or "Okay, next item: learning interests. How are things going? Do you feel you're learning what you should be learning? Is there something I could be doing or getting to help you with what you want to learn? Anything new you're interested in that I should know about?" Family meetings also give us a gentle, cool-headed opportunity to raise any contentious interpersonal issues. If there's a problem with persistent sibling conflict I'll say "Let's put that on our meeting agenda." And sometimes, rarely, I'll put my own baggage on the agenda. For instance if I feel the kids are being rude and unappreciative and my feelings are getting hurt on a regular basis, I'll bring that up. 

 

We do our meetings every week. That means we don't have to solve much at each one. We just pick one or two things to try to make progress with. Then we re-evaluate. 

 

For me the magic in family meetings is that it allows us all to see that we really are on the same side of most issues. We all want to be helpful, happy, appreciated, loved, well-educated, competent human beings. We all want to live happily together. We all want good health and enjoyable food and to feel grounded, curious, secure, energetic and proud of ourselves and each other. So really we are working together for all those things, not against each other. Knowing that my children actually want to be responsible, competent, thoughtful people makes me feel a lot less panicked about the things that crop up in the day-to-day that aren't necessarily serving those ends. I know that we're all going to keep working together towards the same worthy goals.

 

Miranda


I wanted to tell you that your post was really valuable. Lots to chew on without the creepy feeling of judgment and whatnot that folks in my position often feel (whether its intended or not!).


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#10 of 29 Old 01-20-2011, 09:51 AM
 
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Or "Okay, next item: learning interests. How are things going? Do you feel you're learning what you should be learning? Is there something I could be doing or getting to help you with what you want to learn? Anything new you're interested in that I should know about?" Family meetings also give us a gentle, cool-headed opportunity to raise any contentious interpersonal issues.

Terrific advice, and though we didn't call it a family meeting persay, this is/was much our approach as well.


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#11 of 29 Old 02-09-2011, 11:01 PM
 
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OP I couldv'e written your post except in the summer.  Here in Phx our summer is like winter in most of the world.  We are stuck inside, too hot to do anything. DS is sluggish, I become unmotivated.  I hope you feel better soon.  Hugs


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#12 of 29 Old 02-14-2011, 11:06 AM
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I'm right there with you Anna. I get fairly depressed and unmotivated in the winter, and that is coupled with the reality that as I move more and more to whole life unschooling, overcoming the hurdles that I held on to the longest in the past (bedtime, video games), it has created a reality that means unmotivated mom ignores kids who only want to sleep and play vids. I too have to plan it, encourage it, go outside myself for them to go. And who loves going outside when it's practically forced (however nicely) on you? Not I. I feel really crappy because if I accept that my kids are happy to be in front of a screen all day, then *I* am free to wallow, sleep, knit, be forlorn, and go through my day hardly interacting with them. What kind of life is that?

 

I have no advice for you, only my support and commiseration. Thanks for starting this discussion, it is what I've been trying to say out loud for some years now.


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#13 of 29 Old 02-14-2011, 08:35 PM
 
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My dream was to unschool my children.  I've wanted to since I read John Holt and the "teenage liberation handbook" in high school.  I started unschooling Oldest Daughter from birth.  She wanted to needed to learn.  She's asked questions, looked for answers since she could talk.  She's intense and driven, if I didn't know the answer, she'd ask me to look it up for her.  Once she learned to read at 3.5 or 4, she was off.  If she had been my only child, I would've patted myself on the back, though I was a wonderful teacher and wonder why it was so hard for all those "poor other mothers".

 

I've been in Oldest Son's life since he was two or so (he's a year older then Oldest Daughter).  He hates unschooling and always has.  When he was little, he'd beg me for work sheets, a lunch box and a schedule for the day.  I'd carefully put out different paints, crayons, and drawing paper to try and foster creativity and Oldest Daughter would jump right in.  Oldest son would beg me to tell him what to draw.  Finally in desperation I'd dig out the coloring book MIL was always sending us and he'd color away happily for hours.  He was a bright and imaginative kid when it came to free play, but he hated the idea our days were free.  He wanted to eat breakfast at 8am, park at 9am, snack and book at 10am, followed by lunch and quiet time.  From the moment, Oldest Daughter could write, he'd have her write up his daily schedule if I forgot.  Otherwise, he'd mope around unhappily and ask to watch tv.  He wasn't learning much (except what he gleaned off of PBS kids).  DH and I presented him with the exact same enriching experiences we gave Oldest Daughter and yet the gap widened between with each passing. 

 

Eventually, DH and MIL gently encouraged me to realized US wasn't working for Oldest Son.  I felt like a failure as a mother, a stepmother and a teacher.  MIL convinced me to try a curriculum.  Oldest Son was 8 years old, he learned to read in a matter of weeks.  He is a person who needs to know what the day will bring.  He loves knowing when XYZ are done, he can go ride his skate board, hang out with his friends, and try to beat the next level of Rock Guitar (or Halo IIV, Legend of Zelda shops at Target).  He wants to go to the museum with us, but he would never think of it on his own.  He's happy and neither of us feel like a failure.  One of my younger kiddos is just like Oldest Son and the other is like Oldest Daughter without all the intensity.  

 

For me a huge part of unschooling is realizing that it doesn't always work for us.  SO we move on and we try new things.


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#14 of 29 Old 02-15-2011, 05:18 PM
 
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I don't know what to tell you, and I can't really give you advice because I don't know your situation. I can only say that I go through periods of "PUPD". I recently went through this with my son, and expressed my frustration to our Learning Consultant (we're in a provincial homelearners program). No sooner had I expressed this then DS went through a burst of learning and progression of skills. One of the benefits of our program is that I have to "observe for learning" as part of our weekly reporting, and I've found that being required to focus at various times of the day on what, exactly, the kids are doing ends up with me seeing learning happening a lot more than I would think were I not really paying attention (eg. I'm busy in the kitchen and they are playing). I say this to illustrate the point that sometimes we need to focus on the good, as someone above said, rather than only being able to see the negative sides of things. Not to dismiss your feelings as just you "not looking at it right", just to commiserate that this is an easy trap to fall into. 

 

As for your frustration regarding trying to get them interested in things, that is also a common feeling among unschooling parents, IME. I've always found that backing off and letting them be gives them room to show ME what they might be interested in, allowing me to pick up on their interests and comments rather than coming up with my own ideas of what they might like to do. 

 

Mostly I just want to offer big hugs. Sounds like you have a lot on your plate right now. 


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#15 of 29 Old 02-17-2011, 04:37 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by WCM View Post

I'm right there with you Anna. I get fairly depressed and unmotivated in the winter, and that is coupled with the reality that as I move more and more to whole life unschooling, overcoming the hurdles that I held on to the longest in the past (bedtime, video games), it has created a reality that means unmotivated mom ignores kids who only want to sleep and play vids. I too have to plan it, encourage it, go outside myself for them to go. And who loves going outside when it's practically forced (however nicely) on you? Not I. I feel really crappy because if I accept that my kids are happy to be in front of a screen all day, then *I* am free to wallow, sleep, knit, be forlorn, and go through my day hardly interacting with them. What kind of life is that?

 

I have no advice for you, only my support and commiseration. Thanks for starting this discussion, it is what I've been trying to say out loud for some years now.

 

I tend to think that if I'm unhappy with what habits they're forming, it's sort of up to me to provide an alternative that's agreeable. I also just can't move to completely accept that things that I feel are genuine health issues are fully valid ways to spend one's time. I sort of just struggle with it. The games are here. The computers are here. And hell, I live in reality, where I enjoy that the kids are occupied and I don't have to entertain or deal with them sometimes.

 

I think that unschooling is so far out of the norm, and raising kids is so difficult and all-consuming, it's impossible for me to always feel like I'm doing the right thing. In fact, it's almost impossible for me to know what the right thing is. There is so much subtle pressure to do things differently and really, I think it's all a gamble. We don't know how this is going to work out. That cuts across all parenting for all people, but nonetheless, I think being an unschooling mother means that I'm bearing the brunt of responsibility for these kids. And I just don't know what to do from day to day sometimes. And I do get worried sometimes about things like handwriting and being able to do standard math, though not usually about the math. It seems that it's far easier when they're little to not worry, which is sort of backwards from how I thought it would be.

 

I have found a few things that seem like they will be cool for us. maybe they're just things that I deem necessary though. The thing is, I mean, really, the thing is that I get the sense sometimes that there is more that my children deserve in order to be well-rounded intellectually and in order to find the things that are meaningful and benefit the world and make them happy and all of that. And I don't just mean some arbitrary thing that was decided on by school boards based on an industrial model. I mean, they deserve cultural opportunities and time in nature and good literature and so on and so forth. Those things to me make up a good life. And I know they're not me, but I am responsible for them. I made them. And I can get them to these things some, but I have to motivate everyone to get out of the house, to sit and to read, to play a game, to do something fun. I find that the best work happens in groups. They do the best, most creative stuff on their own when they're with other children. I have ideas about how to create some of that, to both give them space and opportunities and decrease arguing and whining and my own frustration and terror about what they're doing/what they're not doing which usually causes the arguing and whining. It's all a struggle to get up and go though sometimes. I have trouble, now and then, feeling like what I'm doing and thinking and working on is actually good and worthwhile. Especially when I get weighed down with lots of errands and tasks of keeping up with our life. It makes it hard for me to focus on the children when I'm needing to clean or take everyone to the doctor or whathaveyou. I feel like that happens a lot. Sigh.


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#16 of 29 Old 02-25-2011, 10:43 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Any other thoughts?


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#17 of 29 Old 03-01-2011, 09:33 AM
 
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WCM and annakiss...you have hit the nail on the head as to the very reasons I let go of my rigid attachment to a philosophy and started to trust my own instincts. I am the mom, homeschool facilitator, and yes, even sometimes the leader, the inititator of plans and activities. The buck does indeed stop here. If you feel something is off about your current homeschooling situation, maybe you are actually right. Maybe it is not just your "schooled mind" talking to you. Trust yourself.
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#18 of 29 Old 03-01-2011, 10:20 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I don't think anything's particularly off and I don't ascribe to a rigid philosophy and do parent more instinctively. It's just that it's winter and no one wants to do anything and everyone's depressed. We've been having a rough several years and are going through quite a bit of change right now. It makes it even more difficult than usual to motivate. Sometimes at times like these, I return to the rigid philosophy and try to think about how to approach it. Usually I end up shouting, "My boundary has been reached!" in some fashion or another and moving us all along.

I just loathe this time of year and sometimes I loathe that everyone in my family has these different agendas. There's no real solution to that. It's just the inherent struggle of unschooling young boys in a technological society when you're desiring some sort of modern return to agrarian simplicity. You know, the idea is to just try something new, and try to see the good stuff. I dunno. I guess I just wanted to whine about it. I don't think these problems have answers. It would be nice if we could incorporate them into the philosophy somehow so we could feel good and vindicated in our behavior. lol

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This sounds horribly superficial, but this year, I stumbled on something that greatly reduced my usual February PUPD: we traveled. Since the weather here can leave you weathered in or our for days at a time in February, we usually stay put. However, when a close friend scheduled her wedding and asked me to help, I jumped on the chance. Even though DP had to stay home and work and even though I had to make 18 hour trips alone with two kids, it was so awesome. Having a trip to plan and execute really helped shift all of us out of the February funk. We had a common goal that wasn't manufactured. I feel better going into March than I have in years.
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My mother said we should go on vacation next fall or winter all together again to the beach. Sounds good to me. I wish I could take us someplace now, but we just can't afford it...


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Maybe you could try skiing.  Helps us get through the winter.  I see you're in Ohio...have you been to the UWG or UGO?   This year the UWG moved to May, but last year it was in Feb. and sure nice to hang out there in the depths of the winter.  Our local homeschool conference it the end of March which is still pretty crummy, but gives us something fun to look forward to when we've about had it w/winter.

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My unschooling friends organize both of those. We went to UGO several years ago, but haven't been able to work it out since and the Kalahari thing is too overwhelming for my husband, really, aside from the fact that we really can't afford it right now. One day! :)

 

Not to shoot down all the suggestions! We're doing similar things here.


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#23 of 29 Old 03-06-2011, 08:20 AM
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Originally Posted by annakiss View Post



 

I tend to think that if I'm unhappy with what habits they're forming, it's sort of up to me to provide an alternative that's agreeable. I also just can't move to completely accept that things that I feel are genuine health issues are fully valid ways to spend one's time. I sort of just struggle with it. The games are here. The computers are here. And hell, I live in reality, where I enjoy that the kids are occupied and I don't have to entertain or deal with them sometimes.

 

That part. When my kids were toddlers, they were not really the entertain-me-mom kind that my friends had. I could pursue small goals, tried out a teeny home business, what have you. that was my template for parenting, the pattern we established that I fell into; feed them, rock them to sleep, and then get on with your own stuff. I have always assumed that, as older kids given the *freedom* to not be constrained by school nor by my imposed ideas of homeschooling and worksheets, that they'd wake up each day so excited to continue X endeavour they'd begun the day before. My role in all this is pretty non-existant. I saw us as friendly roommates who shared our interests and projects with each other over supper. Not me as camp counselor having to plan daily activities and rouse the campers and walk them through each step every single day "We're going to that park remember so you need to get dressed. What would you like to eat, how about bringing a snack too. Think about the weather might you want another layer?". It's SO tedious and my patience is crud. I know I don't *have* to do this, and I don't in general. But that means they get up whenever, stay in their pj's all day and alternate between video gaming and carton DVDs. And you know what, I would too, if I could, but I can't. Nt because I have chores to do. Because I'd get fat and lazy and be old before my time. There, I've said it. I *was* allowed to eat as I pleased and watch whatever I wanted whenever, as a kid. and I got fat and hardly left the house, except to go to the mall. as an adult i need to break these habits, and try constantly, month after month, for over a decade now, because the effect are not alright with me. What I eat depresses me, literaly, but it's tasty and I grew up eating it so bring it on. TV eats away at my sense of self and I have been known to game all night and then snap at the kids the next day. I'm not feeling super proud of all I am many days, and when I look back on my life this cycle has been there since I was less than 10. and all of it, IMO, surrounds the total lack of rules and restrictions I had in my life.

 

And yet I chose to parent my children the same way, because I was focussing on my experience in school, which was either boring or limiting, and socially disfunctional. I *knew* if I'd had my own time to pursue my interests, or heck find them, I'd have created great things. And so I chose to give my children that time. But I'm wondering if the difference is that even though I loathed school, I did have to go. I had to stop eating/watching TV/reading mysteries to leave the house and go to a building without food or screens and do something different while I was there. I'm putting huge piles of faith in the belief that if left to their own devices, my kids solitary pursuits of Starcraft and Spiderman will eventually spin off other avenues that will engage them and fill them with purpose and wonder. And that feels like a lot of faith to put in consumer products created to keep them interested in only said products ad naseum.

 

I think that unschooling is so far out of the norm, and raising kids is so difficult and all-consuming, it's impossible for me to always feel like I'm doing the right thing. In fact, it's almost impossible for me to know what the right thing is. There is so much subtle pressure to do things differently and really, I think it's all a gamble. We don't know how this is going to work out. That cuts across all parenting for all people, but nonetheless, I think being an unschooling mother means that I'm bearing the brunt of responsibility for these kids. And I just don't know what to do from day to day sometimes. And I do get worried sometimes about things like handwriting and being able to do standard math, though not usually about the math. It seems that it's far easier when they're little to not worry, which is sort of backwards from how I thought it would be. Yes!

 

I have found a few things that seem like they will be cool for us. maybe they're just things that I deem necessary though. The thing is, I mean, really, the thing is that I get the sense sometimes that there is more that my children deserve in order to be well-rounded intellectually and in order to find the things that are meaningful and benefit the world and make them happy and all of that. And I don't just mean some arbitrary thing that was decided on by school boards based on an industrial model. I mean, they deserve cultural opportunities and time in nature and good literature and so on and so forth. Those things to me make up a good life. And I know they're not me, but I am responsible for them. I made them. And I can get them to these things some, but I have to motivate everyone to get out of the house, to sit and to read, to play a game, to do something fun. I find that the best work happens in groups. They do the best, most creative stuff on their own when they're with other children. I have ideas about how to create some of that, to both give them space and opportunities and decrease arguing and whining and my own frustration and terror about what they're doing/what they're not doing which usually causes the arguing and whining. It's all a struggle to get up and go though sometimes. I have trouble, now and then, feeling like what I'm doing and thinking and working on is actually good and worthwhile. Especially when I get weighed down with lots of errands and tasks of keeping up with our life. It makes it hard for me to focus on the children when I'm needing to clean or take everyone to the doctor or whathaveyou. I feel like that happens a lot. Sigh.

 

That is what I cannot figure out. I have these kids who are occupied most of the day staring at a screen, and yet the basic tasks of feeding them and cleaning that up before it's time to do it again and in between calling the electric company or organising homeschooler's swimming lessons means the day flies by and I feel like no one has accomplished anything.

 

When I was a young feminist I recall reading "The Women's Room" by Marilyn French. it was about a suburban housewife who kept index cards of daly chres and monhly chores etc and filed her empty days with maintaining a tidy house and cooking for her kids. And it poked holes in this reality (she ends up divorced, finds college and free-love and is reborn. Her kids are shocked). And I vowed never to fall into that trap of being CEO of my home and life in that way. I had bigger dreams that somehow managed to include homeschooling and dancing in off Broadway musicals and being a doctor, the married aspect being undecided. and I feel like that perspective of looking down on uber-organisation and so forth has hampered my parenting. That I am an unschooler, don't expect me to have a plan for the day, I'm going to follow my children's lead each morning and build our day around their interests. And every unsch. parent I know who's child is a gamer finds they game 24/7 unless you talk to them about goals and balance. And we've had those chats, in which I somehow manage to make my kids feel bad about gaming so much, when that is never my goal nor my perspective. But their request and the only solution we've ever come up with is that I agree to support their desire to game less and remind them each day of the plans they made the day before, of their desire to game less and do X as well. But that requires me being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and not tiring of the daily, hourly reminding required to get them to follow their pursuits from the day before. And I'm just not that camp counsellor that it seems they need. And so I keep trying to put them in a class or something because they'll do what the instructor asks of them. Yes it's interests they've agreed to, but the point is once there they do the activities, they engage and smile and laugh (and learn). One child wants to learn the electric guitar, which DH owns and plays. but he is so overwhelmed with running his own business and is exhausted each day, that even thinking about creating a lesson/practice schedule for he and DD is futile, we know we'll try for a week and hate it it and then stop.THAT is it right there. We *could* meet our kids needs but we're too tired to. We both think having routines and schedules is actually what we all need, in these younger years, but our personalities and sleep needs/schedules and on and on are not gelling with that idea. I almost feel like we philosphically are unschoolers, but in practice, with us as parents, it is not creating what we think we want and what we know our kids want. Maybe it's winter, it's dark and cold, we're tired. but I think a big part is also that screens occupy them and we are too tired to pull them away from them. And habits are being formed, for all of us.

 

I could not journal our day nor participate in the 'what did your US do today?" thread because what we do is next to nothing, unless they're in a class. The only learning on their part is Mom's too tired or to busy folding laundry/on the phone/baking bread to engage with me, I'll go back to Starcraft. I've already spent 2+ years trying to alter my diet, try meds, exercise, whatever, to remedy my own issues. While I did all that they played games. See what I'm saying? I'm pressing submit now before I start deleting.


 

 


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WCM hug.gif

 

That was a real honest post.  Thank you for sharing.

 

I do see some of myself in your post - know you are not alone, even if that does not help your immediate situation.

 

Kathy

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#25 of 29 Old 03-06-2011, 09:13 AM
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My daughter told me yesterday that she wished I had talked to her more seriously about going to high school when she was 13 or 14. She thinks she learns best through formal classes, and that she would have liked having the structure of high school classes and all of the extracurricular activities in front of her, rather than having to make it up as she goes along, and she's tired of taking college classes and having the professor say, "We'll skip this chapter because I'm sure you all remember that from high school" when it's totally new information for her.

I feel like I did talk to her about it - I remember that she wanted to do drama after school and we called the high school before her "freshman year" and asked about the possibility of her participating in after school stuff, and they said she would need to be taking at least 2 classes, and she said never mind. And we did actually sign up for the virtual school that year, although only for 2 or 3 classes, and after 4 days or so she decided it was really stupid and left. She points out that at 13 or 14 she didn't really understand the choice and I was so biased against high school that she didn't really consider it.

So, whew. I dunno. I feel like some of this is panic over going to fulltime college next fall, and her feeling that everyone knows stuff she doesn't. And that's probably true, although I've offered to sit down with her and help her with that, but she says she doesn't learn well from me, only from classes. I also think, though, that she feels like the other kids know a lot more than they really do. She's worried about writing papers, for example, because she hasn't written many of them... but every freshman at my top tier university takes a college writing class their first semester, so it's not like they all come in as pros. I've read their papers, too, and though by the time they're juniors and seniors most are good writers, on average they're no better than Rain is, really. She's worried about powerpoints and oral presentations, too... but again, I've seen hers, and they're on-par with the students at my university, too.

I do think she's a perfectionist, and likes to know what to expect, and so this is throwing her for a loop and making her anxious. Also, she applied to 8 schools and we haven't heard from any yet but will hear from them all sometime this month, so it's a hard time.

On the other hand, she probably would have enjoyed a lot of high school. Where we live now the high schools are awful, but we could have chosen a different rental and she could have gone. I don't think it would have been as easy as she thinks, especially if she had taken college prep courses, and I think she would have had to do a lot more boring stuff than she thinks, but she's a natural leader and enjoys learning new things and taking on new challenges, so she would probably have done well and been happy. I think if I had known then that she was bound and determined to take the more traditional applying to college route that might have changed things, too... because I was open to lots of paths but she's set her sights on that one more and more strongly during the past few years.

I kind of think she did well and was generally happy with the path she took, too, but she thinks it was harder, and maybe it was. I alsothink she doesn't see herself as successful, and maybe in high school there would have been more opportunity for that. In a way I was recreating my own path, I guess - I dropped out of high school during my sophomore year and then went to community college and on to university, and for me it worked well. But, I'm not Rain, and she's not me, and as she pointed out, I had 9 and a half years of actual school first.

In retrospect I'm not sure how relevant this is, but here it is...

 
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#26 of 29 Old 03-07-2011, 10:16 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Aaaahhhh!!!! This is exactly what I'm terrified of.

 

Like your  husband starting his own business, WCM, my husband has been doing a PhD program (with a crappy adviser) for the last 6-1/2 years. This makes him cranky and exhausted generally, and challenges our emotions on many levels. We've been having a really rough six months and I think that's really affecting our ability to cope and my ability to get through the day. I'm basically a wreck. I've been trying to change everything, to move forward, to let go of philosophical ideas about coercion (that I've never quite pinpointed into a real exact ethos) and just get through the day.  Everything is immensely overwhelming right now though. It's too hard to be a camp counselor, as you described. I'm trying, I suppose, to piecemeal a life wherein some days are wasted and some days are productive. My younger son is a complete nightmare with the transitions though. He plainly refuses to like something ahead of time and wants to constantly be on the computer playing his games, despite our need to share things or his ability to usually have fun once we get to wherever I've contrived us to go.

 

I can't even get my thoughts on all of this together, really. I'm a bit like a CEO here, I guess, though I do take constant breaks and am not so uptight as to have little cards with daily chores and the like. Plus I'm not the only one cleaning. I have gained some compliance and help from my children. I think they do want to participate, it's just hard to always convince them that it's necessary. They're all willing once they get there. I wish there were a way I could see how all of what I'm doing is working. I wish there were a way to know what is right and what the long-term consequences of my choices were. As it stands right now, I'm in a place of doubting everything and doing very little and very much and trying and trying and failing miserably and really just muddling through the day to day. It's misery, really.

 

There's too many things to do in any given day - this has always been true - and right now, with misery and a fundamental re-working of the ways that I spend most of my time, I really just don't know where to start. My anxiety these days is utterly crushing. Maybe my real problem is mental health issues and not really a way of thinking about unschooling, but the intersection is very difficult and largely troubling. The tension between my children's education and my ability to cope or function is where all of this breaks down.

 

I don't know what I'm even talking about anymore. Forgive me! I'm going to hit post before I regret it...


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I wish there were a way I could see how all of what I'm doing is working. I wish there were a way to know what is right and what the long-term consequences of my choices were. 


Boy, if only we could hey? :)

 

But that's the thing. We can't. We make the best choices we can. For my mother that was sleep-training me, using punishment to try and control me, etc. And despite the damage I know some of her choices did, I don't hold it against her for one second. She made the best choices she could at the time, under her own unique circumstances, and the truth is kids are pretty resilient. 

 

For all the talk around this forum about whether to step in and take over control of our kids' learning when things aren't going well, the one thing I think we're missing is that there IS no crystal ball. You're just as likely to stumble upon the solution that changes everything for the better, as you are to change things for the worse. And you won't know until the end, and then what? Therefore, if your kid comes to you in college and says "I wished you'd made me do Math" or "I wish you'd made me go to school" I don't think there is any good in beating oneself up or second-guessing. 

 

I make the best choices I can, at this moment, based on what I believe in my heart to be best. If later I find out I was wrong, I hope I'll be wise enough to chalk it up to a lesson learned, and see that my children weren't irrevocably harmed because of it. It sounds like your life is overall chaotic, and I doubt that there is any magic solution to that, be it sending them to school, getting more "structured" in their learning, or whatever. Maybe there is some other aspect of your life you can change and only affect you so that you can feel like you are doing something and taking charge of things without risking negatively affecting your relationship with your kids. 

 

HTH. <hug!>

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#28 of 29 Old 03-07-2011, 06:53 PM
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Yeah. Exactly that. Would Rain have been happier in high school? Maybe. Maybe she would have been miserable, and we would have fought all the time, and I would now be hoping that her 2 Ds and an F last semester wouldn't keep her out of the state university (the situation a friend of mine was in recently with her very bright high school senior). Or maybe she would have been class president and had 5 AP tests under her belt and think it was the best time of her life. All we can do is the best we know at the moment, and if things don't seem to be working, we can change them, but we can't live life backwards. By most objective measures Rain is doing pretty well right now in all sphere of life, so even if unschooling wasn't the best choice for high school, it doesn't seem to have been a harmful one either.

I think, too, that a lot of things change when kids get to be 11-14 (earlier end of that for girls and later for boys, usually). There's a big development shift somewhere in there, and maybe I was slow in realizing how much was different. That probably has more to do with parenting a teen than unschooling per se...

 
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#29 of 29 Old 03-07-2011, 07:47 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Fair enough. When times are hard though, facilitating children in finding their interests and living fully seems to become ever more difficult. There's a lesson in there too, but I'm not sure the children are always really cognizant of it or how good it is for them necessarily. Eh.


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