So, this may not be totally related to unschooling,but I am going to post it here because in my mind it relates to a point.
My dd is 4, her K year would be the 2013-14 school year. Right now, I am thinking of doing a more unschooled K year. I have many, many reasons for this, but one of the reasons I am thinking of homeschooling is that my daughter shows NO signs of being willing to participate in something without a parent present. After much hand wringing and worrying over this, the past 6 months or so I have really let go of the worrying and tried to have faith that she will grow and separate at her own pace.
That is until yesterday. I work in a library, and once a week, they have a dance class for kids there. The teacher is someone i have chatted with many times. Her dd is same age and very like my daughter. (quiet, shy for a lack of a better word,) I knew she had never done anything without mom in terms of classes, though she does spend the night with grandma, something I don't think my dd would do even though she loves going to grandmas house. Anyway, yesterday, the teacher mentioned her daughter was doing a summer camp at the local waldorf school and was being dropped off and picked up. I was surprised and asked how it was going. She said she loves it, even though her daughter was VERY nervous at first. But, she ended up doing well. I should mention, her and her daughter in the past have taken mommy and me type classes there. The teacher sort of gave me the old, "mom was more nervous, and LOOK! she did fine and is learning independence" type talk that I have gotten from people in the past.
While I know that I shouldn't compare my dd or family choices to someone else's, I guess the whole conversation left a worried feel for me. I guess the conversation came a bad time for me too. My dd and i just finished in June a mommy and me style preschool class. While in wasn't perfect in many ways, (too schooly for me) it really worked well for my dd. Routine, seeing the same group of kids, (though she still would not "play" with them exactly), having another adult in her life that wasn't family, giving her exposure to something besides our home life, having mommy right there, etc. I decided to try and relax for the summer and not worry as much that she wasn't getting exposure to other kids and stuff. We do go to the park, zoo, places like that A LOT, but I don't think that is the same as being exposed to the same kids over and over. So, I have been researching different classes for my dd so we can do something else maybe in the fall. It just feels like a lot of classes are "drop off, pick up" or at least require the kid to participate while mom is there, but standing on the sidelines. I don't think my dd would even do that. I have thought about going to the classes and just letting her sit with me and watch, but I guess I feel like, "what is the point?", plus, remembering being a "shy" kid myself, I think sometimes you end up feeling like a failure because you are unable to do what everyone else is doing. (pariticipating).
So, now let me see if I can relate this to my unschool thoughts. I guess I start thinking, is this even important? Does she need to take some classes? I guess I can't decide what I think. I sorta of feel like she does because as she gets older, I worry that she isn't learning social skills with people other than family. (like I do want her to learn how to talk to someone else, something, quite frankly, I don't think she has ever done, she just recently nodded a few times when people asked her a question, and my dh and I thought that was huge) Or, I am feeling the pressure society puts on having your child become independent? Its hard to know what are my feelings and what are my ingrained beliefs from society. (similiar to feelings about schooling). But, in totally honesty, (and there is some guilt related to this) I do worry about her independence. we have seen some growth in the last few months, but she is still extremely "needy" (I hate that word , but don't have another word to use). Just this morning, she and I had a little argument because she didn't want to let me use the bathroom. When i pressed her for why, she said, "I just want mom". Totally fine, but she is totally allowed to come in and talk to me, but this morning that wasn't enough, she wanted to whine at me about how I was using the bathroom instead of sitting at the table with her, and she feels the need to touch me WHILE I AM SITTING ON THE TOILET. That is an example of something that is just too much for me. I mean, I start thinking, she is 4 and half, I can't go to the bathroom, nevermind alone, but without having to snuggle? That example doesn't happen everyday, but more than I am comfortable with. I should mention here, we family bed, we snuggle in the morning, she gets TONS of attention from both dh and I, so can't see that it is she needs more, and even if she does, I am quite incabable of giving more. These thoughts lead me to-well, maybe I should "make" her take a class without me and it will help her see she is capable of being without mommy, or it could totally backfire and she could be more afraid. On top of those thoughts, after the way I felt this morning, I started wondering if I am capable of homeschooling/unschooling, I feel like I can't meet her needs frequently.
I have to be honest here as well, I don't know if I am capable of "making" her do something that I know would make her so miserable. (take a class without mom). There is a swim class I would love to sign her up for, to learn some basic water safety, but the parents sit outside the fence and go in by themselves with the teacher. I honestly think she would freak out. I know this post went all over the place, but I just don't know what is the right thing to do. Is trying a class showing her she can, or turning my back on what I know her needs are? Should i just wait her out more? It is so hard for me to decide what is the right thing for my family, for her, and I often can't tell what I believe vs. the pressure I feel when all the other kids we know are WAY more independent.
Thank you for listening and making it this far.
Mama to a wonderful girl since 12/2007
Take a deep breath. You have time--more time than you think you have. So much can change in one year, though it's impossible to know which things will be the ones to change.
I would read some, watch some, and wait. If you are interested in unschooling, then read some books about it. I really like Sandra Dodd's Big Book of Unschooling because the pieces are really short, and you can read them while your child is playing in the tub or you're waiting for the coffee to brew. The book also addresses a lot of the specific concerns you've mentioned here. Another book I often recommend to those considering homeschooling is David Gutterson's Why Homeschooling Makes Sense. It's about homeschooling in general, but it does address the socialization issue. It's also a very gentle book.
It does sound as if you're feeling the pressures put on parents to force their children to be independent. I can honestly say from my experience that allowing young children to be attached does seem to foster true independence and confidence later on. My eldest child was very physically attached to me, but trotted off to day camp for several days last summer (for the first time, at age 7) without any hesitation.
It sounds as if you are meeting you child's needs very well. We all have moments when we doubt our abilities.
Forcing children to be independent is very important... IF you're going to be sending them off to school imminently. Otherwise, don't worry about it; let their personalities and developmental schedule guide the process. Find ways to gradually and gently stretch your dd's comfort zone over the next few years so that by the time she is developing interests that are best pursued separate from home and family she has the confidence and independence that's up to the task.
My older kids were quite shy at age 4, and didn't do any apart-from-mom activities until age 6 or 7. My eldest dd was most reserved of all. We made a conscious choice to meet her attachment needs fully in the hope that this would give her the sense of security she'd need to be able to venture off on her own when she was ready. It was a gradual process: she rarely spoke in public until the age of 8 or so. She did sleepovers at grandma's from age 5 or 6, but not at friend's houses until age 11 or 12. But I think our approach has been resoundingly validated. At age 14 she went on a two-week music exchange program across the country, being billeted by strangers. Around her 15th birthday she backpacked for 2 and a half months with some adult friends in southeast Asia. At 15 she got a customer-service job at a café and did fabulously with it. And at 17 she moved across the country on her own to live in an apartment with no local support system, in order to pursue specialized training in music. She has totally thrived!
I think this is very much related to unschooling. Unschooling means trusting a children to lead and pace their own learning. In our case we interpreted that as encompassing social learning as well as academic learning.
Mountain mama to two great kids and two great grown-ups
It is also important to think about *your* needs/desires. There are times I *need* him to go to do something without me. Now that doesn't always mean he needs to be a in a class or school, but sometimes it means he goes on playdates with friends etc., because there are days when if he comes into the bathroom one more time I might freak out and I don't want to freak out!
Ds was enrolled in a dance class, really low-key, creative movement etc. Care givers were in the room the whole time. He knew the teacher (she dances with our housemate) and it should have been great. Ds would start out doing some of the stuff, and then go and sit in the corner (and sometimes cry, but usually just sit). We were bringing another kid with us (childcare swap) so we couldn't just leave. He would always say he wanted to go, but never really participate (it was incredibly frustrating *for me*). Fast forward to a year or so later, he's aged out of the care giver in the room class and into the going by yourself class. We talk about it, he says he wants to go, we talk with the teacher etc. Well, he goes, he does fine. There are some interesting things that needed to be worked out between him and the teacher (he doesn't want to go alone across the floor when others are watching, he's happy to go with a group, but not alone, he does not want to participate in any performances etc), but he was able to work with the teacher and figure out what works for him. I think if I had still been in the room, he wouldn't have been able to do it. He would have sat on the sidelines or asked to leave. I'm in the same building, just in the next room, he knows where I am, but not being in the room enabled him to participate. I also think having fewer adults in the room really helped (that way he didn't feel "watched" by so many people)
Hi - there were many points in your post that had me nodding (vigorously) and relating (wholeheartedly) and giggling (proving that one can indeed, look back and laugh at such things like that!) but in the interests of not waiting for later when I have a chance to post a long reply I would just like to say that ...
I think that if you decouple your need to be able to have time to yourself from her need to go out and explore, then you can find ways to meet your need now and she can meet hers when she actually needs it and is eager to meet it.
- regarding "Routine, seeing the same group of kids" I hear you! I had to work quite a bit to make that happen through homeschool groups and by proactively setting up activities with the neighborhood kids like drama club etc.
- the day will come when she is ready to go off to activities without you and when that day comes, it may still be true that you worried, yet she did fine, etc. Whether it happens next year or 3 or 5 years from now, the earlier years will be valuable in themselves (stating the obvious). And it is not something that happens all at once - it keeps happening as their range keeps expanding (and sometimes contracting in between).
- re bathroom BTDT! not identical in the details but to this day dd (9) wants us to brush our teeth together and can get quite upset if I have "brushed already." dd is an only child so a lot of this kind of thing falls on me.
our only option for swim classes was also something like what you described, and dd would not have done it so she had no classes. she just had to learn on her own -it was slow but that was fine. similar with bicycle.
She went to her first day camp, for 1 week, at age 7. She had great fun but when I asked if she wanted to do another one she cheerfully said no, that was enough. Right now 2 years later, she is again attending one. She might have done one last year, but we didn't even look into it for whatever reason.
gotta run - relax, as LuckiestGirl said.