Thanks in advance. So we are relatively new to radical unschooling. REally got into it about 6 months back and it just totally resonated with both me and my husband. Since then we have read everything we could get our hands on and recently attended Dayna Martin's Life Rocks conference which was just SO inspiring. Ds (1.5) has always been "unschooled" WE are hard core attachment parenting and unschooling just seems like the next logical step and we have been ru'ing in an age appropriate way.
So my questions is this? I have two step children 10 and 13 who we only have eow. They are VERY mainstream kids and attend public school. We have been trying to offer them way more freedom while they are here, but in some ways I feel like it is back firing a bit bc they have rules, routines, bedtimes, school, etc with their mom and when they come to stay with us they treat it like it is a free for all....watch TV all day, cant engage themselves in anything wo an adult, seriously don't even brush their teeth. We are trying to "tailor" it bc obviously they are not unschooled kids, but we want to give them freedom. Anyone every been in this situation? How did it work for you?
Is eow every other week or every other weekend?
I have no experience with a blended family. But I don't think it's realistic to think tweens are just going to suddenly adjust to a no rules environment and make good choices, especially if it is just two days out of 14. I have been unschooling all along. I have provided years and years of guidance to my 11 yo to help him follow his body's cues. He was never even good at realizing when he was hungry. When he did, he'd go for the easiest food option which generally is snacky things with minimal nutritional value. So I make sure there are nutritional options and suggest he eat something different than his previous food choice. I still remind him to brush his teeth. Actually what I do is load up his toothbrush and set it next to him along with his flosser twice a day. Then he goes ahead and brushes when he is done eating or before he goes to bed. He knows (intellectually) that exercise is important but he'd still rather sit in front of the computer all day. That is what he would choose to do all day after 11 years of unlimited tv and computer use. So we go on (2 mile) family walks most days. There is a lot of adult involvement in his activities.
I think the key will be treating them with respect and meeting their needs. But not just telling them your household has no rules. Their needs may be a nudge towards getting ready for bed at a certain time. I tend to tell ds that it's getting late and to find a good stopping point in whatever he's doing. I don't expect him to drop what he is doing. He may stay up another half an hour. It's a balancing act of me helping him notice he is getting tired without a hard and fast bedtime rule.
Spend time with them, listen to their points of view, plan activities to do together.
I totally agree with you about the reality.
We just had them this weekend and we made some minor tweeks and things seems to run a little bit smoother. They are really good kids, so that helps.
This past weekend we "encouraged" certain behaviors such as "you might want to think about brushing your teeth after all that sugar." And they were totally receptive to it. We also both sat and sun suggested family activities, walks, playground, going to a baseball game. We would never make them do any of these things, but the suggestions helped and they got outside, got exercise, and overall counteracted the screen time imo, without us ever having to say..."that's enough, turn off the tv, etc."
I'm starting to realize that for them it probably won't come as intrinsically as it (hopefully) will for DS when he is 13 or so, but that a lot of this for them is just being SUPER respectful. They are pretty much young adults, and we shouldn't be controlling them. I wouldn't make my dss (almost 14) have a bedtime weather we were unshooling or not, bc to me it is not respectful. He knows his body and will go to bed when he needs to.
Thanks for the response.
I don't have any experience with blended families, but I have four kids 10 and up, so I know the age-group!
One thing about unschooling is that when kids change over to a more autonomous way of life from a mainstream one, there's always a period of deschooling as they adjust. From an educational standpoint it's often suggested that kids need up to a month of deschooling for every year of structured education they've had. I imagine that from a personal autonomy standpoint it would be similar. During deschooling / decompression they may spend a lot of time doing "nothing," over-indulging in video games and various forms of screen time, appearing aimless and unmotivated ... but if you wait it out, eventually they'll discover an internal ability to self-direct.
The problem with shared custody where the other parent is more rule- and authority-oriented is that you're never going to get through that decompression phase. You'll get them through a few days of it, but then they go back to a low-autonomy situation with school and all that mainstream stuff. It's like you're planting a seed in the soil and watering it, but after a few days you have to pull it out of the ground and put it in an envelope again, only to repeat the process in a week or two. If a seed takes 10 days (or six months!) to germinate, that's never going to happen.
So yeah, I don't think part-time unschooling is likely to work in the situation you describe. I think instead you should put the focus on respect: on finding ways of being together that provide some of the structure that they need and expect, but really listening to their needs and desires, and creating that structure collaboratively with their input. They're plenty old enough to be able to look at the issues and make sensible decisions. Point out that shared custody is about having positive relationships with both sets of parents. Giving them a comfortable place where they can do a lot of what they like is part of the picture -- but you also believe that interacting and sharing experiences with them is another part. What sort of expectations or guidelines do they think would help in striking that balance? It sounds like that's what you're discovering: respect is the key, even more than freedom.