Unsure if I've done the right thing... - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 12 Old 07-27-2014, 07:59 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Unsure if I've done the right thing...

Hello everyone. I'm in great need of opinions of unschoolers!

Last November we decided to unschool our son and took him out of 5th grade. Going on a year later, I am concerned that we are unable to unschool correctly. As we're moving to a new state next month, I am wondering if I should place him back in school, to try out a new school system.

I can happily say Unschooling has transformed our son from an unhappy 5th grader, to a happy, focused kid. Whereas he hated researching and following/reading instructions before, he will spend days following step-by-step Minecraft tutorials, and going out of his way to learn the names of the people who created his favorite games, and the timeline for development. He's gotten into video-game builders, and is learning key commands for computer game tweaking. He is much more loving towards us, and seems just... happy!! This is saying a lot, as he came from a place where school was a drain on him and he was sad/mad on a daily basis. It was an entire family struggle. Now he seems to genuinely want to learn things.

Now here is why I'm concerned: My husband and I work from home, and have a VERY needy 4 year old and I'm pregnant with another child. Our work is consumes ALL time that is not devoted to necessary household/ younger child care, and it looks to only get more difficult as time goes on with a new baby. I am unsure if we are "doing enough" to be successful unschoolers already, and know it will just get worse. I've read blogs of unschoolers who take daily trips to the library (or somewhere else interesting), and weekly trips to somewhere even more awesome, like an aquarium. These parents spend many hours a day spending time with their kids. Out work situation being what it is, we can only sway maybe a monthly/bi-monthly trip outside the house to somewhere interesting, with more often trips to the supermarket only, and cannot spend too much time with our son on a daily basis as we need to work whenever we can to keep our family afloat. Whenever he needs us, we'll talk with him and listen to what he has to say and have good discussions. With both kids we try to drop our work and give special attention to what they're saying, and talk with them. But I worry it is not enough, as most Unschooling families seem to have at least one parent who is a stay-at-home parent with no other job, and is able to give all energy to his/her children. I worry we are the Unschoolers of the "Cheery Neglect" variety in that our son is off by himself all day long while we work/ take care of the house and younger child. I worry that, while he is infinitely happier, we are not giving him a real chance at a successful life/career later on.

My worry over this is so strong, that despite all the good I see from Unschooling, I am thinking or enrolling him back into school once we move across country next month. I really just need some guidance and opinions. Is what we can give him enough? Or would trying another school system be a better shot for him? Thank you for reading!
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#2 of 12 Old 07-29-2014, 12:59 PM
 
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I wouldn't rule out homeschooling since he seems so much happier. I don't get my 12 yo out much more than once a month, either...

Have you tried finding out what the homeschool community is like where you are going? Look for yahoo groups or facebook groups so you can find out if there are parkdays or other things where he can meet peers.

I use happiness as a gauge. If my son is happy, he is getting enough social and intellectual stimulation. If he isn't, something needs tweaking. Because everything will be new when you move, he may not need as many specific outings other than what will happen naturally with exploring the area and running errands.

Good luck!

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#3 of 12 Old 07-29-2014, 08:30 PM
 
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I spent about 20 minutes "with" my girls today.

Just sayin'.

Mostly I tied dd7's bead bracelets together and oohed and aaahed at her "marble scoops" she folded now her origami is getting better and even a little inventive. Cooking dinner, I listened to dd9 and her script she is writing for her Girl Scout bridging play she is writing.

We did chicken chores together this morning.

I sat on the couch for about 2 minutes sipping the last of my coffee while dd9 watched a Shark Week DVD.

DH and I share work duties. Today after he got home early he did his quarterly taxes and then managed a game of Risk and Jumping Pixies.

Friday we share. I'm driving the girls and dropping them off with dh after he finishes a morning of work, then he will take them to open swim while I work the rest of the day. That knocks off some drive time for us.

It sounds like you have more work than we do, but this is how it looks at our house. I don't have much time to devote purposefully to the girls either.

I would ride out the unschooling "wave" as long as it is beneficial, then reconsider when things do, if they do, get difficult again.

"Let me see you stripped down to the bone. Let me hear you speaking just for me."
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#4 of 12 Old 07-29-2014, 09:35 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Comicbookmommy View Post
I worry that, while he is infinitely happier, we are not giving him a real chance at a successful life/career later on.
Okay, let me see if I've got this right. When he was in school he was unable or unwilling to read and follow directions, uninterested in learning and researching, was distant from you and generally very unhappy.

Remind me how this would give him a real chance at success in life and career later on?

I'm a firm believer that a happy engaged kid will develop the skills and confidence for success almost entirely regardless of the particular topic of his interests and activities. It sounds like he's happy and engaged and learning a ton. I would not fix something that wasn't broken.

Sure, make the move and keep an open mind. Maybe he'll start feeling hemmed in and understimulated as a stay-at-home unschooler. Maybe you'll discover that the new school district has an amazing project-based technology-focused charter school that runs on a democratic model. Maybe he'll ask to go back to school in order to make social connections and get a bit of direct adult support and direction.

On the other hand, maybe you'll discover that he's amazingly happy as an unschooler in the new area. Maybe you'll find a hacker club run by homeschoolers, or a family nearby with three unschooled kids who love running Minecraft servers and having all-day gaming and modding parties. Maybe he'll discover a BMX bike club that he loves and spends every Thursday and Saturday at. Maybe he'll gravitate to the role of secondary parent with the new baby and grow into a whole new level of maturity and responsibility. Maybe, maybe maybe.

Since things are so much better right now than they were when he was in school, why not just move and give it some time and see how it all shakes down?

miranda

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#5 of 12 Old 07-30-2014, 02:10 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you all for reading and giving me your thoughts and advice. You have no idea how much it helps!

That is so reassuring that not every unschool family spends hours on end daily to be successful at it. The accounts I read were so "filled" (IE: Monday we went to the zoo! Tuesday we did volunteer work! Wednesday we made homemade pots!) that made me feel what we give him was very inadequate. Reading up on "Cheery Neglect" made me even more concerned that he would just sit for years and not flourish because of our inability to be there enough to help him explore the world. Your posts definitely helped me see that perhaps things aren't as bad as I feared they were.

Regarding why I considered school again: His last school was a driving factor to his educational unhappiness, as it was one of those "top rated" schools that flaunt high test scores, and fawn over high performing students while continually pushing the rest of the students past their grade level in order to look better to the rest of the state. It took me years, and other parents saying the same thing, for me to realize this, and by then damage had been done and he felt like he was "dumb" and felt low self esteem, and was totally against learning anything. He wasn't the only one, there were five other parents who had the same issue. So with starting at a new school (one noted for being more lax on test scoring and focused on the individual) I wondered if maybe trying this new place out would be more beneficial than a "cheery neglect" situation at home (if that is truly what is happening here).

But perhaps you are right; as long as he is happy then perhaps all is well. I certainly agree with the unschooling philosophy. I was a straight A/B honors student all through school, and hardly learned anything from it. I learned much more from the days during summer when I played videogames nonstop, and from the long afternoons drawing my own comics (I'm a professional comic artist now). Seeing my son struggle in school really made me ask "why"? Why is he being pushed to "learn" when it wasn't true learning at all, and he'd retain hardly any of it later in life? Why was I letting the school label him as "learning disabled" when he so obviously learned just fine on topics he was interested in at home? So I'm totally on board, but I still question my own ability to make sure unschooling is done right in our home.

Anyway, sorry for the novel Thanks again for your thoughts. They are truly appreciated!
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#6 of 12 Old 07-30-2014, 03:24 AM
 
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Oh, I know the feeling! Try to take those accounts for what they are-a highlight reel. No one blogs about the days when the whole family sits around in their underwear contemplating belly button lint and eating leftovers, KWIM?
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#7 of 12 Old 07-30-2014, 08:56 AM
 
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I don't doubt that there are some families of the "Monday - zoo, Tuesday - volunteering, Wednesday - pottery" persuasion. However, like stormborn says, sometimes that's more just the impression one gets by reading a highlights reel. I keep a blog (much neglected lately) but in the old days it used to sometimes be perceived that way. I wrote it to keep track of the notable stuff, for my own records and in order to put grandparents' worries to rest.

While my blog might have given the impression of "Monday - zoo, Tuesday - volunteering, Wednesday - pottery," the reality was more likely this:

Monday - zoo. The little one had a big freak-out at lunch and the middle one was mad because the lions were so far away that we couldn't see them properly, and the oldest got frustrated with the pace through most of the pavilions. Sigh. For this we paid forty bucks?
Tuesday a week later - went to a community meeting and had to take the kids, so I put them to work folding letters and stuffing envelopes. We'll call it volunteer experience, yes?
Wednesday three weeks later - finally got out the air-dry clay grandma sent for Christmas a year and a half ago, and the two middle kids were into it for a while, made a couple of pots, but the mess was insane and the older one complained the whole time about pinch pots being stupid and really wanting a wheel, and about not being able to take pottery classes in town, and then had a big meltdown over little siblings being horrible because they get in the way of doing proper activities, and the youngest kept dropping clay on the floor and for whatever reason the dog ate it and I had to call the vet, and they don't have air-dry clay in their poison database, but he *thought* it probably wasn't toxic because his kids went to Waldorf school and he thought he remembered that the filler was just cellulose. But I took some photos of the middle kids' pots on the window-sill and they did look pretty.

Miranda

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#8 of 12 Old 07-30-2014, 10:14 AM
 
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Blogs are like Martha Stewart's media. If you take it as an entire package, it's overwhelming. If you take it as what other families are doing, you get a false impression. If you take it as a repository of some great ideas that you can cherry-pick and be inspired by (maybe for down the road when you can get across the floor and to the walls without stepping on some wicked lego piece and your couch is not being used as a desk) then it's a great resource for some clever and elegant ideas. Just because blogs are "real life" people and not a collaboration of professionals in a multi-billion dollar corporation doesn't make them any more accessible.

Ditch the blogs or other media that are causing you to feel that something is missing. Stick to the ones that give you a sense of validation. For me that means reading those blogs with older kids who have unschooled (like Miranda's blog ).

Of course, the longer I unschool, the more confident I feel and the more impervious I become to stories of those families. Sometimes those blogs are so different from my experience I feel like it's not even applicable to my life. They seem so very parent-led to me. Or their kids are crazy-motivated and building crazy things and my kids do a lot of watching videos. Or the other kids are academically precocious and mine aren't. You learn to sort through that kind of stuff as you settle in more.

That imaginary school sounds fabulous! Make attendance voluntary and I am all over it!
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#9 of 12 Old 08-06-2014, 06:22 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hey! Sorry this is belated but wanted to thank you all again for the wonderful input and thoughts. It really helped assure me that maybe things are okay after all. I think I will stay away from comparing other families to mine, it's just difficult because I am so worried I am just not enough alone to give the best chance he could have in life.

Anyway, I'll just keep on going forward, and hoping for the best. Thank you all very much!
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#10 of 12 Old 08-07-2014, 10:07 AM
 
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I enjoyed this thread. Were plunging into unschooling and all the input here put my mind at ease.
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#11 of 12 Old 08-11-2014, 07:42 AM
 
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I worked full time, as a single parent, unschooling 2 kids, one with special needs. Will come back to talk about it - really just subbing to remember!

Rhu - mother,grandmother,daughter,sister,friend-foster,adoptive,and biological;not necessarily in that order. Some of it's magic, some of it's tragic, but I had a good life all the way (Jimmy Buffet)

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#12 of 12 Old 08-16-2014, 08:34 AM
 
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Hello - I'm back.


My Dumplings are now 18 & 19 - guess I can't say we are unschooling anymore, although our days don't look that much different than they ever did.


When they were younger, I feared that they were watching too much TV; that their interests would never progress beyond SpongeBob. Today, they still watch some TV - almost exclusively news and documentaries.


DD's interest in the news has led to her to start college, majoring in international affairs, with a particular focus on women's rights in the Middle East. I had no part in this interest of hers (other than buying her the Arabic Rosetta stone a couple years ago, and paying for a tutor). I can't imagine anything I could have done to effect this path of hers, either positively or negatively. Nothing against arts and crafts projects or museum trips, but those were my projects, not hers. Over the years, she tried on various interests - medicine, politics, whatever. I encouraged these gently, by offering books, introducing her to people working in that field, like that.


Other than career-related interests, she has become a pretty fabulous gourmet cook. This started because I worked full-time, and usually did only the simplest dinners. I think it was in self-defense that she learned to cook! I suppose it could have been seen as neglect, but it had a pretty great outcome.


She raised Guide Dog puppies for a couple years. That is a very serious commitment, nearly a full-time job in
itself. I drove her to the weekly training meetings, and provided the dog food, but again, it really was her project. My part in this was background support at most.


For the last 3 years, she has done respite childcare for a boy with severe autism. I introduced her to the family, and provide the space for them, but again, this is her job, not mine. At first, I stayed close in case she needed help, but lately, I am pretty much out of the picture.


My YoungSon's path has been about the same - he is interested in physical fitness (I promise, that was not my influence!), and science. Oh, and of course video games. The science part comes partly from me, I am a true nerd, but he doesn't see that as a career choice for himself. Our city has a great science museum, and we always had annual passes there and to the zoo, art, and history museums, etc. He reads mainly classics, and is keenly interested in human rights, especially the gay marriage issue these days. And what does he plan to do with this broad and intellectual background? My boy is joining the Marines. Sigh...


I guess my point in all this is that unschooling is a platform to support each kid's innate interests. I am a near recluse, so we NEVER participated in homeschooling groups of any sort. As isolated as it may have appeared, my kids somehow had enough exposure to a variety of subjects that they have chosen their own paths. I can't imagine how more of my time, more craft materials or math classes, "socialization", or whatever would have changed or benefitted them. From the perspective of a few years, I see that they are becoming who they were born to be, with little direct influence from me.


It was tough for many years to trust that my instincts were right, that I was not harming my kids in my pretty radical lifestyle choices. But today, I am so impressed with the young adults my Dumplings have become. I do not take much credit for this - only for the piece that I gave them the freedom to become who they chose themselves.

Rhu - mother,grandmother,daughter,sister,friend-foster,adoptive,and biological;not necessarily in that order. Some of it's magic, some of it's tragic, but I had a good life all the way (Jimmy Buffet)

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