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#1 of 13 Old 08-27-2014, 10:39 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Scared, Again. Am I failing them?

It's never a good idea to start a conversation with a mother in law late at night. Let's start with that.

So, my 9 year old son was very defiant about heading to pre-bedtime reading tonight. And he yelled "no" at me a bunch of times. Eventually he got around to giving up, and we all went (delayed) to start bedtime. After kids were asleep MIL wanted to talk about how she didn't understand how we parent, and how he's going to learn to be respectful, that branched into how she's worried they're going to be illiterate, and how they are so behind public schoolers.

And I'm scared. Maybe they are. Maybe I'm failing them by not offering them more chances to learn. Maybe I need to be more commanding and get them to do what I say.

I'm scared that my "unschooling" is neglect.
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#2 of 13 Old 08-28-2014, 07:45 PM
 
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Hi, I actually think there was nothing wrong with your conversation with MIL. It seemed like she was concerned and she didn't interfere with what you were doing, only asked you about it afterwards. It is good to have people around who care enough to have these awkward conversations with us, provided they are genuinely interested in hearing you and are not trying to push their views. Of course if you don't want her involvement that is a different story but if you have a good relationship on an overall level then I really see no problems with such conversations. I have them with my parents and MIL and there are many areas where we don't agree. They believe they know better (but I also believe I know better) but occasionally they see my point (and I occasionally see theirs).

I can't really offer much insight into the specifics but I don't think they really have to do with unschooling.

Actually I don't think that what you are doing is unschooling. But since you posted here I will not second-guess that.

What was your son "defying?" Do you have open respectful conversations with your son on how you want to plan your day and night, including reading, going to bed etc?

no longer  or  or ... dd is going on 12 (!) how was I to know there was a homeschool going on?
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#3 of 13 Old 08-29-2014, 08:21 AM
 
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What was your son "defying?" Do you have open respectful conversations with your son on how you want to plan your day and night, including reading, going to bed etc?
I digress into arguments similar to that, but we also have good conversations about working out bedtimes and routines and my needs and their needs.

DadMan, you don't give any specifics as to why this exchange with your son and MIL would leave you to doubt unschooling beyond that they are behind public schoolers. Argument aside, take some time to assess what your family is doing. Start making a little calendar where you list all the schoolish things they do, developmental milestones achieved. Maybe note how you helped, make note of whether your presence was desired. Do this for a while. Be your own family evaluator.

Looking back, I think you will either see that you are doing fine-- that they are not leveled with public schoolers perhaps because their intense interests lie elsewhere. Or maybe you will see that you have made yourself unavailable. In which case I would read up on something like Project Based Homeschooling, which dovetails with unschooling to some extent and works with parents' presence in their child's interests.

Without knowing more, it's hard to see why it all precipitated from this event. Many unschooling families have bedtimes, but while that might be a top-down decision, it usually is combined with parents' consideration of children's needs, even as they change. Others would make sure that if they don't have rules regarding bedtime, that parents' needs are respected as much as a child's needs. A parent does need to stand up for themselves and their needs. Does that mean making the kids go into the bedroom at 8pm? Not necessarily, though in my house they do. There are plenty of solutions all along the spectrum.

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#4 of 13 Old 08-29-2014, 09:15 AM
 
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Many unschooling families have bedtimes, but while that might be a top-down decision, it usually is combined with parents' consideration of children's needs, even as they change.
Agreed. And it is so hard to know what's really going on from a short post, and so easy to read the wrong things into words and phrases. Like rumi I heard some things in your post that made me wonder whether this is an unschooling issue. For me the phrase was "defiant about heading to pre-bedtime reading." The reading part specifically makes me wonder whether you are requiring him to read, which, bedtimes aside, doesn't sound very much like unschooling to me.

At any rate, I agree with SweetSilver's very wise advice: to contemplate, in the light of a new day, whether your children are learning and growing appropriately for them, or whether there is real cause for concern. And if you have concerns about them -- not your MIL's concerns, but your own -- then yes, something like PBR might give you a really useful framework for making some changes that could address those concerns.

If your MIL spends a lot of time with you and and you feel it is important for her to understand and be involved in your family life, then it might be worth talking with her about what your goals and values are and why you are choosing the path you are. As an example I have a good friend who is very involved in my kids' lives who at one point expressed concern that because they weren't being pushed to do things they didn't enjoy, they might not discover that it is often worth working hard and pushing through difficulties. When we talked about it in a spirit of open-mindedness, I explained that this was something I had thought carefully about, and my approach was to support them in pursuing their interests deeply and passionately, such that they would have enough motivation from within to want to grapple with difficulties along the way to greater mastery. I admitted that it might take them longer using this approach to reach a point where they buckled down and did some less-than-enjoyable grunt work, but that I expected that the lessons learned from those experiences would be extremely potent and lasting, far more so that simply having been assigned lots of unenjoyable work at younger ages. When my friend heard that I had thought about it and made a conscious choice, she was far more accepting of my path. She was still skeptical, but she understood that I was not blind to the issue. So if it's important to you to have your MILs understanding and acceptance, you might consider talking to her about your longer-term goals and values and how you're taking into account the things she's concerned about.

If she's an infrequent visitor or someone whose involvement in your kids' lives you don't value, it is also possible to draw very clear boundaries on these issues. Say "We've thought this through, and we're comfortable with our approach. We're the parents, so thanks for your concern, but this is our choice. So, how's Aunt Caroline doing since her surgery?"

Miranda

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#5 of 13 Old 08-29-2014, 10:45 AM
 
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I'm not an unschooler, but I saw this in the Recent Threads. I'm replying because I also have a 9-year-old son who's very defiant at times, I've also had the experience of his over-the-top disrespectful defiance of bedtime in front of a grandparent, and I've also had conversations with the grandparents in which they question our parenting because they believe our son's behavior is abnormal...but he attends a fairly typical public school and previously attended a full-day mainstream preschool, so he has been in some type of structured school environment since he was two years old.

My point is, this defiant behavior likely has nothing at all to do with your choice of schooling method. I hope that reading this calms your fear and self-doubt as much as seeing your thread helped me to relax about the half-dozen times I've mentioned a problem with my son to some home-schooling parent who's then told me, "Oh, he's like that because he needs more time with you. If you'd just quit your job and take him out of school, he'd feel loved enough and then he'd cooperate." Sure, it's possible that an individual child might react to schooling that doesn't suit him by being defiant, but in both our cases that's probably not what it's about.

As for how to handle bedtime defiance and/or embarrassing defiance in front of an audience, clearly I have no magic answer, but it helps to Show. No. Fear. This means to recognize when I am feeling, "His behavior is ruining everything!" and consciously calm myself and remember not to give him that power. He will not be able to ruin everything if I do not let him ruin me. I am in control of myself and my reaction to him. I will set the example of using a calm, quiet voice. I will make clear statements about what needs to happen now, instead of asking questions like I'm confused or ranting about how much he's bugging me. I refuse to escalate the argument. It might still take a while for him to calm down (and this really wears on me!!) but ultimately it goes better with this approach than any other I've tried.

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#6 of 13 Old 08-31-2014, 11:36 AM
 
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Maybe I need to be more commanding and get them to do what I say.
I don't think so, from what little you shared about the situation.

Are you hooked into a community of unschoolers or homeschoolers? Are you aiming to be an unschooling family? If so, I'd suggest that you politely and firmly let MIL know that you're not looking for feedback about your parenting, and then do some thinking, reading and talking with your partner (if you have one, if not, with trusted homeschooling or unschooling friends) and get yourself to a place where you feel more confident as a parent overall.

As an outsider, I don't get why -- as an unschooler -- you'd have such a big investment in pre-bedtime reading, for example, and why that'd be a hill you'd want to die on as a parent, so to speak. So I can see why she might have questions. Perhaps because you seem wobbly on what you hold dear, because you're not quite sure exactly what it IS that you hold dear. Is it a respectful relationship with your kids? Or is it outcomes based on structure?
I do think it would help to do some deep thinking, but not alongside your MIL.

I had the same concerns as your MIL when I watched my sister unschool my nieces. And I learned to not say anything, and to trust in her process. It all worked out, and here I am, unschooling my own kids a decade later. But I remember having those concerns, and being genuinely worried about my nieces.

I understand where she's coming from. And I get where you're at.

dust.gifFour-eyed tattooed fairy godmother queer, mama to my lucky star (5) and little bird (2.5). Resident storyteller at www.thestoryforest.com. Enchanting audiostories for curious kids. Come play in the forest!
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#7 of 13 Old 09-05-2014, 11:16 AM
 
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Originally Posted by DadMan View Post
It's never a good idea to start a conversation with a mother in law late at night. Let's start with that.

So, my 9 year old son was very defiant about heading to pre-bedtime reading tonight. And he yelled "no" at me a bunch of times. Eventually he got around to giving up, and we all went (delayed) to start bedtime. After kids were asleep MIL wanted to talk about how she didn't understand how we parent, and how he's going to learn to be respectful, that branched into how she's worried they're going to be illiterate, and how they are so behind public schoolers.

And I'm scared. Maybe they are. Maybe I'm failing them by not offering them more chances to learn. Maybe I need to be more commanding and get them to do what I say.

I'm scared that my "unschooling" is neglect.
HI, my children are 9,8,3 and have never been to school, I considered myself an unschooler. I have always gone through periods of doubt, they come and go. From talking to many home schoolers this is the norm. I imagine it is the norm for most parents...."am I doing what is right for my children". You are not alone there. Now being a homeschooler/unschooler you are outside of the box and may feel more pressure from society. Just breathe, you'll make if through.

As for being behind public school children, it may be true but in the future it won't be. When you child is 20 no one will know they learned to read at 6, 10 or 15...and no one will ask. I find that many kids in school "hate reading" and I would rather my child have a love of reading throughout their life, and they do love reading though most of reading now is someone reading to them. My daughter 9 can read pretty well and can search on line for any information she needs. If you asked my son 8 if he can read he would say no, though I know he can many words now. He does not sit down and read books. From the reading I have done this is not abnormal for boys at this age.....when left to their own devices that is, not compared to school children. This doesn't bother me, it would probably bother some of my family but we don't discuss this in detail. You get pretty good at answering those questions in a vague yet satisfying way. And even if my family is not satisfied they don't press it because I speak like I am know what I'm doing and it is right (even when I sometimes have doubt).

Children learn ALL THE TIME, no matter where they are or what they are doing. I'm not sure why people think you need to be in a brick building with a teacher and 2o-30 kids to learn? It takes a village, we are all setting examples, we are all teacehers.

Your MIL question, how is he going to learn to be respectful, is a simple one in my mind....if he is treated with respect and witnesses respectful behaviour he will be respectful himself. I would question why you were fighting so hard for your son to submit to your wishes? If he were an adult would you have made him read with you after he told you he did not wish to? Is that respectful? I am not trying to be critical, I'll explain....

I try to remember that my children are individuals just like adults and, to some extent, treat them like peers. Now this is not to say I don't parent, because they get their share of parental preaching, but I do believe they have the right to express what they wish to do/or not do and I am responsible to hear them out. A piece of parenting advice I always remember is "choose your battles"....battles sounds kind of awful but the theory is a good one. Is it really worth all that stress right before bed to not read for one night? Why do you have to win that battle? Is it because your MIL is there? would that have happened if she wan't there.

I get that the situation is not black and white. My husband reads to our children at night, sometimes my son is a bit whiny but he ends up having a good time and enjoying it, my hubby knows this so ends up talking him into the reading. But, if he were to have a tantrum and scream no, no, no a bunch of times I'm pretty sure it would not happen. Why? This behaviour is outside the norm for him, something is wrong and it could be many things that have nothing to do with reading. I find my children are more likely to exhibit this behaviour when their blood sugar is low, ie they need something to eat. Maybe we had a busy day and they are over stimulated and need some down time but don't know how to express this, or even that they need it. Whatever the reason, if the child can articulate the reason or not, is it worth the upset?

And we are not perfect, we have had power struggles here too! One example is a few years ago is when my daughter refused to eat her broccoli when my husband was telling her she had to. (I am more unschooler than my hubby, I no part in the conversation). She finally stood up and said "it's my body and my supper and I'll eat what I want" and stomped off to her room. He looked at amazed that his child spoke to him in such a way. I just said "well, she's not wrong"...and she wasn't, her points were totally valid.

Another example is just this spring when my daughter refused to go to her last computer science class. We had just driven all the way home from the cottage in a rush to make this class so I was not impressed. I knew she felt a bit under the weather lately, was sleeping a lot and not herself but computer science is not very strenuous. We were in the parking lot and I really tried to make her go in, she dug her heals in and ended up in tears. That's when I stopped and said okay, your don't have to go. (I took he rto doc later that week and she did end up having a virus and needed her rest and I felt awful that I had even tried to squabble with her about it.
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#8 of 13 Old 09-28-2014, 12:49 PM
 
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Former Homeschooler

My daughter was unschooled for several years, then returned to public school part time. She never had math or science or history. Then she dropped out in the middle of 11th grade. When it was time for college, she took a remedial math class and just jumped into her other classes with no special preparation. She's got a 3.6 gpa.

People can learn to read in a matter of weeks. You can learn more U.S. history than most adults know by reading one book. And people pick up massive quantities of knowledge without noticing it, just by being alive, playing on the web, reading newspapers and library books, or thinking. If you give kids time to think, it's amazing what they can figure out. Keep calm and carry on.
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#9 of 13 Old 09-29-2014, 06:36 AM
 
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Minecraft and pokemon were what seriously got my boys into wanting to hone their reading skills, since without being able to read, they were seriously hamstrung in their ability to play both. There is a book that I recently read that honestly helped me with encouraging literacy -
Amazon Amazon
It is definitely geared towards a school experience, however, I found the ideas very useful in our home... perhaps it would help you implement some pro literacy tactics in your home. Reading your post, it looks like perhaps you are engaged in a power struggle over reading. Power struggles, both in my experience as a child and as a parent, can have very long term negative effects. My concern would be that my child would simply refuse to read - despite even knowing on an intellectual level that reading is an important life skill. My goal would be to sidestep the power struggle as much as possible.
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#10 of 13 Old 09-29-2014, 06:36 AM
 
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Sorry the title didn't post - How to make your child a reader for life - Paul Kropp
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#11 of 13 Old 10-01-2014, 10:33 AM
 
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I don't know a lot about it myself but I have heard of some development theories around the "9-year change" that can be quite challenging? Might be worth reading, if nothing else to give you some peace of mind. Good luck!

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#12 of 13 Old 10-09-2014, 12:42 PM
 
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My daughter was unschooled for several years, then returned to public school part time. She never had math or science or history. Then she dropped out in the middle of 11th grade. When it was time for college, she took a remedial math class and just jumped into her other classes with no special preparation. She's got a 3.6 gpa.

People can learn to read in a matter of weeks. You can learn more U.S. history than most adults know by reading one book. And people pick up massive quantities of knowledge without noticing it, just by being alive, playing on the web, reading newspapers and library books, or thinking. If you give kids time to think, it's amazing what they can figure out. Keep calm and carry on.
CindyCotter, my son "learned to read in a matter of weeks" when he was 8.5. (I think, but have never been able to prove, that he was involved in a "work slowdown", deliberately not learning to read because he didn't want to. No other way to explain that he had to relearn words like "me" every day, until the day he just took off...I don't think developmental changes are usually that abrupt, for him to be able to make up years in a few weeks. So guessing he was probably able from age 6.5 or so.) My daughter is on the border of moderate/severe dyslexia, and there is no magic formula for her. She can read fluently...but she guesses a lot. She has amazing coping skills. She has a reader and audiobooks for college and Dragon Dictate and an editor for college. Her computer reads to her. She has ninja writing skills...but has to have a live editor to get it down in final form. (She can type at lightning speed, with about 1/3 of the words spelled wrong. I don't know how she can do this...it utterly mystifies me.) So...the thing I (and she) still gets is...that her dyslexia is a failure of homeschooling, that if she just TRIED a little harder, she could do it all by herself, and "feel good" about herself. At this point I'm not getting it, that this attitude persists: she's in her second year at a liberal arts art college (with two liberal arts courses per semester, and three studio art courses), she's a Resident Adviser at her dorm (which plus her scholarship pay about half of her college cost), she has a 3.79 GPA...why are some family members NOT getting that unschooling was the RIGHT path for her...that if she'd been in a traditional school, a lot of her time would have been spent in remedying a "deficiency" that results from atypical brain wiring...that very wiring difference might underlie her unusual aptitude for art and music. (She's also a synaesthete, with the relatively common variety in which she sees colors and images when she hears music, and the rare lexical-gustatory version, which means that she experiences words as tastes and textures. Synaesthesia is caused by misplaced neurons in the brain; it's likely that some forms of dyslexia are as well.) Daughter has a friend at school with nearly her level of dyslexia, and she went through the whole years-long reading remediation process. And, as I do for my daughter, her parents record her textbooks for her. (I wish I had known this last year, when they had the same books...we might have shared! I spent this summer recording hundreds of pages of art history text and captions.) This rant was occasioned by the need to explain that reading ability varies, and that the variance is not necessarily an artifact of instructional method. That is all.

Deborah
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#13 of 13 Old 10-09-2014, 03:10 PM
 
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My 6 year old has been saying for years that she will learn to read at 6.5. Well, officially we hit 6.5 next month and she's still saying, "Not sure I'm ready." I suspect, strongly, that she "could" but she wants the excuse to keep making grown ups read to her. I can't argue with her preferences.

She'll get there. I keep telling myself.

My advice may not be appropriate for you. That's ok. You are just fine how you are and I am the right kind of me.

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