What do kids really need? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 4 Old 09-15-2014, 12:03 PM - Thread Starter
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What do kids really need?

It's been awhile since I've been on MDC. I have two sons, aged 12 & 9. Both can read & write. I've been an unschooler since I dropped out of high school at 16 to unschool. Here are my worries...

We struggle with basic abilities to take care of ourselves. No one in the family goes to sleep easily or at a typical time. We do all sleep enough, however. We still have to argue (discuss) about teeth brushing and bathing, hair cuts, and clean clothes. They're learning and getting it, but it's a struggle (likely age-appropriate).

There is far too much time spent on computers. To undo this, however, I have to change my own habits. I work full time now and don't have the time or energy to battle it, plus need to be on the computer much of the time. Mainly, I hate that it is our default mode, but this is the age we live in these are the things we are attracted to. We do other things with some frequency, but there's a lot of screen time.

We can learn appropriate types of mathematics, and about how to read and form sentences without necessarily diagramming them, but are we equipping the children to be the most competent and have the most opportunities? They don't have neck tattoos yet, but it would be nice if they could do reasonably well on the SATs if they want to go to college, which certainly, we can achieve at the time with prep and tutors and whatever else. But how about study habits? What about the ability to read and think and write, aside from just an emphasis on critical thinking (which we have in spades around here)? We have access to classes and to practice things as they get older if this turns into a real need, but is it possible that we are missing developmental opportunities in which practice and hard work could be something to train them to do, that might actually be good for them? By good, I don't mean necessary in terms of a dichotomous morality, but good in the sense that the more we prepare them the more of the world will be available to them should they choose it? Is that inauthentic? Or is it reasonable? How do you really know?

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#2 of 4 Old 09-15-2014, 01:04 PM
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Twelve is a tough age for unschooling parents to endure, because it's when we start really looking ahead to our kids' futures and assessing the skills and habits they'll need, and we start hoping they'll do the same. Unfortunately most of the time we're about two or three years early to that party. Yes, many unschooled kids become teens who are hard-working, goal-oriented and brimming with competence. Many unschoolers hit a stage in adolescence where they start looking to fill gaps, structuring their learning in certain areas, reaching out into the wider world for opportunities to test their competence, working hard to prove themselves. But they don't usually get there in a steady trajectory beginning at age 11 or 12. In my experience they get there in a few giant leaps somewhere between ages 14 and 17.

I'm off to the land of no internet for a while, so I'll have to cut this post short. Hope to come back to it in a day or two. Just wanted to offer a wee bit of reassurance based on watching my three older kids do essentially nothing the year they were 12.


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#3 of 4 Old 09-15-2014, 02:13 PM
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I have a fair number of online friends who are absolutely panicked by the specter of the SATs...in fact, I had NO IDEA what would happen with my dyslexic daughter, who could just about as easily fly to the moon as even finish one page of the SAT in the time allotted. She solved that herself by assembling a portfolio, arranging for an interview, and doing a bunch of other out of the box stuff. And was admitted the the liberal arts art college of her choice, a far cry from what I'd envisioned for her: painful progress, a couple of courses at a time, at the state college down the road. Interests and motivation and competence count for a lot: it seems that a lot of colleges are willing to make allowances for different kinds of learners and their paths. My youngest (16) was talking about something she had wanted to do, the supposed "dual enrollment" courses being taken by some of her homeschooled/publicly schooled peers at the aforementioned college...all the the d.e. kids are put into the same class (not with college students) for "core" courses...the kids HATE them. Just high school in a college dress. I remember being all hot to get my kids "through" the core courses through dual enrollment, but (fortunately) they weren't that interested...so my anomalous kid took the freshmen English courses (with accommodations for dyslexia) and loved them...they had a wonderful teacher, which most of the class, viewing the class as "required" did not appreciate...for my kid it was a great privilege to have made it to the class, so she did not waste a minute of her time there. My eldest, who went to the college down the road, could have easily tested out of freshman English classes, but he thought he might enjoy them. He ran into the same thing that the d.e. students did...unmotivated students, unmotivated teachers. I guess I'm just rambling, but the point here is...it doesn't matter when you get "there"...it's the trip that's important, and hitting those community college benchmarks and SATs and the rest of the hoops...may not be as important as we are led to believe. (I know of several kids who are so turned off by the level of cc courses, or lame distance learning courses that actually give high school credit for a few weeks of work...my son took several of those in hs...that they don't want to find out what else Higher Learning might have to offer.)

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#4 of 4 Old 09-15-2014, 08:32 PM
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What Miranda said. My kids are still way young, so my ideas about this come from my nieces. I was so worried about them when they were between 9-12 years old. They seemed like complete and utter human messes, to be honest. They could read (at about 8-9 years old), but other than that, they had no daily routines, no chores, and (seemingly to me at the time) zero drive to do anything but watch TV and play on the computer. They were unkempt, often surly, fickle, picky, snarky, and generally unpleasant to be around, and I quietly put the blame on them being unschoolers.

Wow, was I wrong.

Turns out, they were super typical in many ways. Sure, not all kinds get to LIVE OUT those traits, and that's the difference with unschooled kids. They can be the creature that they actually are, at the developmentally appropriate time and place. Other kids have to reign it in and be the kid that they've been conditioned to be. Not to say that either way is better, but that there are various incarnations of the creature that is the tweenager.

Two of my nieces found their groove at 15 or so, and the youngest much earlier (at 13 she is far more like her typical peers, likely because her mom died and she is going to school now).

You'd never guess that any of them had a very, very awkward stage at which point several well-meaning adults (myself among them) worried very much for their future.

Nice to see you here again, annakiss!

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