I have been hanging out on the parenting issues board, in particular the "My Challenge, My Love" thread started by Bearsmama, b/c her ds sounds so much like mine - except I have an older child: a 7-year old homeschooled "force of nature" as our therapist put it
But I have come to ask advice of you seasoned homeschoolers - unschoolers too, although I have to admit I am not an unschooler. We do approx 15 minutes of "school" (First Language Lessons or some Miquon math) and I do ask him to read to me a little bit every day.
So, back to the issue at hand. It is more than a homeschooling issue, because it goes hand in hand with living and parenting this intensely moody, sensitive, creative and intense little boy, but it does impact on how we move forward with homeschooling on a daily basis (or not, as the case may be).
It all started with my reading of several parenting books ("How to transform the difficult child - a nurtured heart approach" - I forget the author, "Hold onto your children" - by Gordon Neufeld and "Unconditional Parenting" by Alfie Kohn). I was reading (in "Hold onto your kids") about how children need to remain firmly attached to their parents and other loving adults in their lives, who share the same core values as the parents, rather than their peers b/c they can only receive the unconditional loving and support they need from adults and not children / peers.
I was mentally thinking "o.k. we have ds firmly attached, we do minimal time-outs (except for when he physically hurts us or his sister), we co-sleep all in one room with his bed butted up to my side, I nursed him until he was 4 1/2, he had his first and only sitter when he was 6, he knows through our words and actions that we love him, he has no peer-influence to speak of, b/c he is an introvert with only two real friends (one of whom lives 3 hrs away) and he claims vehemently to *not* want to go to school".YET
he acts in a manner consistent with those children the book describes as having unhealthy peer attachments: he is angry at us a lot, argues over little things ad nauseum, is getting physical with me (shoving) when he doesn't like what I ask him to do (brushing his teeth, picking up clothes, anything, even gentle reminders), explodes verbally (often!) at all of us (including his 3-year old sister) and generally behaves as if he simply despises us. That is, until bedtime. At bedtime and bathtime, he *needs* me so much: he needs me to have a bath with him, needs me (not dh) to read to him, sing to him, tuck him in, snuggle him on the sofa, etc., etc. He is loving and snuggly and sooooo remorseful over his behavior of the day. And the next day, the whole thing starts all over again.
The therapist thinks that homeschooling is a one-way trip to burn-out for me, but agrees that public school is not for this kid and that homeschooling is the best choice for now. He would much rather see him in one of two select private schools but it is not financially an option for us and I am not even sure that if it were, we would do it. He was loathe to label ds - something I am grateful for, but we wanted to meet with him and have him meet ds to make sure we're on the right parenting track and to make sure we were not missing anything. He feels that ds does this kind of thing for "sport", in particular when he is feeling bored. He also felt that we were handling things (discipline) correctly and felt that ds just needed time to mature along with some help on how to manage his feelings from us.
Now I have noticed that the "sport" thing is absolutely true, but it takes on the form of needling me and others (children and adults (!), but only as long as dh or I are present - he is too afraid to do it when he is away from our protection) and he is clearly having fun when he does it. And it does not usually cross over to the exposive rages and anger unless challenged by dh or I. Problem is, by the time this kid might be old enough to manage his feelings effectively (he absolutely rejects coaching from us), dh and I will probably not have a marriage left. We are mostly strong in our resolve, are able to deal with our own issues as they arise and be loving and unconditional with him, but it is depleting our energy on a daily basis and frankly, I don't know that I (or we) can keep it up for years. We certainly are not the kind of parents we thought we'd be (at least with him) and dd is getting little of our time or energy due to this tornado of a child sucking the life out of everything.
After much soul-searching and raking our brains, dh and I feel that perhaps his rages are a result of a seeking of independence - much like that of the 2's and 3's, except so much more intense because he is so much older, is so (maybe overly?) attached and feels this drive to seperate from us but is really too timid and scared to do so (make an effort to make new friends, be open to new activities, sleep in his own room, etc.). And he is clearly not able to intellectualize or verbalize it for himself or us. And I am the target of most of them because I am the parent he spends most of his time with - hence the violent rages aimed at me and the "remorse-fests" and intense need to reconnect with me at night.
What would you do if this were your child? I have begun to think that I need to employ or get other authority figures involved in his life to give him space from me. I think he needs it. Yet he is virtually paralyzed by his fear of having to make conversation with others, talk or interact with other kids, having to stand on his own and be responsible for himself in even the smallest of ways. As I said before, he rejects social and emotional coaching from us and clearly sees us as adversaries (not allies) in this regard. Whenever I read or hear of those "well-socialized" homeschooled children with so many friends and connections that take them out of the house because of their own desires to explore their interests, I think "oh, this is *so* not us!"
It is getting harder and harder to be unconditional with this child, but the only respite I get from him is when I am away or take time out from him. And he is smart: he knows that he is pushing me away and on some level probably fears my love for him is at stake, despite my daily affirmations to the contrary.
If you've read this far, thank you. If you have any words of advice, I'd be so grateful to hear them. I'd love to talk to this therapist again (we only saw him twice) but we can't ($$$ constraints) until at least January and I really don't know how I am going to survive until then.