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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am reading "Teach Your Own" by John Holt and Patrick Farenga, and I am struck by the anecdotes of unschooling parents in the book. They seem very relaxed and easy-going, so much the opposite of the driven (driving) parents I run into many times. On the other hand, some of the anecdotes indicate that while the children are allowed to learn about anything that interests them, the parents have added certain requirements in terms of written work or similar expectations.<br><br>
I am wondering what kinds of rules unschooling families have. What do you require of your children? Must they participate in family activities, religious activities, household chores, etc.? Do they have total autonomy, or do you have expectations? This extends to discipline, I suppose, and what sorts of things you do when you and your children disagree.<br><br>
I am asking this as a totally non-judgemental observer. I realise that every family is different, and I am interested in knowing what works for you and your children.<br><br>
Thanks!
 

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I don't pretend to define unschooling, but most people would describe us as unschoolers, and it's the label that fits most closely.<br><br>
Our rules are:<br><br>
TV or video only if planned in advance and only if the day's agreed-upon responsibilities have been fufilled<br><br>
Must ask to use the internet (partly because the phone line is precious here... dh is on call for the hospital)<br><br>
Daily responsibilities are directly related to privileges, so these "rules" are more like logical consequences:<br><br>
1. If you wish to take violin or piano lessons, you must do what your teacher asks and practice diligently at least 5 days a week.<br><br>
2. If you wish to make money from selling eggs, you must feed and water the hens and collect and wash the eggs every day.<br><br>
3. If you want me to read to you at bedtime you must be ready for bed before I am too tired to read i.e. before 10 pm.<br><br>
My 9, 6 and 4-year-old practice violin daily, the 9 & 6-year-olds do piano daily as well. All three make sure the chickens are cared for and sell the eggs. Ninety percent of the time they're ready for bed by 10.<br><br>
We have a family meeting once a week to discuss issues of housework, practising, academic work, exercise, general behaviour and nutrition. If any of us sees a problem, we discuss it and come up with a plan by consensus. The deal is that we stick to the new routine / agreement / rules until the next family meeting and then reassess. So this means there are often transient "rules" like "we will have celery or carrot sticks at all suppers and we will all eat at least three sticks" or "everyone will go on a hike twice this week and help pick garbage along the trail." But these are <i>co-operative</i> rules rather than top-down parental rules.<br><br>
Edited to add:<br><br>
We seem to rarely have significant disagreements. Often there's a bit of general disgruntlement eg. I feel like the kids aren't pulling their weight with the housework, or they feel I'm too busy to help them with art projects. Again, the weekly family meetings are where we discuss this stuff. When there are significant disagreements, we generally find that putting them on the agenda for the Sunday meeting is enough to diffuse the immediate tension, and by the weekend the tempers have abated and a mutually agreeable solution has been envisioned. I don't mean to paint a totally rosy picture here; that wouldn't be realistic. We often get on each other's nerves, sometimes for days or weeks on end. But what we don't have much of, thanks to family meetings and co-operative problem-solving, is control battles and autonomy struggles. Considering I have some pretty intense stubborn kids, that's a small miracle.<br><br>
Miranda
 

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<table border="0" cellpadding="6" cellspacing="0" width="99%"><tr><td class="alt2" style="border:1px inset;"><i>Originally posted by bestjob</i><br><b><br>
I am wondering what kinds of rules unschooling families have. What do you require of your children? Must they participate in family activities, religious activities, household chores, etc.? Do they have total autonomy, or do you have expectations? This extends to discipline, I suppose, and what sorts of things you do when you and your children disagree.<br></b></td>
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We honestly don't have a lot of rules. I don't "require" the kids to do any particular studying or work--that's up to them. They don't have chores, but they're responsible for their own rooms and their own messes. If they take something on--a job, a pet, a class, whatever--that's their responsibility.<br><br>
I love to cook, so I do make dinner each night but if they don't like what I've made, they make something for themselves (the 12 and 8 yr old do this--the 3 yr old doesn't cook without me yet!)<br><br>
We don't belong to any religion and I have no expectations there--that's also for their choosing.<br><br>
So far, they've wanted to go to family outings and events. Recently, my oldest expressed that he was too old for a children's museum that we went to. This is true, but he came anyway because the younger two wanted to go and he wanted to be with us. I'm sure it won't always happen this way (there's a 9 yr difference between the youngest and the oldest) but the choice is his. I wouldn't "make" him go.<br><br>
When we disagree, we just talk--sounds too simple, but that's what happens. There's always a solution that will make everyone satisfied.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thank you...<br><br>
I am interested in this because my ds is unhappy with school. Dd loved it and still does. She happily does all the things that are required of her, and finds fulfillment in it. She also practices her violin everyday and keeps her room neat. She helps around the house when she is asked, and even sometimes when she isn't asked, but wants to be helpful. I have come to realize that she is the child that schools were designed for. Since ds does not do all these things (he practices his violin everyday), I am trying to find a new way of thinking about being his mother. Unschooling would certainly seem to fit, but it would take a bit of soul-searching and mind-rearranging to make it work for us.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Joan, I forgot to ask... what if the child wanted to take something on that required a bit of a sacrifice from the others around him? Something like expensive music lessons or a class that was a long drive away? Would you have expectations then?
 

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<table border="0" cellpadding="6" cellspacing="0" width="99%"><tr><td class="alt2" style="border:1px inset;"><i>Originally posted by bestjob</i><br><b>Joan, I forgot to ask... what if the child wanted to take something on that required a bit of a sacrifice from the others around him? Something like expensive music lessons or a class that was a long drive away? Would you have expectations then?</b></td>
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I'm not quite sure how to answer this, because I don't know what you mean by expectations.<br><br>
The things that my kids pick to be involved in are for THEM, not for me. If they enjoy what they're doing, then they continue and if the class turns out not to be for them, then they discontinue it. I wouldn't impose other requirements on them.<br><br>
I never really thought of cost or travel time as a sacrifice--my kids have each been involved in different activities and we've had to juggle schedules and budgets a bit, but not to the point where anyone feels put out.<br><br>
If I'm missing your point, lmk and I'll try again!
 

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Hi Joan, I'm interested in how others respond to this challenge too, so I'll give an example. I have four kids and we live an hour and a half from the nearest piano teacher. My eldest wanted to study piano. We began driving three hours round trip, once a week, with all the kids of course, so that the eldest could take piano.<br><br>
Now if she decided that the lessons were fun but she didn't feel like practising (she has expressed this on occasion), even though her teacher was clear that she expected the regular practising that was required for progress, would it be reasonable for the rest of us to continue devoting the better part of a day, $15 in gas and $20 a lesson to her whim?<br><br>
In our case I did two things. First, I found the rest of us things to do on the same trip, so that it wasn't quite as much of a sacrifice for us. And second (and this is where I'm interested in your spin on this type of issue) I stated that we will not be taking her to lessons unless she practises with reasonable diligence. My expectation is that she will practice her assigned piano work at least five times a week. If not, I will cancel her lesson.<br><br>
How do you handle similar issues?<br><br>
Miranda
 

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I would have done the first part--find something else for the rest of the family to do while dd took the lesson.<br><br>
I wouldn't have insisted on the practice though--I think (and this is based on my own kids so ymmv) that requiring practice would have turned them off of piano altogether. By continuing the lessons that they wanted, I think one of two things would have happened here--either they would come to want to practice on their own, or they would conclude that they didn't want to go to paino lessons. To me, if they are enjoying the lessons, then they're still getting something out of it, but, like I said, I'm just talking for our family--forcing practice or coming down hard about it would be a sure way for my kids to quit, and then we'd never know what could have been.
 

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The <b>most</b> helpful insight on what Unschooling is and is not about has come from <a href="http://www.SandraDodd.com" target="_blank">SandraDodd.com</a> I read and read and read through her site and had lightbulbs going off over my head left and right. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/wink1.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="wink1"><br><br>
Also worth mentioning is <a href="http://www.unschooling.com" target="_blank">Unschooling.com</a> and the message boards at <a href="http://groups.yahoo.com/group/UnschoolingDiscussion" target="_blank">Unschooling Discussion</a><br><br>
As for our family.... no, we don't have any hard and fast "rules" that I can think of other than being kind to each other and animals.<br><br>
We don't have "chores", but the kids help pick up their stuff though I'm usually doing it with them. We make games out of it sometimes. My kids are quite young and tend to wander off in the middle of marble madness so I just finish up by myself. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/smile.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="smile"><br><br>
I'm not being as concise as I want to be.... too early in the morning. LOL Just go to Sandra Dodd's web site and read. She's got lots of links and articles there that she's written for HEM (Home Education Magazine), Life Learning Magazine, etc. One link that I'm not sure she has listed yet or not is stuff regarding <a href="http://www.SandraDodd.com/life" target="_blank">Parenting Issues for Unschoolers</a> <b>Definitely</b> check that page out because it has some great stuff IMO.<br><br>
HTH!<br><br>
TreeGoddess
 

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Hi there. Sorry to take over this thread on a tangent. I wanted to get into the specific issue of music practising a little more. See, to me doing what a piano teacher assigns as "necessary practice for progress" is a matter of respect. By going to a lesson (at least the type of lesson my daughter gets) you are implicitly asking for help in mastering particular repertoire and technique. It's like going to someone's home and asking for a meal. To then take that educational "meal" and toss it in the garbage the moment you leave, I think that's disrespectful. It's okay not to be hungry, but in that case, don't ask for a meal. Every week my daughter's piano lesson consists of guidance on how to work on specific areas throughout the upcoming week. Why show up next week asking for more guidance if you didn't try what was suggested last week? Why do this week after week? What's the point? It makes the teacher annoyed and frustrated.<br><br>
See, in my other life, I'm a violin teacher. I have lots of students who love the violin and play very well. And all of them have had parents who insisted on daily practising. Every student I've ever had whose parent said "it's her decision whether to practice or not" has become frustrated and quit within 2-3 years. This goes for unschoolers too. I have one exception, a girl who began at 7, quit at 10 having made little progress, and then re-started at 13. Since then she's been very self-motivated and has made some considerable progress. But her musical "peers" are 8 years old and playing with an ease that she really struggles for because of her late start, and she has to deal with being so much older than the others at her level and so much less capable than others her age.<br><br>
I'm talking about young music students here for the most part. Mine are 9 and 6, and they've been studying both violin and piano (at their insistence) for some time now. They love what they can do. They're very accomplished (my 9yo plays both instruments on par with most teenagers in the area and is in the first violin section of our adult-oriented community orchestra) and if, as I have from time to time, I suggest they quit studying, there are loads of tears. It's the ultimate threat.<br><br>
For the most part they don't practice willingly because they have a lot of difficulty changing gears to start something new when they're involved in unstructured play. That doesn't mean I force them to do something they hate. It means I use some heavy-handed reminders and the threat of cancelled lessons to get them started and I hover nearby to redirect them into productive work when they lose focus. They actually work well and mostly happily once they've started. But they don't "like" practising. Heck, I'm a professional violist and I don't like it. I do it because I have to in order to play at the level I want. My kids do it for the same reason, but because they're young and procrastinators and not terribly abstract, they need these nudges. They agree that these expectations are reasonable.<br><br>
Yes, one would hope that they'd want to practice because they see the benefits, because it's worth it for them, the same way one will pick up one's bedroom not because it's intrinsically enjoyable, but because it's nice afterwards to have a tidy room where you can find things. And in fact my kids will intellectually admit that practising is worth it because of what they learn and what they can do with their skills and the opportunities they gain. But when it comes right down to leaving "The Sims" or coming inside from the sandbox, they don't want to start their practice. Not right now. Never right now.<br><br>
Interestingly, with the summer break and various teacher travels, my kids have had only two lessons since early May, but have continued practising most days. So obviously I don't <i>need</i> the threat of lesson cancellations to keep them practising. But they do need nudges, and I'm convinced that without those "rules", we wouldn't be at this point where they're less and less necessary. Success is the ultimate motivator, but you don't get success on musical instruments with young children without clear expectations for practising.<br><br>
Miranda
 

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So, I'm wondering if it would be against your (plural your, to whomever is listening) principles to involve the piano teacher in a little "natural" consequence manufacturing. Could you have a talk with the teacher, and explain the situation, that you don't want to pay for lessons if the child won't practice, but you don't want to "punish" by taking lessons away or coerce the practicing... and have the teacher sit your child down and say, "I don't think you've been practicing enough for me to keep you as a student. I'm going to have to cancel our lessons unless I feel you are making progress. But if you are willing to practice at least 5 times a week and I'm seeing that kind of progress, I really don't want to lose you."<br><br>
Is that kind of manipulation a no-no? Not exactly an unschooling question, but there was a lot of discipline talk going on. I grew up with spanking etc. and I'm trying to figure this whole positive discipline thing out, thanks for the input!
 

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Hi ladies!<br><br>
I think that expectations is a better word than rules. We don't refer to things as rules, but I think my kids know that they are expected to help keep the house liveable and if I ask them to take out the garbage or clear the table, they know I expect them to do so, because it takes a whole family to keep a house.<br><br>
Now on the subject of music....I have a lot to say because dh is a music teacher. With his students he expects the parents to encourage them to pratice throughout the week so that they aren't wasting their time and money. (most begining students aren't encouraged to pratice thorughout the week, so he often feels like nothing gets acomplished for weeks on end.) With his own children, however, he doesn't really give "lessons" but teaches them something and when they come to him for more he shows them something more. My 3 grown children are pretty accomplished musicians (both sons make a living, at least partly, with thier musical talents) and none of them has ever had a traditional lesson, or praticed on a regular basis as most students do.<br><br>
Here is how music and art are "praticed" at our house. Child x has an interest and bugs mom or dad or sibling to teach them some chords or techniques. After the basics are taught child x spends hours, days or even weeks doing little else but praticing and teaching themselves more. Then child x either seeks out more training, or loses interest for awhile (days, months, years) and eventually picks up the instrument, or other interest, again. This seems to work for us.<br><br>
edited to say that I don't think that "lessons" aren't sometimes a good idea. My dds have taken dance lessons, again to get basics and then went on to form a dance group and "teach" other girls to improvise and choreograph dance. Also dd was in a formal ''class" so that she could play flute with the group orchestra and had group lessons with the band instructor. Another dd takes dressage riding lessons and pays for them herself....this really keeps her on her toes about praticing. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/oops.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="oops">)<br><br>
I just want to challenge you all to think out of the box and seel that children can learn anything they set their minds to.
 

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Rain doesn't play an instrument, but she's had voice lessons on and off, and we have a couple friends we can call and ask to work with her for a short time if she needs help with a piece for a show she's in or an audition piece. It's her bag, except sometimes I offer to call Mindy or William if she seems frustrated. I can hear her practicing, and sometimes she'll come and ask me to listen, and sometimes I'll say something like, "Were really busy this weekend and Annie auditions are Sunday night, so if you need to work your audition piece before that today might be your best chance"... but it's her deal.<br><br>
Dar
 

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<table border="0" cellpadding="6" cellspacing="0" width="99%"><tr><td class="alt2" style="border:1px inset;"><i>Originally posted by moominmamma</i><br><b>See, to me doing what a piano teacher assigns as "necessary practice for progress" is a matter of respect. By going to a lesson (at least the type of lesson my daughter gets) you are implicitly asking for help in mastering particular repertoire and technique. It's like going to someone's home and asking for a meal. To then take that educational "meal" and toss it in the garbage the moment you leave, I think that's disrespectful.</b></td>
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AT the risk of sounding like a troublemaker--it's not like that at all. The student is a customer here, not a guest in someone's home.<br><br>
What is deemed "necessary practice for progress" is being dictated by the teacher. Shouldn't the student's desire play into the curriculum?<br><br>
If the music student wants lessons, but not to practice, then why not? Isn't one of the points of unschooling that the child directs their learning? If the student is pleased with his/her progress (even if the teacher feels it could be MORE if the student practiced) isn't that enough?
 

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<table border="0" cellpadding="6" cellspacing="0" width="99%"><tr><td class="alt2" style="border:1px inset;"><i>Originally posted by dubylyu</i><br><b>So, I'm wondering if it would be against your (plural your, to whomever is listening) principles to involve the piano teacher in a little "natural" consequence manufacturing.<br><br>
Is that kind of manipulation a no-no?ut!</b></td>
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The natural consequence of not practicing would probably be that the student doesn't progress as quickly as if he/she was practicing.<br><br>
As for whether manipulation is a no-no---I think it is, but that's just my opinion. Lots of people do it, lots of people recommend it.<br><br>
I wonder (and this is open to whoever wants to address it) how much the COST of the lessons is involved in this.<br><br>
If the lessons were free, would you all have the same expectations?
 

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Speaking strictly for myself, I can say confidently the cost has <i>nothing</i> to do with it. I have exactly the same expectations for my kids' violin practising, and on violin they get free lessons from their grandmother. It really is about respect. I don't think the child is the consumer, and I say this as a music teacher myself. I think that in the pursuit of an artistic discipline, the student needs to trust and respect a master teacher. It's about a relationship, not an economy. I hate the fact that money is even involved. Music teaching pays abysmally and is endlessly emotionally taxing. The money is beside the point; it just helps pay the bills. Nobody teaches music unless they love passing on their art first and foremost. I wish music and other performing arts teachers were paid by some sort of angelic charity, and that any child could study provided he was motivated and diligent. I am paid with satisfaction, the progress and personal growth of my students, respect and gratitude, not money.<br><br>
Back to unschooling. It <i>is</i>, to my mind, child-led learning, when a child willingly takes on a certain structured types of learning. The child says "I want to study this instrument with this teacher," fully understanding that the teacher expects diligent practising. If a child joins a competitive softball league where the expectation is 100% attendence at practices and then decides not to show up for the extra practice for the quarter-final game, I think it's totally fair to insist. You took this on, you follow through because others feelings are in the balance. On the other hand, I don't think it's fair to insist that an unschooled child do math every day. Why not? The child hasn't chosen to "do structured mathematics", and anyway it affects no one but himself.<br><br>
I just said to my 9yo:<br><br><i>"You need to get your violin and piano done soon. You won't feel like doing them this evening, and I'm tired of reminding you, so please get started right after your snack. ... On the other hand, some parents would say I should never make you practice, just let you do it when you wanted to, and it should just be your problem if you don't practice regularly and your skills start to sag. Do you think that would be a reasonable tactic in our family?"</i><br><br>
and she turned her nose up and said "no, I can't get started on my own, and then Anne and Grandma would be disappointed, and I'd never get to learn any new pieces."<br><br>
There you have it. My insistence is at her insistence. I still think this is unschooling.<br><br>
Miranda
 

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This thread is awesome -- we are dealing with our own combination of these issues at our house. First, I should say that we were "radical" unschoolers last year and this fall we have started using a classical outline in order to regularly have "stuff to do." My daughter was very discouraged that we "weren't doing anything," and she had a hard time appreciating how much she was learning without having a pattern of completed activities to look back on. So we are now more structured and goal-oriented unschoolers, in a very child-led sort of way.<br><br>
Anyway, I have to say that I love Barbara's comment that "it takes a family to keep a house." This is our biggest obstacles to family harmony, and for me it is directly related to the conversation about classes, expectations, decisions, and rules. My daughters (8 & 5) love to play and love to be near me. We have a playroom in our finished basement, but no one ever goes down there except to load up on toys and return to the family room. The girls play together all over the house (yes, even in the halls) and wreak havoc wherever they go. Obviously, I love that they enjoy each other so much and wouldn't trade that for the world. However, in addition to the mess they create on their own, add a two-year-old little brother whose favorite method of play is "dump-and-run" (as in dump the bin of toys, dump the books from the shelf, etc.). Our house looks like a tornado went through it, and no one ever wants to clean up. Whenever anyone does anything, they want me to have a parade because they "helped" me. i have tried to explain that putting away your own things is not helping me, that the mess is not my responsibility to clean up because (1) I didn't make the mess, and (2) it's not my stuff. They don't get it. yes, I have tried getting rid of and locking up. It doesn't work.<br><br>
In any event, I added up all of the time we spend going to classes (pottery, dance, gymnastics, swimming, karate) and came up with twelve hours (including travel) per week. I explained that I can not and will not live in a home where I am unable to find a place to sit and need to watch where I walk so that I don't step on something and hurt my feet. If they don't want to pick up their things, I will do it -- during those hours each day that I would usually spend taking them to their classes, not at night after they go to sleep. Guess what? They don't care! they would rather not go to class than pick up. So, the money is out the window (not that that is my primary concern), I'm stuck cleaning up, and they have even more time at home to spread the mess. What's up with this?
 

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Cassidy,<br><br>
Out of curiousity, how can getting rid of the stuff and/or locking it up NOT work? Don't they eventually run out of stuff?<br><br>
Have you tried the family meeting idea, where your kids come up with the solutions? I don't have any experience with it but it sounds like it is working for some of you out there.
 

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Cassidy,<br><br>
Often one year of "radical unschooling" isn't enough to undo the damage done previously - it's pretty typical of kids starting to unschool to be concerned about not doing enough and being caught up. With time to find themselves, they generally stop looking for outside validation of how they're doing and start finding their own things to do - just a thought.<br><br>
My take on housework is that generally, the person who is bugged by it, does it. With that said, it does seem that when I don't make a big deal out of housework, Rain is more willing to help out. Also, it help to find stuff she does like to do - for example, cooking, or laundry. It's not cleaning up, but it helps me out.<br><br>
I want her to have a full, happy childhood, where she can experience lots of activities that interest her and explore lots of different "stuff", so locking up stuff or not taking her to activities seems like it would interere with what I want, as well as what she wants.<br><br>
Back to the original question, we don't have any rules, per se. We generally deal with stuff as it comes up and come to an agreement on how it will be handled. To me, people who say they unschool but require "a page of math every day" or "some reading" or whatever, aren't unschooling. They're eclectic homeschoolers who pick and chose the things that are important to them, and that they think their children need to be learning - very different from leaving those decisons with the child. MHO.<br><br>
Dar
 

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OK, I knew someone would ask how taking away/locking up could not work. The The kids are just *too* creative. They just don't really care about the things (which, in many ways is good). If the toys are unavailable, they will play dress up; but instead of the off-limits dress-up clothes, they will empty their closets and drawers! Or they will strip the beds to make forts. Now don't get me wrong, i appreciate the creativity and in a vacuum this would be great, but I have to live with these people! And sometimes I think natural consequences really can't work until kids reach a certain age. For example, the natural result of not having clean clothes because you wouldn't put them in the hamper so Mom didn't wash them is that you have no clean clothes to wear. However, when you refuse to wear your dirty clothes and Mom has to go to the grocery store, whose problem does this become? If Mom respects your humanity, she isn't going to physically force you into dirty, smelly clothes. Neither is she going to drag you to the grocery store naked. If you are seven, you can't stay home alone and probably can't do the laundry (at least not all by yourself). Guess who is held up for an hour and a half doing laundry? Right, Mom.<br><br>
And Dar, my kids aren''t "deschooling." They have never been to day care, preschool, kindergarten, or elementary school. Any issues they have, they have gotten from living with us. What a scary thought.... And yes, we have talked all of these issues out countless times. They agree that my requests are not unreasonable and they make plans to take care of the problem, but follow-through always requires some effort to do something they just don't want to do. So they choose not to do it.
 
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