Here’s a thing about unschoolers: we are an incredibly amorphous group. You can’t even fairly call us a group–we have no leader, no rule book; we’re all over the map. All we have are ideas. Sure, those ideas started with one man, who put them into some great books, but there’s still about a million ways to look at unschooling and apply it. I, like any honest parent out there, am perpetually in the process of figuring out how exactly it is that I look at things and apply them.
So there’s a subculture of unschoolers called either “radical unschoolers” or “whole life unschoolers”, the idea being that they choose to apply the self-motivational, non-coercion, respect of persons basics of unschooling to all aspects of family life. So far I have mostly not identified with that group–personally I see carefully thought out reasonable rules as being effective at maintaining a level of sanity in my mind, and overall harmless to my children. But I have dabbled a little into more radical methodologies.
I’ve already mentioned some in past blog posts. Mostly they relate to a bit of experimenting we’ve done with E this past year–things like removing bedtime and technology restrictions.
So here’s a thing: I’ve gone back on all of it. I have. For one, I just couldn’t stand E going to bed later than me some nights. And I know a radical unschooler will tell me I never gave any of it a good enough chance–she never got the real, no strings attached opportunity to manage her own sleep. But I don’t care–I want me time, I want some kind of structure to cling to, and having a bedtime won’t kill her. Anyway it’s the most insane bedtime ever, in comparison to most nine year olds I know. Definitely it was a learning experience that helped me to chill generally on her sleep schedule. I make her get up by 8:30 most days, so we can do family things that work at that time (lately, that’s been reading scriptures together, next to our big living room windows as the morning light pours in. It’s lovely. She needs to be up for it). And even though she complains (usually about a fabulous dream being interrupted), she is capable of getting up, and she’s not any more cranky than usual when she’s been up past ten. Sometimes she wakes up on her own before that. There’s no rhyme or reason to it and it doesn’t seem to be affected by her sleep. So our experience was valuable for that. But she does now have a bedtime.
As for the tech rules, you know what happened to that is spring finally decided to show up and I was like, no sorry I just cannot handle you ignoring the sun to play this Roblox RPG. Not saying I think it has no value–aside from the actual game itself being perfectly valid, the one she’s been obsessed over lately is some kind of animal RPG, and she has done avid research about several different species as a result. The other day, driving on a country road, we passed a horse field and she said, “Oh that one looks like an appaloosa!” I was like what’s that now, and the old competitive schooled me inside felt a burning of pride. But she also has often enough expressed interest in various other non-RPG projects, and without fail would completely forget about them until 8:00 pm, the only time she was absolutely required to be away from screens, when suddenly she would recall all the fascinating things she would like me to help with just as I finally sat down with my husband for a sit com, some ice cream, and relaxation, and that was just not working out.
I’ve been a lot less top-down about that. But I’ve discussed at length with her my issues and concerns about her time in front of screens/sitting in one spot, pressured her to “manage” her time, with the clear message that managing meant limiting time playing video games, and when the weather’s nice sometimes just outright making her shut it down and experience non-virtual life for a while.
All part of the journey. Does it feel basically impossible to navigate in some ways? Yes. Totes. Still better than the horrors of public education–sorry. The challenges of public education. I was talking to a couple sweet, eager to please, nice twelve year old girls the other day and asked how they felt about school–adding how much I enjoyed school as a kid, which is true I freaking loved every minute of it–and they both had the same unequivocal answer without even a moment’s hesitation: “I hate it!” For a sweet, eager to please, nice child to hate the thing that takes up most of their waking hours for their ENTIRE childhood is an actual travesty to my mind. I’m happy that our struggles involve convincing my nine year old to spend less time doing one thing she loves to create space for all the other things she loves–that the most programming they encounter in a month is their monthly Science Alive! homeschool program run by an actor by training who makes it fun, and that’s why they go. That she walked to the pet store in the middle of the day this week because she wanted to look at the animals.
That my seven year old boy rolls on the floor, chases his siblings around the house, sits cross legged on the couch, and only sits upright and still in a chair when he wants to, and only as long as he desires. That my five year old spends most of his day playing with his three year old brother.
That all of it. I’m glad that all of it! Including the confusion and uncertainty and changing my mind every five seconds. What a privilege, to change my mind every five seconds (although…actually I don’t. But you know what I mean) without having to call a parent teacher conference.
Sorry to be so gushy. It’s late. I don’t get the computer much…