Monday, January 23, 2006

transition part B

I'm not new to homeschooling or the concept of unschooling. I have delved into unschooling more lately and have been finding a lot of truth in the philosophy.
In the wide world, homeschoolers are often seen as sort of outside the mainstream. Within homeschooling circles, we unschoolers are often the outsiders. The rest of the world has plenty of opinions about unschooling when they first hear about it. The entire concept runs counter to what society believes about childhood and education.
Unschooling is really simple. Trust your kids to learn. Parent them without controlling them. Offer them everything you reasonably can, also known as the real world. Children are born learning and will always learn assuming some outside agent doesn't step in and try to teach.
As I transition, I find that I just cannot agree with so much that I see. I feel like an outsider in more ways than just as an unschooler.
I see this most evident in my internet usage patterns lately. A lot of boards I used to visit just don't quite appeal to me anymore. So many parents that I used to feel camraderie with I no longer feel comfortable discussing things with if the discussion is at all about children. I can't give them answers they want to hear when the discussions lean toward kids or parenting issues. The answers I do have can bring out some pretty intense debate, disagreement even anger in other parents.
I don't claim to have all the answers, but even just a different opinion is sometimes enough to skew an entire topic. Very often, the unschooling point is that different opinion.
This is the side of the transition that I expect to have the most fun with. We've never been like the other families, and now we are even less like other families, or are we just like less families? I don't know if I care honestly. I do care about my kids, and they and my wife are the people I care most about. So they are the people that whose opinions I'm going to concern myself with.
And each day I will be a better parent. Each day my kids will see the options they have. We will grow and learn and love while relaxing and playing. We'll watch movies and eat candy if we want to.

transition part one

Very middle? Still just beginning? Near the end?
I am in the middle of a personal transition from being a controlling father always on the verge of shouting, or worse, to bcome a father that doesn't do those things.
I'm blaming it in part on "those unschooling women" as I put it to my wife. She sees what I'm trying to do, and we are still both coming to terms with it. We need to discuss it and come together on it, but we have time.
I wrote about limits recently, and part of the philosophy behind unschooling is removing limits. TV is not inherently evil and doesn't breed zombie children. Candy isn't a drug and will not make junkies out of children. These are not the only limits parents tend to place on kids, but these are the two that seem the hardest to get passed for people new to unschooling.
As part of our/my transition, we have had total candy days lately. We stopped saying NO to The Boy when he asked for candy. We offered other options and prepared other options. He was able to eat what he wanted. Big Brother has had the same removal of limits and has enjoyed some candy. His big thing has been Pokemon on the Gameboy for days (weeks?) and stopped today to watch a movie.
Basically, I've decided that rules won't make us happy. They are basically an invented reason to fight your kids. We have decided instead to follow a couple of basic principals. We respect each other and we don't tear up the house. Those cover basically anything that we are truly concerned about without having a whole list of unreasonable demands on the boys and what they do with their time.
The hard part is what Sandra Dodd refers to as voices. We all have those voices of parent and grandparents telling us what we should do, how we should parent. Sometimes those voices are actually physical, maybe over the phone, maybe just memories. Those voices might also just be other homeschooling parents telling us about their "right" way. Wherever those voices come from, they often tell us things that are incorrect, unhelpful, or worse, damaging to our relationship with our kids and family.
The hard part is stopping what you did do, how you were, in order to do a better job. I see the importance of what I'm doing, but that doesn't make it easier. I've never been one to listen to those voices, but some of them have slipped through and seemed to make sense. In addition, some of the tools my parents used were tools I didn't want to use. I did use some of them that I didn't take the time to consider.
So I'm basically at a point where I'm reassembling my tool box. I have to rethink so many actions and reactions and decide each time how I really want to behave. Nothing can be allowed to just come out or just happen. Nothing just happens as a parent, though we often don't take the time to think about what we do.
I'm no longer a reactionary parent, and each time I think through something, I find that I and my boys are happier for it. I can't help but wonder about the transition. Will I ever be through it? or should I just stop looking at it as such? I'm guessing that what I'm doing now is just the opening bell of what's to come. Instead of finishing the transition, the transition will just open up into the rest of our lives.