As I prep for the Texas Unschoolers’ conference this weekend, I find myself reading a lot more Facebook posts. Parents write desperately about wanting their kids to learn more, show more initiative, stop playing computer games. They have this image of what they think learning looks like – and their children are not fitting that mold at all. Frustrated, the parents are throwing up their hands saying, “Unschooling simply doesn’t work for us.”
This is an unfortunate conclusion, because unschooling could work for them. But they’re fighting the tide of natural learning and still hoping, and trying, to force their child into a learning pattern that looks familiar to them. Their children ARE learning, it just doesn’t resemble anything like school.
That’s the thing about being unique, you have to be brave enough to look different from those around you. You can’t allow your fears to run the show. You have to work on seeing the opportunities…everywhere.
Since most parents weren’t raised this way, they/you are going to have to do a little legwork of your own.
- Expose your child to lots of different things, but don’t take it personally if they don’t immediately take to something you suggest. Think of it as laying groundwork for things to come. Because things will come. You just aren’t in charge of the what or the when. Which leads me to…
- The learner is the only person that chooses the path. Yes, you can cajole and berate. You can bribe and even punish. And maybe your child will comply. But you’re limiting their potential. You’re separating learning from its natural course. Oh yeah, that probably takes us to the next one…
- Learning IS joyful. And exhilarating and fun. And if you as a parent DON’T see learning in that capacity, please do not pass your scarred way of viewing it onto your kids. Work on your issues around learning. It’s not drudgery. And if some piece of you associates negative emotions or thoughts with the concept of learning, know that that’s your own schooled experience stepping out of the shadows and getting in the way. It’s a story in your head that needs to be dealt with.
- Let go. Let go of all the preconceived ideas of what unschooling your children will look like. Let go of all the comparisons you make with other children, or other parents, or other families in general. There’s a phrase, “Compare and Despair.” Stop comparing.
- Relaxing into the flow doesn’t mean hands off. It means flow with your children. Get involved in their interests. Show them interests of your own. Share interests together. This involvement will create a feeling of safety for your children. You will be creating an environment where curiosity and exploration can feel safe enough to come out to play. By enjoying and trusting your children, you help them enjoy learning and trust themselves.
When you swim in the ocean, you can either swim with the tide or against it. When you swim against it, you make very little progress and you wear yourself out. But when you learn to swim with the tide, everything changes: the struggle, the lack of progress, the exhaustion. You give all of that up. Instead, you glide, you feel nature take you on a joyful ride, and you move forward.