Respecting Our Children’s Boundaries

Lately, here’s what pictures of our daughter’s activities have looked like:

When I took the next picture, I commented that she and the dog looked so cute together and asked if I could I post it.  She asked to see it and returned the “edited” version to me:

It’s understood by our family and friends that there will be seasons where they will not see pictures of one or both of our children on social media.  That’s because we have always asked our children if we can post their pictures.  I show them the pictures that I have taken and they have the opportunity to select their preferred pictures, if they approve any at all.  They also approve any conversations we post that they participated in (and they’ll both review and consent to the contents of this post). 

A conversation between our kids a few years ago (using their ages at the time):

11yo: Why don’t you want mom to post pictures of you to Facebook?

9yo: Because I said no.

11yo: I’m trying to understand *why* you said no.  It doesn’t matter, you can say no for any reason and people have to listen to that – I was just wondering why.

This made my heart so happy.  Not only that our children knew that their “no” will be respected, also that they don’t have to justify their “no” and that they aren’t entitled to demand others explain themselves.    Seeking their permission in posting to social media is just a small part of how we protect their autonomy – physically & emotionally.

Respect your children, their feelings, and their boundaries so they will know how wrong it is when someone else doesn’t.  We have done this to the best of our ability since they were born.  In ways that seem to be “no big deal” like choosing their own clothes, a favorite toy, and what activities they want to participate in.  As well as backing their right to refuse affection and declining to stay with someone or somewhere they aren’t comfortable with.  This may seem inconvenient at times but pays off in both the solid parent/child connection as well has how your children treats and expects to be treated by others.

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Everyday Conversations: Rice At Weddings

One of the biggest lessons for me, as an Unschooling parent, is learning to say “my understanding is…” You’ll see our family with our phones out A LOT. Because with almost every discussion comes the desire to look things up for clarification or more information.

This weekend, some friends of ours got married. Our daughter is an artist and often creates cards as part of our gifts to family and friends on special occasions. I asked her if she’d like to make a wedding card.

14yo: I don’t even know what would go on a wedding card.
Me: I’ve seen a lot of bows and birds.
14yo: Birds?
Me: I think they’re a sign of fertility.
14yo: Fertility?
Me: Short definition? Ability to get pregnant and have children. For some religions/societies/people marriage & children go hand in hand. Some people see it as a positive thing to have lots of babies & quickly. So I think the birds thing is like a “blessing” or “support” of that. Like throwing rice. Or maybe the rice is fertility and the birds are something else. I can’t remember as it’s been 20 years since Daddy & I were married. All I remember was not throwing rice because it would make the bird’s stomachs explode.
<<14yo is horrified>>
Me: That may not even be true anymore, let’s look it up.

Spoiler alert: Birds are generally happiness & love (different birds can specify different things). Rice is fertility. Birds like rice and it doesn’t hurt them.

https://curiosity.com/topics/the-origin-of-throwing-rice-at-weddings/

The 14yo opted not to make a card and we just ordered off the Amazon wishlist. She would also like people to throw candy at all future nuptials.

(This convo was originally posted to our Facebook page.)

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Everyday Conversations: The Dentist & War

Our son (16yo) and I were waiting at the dentist’s office and he says, “Hey, I know you love reading military stuff and I thought you’d like this new game I’m playing.”

(full disclosure: I read a LOT of military *romance* 😂 but I do read military non-fiction too)

Anyway… he begins telling me about his game. Set in WWII. About troop movements. Boundary disputes. Political implications. We bust out our cell phones and start comparing maps and he shows me which countries didn’t even exist in the war. He’s using his finger to redraw lines and pointing out how countries are born and how others die. Telling me the differences between what he can do in his game and what actually happened. Why some countries can only be invaded by sea because other countries have to be circumvented. We talk about Communism, Socialism, and Fascism.

And then the hygienist calls us back.

It’s OK that it was “only” 15 minutes. It was awesome on so many levels. A chance to connect over shared interests. A chance to see what he’s learning. Because I know he’s learning. Because he knows I love hearing about his gaming. More importantly, I know it will happen again. 💗

UPDATE: So many people have asked… the game was Hearts of Iron IV on Steam by Paradox Interactive
https://store.steampowered.com/app/394360/Hearts_of_Iron_IV/

Image Credit: By Gdr at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 

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MY Link Gives All Texas Residents a Library Card

Did you know that any adult who is a resident of Texas can get a My Link card through the Houston Public Library?

This card gives you access to more than six million books, e-books, DVDs, magazines and research materials that make up the HPL collection. It also provides access to more than 130 electronic resources which include streaming music, videos, images, audiobooks, and countless other subject-based websites and databases.


You can use your card to borrow via OverDrive for LibrariesHoopla Digital, RB Digital, Comics Plus, and more.

Even if your local library supports access to these digit lending programs the titles available through Houston Public Library may be different.  Harris County Public Library has a pretty extensive collection and after a few minutes I found several things through MY Link/HPL that HCPL doesn’t have.

The Overdrive app lets you load more than one library in. So you can switch between cards.

You do not have to physically visit the library to get your card. I wanted to be sure how it worked. So I tried two methods: I reactivated an old HPL card I had from when we lived within Houston city limits and I signed my husband up for a brand new card. I did it all online with our Driver’s License numbers as proof of residency. (note: The new card was available for immediate use. Reactivating my old card required a response from the library. They responded the next day.)

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The Angry Child – How Listening Can Deflate Big Emotions

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I want to tell a story. It’s one that was very pivotal in changing my parenting paradigm and one that has brought me closer to my kids and to myself– closer and more connected than I ever thought possible.

It used to be that when my kids had any kind of negative emotion, I felt as though I had to fix it. As fast as possible! That’s what good mom’s do, right? I might attempt to:

Change his feelings of anger into feelings of friendliness.

 Change his sad feelings to feelings of happiness.

 Change his feelings of frustration into feelings of success.

In any case, the focus was on changing and fixing. Just like putting a band-aid on a cut, I wanted a band-aid for scary emotions. It was entrenched in the fear that if my child is unhappy, I’m doing it all wrong. I was trying to handle the negativity in my child from an equally negative emotion: fear.

When my two boys were younger, the oldest acted out of anger towards his little brother a lot. He would even hit him, call him names and generally belittle him at every turn. I was so alarmed by this. I mean, I wanted a connected family – one in which we all loved each other and enjoyed spending time together. How was it possible that my older son had so much anger towards his own flesh and blood? What was I doing wrong?

At first, I dealt with this by just trying to make it stop! “Don’t hit your brother!” I might yell. “Go to your room if you choose to act like that!” was another. “He’s younger than you! Have a little patience.” I tried taking his beloved items away, putting him in time outs, talking to him about “good” behavior. Nothing seemed to help. The more I tried to make it stop, the angrier he seemed to become.

At this time in our lives I was deeply immersed in self-examination. I was learning about my own trigger points and what outer circumstances seemed to activate my own feelings of anger and other negative emotions. Observing the ways in which I dealt with anger within myself was key to learning how to help my child move through his own.

I began observing how triggered I became when my oldest son was “acting out” with his little brother. His behavior was triggering the anger that lived within me and I was then acting from my own anger by reacting to my older son. I examined this further and realized that sending him to his room and taking his stuff away was just a reaction from my own fear ~ the fear of anger.

Why was I afraid of anger? Anger was just an emotion, not a real thing you could touch or hold. I examined times from when I was a child and remembered incidents where I was the recipient of someone else’s anger. I saw how scary that was and why I had become so afraid of it. It dawned on me that it wasn’t anger I was afraid of but the REACTIONS triggered from anger that scared me to death.

If I was reacting from my own angry feelings by punishing and yelling, then my son must be reacting to his anger by hitting and terrorizing his little brother.

I got to thinking. What if we weren’t afraid of anger? Would we even need to react to it if we weren’t afraid of it? What if the feeling of anger was a message, from our inner self, trying to tell us something about our world or something about our needs? Would anger be scary then? What if we could make friends with our anger? How in the world could we do that?

And this is where my pivotal story begins… I started taking my older son out on “special days.” On these days I turned off my phone and took him any place he wanted to go (within reason of course). The goal was for us to just have fun together. I vowed to be fully present. No distractions from little brother or email or phone calls. I turned off my phone and put my focus on my son.

Many times we went bowling, putt-putt golfing or for a picnic in a park. It was a time for me to BE with him. It was also a time for me to observe myself; my thoughts, feelings and triggers.

On these special days, my son would sometimes start talking negatively about his little brother. At first, I noticed myself trying to change his mind. “But look at the good things about him.” I would say. “He’s not so bad. Remember when he helped you clean up that mess?” I watched as my older son withered when I said these things and it wouldn’t be long before he was ready to go home. He would shut down again. I felt at a loss.

Since one my goals on these outings was to observe myself and my own inner workings, I realized that by countering his negative feelings towards his younger brother with good thoughts, I was trying to change his mind again. I wasn’t doing it by punishing but I WAS doing it by not LISTENING.

I heard what he was saying with my ears but not with my heart. My listening was not validating how he felt. My responses were undermining his feelings. I realized it didn’t matter whether my son’s statements about his little brother were true or not, he just needed me to acknowledge how he FELT.

I asked myself, How would you feel if you were angry about something and were telling a friend about it and she was defending the other side? Would you want to continue telling her things?

Sometimes it feels good to verbalize our feelings. It helps us get to the other side of things; To hash out. To release. To move towards love, understanding and compassion.

So my son wasn’t asking for solutions. He needed someone to witness these strong emotions, in particular his anger that was triggering destructive responses. He needed a safe environment, where he could express how he was feeling.

When we went out again I was set. And my son complained about his younger brother again. I won’t go into the ins and outs of our conversation, however my responses were much different than before. They went something like this:

Yes, little brothers can be such a pain, can’t they?

 I get it! It’s hard to be the older brother.

 I understand why you would feel like hurting your brother when that happened.

 My gosh! I’m sure that is so annoying to deal with!

 As my son talked, I kept reminding myself:

Don’t fix, just observe.
Don’t change, just love.
The anger is not bad; it’s just an emotion.

His frustration came flooding out. He was angry with me too. For “never” listening to him. For “never ever” paying attention to what he needed. He cried and cried. I kept listening and validating. It was a scary moment and one that I was afraid was a never-ending supply of negativity. It was great practice for witnessing an emotion and staying with it without judging it.

I apologized. I kept loving eye contact. I didn’t defend his little brother and I didn’t defend myself. I sat openly with this child who was in so much pain and felt so unheard. I had compassion and empathy. I’d felt all of these things before too. I shared some of those times with him. To witness the emotion in him without judging it or being triggered myself was magical.

Eventually, what I thought would be a never-ending flow of complaints gave rise to a smile. My son was calm. Spent. He told me he loved me so much. And then, something I never expected happened.

He shared some good things about his brother. He talked about some of their good times together. As we continued to talk he said, “I’m a quiet kid, Mom. And my brother is loud and outgoing.” He looked me in the eye and continued, “We’re just so different and sometimes I just need time away from him.”

The light came on for me. He was sharing his NEEDS. The two boys shared a room and my oldest needed a place to be alone.

So we talked about how we could make that happen. Together, we made a plan. We worked out a way for the boys to have their own rooms. We agreed that their rooms were their private spaces and that they could go there any time they felt they needed time to themselves. We agreed to honor each other’s privacy. My oldest son agreed to go there when the angry feelings came, and to talk to me whenever he needed help navigating those emotions.

When we went home, he was excited to see his brother. He was happy again. They played Lego and the oldest helped the younger boy. He was compassionate and understanding, even when his little brother broke his Lego masterpiece on accident!

From that day on, my son felt like he could talk to me. He felt that his feelings were safe with me – good or bad. We were partners and I was no longer afraid of his anger. He didn’t need to REACT to anger anymore because he was learning to witness the anger and with my help figure out what need was not being met. Then he could willingly release the strong emotion.

It’s so easy to allow the emotions of others (including our kids) to trigger something in us that makes us want it to STOP. We want a quick fix. Our society tends to think that consequences are in order when a child is acting out. But does that work? Or does it make an already angry child angrier? If we punish or shut the anger down in some way, does it make the anger go away? Or does in burrow inside of the child (or inside of us) to fester and grow?

Perhaps our emotions, including the negative emotions, are a gift. Maybe they arise in an effort to help us become clearer about our preferences and needs. It could be that when we witness our emotions, without judging them, we come to clarity. Possibly it is better to witness these emotions with love rather than shut them down. It could be the key to more peace in our own lives and in the world.

All negative emotions come from a place of fear. Upon close examination, it’s always a fear of our needs not being met in some way or another. Meandering our way down to the core of the issue gives us choices and power.

When a child is angry, he or she needs love. The child needs someone who is not triggered by his outburst. It’s hard for an adult to do this if they are triggered themselves. If we are afraid of anger or if we want the anger (or sadness or any other challenging emotion) to stop immediately, we forego the gift that the emotion is offering.

As we look at the emotion objectively, as an observer, we open up a world of true possibility, not only for our children, but for ourselves as well. Our needs can then be met from a neutral place and anger is not a necessary vehicle through which we express our needs.

Here are 7 tips that I follow when faced with big emotions in my kids. Perhaps they will work for you too.

  1. Bite my tongue and don’t react. – I try to remember that the anger (or sadness or other negative emotion) is NOT my child. Notice the anger (or worry or fear) that comes up in ME when my child is angry and acting out. I pay attention to that and investigate my own emotions but don’t react to my child’s emotion. (of course if my child is acting out by hitting or destructive behavior, I deal with that in the moment, but don’t shame or punish the emotion).
  2. Look at my child with compassion.  This take practice but looking my child in the eyes with love – seeing the hurt he is feeling underneath the angry emotions – connects me to who my child really is. I become less reactive and it allows me to sink into the next steps.
  3. LISTEN. – When the time is right, I LISTEN but don’t try to change the emotion. I try to listen like my best friend would listen to me when I need support.
  4. VALIDATE – For example, “Yes, I can see why that would make you mad.”, “Wow, I can see what that would make you want to hit your brother.” No words are off limits. This allows the emotion to come out in constructive ways. There is relief when we can vent. Let the tears come and don’t try to make the anger/sadness go away. I try to let if flow out of them. I get to be the witness. I get to be the non-reactor.
  5. LOVE – I love them right where they are. They are NOT this strong emotion. They are beautiful beings have a very human experience. Zero in on the beauty of that child – beneath all of that big emotion.
  6. TRUST – I trust (and by this time know) that the emotion will pass. I give this lots of time. It may take a few times of being with my child before all of the anger has dispersed. When it does pass, I don’t immediately offer solutions. Instead, I ask questions. “How can we make this better for you?” “What steps can we take to meet those needs?” This helps get to the core of the issue.
  7. Take  steps to meet the need. If my child needs alone time, I make that happen. If they need a space to go to when they are feeling overwhelmed, I help them with that. I try to get creative and PARTNER with my child to create an environment in which he can thrive. This builds trust in our relationship and helps my child know how to handle BIG emotions constructively.
  8. REPEAT. This one is tough. It requires us to be willing to BE with those same emotions over and over again. But repeating these steps helps our children to trust that we will walk with them through strong emotions without fear or reactivity on our part. It not only helps them to feel safe but also eventually helps them to recognize strong emotions as they come up and they learn to handle them more effectively, even when we’re not there to help.

 

 

Michelle ConawayMichelle Conaway is mom to three wonderful kids and wife to her supportive husband, Stacy Conaway. She believes that all children deserve the right to evolve into who they were born to be rather than be shaped into something that someone else believes they should be.

Michelle started Texas Unschoolers in 2012 and since then has gone on to host the TexUns Conference held in the beautiful rolling hills of New Braunfels, Texas. You can connect with her on the Texas Unschoolers Facebook page and group. She also started the popular Creative Unschooling Kids Facebook group where children from all over the world share their passions.  

 

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Not Back To School Day – August 22, 2016

NOT BACK TO SCHOOL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A  press release went out today about our upcoming NOT Back to School Day – a day in which we celebrate the freedom to Unschool in the state of Texas.

While millions of Texas children return to school on August 22, almost half a million are Not going Back to School and we look forward to making this a day of celebration for Unschooling families across the state!

If you plan something for Not Back To School Day, please feel free to share photos and comments about how you spent your day at our Facebook Group. It would be fun to see what everyone’s up to on Not Back To School Day!

 

PRESS RELEASE:
July 19, 2016–Fort Worth, Texas — While many parents are preparing for the state mandated first day of school, homeschooling and unschooling parents are enjoying plenty of quality time with their kids. With almost half a million children being homeschooled in Texas alone, there is a growing trend to forego the traditional preparation for the first day of school in favor of celebrating our freedom to homeschool by gathering together to encourage each other in our home school journey.

Texas Home Educators, Texas Unschoolers and Family Catholic Educators are celebrating the freedom of homeschooling, by encouraging local homeschooling and unschooling groups across the state of Texas to plan fun local activities on August 22, 2016, the official “Back To School Day” for Texas public school students as an official “NOT Back to School Day”.

Speaking for Texas Unschoolers, Michelle Conaway stated: ” I am excited to partner with Texas Home Education Support Groups in celebrating an official “Not Back To School Day” each year. We hope to encourage our local homeschooling and unschooling groups across the state to mark August 22 on their calendars as the official “Not Back To School Day” and celebrate by hosting various events for their local unschooling communities. We will be posting pictures on our Texas Unschoolers Facebook group of various “Not Back To School” events and welcome all photos and posts celebrating the joy of Homeschooling in Texas.”

Ellie Andrew, chairman of Catholic Family Educators, said, “Our children learn all the time. They don’t need to go to a place called `a school,’ to be taught by someone called `a teacher,’ in order to learn. Not Back to School Day reminds us of why we are homeschooling.”
Our hope is that each year homeschoolers across the state will celebrate “NOT Back To School Day” by hosting fun activities for homeschoolers in their areas as a celebration of home education in Texas.

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ASK A VETERAN

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Sue Patterson answers the questions that come in through the Texas Unschoolers‘ website or our Facebook Group or Page. Do you have something you want to ask for the next issue of our TexUns Newsletter? Your questions will remain anonymous.

 

 

 

 

QUESTION:  

What is the best way to go about preparing a transcript for my child if he decides to go to college? How should we be preparing for this?

ANSWER:
Transcript preparations are a big fear for a lot of people. But there’s no reason to worry about it. Unschooling parents can easily look back at their child’s life experiences and translate those into educational language/subjects. If you have collected photos for a scapbook or blog, these will be really helpful with jogging your memory.

With the Texas community college system, admissions staff are primarily looking for a graduation date and a signature. No one is looking at how elaborate your recordkeeping was or the depth of study your child did in any particular area. Many many unschooling teens opt to enter the college path by starting at the community college level and then transferring to a university as a sophomore. For those who want to go straight to a university, filling the teen years with interesting “real life” adventures will help set your child apart – and for paperwork purposes, you can translate those into subjects if you need to.

Here are some links for more info:

QUESTION:
What if my teen isn’t showing any interest in working, driving or preparing for adulthood? Should I be strongly encouraging her to begin thinking about these things? Or should I continue to allow her to just hang out on the computer with her friends and see if she decides to pursue these things on her own eventually?

ANSWER:
Lots of times, we parents project about our own lives onto our kids. We may have been SOO ready to be independent and GET AWAY from school/parents/etc. That we assume that our kids want that same thing. Chances are, living within an unschooling family feels a lot different. There may not be the same rush that we experienced.

“Strongly encouraging” sounds good, but it often backfires. From the sound of your question, I think you may already know that. Continue with your unschooling thinking, if you can.

Having a real need is what spurs changes in behavior.

When they want something they need to buy, and don’t have the money, they’ll move toward getting a job.
When they need to get somewhere and you cannot take them, they’ll consider getting their license.

It’s helpful to have conversations to make sure they’re not creating a story out of some fear they have. This is tricky to do if you’ve made it clear what you want. Give them room to choose something different from what you want/expect – and withhold any criticism you have. Think of yourself as their best supporter. Help them look at what they want to do, see it for what it really is, and remove your own judgements. If the goal is truly to transition into young adulthood, practicing making your own decisions is a step in the right direction.

If you would like to discuss these questions or have more questions, please visit our Alternative Living and Learning Forums here.

Sue Patterson, wife and mother of three grown unschoolers, lives in Pflugerville, just north of Austin. She has been an active homeschooling advocate at the local, state and national level for nearly two decades.

Sue’s book Homeschooled Teens: 75 Young Adults Speak About Their Lives Without School, is an awesome resource for anyone embarking on the teen years!

Sue is a Coach/Consultant and Unschooling Mentor helping families who are new to unschooling or homeschooling find a way to create more joy and adventure in their lives. She has a private coaching practice with a variety of options for helping families on a 1:1 basis, create an educational environment that looks nothing like school.

Sue is the Managing Editor of The Homeschooler Post – an online journal focusing on learning for home educators. She manages Unschooling Mom2Mom, blogs at her website, and speaks at various conferences around the country.

Find out more at SuePatterson.com.

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Embracing Life Learning

 

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So many times, people ask, “How do you Unschool?” For me it has been a process of paradigm shifts and a lot of recalibrating what I thought I knew about life and raising and educating kids. Here are some of my processes. Perhaps they will be of benefit to you as well.

Letting go

Living in the moment

Loving life as it comes, the good and the not so good

Not trying to MAKE things happen

Getting into the flow

Letting go of doctrine

Letting go of old beliefs

Believing in the Magic of Life

Allowing myself and my kids to be WHO we are

Allowing myself and my kids to express what is within us (even when it’s uncomfortable for me)

Allowing Life to Unfold as it Unfolds

Letting go of Knowing

Living in the Question

Asking Questions

Being then Doing

Playing More, working Less

Questioning my thoughts, my agendas, my way of looking at things

Seeing from a broader prospective

Letting go of Judgment

Embracing Peace not problems

Embracing Gentleness

Realizing there are NO Problems, only situations

Trusting that life is always as it should be in this moment.

Basically, just finding the joy in life and living THAT with my kids. No judgment. No worries. No threat. Just living and learning freely though it all.

 

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Gaming Addiction, by Rachel Miller

Keyboard Gaming

I’ve been participating in discussion groups with Unschoolers for many years.  One of the most popular topics and areas of concern for those new to Radical Unschooling is visual media, specifically gaming.  A common objection to gaming is the potential for addiction.

Clinically speaking, addiction is defined as:

a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.

Do I believe that someone can become addicted to video games?  Absolutely.  Just as someone can become addicted to food, exercise, books, or sex ~ all of which also play a meaningful part in our lives.  For nearly 40 years, since the Rat Park studies of the late 70’s, researchers and medical professionals have repeatedly found that addictions often disappeared when the environment of the addicted was positively changed.  The drugs, alcohol, and video games are a means to producing a euphoric effect combating a perceived miserable situation.  The solution to or prevention of addiction is not to forbid or limit your child from video games (or food, or exercise, or books), it is to facilitate an environment and foster a relationship they don’t feel the need to try to escape from.

Often parents will then share the “signs of addiction” they note in their children.

She gets cranky and rude!  

He throws a fit when I ask him to stop!

That’s all he does all day!

Let’s take each of these statements and find possible solutions that are respectful to our children’s interest in gaming.

She gets cranky and rude!  Is your child hungry?  Bringing snacks to a gamer can help eliminate blood sugar drops and other hunger symptoms that manifest in a short temper. Monkey platters are a fun and easy way to keep energy up.  Is your child simply venting their frustration at a particularly difficult level?  Sometimes parents will be upset because their child is grumbling about a lost life or a failed task.  A child verbally processing the game play isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  This could be an opportunity for you to ask questions and better understand what they are doing.  You could offer to help them look up a walk-through on YouTube or take a moment to grab a drink of water before sitting back down and trying again.  Have you interrupted their play?  That leads to…

He throws a fit when I ask him to stop!  If I’m in the middle of reading a book and someone interrupts me ~ I generally ask them to give me a moment to finish the sentence/section/chapter.  I apply the same principle to our gaming children, “I’d like to talk to you about something, when you find a stopping point can we chat?”.  Or setting up the expectation that we have commitments later in the day.  When our son started getting into games like League of Legends where a match could last thirty minutes or more ~ I made an effort to let him know if we have appointments so that he doesn’t begin something that he can’t finish.  Some servers penalize users for leaving matches/games/rounds early.  Equate it to sports.  Can you imagine if your child was playing football and you walked onto the field in the middle of the 3rd quarter and said, “We’re leaving.  Now.”  It’s frustrating to not only the individual player, but the “team” as a whole.  Work on identifying what led up to their frustration and brainstorm solutions that are respectful to both of you.

That’s all he does all day!  This can have roots in several places.  If you’ve limited gaming (or Television, or food, or pretty much anything) ~ you’ve likely created scarcity.  Then, when children are given the opportunity they will “hoard”, trying to get in as much as they can in fear that it will be taken away again.  When the restrictions are removed and our children are secure in the fact that gaming is available at any time ~ they are emotionally free to explore other things.  Though, for some children, gaming IS their passion.  Which means that it isn’t a matter of scarcity, but of interest and they will continue to spend significant amounts of time on it.     Many folks complain that kids can’t “stay on task” or “focus more than a few minutes” ~ but when a child spends hours/days/weeks immersed in something, parents will complain about how much time is spent on it.  Even if your child wants to spend “all day” gaming, that’s OK too.  It is as valuable an experience as reading, writing, talking, and researching.  If you really pause and watch, you will see that they are doing all of those things as part of gaming.

If you’d like to talk with other Unschooling families about possible solutions to concerns, learn more about removing arbitrary limits, or just meet more people on this journey ~ please join us on the Alternative Living and Learning Forums here.

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Rachel Miller is married to her high school sweetheart, Josh, and they happily unschool with Cam and Livy in the Houston suburbs.  She is one of the coordinators of the Texas Unschoolers Conference in New Braunfels.  Her family will also be at the Free To Be Unschooling Conference in Phoenix at the end of September.

 

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Unschooling Teens: “All He/She Wants to Do Is…”, by Shannon Stoltz

 

Mom Teen

“All she wants to do is…”  The first time I heard this phrase a friend was lamenting about how she wanted her then 15 year old daughter to get a summer job or do something similarly “productive”.  That was to be the first of many times I’ve heard a parent of a 12/13 year old or 15/16 year old say, “All she/he wants to do is…”    

Parenting and homeschooling, no matter the style, changes around 12/13 and again around 15/16.  The relationship between parent and child, particularly if you are coming from more conventional philosophies, changes.  Our children are more independent, exploring ideas and activities that interests them.  And that doesn’t always match up with our own expectations.

When how our vision for our children’s path is different than what our kids’ are actually doing, fear creeps in and we get statements like:


“All she wants to do is sit in her room reading and writing in her journal.”

“All she wants to do is draw.”

“All he wants to do is hang out with his friends and skateboard.”

“All she wants to do is hang out with her friends and party.”

“All he wants to do is work.”

“All he wants to do is play basketball and hang out at church”

“All he wants to do is play games with his friends on the computer.”

But in reality, what our children are pursuing is actually building a foundation for their future. We just don’t yet know what that future looks like, and that can be scary.

For us as parents, this is a time to let go of our agenda for our kids and embrace their journey in becoming the unique individuals they are. It’s a time to learn how to support our children differently than we have done before, to see them as their own person and support them where they are at. It’s not an easy parental transition, especially if you have had compliant kids or come from an authoritarian background.

For our teens, this is a time of learning who they are as people, experimenting, developing relationships, and testing ideas, forming and discussing ideas and opinions with others outside the family. Unschooling at this age level is fabulous because it is all about trusting the process, building relationships, and supporting the kids where they are at.

My kids have deep dived into interests from 12 and up. We’ve gone through periods of intense focus into manga, anime, robotics, blacksmithing, cake decorating, working, Minecraft, archery, gaming of all types, survival skills, art, writing, digital drawing, herbal medicine, horses, chinese light novels, theater, the list goes on. Weeks, months, and even years of a focus and then it shifts or fine tunes further.

I’ve seen their friends do the same. And their parents, across all styles of education, struggle with the change – that their kids are no longer malleable to what they want them to do – and then have to figure out how to support their kids where they are.

Early on this journey of being a mom of teens, I remember literally sitting on my hands and biting my lip, as I watched my son, then 13, working through a difficult task, approaching it differently than I would. But instead of telling him what and how to it, I restrained myself and honored that he wanted – and needed – to go through the process of figuring it out himself. He knew that he could ask for input, instead he asked me to bring him food and to sit with him as a companion and listen to his thought process, and be there for support. I needed to respect that. Now, at nearly 17, he still often asks me to bring him food, and to be there to listen to him share his ideas, stories, and thought processes.

One of the big differences between unschooling, especially radical unschooling, and other styles of education and parenting is that word RESPECT.  With unschooling, especially in the teen years, it’s not about our kids respect for us and their showing respect to us or other adults. Instead, it’s about us showing respect to them — to their ideas, interests, and needs. It’s another level of giving, of pouring into. It’s about respecting their needs and supporting them.

For a social kid who wants to hang with their friends, it’s about providing an environment to do so. For a kid with an online community, it’s about respecting that’s where their friends are and treating them with dignity and respect, and supporting their collaborations and time together. For a kid who likes to spend hours by themselves (often in the middle of the night), it’s about letting them and making sure they have the resources they need. And when they want to talk and share, to be there for them – to listen, encourage, support, and help them find the resources they are looking for.

For an unschooler, “All he/she wants to do is…”  becomes an opportunity – an opportunity to engage and connect, to encourage and support, and to facilitate your child’s interest – no matter how obscure. And it becomes an opportunity to grow yourself, as a parent and as a individual. At the end of the day, it’s all about trusting the process, embracing the learning as it happens, and, most importantly, building wonderful relationships with your teens.

Want to discuss Unschooling teens? Visit us at the forums to talk more about the ideas in this post here.

 

Shannon Stolz Bio Pic

 

 Shannon Stoltz is an unschooling mom to four fabulous kids, ages 19, nearly 17, 14, and 12.  You can read more from Shannon here at her website.

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