Sunday, December 30, 2007

Radical Unschooling So Far

It's been a while since I wrote anything related to radical unschooling. We had a big change in our lives after experiencing the Live and Learn Unschooling Conference in September. I think that at the time, in my enthusiasm to quickly find a new path in our homeschooling and family interactions, I set us up for some disappointments. At least, my expectations were probably too high, that we'd all "get it" right away and slip into a familial bliss that I'd observed in many families at the conference. Eddie also was expecting really quick results.

The kids have loved the freedom they gained, of course. But I think that I wasn't prepared for the extra time I was going to need to help them, and Eddie and myself, adjust to this lifestyle, and learn new ways to interact with each other.

One example is no set bedtime for the kids. They've loved it. Unfortunately, their bedrooms are above ours, so while we've gone off to bed, they might still be up for a couple hours, either in the living room (no problem, can't hear them there), or playing in their rooms, or just in getting ready for bed and walking up and down the hallway (both noisy propositions). I talked with them about the idea that while they do have the freedom to choose their own bedtimes, we can't sleep if there's noise above our heads. I liked the quote from someone at the conference, "Your freedom ends where another's begins." I thought I could just talk to them about this idea and they'd agree and understand and be quiet after we went to sleep. But they just aren't aware of how much noise they're making, or they've forgotten that we went to bed, or are just in their own worlds--they're kids!

So that has been rather frustrating for me and for Eddie. I have more patience in wanting to let this work itself out, with more talking and reasoning, problem-solving involving the kids, etc. Eddie just wants to be able to sleep! After one particularly noisy night, he woke the kids up when he got up for work in the morning, trying to make a point about people's need for sleep and how irritating it is when someone wakes you. But that didn't solve anything--he was just venting, I suppose.

I've done similar things in different situations, so I'm not saying I'm perfect--far from it. I'd like to tell them they don't realize how great they've got it, that kids in school have no choices (comparatively at least), and even lots of homeschoolers have rules that they don't have--so won't you please cheerfully help with housework, etc. When I do ask for help with something specific, I get mixed results. I admit to becoming impatient with this, and feeling like I've taken on a bigger load than before. But, but . . . I still know that radical unschooling is the best thing for us all, and I really, really want it to happen; I want us to live it. It's just taking longer than I want it to.

As a result of the noise issues, Eddie re-instituted bed-time for the kids (although he's not been enforcing it all the time). I admit I'm glad; I can sleep better now. But I also feel like this was something that should have been worked out. And it still can be. I think that since we're still new to RU principles, we (the parents) just weren't prepared. It definitely takes more effort in many ways than simply living a regular life and homeschooling. There's a lot I need to learn, and sometimes it's hard to see the RU answer to whatever issue is at hand. I think that we should have started everything more gradually, as was later suggested to me by Live and Learn conference creator Kelly Lovejoy.

On the positive side, the kids are enjoying their board games, card games, Playmobil and Lego creations, computer games, TV, movies, outdoor playtime, and having the freedom to explore their own interests. Recently there's been less electronic time and more "other" play time. We've been enjoying listening to several books on CD in the car together. They're always looking forward to seeing friends. They'd much rather get together with friends than spend time at home. :)

Emily loves her guitar lessons (this picture was one of those "No More Pictures!" moments) and got a new (blue) guitar for Christmas, and more lessons to start soon. I don't ever remind her to practice--she loves to play on her own. It's not my job to insist if she hasn't been playing. She'll figure out how much time she wants to put into it and see what results she gets. She did start teaching me a little--I was able to buy a used full-sized classical guitar from a homeschooling friend.

I'm not making either of them study anything in particular, I'm not quizzing them on what they know. If there's something they need to know, they ask me or Eddie or each other. Thomas does mention wanting to learn to read better, so we'll do a few lessons and when he's satisfied, that's it for a while more. We'll see what happens when it's time for proof of educational progress. I think they'll both be fine, though.

So while we've taken a few steps backward, I am hoping to take it forward again, but more slowly, and keep striving for what will work best for all of us.

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science worksheets said...

I enjoyed reading about your unschooling methods. I myself ditched the bedtime quite awhile ago, it has worked out great. And most of all I am not arguing with my daughter to get her to sleep.

Anonymous said...

I think every household needs some rules. I think it's good to have a bedtime rule. They don't have to sleep, but they have to be in bed. It teaches a consideration for others.

As someone told our group once, "unschooling is not unparenting."

Silvia said...

Well, there's a great web page about rules vs principles at that I tend to agree with. I don't think that imposing being in bed at a certain time "teaches" anything, other than someone else can tell you when to go to bed. But at this point, that's where we are. I'd rather they grow to become more considerate because it feels right to them.

Homestead Mama said...

After some trial and error on the whole bed time thing - we finally came to "quiet time" as a solution. They can go to sleep when ever it suits them - but after a certain hour we want the house to be peaceful for those that do want to sleep. If they are not tired yet, they can read or write or do some other quiet activity.

piscesgrrl said...

I'm a little slow on the draw with this one...

Hot topic, bedtime! My kids know that if they're loud, Dad will get grouchy. So if they want to be up, it's fine, but they're quiet. Jonathan has his "nighttime videos" that he'll sometimes watch, plugged in with headphones. He's always put himself to bed when he's tired, whether early or late. he used to leave our parties and put himself to bed, probably a bit overwhelmed.

No one said the transition was easy! So much to chew on! I'm there with ya!

Silvia said...

That's for sure! But actually, Eddie's only been firm on the bedtime thing a few times, and the kids are still up now--1am. Emily is reading in bed and Thomas is on the computer. So the "rule" didn't last long. :)

Anonymous said...

My feeling on the bedtime or any structure rules...I don't even think it's my job to 'teach' anything-so I dont need to qualify what I/we are doing as teaching or worthwhile,as such.
I do believe that I need to be balanced and healthy in order to hold space for my child to explore and live his life. I cannot do that if,for example,CNN is blaring from cable 24/7,or I cannot sleep until midnight b/c he is jumping around,or he is eating a bunch of sugar or fast food [from which he gets very sick and unbalanced,and yes,I do believe I can define that for him/us-I see it firsthand.] He explores within paramaters.
Honestly,there is NO way to eliminate the parameters variable from any unschooling environment,no matter how radical. A home is a palette,and there will always be therefore variables on this palette-that is philosophically inherent.
We ARE providing choices for our children,regardless of how much freedom they have. We could choose to have full cable TV or no TV at all. We may be amazing musicians as parents,or a great cook,or we may live on a farm or in an apartment in the city. There is no way around the fact that we DO influence our children by creating environments.
Therefore,we can consider what we want these environments to look/be like. The more consciously we do this [such as most unschoolers probably are attemtping,I'm assuming]the better of everyone in the family is.
There are a gazillion situations in the world; my child may be interested in many of them,but he may not experience all of them by the time he is 12,or 15 or 18. My choosing to provide him with a forum for one experience but not another,is a form of influence that cannot be avoided. EVen not choosing is a form of choosing. But this choosing for him does not mean control,necessarily.
We can only exist in form b/c we have space around us. This is the same as creating a fertile ground for experiencing life-a 'container' from which to explore.