Sunday, July 30, 2006

Unschooling Voices August topic: Do you extend the principles of unschooling (trust, freedom, etc) into any other areas of your child's life?

I found this month's question to be an interesting one yet one I had never really thought about before. I suppose I could just answer with an unequivocal "yes" and be done with it, we don't just unschool "school" we live an unschooling lifestyle. But in the spirit of sharing, I will explain my "yes" in more detail! Be forewarned, this is definitely more of a ramble or stream of conciousness thing than a coherent article!

There are no bedtimes in our house. When you are tired you go to sleep and unless there is something that needs to be done early in the morning (like a demonstration at the county fair or a cool park program) you wake up whenever you want. Probably moreso than most of their "scheduled" counterparts, my kids are very aware of how much sleep their bodies need and are very rarely crabby from lack of sleep. The younger set still occassionally crash in the afternoon, in the car, on the couch or on my bed, to re-energize themselves for the rest of the day! Even Will, at 25 months old, will tell me when he is tired and wants to go to bed which differs from night to night. Take tonight for example, he came to me around 8:45 PM as I sat on the computer, took my hand and said, "go bed, boob, boobs", so I laid down with him, nursed him for about 15 minutes and he fell asleep. Who knows what time his request for bed may be tomorrow night!

Food...oh the joys of food. The kids are free to eat what they chose, when they chose to do so. I know their are many people out there that would think all that any child given this freedom would chose to eat would be candy, candy and more candy...and YES sometimes the choice is to eat candy, but more often the choice is something that most people put a higher nutritional value on. Soup, eggs, cheese, peanut butter, chicken, name it and my kids probably eat it. Well, except for Miss Emily who expresses her food freedom by eating a vegetarian diet. I have had people ask why I don't "make" her eat meat and all I can think to answer is "her body, her choice" because if they are asking the question that way you know they don't have the same trust in their kids that I do.

We do not limit or restrict tv. Some of the kids favorite shows are ones probably not things most of their peers are permitted to watch. Family Guy, The Simpsons, Seinfeld are some of our favorites...but the tv is just as likely to be tuned into a Nick cartoon, Court TV, or ESPN. They are not zoombies to the TV, because they know it will be there when they get back they willing chose to go outside and play, ride bikes, explore. I have never once had any of them say they don't want to do something because they are watching TV.

Music plays unedited and uncensored. My older two children often chose rap or hiphop, but I honestly find that the uncensored versions draw far less attention to the explicit language that is sometimes used. A pause or beep in the edited versions is much more likely to get my little ones attention and they will gladly fill in the missing word. Since the girls dance, music is almost always playing in the house and is always on in the car.

We haven't really reached the point where curfews are an issue. Typically my older two will go out together with friends and since none of their friends drive, an adult I trust is with them. On the occassions that they are not together and are with friends who have less supervision, I always love to hear the stories they tell upon their return. Brett has called us to pick him up, not because his friends were drinking, but because the adult in charge was drinking and planned to drive. He tells stories of his friends being drunk and smoking pot or of them smoking cigarrettes. It's not that I don't think my child could or would do such things, it is that I am observant enough (and experienced enough) to know if it happened and wouldn't pass judgement about it. I also trust that given our relationship that they would chose to tell me if they decided to experiment with alcohol, drugs or tobacco. The kids and I were talking one day about how some parents have their kids sign "contracts" that they won't ride with a friend who has been drinking or who is under the influence of drugs. We all laughed about it, my take on it is that if it takes me making my kids sign a piece of paper for them to know they can come to me unconditionally with anything then I haven't done my job as a parent and I must be living under some grand delusion that they would suddenly come to me when pressured by peers. OK, I am getting off topic here.....

As part of the family, everyone is expected to help with household tasks to some degree, but there is certainly no equal division of labor or assigned chores. There are times when I require that certain things be done before we leave the house, but it doesn't matter to me who does them. From the time they were little I would explain what things needed to be accomplished in order for us to be able to go out and do "whatever". If we are going to the waterpark for the day and need towels and lunches I will announce what things we need and typically the kids jump up and get it done, after all going out is more fun than hanging out at home. Now if they would only attack cleaning as joyfully...probably won't since they don't see me attack it with a joyful attitude!

The one area in our lives that is probably the least "unschool-like" is sports. Here, I believe, that your choice only lies in deciding whether you want to play/participate in a sport or not. Once you chose to play, you must remain committed until the season (or session) is over. Ironically I have never had to give the "your team is depending on you" speech...most likely because I have always told them that once they decide to play that they will need to stick with it until the end. Now this isn't to say that I wouldn't pull them from a team in a heartbeat if I felt the situation was abusive, unsafe or destructive. If you are a frequent visitor, you know the girls dance competitively and that the boys play numerous sports, baseball, basketball and football. Since they chose to play, and continue to chose to play season after season, then I suppose even that can fall under "unschooling"...following ones passions and interests!

So that's the long way to get to my "yes"...hope it gave you a little insight!

1 comment:

kiwimumtomykidz said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Great to read of a "larger than average" size family that is unschooling!!