Unschooling Journey

Our journey from traditional schooling, to "school at home" and then on to greener pastures…

Tag: nature

Respect. Word.


“ENOUGH! Into your room! You’re in time out!”

How dare he talk to me like that?? That’ll teach him. He needs to learn to be respectful, he can’t yell at me or get angry because things weren’t going his way, that’s life, better get used to it!

My child was going to learn to be respectful, any deviation from that path would be nipped in the bud. Time out, privileges gone, toys binned, whatever it took to get him to toe the line, I mean, if I couldn’t get him to be respectful at age 5, what hope did I have of having a respectful teenager??!


*Cringe*. Oh dear. Those days were not my finest parenting moments.

Where had these ideas come from?? Ohhhhhh, wait. I remember now, all those glossy parenting magazines with glowing, happy mothers and perfect children on the cover. Oh oh, and the books, yes, that “magic” counting method, and that other one about wrestling…no, “wrangling”…kids…then there’s that Nanny…

Those books and shows have a lot to answer for.

The term “respectful parenting” is a relatively new one for me, having spent most of Clay’s life more on the “authoritative” side, believing that children should do as I say, toe the line, that sort of thing. At the time it didn’t feel right, I hated how upset he got…but it was easy. I had control, I could give and I could taketh away, not just toys and experiences, but affection, attention. Nine times out of ten it worked straight away!

But the older he got, as we left the school system, I saw around me different styles of parenting, children who were happy, Mums who were happy…there was no yelling, they weren’t constantly on guard, hovering, waiting for their children to step out of line…it made me question how I was doing things…

Turns out it’s called “respectful parenting”, and, essentially, it boils down to treating your children with the same respect and courtesy you would your spouse, a friend, a guest in your home. Interesting concept hey?

Unschooling Mum and kids exploring nature

At first it was…weird. Here my son was getting frustrated and raising his voice, and me, responding gently, acknowledging his frustration and calmly asking how I could help. Then there was the time when he was swinging over the bars in the shopping aisle, narrowly missing passers by, and me asking if he would mind not doing that as he may hit someone….asking a few times, explaining a few times…or that other time when he jumped up and started walking along a brick fence, and me, pausing, asking what the harm was…averting my eyes as a parent behind me scholded their child for following suit, glaring at my apparent disregard for…what now?

I wont pretend to have this all figured out, I’m still learning, I still slip up every now and then, though fewer times this week than last, fewer last than the one before… And there’s still meltdowns that happen, there’s still tantrums, like just yesterday, in the car on the way to dropping hubby at the train station, lots of yelling….oh wait, sorry, that was me…don’t worry, my husband was gentle in his response and helped me calm down…see, he has this “respectful husbanding” down pat.

So yeah, it’s different, it’s weird, it’s likely to bring more than a couple of sideways glances from friends, family, strangers….but you know what? Our family life is calmer, our relationships stronger…it works. It really does.


PS. Read more about respectful parenting over on Rachel’s blog, Sara’s explanation here,  or the facebook page Respectfully Connected…or pop it into Google, it’s everywhere now, get on board, the grass is greener over here 😉


The “red note”…



I remember the walk (or drive if I was feeling particularly lazy….or if it was cold…or too hot…or…) to school all too well. I remember trying to skip over the cracks so I didn’t invite any bad luck, holding my breath the last ten metres before entering the grounds in a ritualistic fashion…perhaps today would be the beginning?? Perhaps today, something would have clicked, something the teacher tried would have worked, to get Clay to “do what he was told”.


There’s that look. She’s standing at the door now, calling kids name by name to leave the classroom. Yep, he’s last again. She locks eyes with me and motions for me to step forward, “Not a good day today…”, it would begin, or, “It started out well, but then…”.

The dreaded red note in the diary. From the sports teacher (who, lets face it, probably didn’t look favourably on a boy deciding that he’d rather climb a tree while  a serious game of soccer was meant to be happening), or the art teacher (man she was the worst, grumpy old lady, should’ve retired years ago!), or the softly spoken music teacher (no, sitting on a mat with a drum in hand and expecting him to wait his turn to tap it three times probably isn’t going to work).

What was this awful thing that my son had done? Oh you know, he skipped rather than walked between classes and had to hold the teachers hand, spoke without putting his hand up, splashed water on a friend while at the drinking fountain (did I mention it was hot that day?), oh oh, and my personal favourite, he thumped a kid back after he got clobbered with a broom handle. Apparently he failed to mention that part of the altercation to the teacher as he was being dragged to the principle’s office….at not even 4 years old. I wonder why he didn’t feel safe enough to explain his side? Interesting…


Clay is a climber, bouncer, runner (although not in the athletics-style-straight-line, manner). He’s always been a mover. That’s a big reason why school didn’t work for him, he can’t sit still.

Parkour is awesome for kids who need to move (vertically as well as horizontally). The key is to find the right mentor, though. We tried a class for a couple of terms, he really enjoyed it, but struggled with the part where he had to sit and listen to instructions. I’ve actually found (as I de-school myself), that I am very similar. I have to really concentrate when someone is talking to me, I tend to zone out and need to force myself to make eye contact to keep up with a long conversation. But show me something, or give my hands something to do while we chat, and then I will remember, then I will take in what you’re saying.

This is frustrating for my husband, who can’t understand why he’s had to explain to me a dozen times how to turn on the heater. Show me please, and make sure I’m not distracted by my phone while you’re doing it.

It’s funny, I didn’t realise how much I would learn about myself on this journey, how much of myself I had learnt to mask. How many of Clay’s “quirks” were also my own.

Anyway, back to parkour. I knew I didn’t want to give up on it, it really was the perfect activity for Clay, he was always watching parkour YouTube videos, and practicing his own moves. But the only other class I’d heard of was on a Friday, which (at the time), was Minecraft Day. So when the holidays rolled by, and we weren’t hosting Minecraft Day that week, I took him to a class. He LOVED it. So much so that when I asked if he wanted to move Minecraft Day to a Thursday (at the risk of some friends not being able to come) he jumped at the chance, no hesitation. It was one of the earliest memories I have of him choosing something over Minecraft.

Whoo hooooo!!

We were about 6 months into Unschooling when this happened. Despite reaching our goal of un-restricted technology, I was still freaking out at times…albeit more quietly, on the inside on a good day…rocking back and forth in the corner crying, thinking “What the hell am I doing!?” on a bad one.

So this was something to celebrate. Calmly, on the inside. I didn’t want Clay to detect that I was ecstatic about his decision, these were my insecurities, stemming from my upbringing, with traditional dos and don’ts swimming around in my head. I’d done the research, I knew that projecting my fears onto him would make him feel like I was disapproving, rather than celebrating and supporting his passions. It would bring about him feeling that he was less than he was “supposed” to be. So I kept my joy to myself, and we switched days…calmly, like it was no big deal.

Isn’t it funny, how we automatically value one thing over another, even though we’ve never thought to question it. Why is it that I’m ok with him jumping and climbing up walls, but worry about him expressing his creativity through building medieval villages, carrying out role-plays with friends, or working as a team to solve a problem. It’s been hard for me to question my beliefs, question what I’ve always known to be true. All part of my de-schooling process I suppose!

Back to Parkour. We take part in two classes every fortnight, with an amazing instructor. Gone is the rigid class, now he gets to participate when he wants, have a break when he wants, and is never expected to sit down and listen. I think finding the right mentors for our kids is key, just as I don’t want to project my presuppositions on his choices (and influence his decisions too much), I don’t want others to ruin what is an amazing opportunity just because they believe kids need to learn something in a particular fashion.

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Parkour up walls…

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On anchors…

IMG_8747 (2)In nature…

I love parkour days, the kids run and jump and get dirty, and I get to hang out with some amazingly inspiring Unschoolers. I think it’s important to surround ourselves with like-minded people, getting bogged down in conversations about curriculum and “grade level” makes us second guess ourselves, when actually, the real world is a whole lot more interesting to play in…


PS. Read more on de-schooling here…http://livingjoyfully.ca/blog/2013/02/why-deschooling/

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