Unschooling Journey

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

Tag: saying “yes”

Why not??

Sometimes, we say “No,” because we’ve been conditioned to have that as our first response. “No,” because it’s too hard. “No,” because I’m busy. “No,” because I said no last time. This journey has forced me to look at what I’m saying no to, and really ask myself why? Why not?

Take bubble bath for example. Jessie loves bubble bath. Like, a LOT. To the point where there’s never enough bubbles until the whooooooole bottle is gone. She has so much fun, pouring in the soap, discovering that it works better under running water, building up the bubbles on her head like a hat, chin like a beard, my entire face like…..well, that’s just because it’s funny apparently.

Unschooling girl covered in bubbles

Why do I “let” her use the whole bottle in one go? Isn’t that a waste?

A waste? Of what? She’s going to use it all anyway, eventually. What does it matter that it goes in one bath or ten?

The cost?

Bubble bath costs $3.20. I’ll grab a bottle when we’re at the shops, maybe a couple a week, maybe more, depending on how often we pop to the shops. I spend more than that on coffee…much more than that on a bottle of wine…so really, when this first started to happen, I had to ask myself, is it more important for me to save a few dollars, or to just let her have the fun and use her bubbles the way she wanted to.

Sometimes, bubbles get alllllll over the floor. That’s ok, I throw a towel over the top, they get cleaned up pretty easily…and I rarely need to mop the bathroom floor, so really she’s saving me time, right?

Obviously there’s times when “No,” is the only response you can give, “No,” you can’t run across the highway, “No,” you can’t ride the dog, “No,” you can’t drink the cleaning fluid…unless it’s homemade with vinegar, then they can fill their boots.

But next time you hear yourself about to give “No,” as an answer, try and pause to ask yourself “Why not?”, is the “No,” because it’s a real safety issue? Is the “No,” because you really don’t have the money? Is the “No,” because you have an important appointment?

If not, can you instead figure out a way to lead with “Yes,”? Saying “Yes,” fills them with the knowledge that they have some control, that they can make things happen, that they have a say in their own lives. This is so important, in this world of rules and constraints, to have them grow knowing that they can have an affect their situations…be it as small as bubbles when they’re 4, or  taking the leap to move to the other side of the country when they’re 18.

"Children learn to make good decisions by making decisions, not by following directios." Alfie Kohn

Yep, there’ll be plenty of “No,”s in their lifetime, I’ve learnt not to add the unnecessary ones…

xx

Respect. Word.

THEN…

“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??!

NOW…

*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.

xx

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 😉

 

“Screen Time”

THEN…

“Baby Einstein”, that was approved baby entertainment, right? I could pop the tele on while I get some cleaning done and feel I was doing a good job, that I wouldn’t be frowned upon by those in my Mothers Group for allowing him to watch TV.

Or a documentary, playing in the background. Classical music. That sort of thing.

From the very beginning of Clay’s life I was worried about doing things “right”. I read the top parenting books of the time (“Save our Sleep” anyone?? *cringe*), and they all said not too much television, it’s bad for them, rots brains, harms eyesight, turns them into zombies. Oh and definitely no electronic devices at the shops or if we go out for a meal, only crayons, colouring, books. They’re approved, good-parenting, stuff.

An over ambitious pushy parent reading a book about child development while ignoring her child's emotional needs.

As he grew, and became interested in iPads and computers, I would literally time the periods he was on. No more than 15 minutes a day, half an hour, one hour max!

Eeeeek. Timer had gone off 30 minutes ago. Mummy fail.

Even as we began homeschooling, all those fabulous “educational” apps, oh no no, he couldn’t do everything on apps or the computer. He had to read (books, of course, not screens, they’re different you see…), and write and regurgitate, plan projects and create neat little booklets and maps. That’s what learning looks like, right?

Minecraft, that’s where his interest in computing really started to boom. A friend introduced me to it, saying it was a fabulous game, her son had built amazing buildings with lots of rooms and winding halls. It was almost educational, we justified to ourselves.

Then they really got interested. Too interested. This can’t be good. Nothing of benefit would hold their interest for that long. They were becoming obsessed. And so the time spent on Minecraft was cut, 15 minutes a day max. That’s it. Off. No, I don’t care that you’re in the middle of building something or battling a Creeper, your time is up. I was being generous, really, some of his friend’s weren’t allowed to play at all. I was tempted, he got so stroppy and angry after his time was up…

No, you can’t go back on Minecraft today, you’ve had your time….now stop interrupting me while I’m trying to answer this Facebook post…

NOW…

Removing restrictions on technology was difficult, it was a complete turn around on everything I had ever known to be true. As I explained in a previous post, removing the restrictions was a process for us. But once we were there, yes, Clay spent (and still does on many days) all day playing games.

In the beginning it was all about Minecraft, which eventually gave way to Terraria, and more recently he has begun exploring other games on Steam, like Scrap Mechanic and Stranded Deep. I was, of course, worried about this at first, waiting, waiting, waiting to see the signs of this elusive thing called “self-regulation”…

It was subtle at first, he’d take himself off and play outside when friends came over for Minecraft Day, then he began to take himself off for breaks when he was on his own. Then the “I’m bored” comments began. I recall feeling overly excited when this happened for the first time, but forced myself to be calm and casual as I made suggestions as to what he could do.

In the beginning, all he wanted to do was stay home and play, or play on his iPad or computer when we were out. But gradually he came to trust that I wasn’t going to take his games away, we spoke about how he had plenty of time to play as long as he wanted to, that he could play online with his friends when they were on, and I even went so far as to seek out more online playmates via the various Facebook groups I’m on. He then started to realise that the time he could spend playing “pretend play”, climbing trees, or paddling down a stream, was what was limited now, not his gaming time.

More recently, he has begun to seek out some of the things that used to interest him, things like magic, cooking, science experiments and chemistry. He has begun to take himself away from the screen and sit chatting to me about ideas, asking if he can “experiment” with this or that.

clayonbeachwalk

Choosing to come off his computer for a walk along the beach…

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…experiment…

clayscavengerhunt

…participate in activities…

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…and Jessie (having never been restricted) eagerly chooses other options.

Yes, most of the days when we are home are spent gaming. But he tends say yes to other things more readily nowadays, park plays and fun activities like the scavenger hunt this past week. In the beginning he would have said no, preferring to stay home. At the end of the day, it comes down to the economics of scarcity, the rarer something is, the more value it holds.

Yes, things are changing.

I doubt he will give up gaming any time soon, nor do I wish him to (I see great value in it now, more on that in a future post), but his interests are broadening, and he is comfortable with the knowledge that he can game whenever he likes.

The relationship I’ve developed with Clay since removing restrictions is so rewarding, the impromptu hugs and the “You’re the best Mummy ever!” comments fill me with conviction that this is the right path. Respecting his choices, supporting his passions, instilling in him the knowledge that he is exactly who he should be.

And that’s my end goal, because he’s already perfect, and I don’t need a book to tell me that.

xx

PS. This week I was fortunate enough to have my worries about letting go of food restrictions addressed by the inspirational Pam Larrichia, Anne Ohman and Anna Brown on the Exploring Unschooling podcast. If you haven’t ventured down this road yet, have a listen, then let me know if you’ll join me in jumping in….here I go!!!

Food restrictions and learning to say “yes”.

THEN…

The school was angling at a diagnosis. Everything they were saying was pointing towards it.

“Are you saying he has ADHD?” I asked

“Oh we’re not qualified to say that.” Was the response.

Uh-huh.

I knew my child, I knew he was a mover, a fidgeter (probably gets it from me), but he could also sit for hours on end playing quietly, lego, books, drawing….digging up bugs. He was a hands on kid, always had been, but he didn’t have a problem being “attentive” when he was interested in something.

They wouldn’t let it go, though, so (not wanting to go down the medical route) I went to a naturopath. The lady was lovely, really positive that Clay could be “helped” to be more focused (…on the boring stuff…) via natural means. We spoke about the effect of foods on behaviour, and began the “elimination diet”. No gluten, wheat, dairy, certain fruits, colours, additives or preservatives.

It.

Was.

Hard.

And not just hard to implement, but hard to watch, hard to see his face fall when all the kids around him could have things that he wasn’t allowed. All because he wouldn’t sit still and do worksheets. No party food, no take-away, no cold meats, no bread, limited fruits/dried fruits, and absolutely no numbers! Numbers were everywhere! He became withdrawn in social situations when food was around, sad, he didn’t like the attention when asked if he wanted something.

It didn’t work, either, he actually became more disruptive, if he wasn’t hiding behind me avoiding the attention, then he’d try and distract kids from food by engaging in “look at me!” behaviour….climbing up polls and such.

I hated this time, I felt so mean, he didn’t understand any of it (he was 5!), and how was he really feeling? Isolated? Left out? Different? Knowing that his Mum wouldn’t let him have things because she wanted him to sit still and do his work at school? Surely that was having a more adverse effect on him than the foods were?

I stuck it out for three months, before saying enough. His spark was fading, I wanted that spark back.

NOW…

I recall being not able to have a lot of lollies and chocolate when I was younger as I had eczema. And now? I’m a full blown sugar addict, lollies, chocolate, cake, nom nom nom. I’m learning to self-regulate, but it’s been hard.

How was he going to learn to make good choices with food if all I did was restrict everything? One of the ideas behind “radical” Unschooling is to allow children to eat whatever they want, whenever they want, with the idea that they will naturally gravitate towards a healthy diet. I don’t doubt that this works, I’ve seen it and I’ve read about it. But letting go completely didn’t work for us. I freaked out too much (can you tell I tend to freak out a bit??). I don’t think I even lasted a day before I pulled the reins in again.

I remembered that quote by Sandra Dodd, “Read a little, try a little, wait a while watch”. I could apply that here also. It worked with technology?

So instead of removing all restrictions, I just began to say “Yes” more often…

IMG_7171 (2)“Yes” to brightly coloured frozen drinks while on holiday…

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“Yes” to people buying my kids faaaaaar too much chocolate at Easter…

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Even “yes” to eating that chocolate before breakfast…

“Yes” to cake before dinner, “yes” to another piece of chocolate, “yes” to ice creams when Mr Whippy comes by…whatever time of day it is.

And you know what? The world hasn’t imploded. Sure, sometimes too much sugar late at night, at a celebration or festive time, can mean an even later one. But it’s not every day, and when it does happen, I remind myself to accept that it will, and try to lend myself to the laughter that ensues as we wrangle Jessie into her PJs.

So, I will continue to talk to my kids about good nutrition, to help try and guide them in their choices, but I’ll also continue to say “yes” more often…because life’s too short to say “no” to sprinkles.

xx

 

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