Adventures in Unschooling

The Golden rule.

Posted on: December 22, 2009

I have been reading The Unprocessed Child: Living Without Schoolingby Valerie Fitzenreinter. It’s not the best book I have ever read on the topic of unschooling but it is genuine and impactful. It’s a good book on respecting children.

About a third of the way into it there is a chapter called “Independence.” And it really hit home for me. It’s short and full of common sense but there is something that really connected for me.

It encourages us to really let kids make their own choices. That kids learn when the environment allows them to succeed and fail without fear. So we are eliminating bedtimes. And so far, when Trey has gotten tired he tells us and we go and put  him to bed. He also sleeps in later that way and we surely like that. I have put them to bed when they seem in need of it (crying a lot, rubbing their eyes and exhibiting other symptoms of exhaustion) but I am feeling rewarded by their judgement in when they need to go to bed. This has also eliminated bedtime tantrums.

When I started reading the chapter on “Discipline” I had a flashback to high school when we were forced to read Lord of the Flies. It’s a good example of the distrust that adults have for children. It feels like it was pure indoctrination. When I think of civility in grown up circles I am often surprised at the pettiness, backstabbing, imaturity, and sheer violence of adults. We point to peer raising peers (a bad idea by the way) and say that deep inside children are little savages, but I see many war-mongering men who are big savages too. I don’t think that schools teach us civility and respect at all.

In fact, I think the best way for children to learn to be generous, respectful people is or a) for them to be around people of all races, ages and backgrounds and b) to have those attributes shown to them.

We tell our children what to do and then wonder why they can’t make good choices for themselves. We yell at them and neglect them when they really need us (when they are screaming and angry) and then wonder why they aren’t compassionate. We demand compliance from them and then wonder why they can’t stand up to their peers. Shameful! We should treat them as we’d like to be treated and how we wish we had been treated when we were alone, crying in our bedrooms without supper.

I have found that you can cut a lot of bad behaviour off at the pass with a big hug and a nice chat. Everyone feels good this way. When I banish them to their bedrooms because I don’t want to deal with the behaviour we all end up angry and we all have a bad day.

Most of all, I hope I can learn to be this way. I want to be a good, attached mom. It’s so hard when they are learning to assert themselves.

No one said that parenting was easy. Sigh…

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