Urging New Unschooler to “Go for the Gold”

4 04 2008

JJ posts this comment for our plucky friend Colleen at The New Unschooler today:

Not to criticize or judge or fuss at ALL, honest, but I wouldn’t take so lightly this casual meme that all moms naturally want to throttle a mouthy, sullen, resistant or recalcitrant child, or wish they were little and cute and easily manageable again, instead of growing and changing and challenging us (and themselves) in all directions at once.

No unschooling family is perfect, in sync and joyously giving to each other every moment, but it really does seem mine has been that way. I beg you not to set your expectations by the usual, when unschooling relationships can be so extraordinary.

Speaking from experience with an 18-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son, I’ve never even known “I could just throttle him (or her)” moments, much less months or years of that feeling. Mostly I suspect it’s a choice, an attitude, a belief, a reality you create in your own mind first, or not at all. It IS possible, except of course if you already believe it isn’t.

Colleen, just put this in your unschooling pipe and smoke it along with all the other comments and counsel you get, but I would hate to see you believe it has to be this way, that nothing better is possible NOW.

There are times when a chorus of cheerful reassurance that no one else has it any better, and somehow we survive, can be comforting and help us go on, get through life’s unavoidable blows, like illness or loss.

But this isn’t one of those times imo. Many unschoolers have had and do have it MUCH better, and mothering teens is not one of life’s blows!

I don’t think distance and disillusionment in the relationship between mother and older child is inevitable. And I don’t think it should just be endured (thus perpetuated?) as normal.

Unschooling moms really do have a whole different perspective on (and experience with) mom-teen everyday relationships. So it might be a good time for you to really relate to the way Pam Sorooshian and Sandra Dodd write about their unschooling through the teen years?

Like everyone, I’m completely confident you will be fine and do well no matter what. But please don’t just “settle” for the usual or the mediocre, when you really can go for the gold.




9 responses

4 04 2008
Nance Confer

It is an interesting time to be the Mom — unschooling or not. But as an unschooler, when I see my 13 and 15-year-old babies doing things in their own way, disagreeing with me, being disagreeable, dealing with choices, etc. — I have the choice. I don’t have to react a certain way. Sometimes I do. 🙂 But I don’t have to. I can choose how I want to react and interact with them. The roles are not pre-scripted.

There’s a lot of freedom in that. Freedom for me to be myself. And for them to be themselves and find out how they want to be.

Which is not all that comforting every minute of the day! 🙂

But at least it’s not assumed that it will be a battle.

OTOH, I read a quote on an unschooling list today that really rubbed me the wrong way. Something about having a responsibility to be happy. Most likely it just hit me wrong. Maybe there’s some good thinking behind it. But I don’t feel obligated to be happy. Or anything else. I’m just trying to be real. Which is hard enough to figure out some days! 🙂


4 04 2008
JJ Ross

LOL – well, that’s true. I never said it was COMFORTING! 😉

4 04 2008

Trust — dare I say faith? — in yourself and your kids (and their dad too) just seems to be key in every way, to relationship success and family success and learning success, happinesss, harmony, satisfaction, no regrets, all that good stuff. I’m helping some family members through probate and estate management right now, and it really gives you perspective on what matters, and what people wish they had done differently, how those who must carry on don’t care as much about the money as the memories of time spent together, and so objects that evoke those memories become the most important . . . ah, must stop, revarnish my intellectual veneer . . .

5 04 2008

I’m cheating here and copying the same response I posted on my blog. 🙂 Here it is:
Boy, JJ, that seems like one of the keys to unschooling, really–remembering that what’s thought to be the “norm” doesn’t have to be at all. Sometimes I do remember it and then other times I let myself slide back into the group thought (wrong group though!!) that permeates our society. Thanks for the reminder! What on earth would I do without you and my other guides along this journey!!??

8 04 2008

Continuing the cross-conversation there and here:

I am older than the 51-year-old mom commenting [at Colleen’s] about how much she knows and how therefore she should lay down the law and the limits for the young, because she knows so much. Made me laugh thinking that the real secret to being older and wiser is knowing better than THAT!

I study power of story. We in our unschooling are all about power of story.

For example, “free reign” struck me as an idea we could examine in this context. It might seem a small thing but embedded in its story are beliefs about the very Nature of Man.

First, the usual spelling is “free rein” which literally means — nothing like unschooling! — to take a systematically broken, trained, gussied, harnessed and bit-wearing beast of burden and just temporarily loose the master’s driving hand on the reins.

“Giving the horse his head” in this way is certainly not anything like actual freedom and sovereignty. The master is in complete control of the whole relationship and will withdraw the limited moment of so generously allowing the horse to have its own head.

It’s more like closely supervised recess at compulsory school, for about 20 minutes if the boy is lucky.

So a horse’s half hour of “free rein” doesn’t happen until the horse has been thoroughly schooled, is no real form of freedom or self-determination, and literally doesn’t even take place between members of the same species! — it is a subjugating relationship, much like forms of human employment used to be. Certainly not natural, free, powerful, wild, autonomous, and certainly nothing like unschooling.

On top of which, I marvel at this comtemporary alternate use “free reign” racheting up our culture’s unexamined assumptions about the imperative to control kids like animals, lest they “run roughshod” (another domesticated horsey metaphor) over parents and teachers and society. A child with “free rein” used to be a worrisome enough implication, a cautionary tale against permissiveness — but now the fear is darker yet, a sovereign child! Ill-equipped yet with free REIGN! Ruling not just himself but his home and family, a child king, dictating by whim, a destructive reign for the whole kingdom and himself. It’s a world gone mad!

(Historically there actually was a Mad King, come to think of it, King Ludwig, wonder if that all gets mixed into the power of this child-control story somehow, too?)

9 04 2008

Timely post for me. I was a radical unschooler up until last winter when I launched into curriculum. Honestly. I was on Sandra Dodd’s unschooling discussion email list and the old Unschooling.com forum (curses that it died!). Now, I think I’m just getting back to that feeling of trust I had before my unraveling.

Not that the break from unschooling wasn’t a good thing. I got over my abhorance for all things schooly and discovered my daughter does enjoy some of that (on her own terms) and also that a regular bedtime is a wonderful thing for my family. But it’s good to be coming back.

9 04 2008
JJ Ross

Hi Dawn, what would we all do without your no-nonsense honesty and sanity? 🙂

11 04 2008
URGENT Urging for New Unschooler: GroupThink Is Not Thinking « Cocking A Snook!

[…] Urging for New Unschooler: GroupThink Is Not Thinking 11 04 2008 Urging The New Unschooler to Go for the Gold, Part […]

12 04 2008

I’m pretty sure you’d all curl up into a fetal position and sob for days on end. 😀

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