URGENT Urging for New Unschooler: GroupThink Is Not Thinking

11 04 2008

Urging The New Unschooler to Go for the Gold, Part Two:

OK – here’s my Sandra Dodd impression, make of it what you will (Nance is helping me experiment with being The New Non-Pussyfooter!)

I agree with Nance that over time, I too have seen Colleen’s bad feelings as the real obstacle in her path and the big problem to be faced head-on — heck, Colleen even worries and works to make all her commenters happy and comfortable! –and I’ve tried to express that warmly and supportively AND unschooling-constructively.

But the point where I take the trouble to start pushing back against harmless sympathy and ignorant chat, is to counter any suggestion of relieving Colleen’s bad feelings through shifting bad-feeling blame to Jerry (or blaming Warren or the law or her own parents, much less her blog commenters!)

Not perfect every moment, no. But Colleen wasn’t really confused about that, right, thinking unschooling would make everything perfect for everyone all the time? I think she’s gotten confused about chores and outings as her personal “wants” and “needs” — which they aren’t, not if she’s really The New Unschooler.

I chose what I want and need. To get what *I* want most for myself and my whole family, their dad and I are companions and guides and champions for each other and with each child, and wind up fulfilled beyond anything we dreamed of, ourselves.I understand and agree with what Nance meant, but Colleen doesn’t really understand yet, how could she? Nor do many of her commenters. So it seems to me that zeroing in on Colleen’s current feelings instead of her chosen commitment to change the direction of her whole life with Jerry and Warren, is like sympathizing with a girlfriend for a bad test score or being grounded for wrecking dad’s car, and the whole group blaming her teacher or dad as a meanie, to help her “feel better”.

Focus on problem-solving, how to find unschooling principles in any specific mess, the better to build relationships and move forward toward audacious goals together as a family? Priceless!
Focus on my own bad or hurt feelings in competition with family members I love? — not really helping! 🙂

People who say they could never unschool, shouldn’t and probably couldn’t. It remains to be seen, I suppose, whether Colleen can and will unschool successfully, and she will discover those answers for herself. It seems to me most points made here are useful for an ordinary parent to keep in mind, maybe all of them one way or another, but for a New Unschooler trying to figure out and build new “hows” and “whys” there is one BIG idea. So much bigger than whose feelings count more or less, or anything like that.

Sandra Dodd and Pam Sorooshian say it something like this:

“. . .an unschooling parent sees his/her role, not as a teacher, but as a facilitator and companion in a child’s exploration of the world.

Unschooling is a mindful lifestyle which encompasses, at its core, an atmosphere of trust, freedom, joy and deep respect for who the child is. . . Unschooling sometimes seems so counterintuitive that people struggle to understand it, and it can take years to fully accept its worth. The purpose of (discussion among unschoolers) is to move out of our own comfort zones as we critically examine our beliefs, ideas, and viewpoints about learning, and seek a deeper understanding of unschooling and more respectful relationships with our children.”

Where was trust, freedom, joy and deep respect in anything that happened on Hike and Ferry Day? On too many other days? Where is it in the “dialog” here, in advice that an UNSCHOOLING mom should do what she wants and needs to do, and the kid can lump it without his own mom’s understanding and support? Nance’s point is true and useful and understood among experienced, happy unschooling moms who just have a bad afternoon. We can laugh and our kids can too, and we go merrily on. But here, now, while a New Unschooler is confused, struggling with bad feelings and resentments against her husband and child, self-doubting and self-pitying? Not so much.

Peer group “support” isn’t much different for grownups that how Jerry’s friends would rally around him with their “feelings” of solidarity for a member who’s hurting. Warren’s peers at work and every bartender in the world, will all agree his wife doesn’t understand him. That’s what casual, no-cost, uninformed peer group support is for! 😉

But that doesn’t lead to problem-solving, to unschooling success.
I see it this way: If Mom is confused and miserable and self-pitying, and can’t handle it for herself as an adult, needs her friends and lots of time to think hard about it all, moment to moment and day to day, then are we SERIOUSLY gonna say she needs help with her problem but the kid’s on his own with all HIS confusion and misery, loneliness and lashing out when he feels coerced or taken for granted? My strong suspicion is that Jerry learned those lessons very well already, from a whole life of regular schooling and parenting. What mom, dad, and child need now and for a long time to come, isn’t more of that, but the opposite. IF they want it, need it and are willing to create it.

So over the years a few unschooling lists have grown past the usual girl group sympathy chorus, to become solid resources to new unschoolers, places to “self-learn” unschooling and make it work in your own life. Those lists and experienced unschoolers generally (like us) object to the usual squishy “peer support” because it’s the very opposite of good unschooling guidance, on Jerry’s behalf and not Colleen’s– this is about Jerry’s needs and wants, and he only has a few years left with his mom and dad. Will they be happy unschooling years, or conflict and competition with his own parents, who are bigger and older and legally, financially, culturally all-powerful over him, on top of which they outnumber him as an only child, when they drag him halfway across the world and then tell him he’s surly and spoiling their fun when he gamely tries to meet them halfway, but the mountain turns out to have been misrepresented to him?

Gosh, I DO feel for Colleen but as a loving adult mom and New Unschooler, not a little kid crying to her friends about how no one understands her at home. I can’t help wondering who’s feeling for Jerry then, if not his own parents? Does he “need” to resort to his own peer group, to help him blame his parents and feel better, until he can get out on his own in life and start blaming his kids?

I can’t do anything for Jerry or Colleen but they can do everything for each other.

Colleen can be all-powerful in creating better feelings for everyone in this relationship, unless she cedes her power and remains confused, self-doubting, and blame-filled, which very probably means letting Jerry grow up feeling the same way.

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4 responses

13 04 2008
Lydia

Well I respect the fact that you posted this, and didn’t just la-la-la it’s all going to be fine happy schmappy along. Sometimes people just want attention and whether it’s a sprained ankle or a pedagogical confusion it’s all the same invented drama. I say that knowing none of the people involved, knowing no facts of the situation, and just explicating from this post. 🙂

13 04 2008
JJ

LOL! — Lydia’s post at Little Blue School re unschooling support:

Does this kind of think happen all the time? Reminder to self: Unschoolers make good TV.

13 04 2008
JJ

Dawn has one going about home education generally, critics versus defenders, conservative and liberal, that Lydia might enjoy too . . .

13 04 2008
JJ

Lydia, it occurs to me I should point out that the “unschoolers” were agreeing. Only folks who don’t live unschooling principles fully, or yet — perhaps not at all because they object to, and/or disbelieve and deny its possibilities for any family, not just their own — were unhelpfully writing girl-group drama into the script.

Colleen herself found these great links at Wistful Wanderlust:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three

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