Friday, December 7, 2007

Unschooling and Mindful Parenting

This conversation was on one of my yahoo groups, "unschoolingbasics," it really is a great example written in response to someone learning about the philosophy of unschooling. The person responding is Joyce Fetteroll who also maintains the site . Thanks, Joyce, for letting me use this!

What do you do when the kids want to watch TV and play video games all day?

Either they're watching TV because that's what they really want to do, or because it's the least boring thing available.

It's important to honor and value what they are passionate about. If it's shows, watch with them, find games on the internet based on the shows, find tidbits about the shows that they might find interesting.

It's also important to have rich lives so that they have opportunities within reach. As is often suggested, rather than trying to subtract something from their lives, try adding to their lives so
they aren't choosing one thing because nothing appeals to them more.

I think it helps to see getting the kids out to places to see new things *not* as the most learningful parts of unschooling. (Though the kids are, of course, learning.) See exposing them (whether taking them to something or bringing something to them) as exposing them to potential new interests. They can't know they're interested in superhero comics or the Taj Mahal or Dixieland jazz or skateboards or Shakespeare or sushi or Spongebob if they've never been exposed to them! What they pull in to them because it's interesting to them is when real learning happens.

I find that without giving them something to do all the time my kids will bicker and argue over everything.

Mindful parenting is about being with your kids. That doesn't mean 24 hours a day sitting in their pockets ;-) but it does mean physically being with them enough that you're aware of their wants and needs and moods. Strive for being aware enough to bring them food before they start the slide into deterioration from hunger, pulling one aside to do something with you when things are getting tense. That doesn't eliminate all problems but it will help a great deal. Mindful parenting and unschooling is not hands off parenting! It's very aware parenting.

Rather than giving them something to do, engage them. It's a mind shift and a different dynamic. Rather than seeing yourself as their protector and molder, see yourself as their partner. They already have interests and needs. You be there to help them explore and meet
them. You be there to open doors for them to give them access to new things they might enjoy.

How do they get exposed to things beyond daily living around the house with mom? Honestly, I think in my daily life as a SAHM, I do not do more acedemically than the average 4th grader as far as math, reading and writing skills.

By not seeing schoolish activities as learning. They *are* learning by playing video games. They're learning when you support their interests, helping them get what they're reaching out for. They are learning when you go to the store with them. (Try focusing on how they're seeing the world rather than getting the task accomplished.) They are learning when you bring a movie home you think they'll like (or go out to one!) They're learning when you go for a walk, talk about their favorite things, help them hook up with friends, read to them, listen to books on CD, engage them in conversation, listen to music from your childhood, look at old photos, visit a grocery store you've never been to.

School learning is about cramming in skills and knowledge into kids that they might need one day. In the process they're so turned off by the method that it bleeds into and colors the skills *and* anything that uses the skills with a wash of boredom and dullness. Unschooling is about acquiring the skills *as a side effect* of exploring an interest. Kids don't decide to learn English because it's useful. They pick it up as a side effect of using it to get what interests them. That's how unschooling works for everything.

Unschooling isn't about weekly trips to museums. It's also not about TV for hours. It's about bringing the world to your kids and helping them explore the parts that interest them. So for some families it *will* look like weekly trips to museums. And for some families it will look like TV for hours. Neither of those will last forever! :-) Your kids will grow and their needs will change.

And here are some more links!

No comments: