“Am I Doing Enough?”

UnschoolingWhen people begin to homeschool in a less-traditional way, they often worry if they are doing enough, providing enough, educating enough. Good parents worry about that all the time – in non-academic ways too: Are we connecting enough?

Let’s face it, it would be a lot easier to follow a curriculum or just do what the teacher told you to do. But now you’re aspiring for more than that kind of mindless following. While you recognize that the one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for you, that does put a significant amount of responsibility on your shoulders.

And that often leads to feeling pressure.

It’s not unusual for parents to ask whether they’re doing enough.
And I have a few different answers for you.

I don’t know, are you?

While this might seem somewhat vague or avoiding the question (no one likes answering a question with a question!), but it’s worth exploring. When we question something happening, we need to dive deeper to look around. Maybe you need to tune in with the kids more to see if their interests have shifted. What intrigued them last month may be old news now. Are there cool happenings in your community this time of year, that you might like to all trek off to see? Festivals, day-trips, etc. Maybe it’s time to talk more about what’s happening in the news or within their circles of friends.

And, as kids get older, they’ve learned how to find lots of their own resources. They’re not needing their parents to do all the legwork for them when they’re curious about something.

Unschooling is far from “hands-off.” The best unschooling moms are those who walk that delicate line of being involved yet not controlling, staying available while leaving room for their child’s autonomy. If you prioritize this way of parenting, you’ll stay tuned in.

And you get better with practice. 😉

Is it just worry and fear?

Does this come from not having deschooled enough?

Deschooling is a funny thing. When we first start on our home educating path, we look around to see where it’s hiding… in our thoughts, in our actions, in our expectations. We look for the schoolish ways that have inserted themselves into our lives and reevaluate if those stories are true. Or was it just conditioned responses from all of those years of complying?

So, when we’ve cleaned that all up, we think, “Whew! That’s done! Let’s go!”

And just like I was telling my son-in-law this morning who told me he had a good handle on how his 14 month old was behaving, I smiled and thought, “Yeah, this week.” We all know the one thing kids do is grow, develop, and change. What works now, probably won’t be a permanent thing.  Parenting is tough!

It’s the same thing with deschooling. You may have removed all the arbitrary schooly notions at the start, but kids continue to grow and take on new developmental changes. Maybe they’re influenced by the neighborhood kids who go to middle school, or the other girls in dance class that are starting high school. Maybe they have some doubts about their abilities, because developmentally they are starting to make some comparisons that they didn’t make before. Or maybe you are doing this. It’s ok, it’s human. Just recognize it for what it is. And know that different phases of childhood may carry emotional baggage for you that you had long forgotten about… and yet something has stirred that cobwebby memory, and now you need to examine it… and deschool again.

Do you have your own issues about learning that you haven’t untangled?

Do you still think that learning can’t possibly be this easy and fun?

After years and years of “schooling,” lots of parents find it hard to break away from some of these ideas:

  • Learning is not fun
  • Learning has to be hard.
  • Enjoying your day (all day) is being lazy.
  • They’ll never be able to overcome an obstacle if they always opt for what’s easy/fun.

Do any of these sound familiar?  It’s not surprising if they do, because this is what our culture tells us all the time and what our own school experience probably solidified.  If something seems easy, we feel like we’re “getting away with something.” Right??

None of these ideas are true.

The research is showing that more play, more fun, more engagement in whatever interests our kids (or any of us, for that matter) IS the best way to learn. Playing provides the opportunities to persevere, to maintain their attention to the task, and to control emotions. All of these are incredibly important life skills and the very things we hope children will take with them into adulthood.  Check out the articles below to read more.

When children aren’t having their entire day scheduled for them – or rushing around in those precious after-school but before-bed hours – they have the time to live at a more leisurely pace. The pressure is gone about learning.

Maybe it’s time to pry the reins away from your fears and look at what’s REALLY happening in your child’s day. Learning happens all the time, so you might do well to list out all the different ways it shows up.  Here are few ideas I’ve seen get brushed aside when a parent is panicking about “what about the learning?” And yet, it ALL counts as learning.

  • Creating things at home or online
  • Painting, drawing, writing (even scribbling)
  • Reading books, comics, etc. (by child or to child)
  • Watching interesting videos or TV shows
  • Asking questions and getting answers
  • Playing outside, with siblings/friends
  • Making up games or playing make-believe
  • Helping out at home
  • Conversations in the car about what they’re seeing or hearing
  • Sports, classes at the Rec Center, museums, nature centers, etc.
  • Venturing out into your community and talking about what you find

Lastly…

It’s not about finding a sneaky way to get some teaching in there. It’s about looking at life differently – your life and your kids’ lives.

So when people ask, “are they happy?” – that really is the key. If your home is lacking joy – that’s where you need to focus. What would make life happier? The learning will be a byproduct of a full and rich life!

 

 

Need more to read?

Let The Kids Learn Through Play
David Kohn | New York Times
“As the skeptics of teacher-led early learning see it, that kind of education will fail to produce people who can discover and innovate, and will merely produce people who are likely to be passive consumers of information, followers rather than inventors. Which kind of citizen do we want for the 21st century?”

Play as Preparation for Learning and Life:
An Interview with Peter Gray

The Journal of Play
“Children are designed to educate themselves through their self-directed exploration and play, but to do so well they need certain environmental conditions. They need plenty of free time to play and explore. They need access to the tools of the culture and permission to play with those tools, in their own chosen ways. They need to be able to associate with whom they please, in an age-mixed environment, so younger children can learn skills from older ones and older children can learn to care for and nurture younger ones. They also need access to a variety of adult experts, to whom they can look for help and guidance when they want it. And, perhaps most of all, they need to be immersed in a moral community, where they have a voice in the rules and how the rules are enforced, so they grow up feeling responsible for others as well as themselves. … None of this happens in our standard schools.” (p.281)

Play Well
JJ Ross | The Homeschooler Post
“So looking back at how I made my own connections between play and learning, teaching myself to not teach my children wasn’t work and it wasn’t school. More by happy accident than design I had kept myself busy long enough working through scholarly stuff on play, that it (mostly) kept me from inflicting scholarly stuff on the kids. In the process, I collected bins full of colorful connections to play well with, just like Legos themselves. Could we say that in the end, I taught myself to let go and Lego?”


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About Sue Patterson

Wife. Mom. Daughter. Nana. Mentor. Coach. Writer. Editor. Speaker. Activist. Find me also at: Instagram: @UnschoolingMom2Mom Twitter: @Sue5 Pinterest: /umom2mom Facebook: /UnschoolingMom2Mom AND /SuePattersonCoaching
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One Response to “Am I Doing Enough?”

  1. Caroline says:

    Great post Sue! For me, I think I definitely have a lot of deschooling to do! But I also think I need to work harder at creating a play-rich environment.

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