Saturday, September 29, 2007

A few clarifications

To all my readers:
I know that lately, this might seem as if I'm only having a conversation with Jean2 but I want all of you to feel free to comment and ask questions. She just happens to be asking the questions that I get *very* often by people who are curious about unschooling so I'm using her questions as blog posts, instead of just emailing a response back in comments. So please, feel free to jump in if you have questions yourself or if you're an unschooler who wants to weigh in on questions too. ;)

To Jean2:
I also really appreciate these non-threatened conversations we find ourselves in. I appreciate that you're open enough to try to understand it even if you're not sold on the idea yourself (or even if you never will be). I enjoy learning about things, even if I don't think they're 'for me' so maybe we're more alike than we think. :) After re-reading my last post, I can see where someone less open might have taken offense to some things I said. That was not my intention and I'm glad you didn't. But I would like to clarify a few things that might have been taken the wrong way.

Please remember that there is a wide spectrum even in the unschooling umbrella. Some unschoolers do have a partial curriculum. Some do unit studies based on their kids interests - so the kids have the say in what they're learning about and the moms also have that comfy cushion of I'm-following-some-kind-of-curriculum. There are unschoolers on the opposite end as well...who have absolutely NO limits or restrictions or rules on their kids. Their kids have no bedtimes, no curfews and if they want to estivate all summer, they can. Most of us, I think, fall somewhere in between the two extremes of unschooling.

So, back to our family...
First of all - to your comments about manners. I have no problem correcting my children though there are unschoolers out there who do. They would rather use real-life consequences for the kids to learn that manners get you further than no manners, and that manners feel nice when directed towards you. So they would allow their kids to say, "Gimme that" to whomever and wait to see the response rendered. If you think about other people in your life, you can imagine their different responses. My MIL (mother-in-law) would probably take on the personality of a 3 year old to emphasize her point and respond, "No, I had it first!" My friend Pam would be so shocked to hear it that she'd probably just nod and hand it over (sorry P!). Jean1 would probably say, "Excuse me?" in a who-do-you-think-you're-talking-to voice. If I said it to my own mother, she'd probably say something to the effect of, "I raised you to have better manners than that!" Actually, this might be a really fun science experiment to pull on these people in my life to see how they really do respond. Hmmm...

Anyway, with my own kids, I use several methods...the direct, "Please don't interrupt me"...the modeling method "Mom, would you please pass the butter?"...and yes, there are instances that get punished around here (I do not allow hitting another person in anger at all). My kids are also allowed to call me out when I'm forgetting my manners as well. They will also model something if they think I haven't asked nicely...and that doesn't bother me. We help each other to remember our manners and mutual respect.

Now, I wouldn't talk to another adult in my home that way (unless it was Hubby or Jean1 and she said, "Gimme that"...then I probably *would* model it for her and say facetiously, "Laurie, may I please have some of that?" teehee). But I *do* have a child in the terrible twos and one in the ferocious fours at the moment...I think most adults have outgrown downright rude manners (at least the ones I socialize with anyway). LOL I didn't mean to imply in that post that I let my kids interrupt me and run roughshod all over us. Simply that we don't imply that we're always right or only our opinions matter just because we're the adults/parents. I tried to illustrate that with the going-to-Michael's-story but maybe that wasn't the best attempt. Let's try a different approach...

If I said "any other children interrupting a conversation between adults is just a personal pet peeve of mine". Why? Stop and answer that question before reading more.

Probably because it shows a lack of respect. Does it also bother you when an adult interrupts a conversation between children? For most people, it doesn't. But aren't we showing kids that they don't deserve respect when we interrupt them? I'm not trying to pick on anyone but these are things I see constantly in public that just baffle me. It's a big double-standard. And even the people who are willing to give that respect to the older kids - perhaps preteens and older - they don't usually do it for younger kids. I believe we need to respect them as much as we demand their respect.

If I expect them to knock first before entering a closed door, I need to do the same for them (again, unless it's something that seriously requires immediate action like I hear a loud thud and another child screaming in pain, etc. behind said door). I do intervene like a typical mom when necessary but when it's not necessary, I try to respect their wishes. My son isn't as much a music lover as I am. Sometimes I'm really enjoying the music in the van and he wants me to turn it off. Sometimes he just wants me to stop singing (even though I have a beautiful singing voice if I do say-so myself.) I will turn it off when he asks. Because there are days when I just really don't want to listen to his VeggieTales CD one more time and I ask him to turn it off as well. It's all about mutual respect.

Your next question for me...
If your children ever desired to go to public school-would you allow it?

Well, if I did the job right in the previous section, you already know the answer to this one. Absolutely they can go. And before you ask, no, I don't talk despairingly about school. He hears enough of that from his friends. ;) He makes comments from time to time to the effect of, "I'm sure glad I don't have all that homework to do" and, "I'm glad I don't have to do book reports". I'm not sure if he even understands what 'homework' is but he gathers from their groanings that it's not pleasant. LOL

Which leads us into another unschooling segue - as for book reports, he does do them...he just doesn't know he does them. It's me casually asking him what he's reading and him telling me the story and us discussing it. Why did book reports start anyway? So the teacher can make sure the child read the book because she has 30 kids and 30 books. So the kids do a book report to prove they read and understood the material. Why do I need to use that at home? There really is no need. In 5 minutes of talking (heck, even one minute sometimes), I can determine if he's read and understood the book.

If my post today seems a little garbled, please forgive me. It's Saturday and I've had lots of activity today. I've been stopped many times during the writing of this one and it may not seem to flow smoothly.


Toni said...

I just wanted to pop in from lurk-land to let you know I am very much enjoying your answers to Jean2's questions. We have been technically unschooling for some time now but this year Sister *should have* entered school and so this fall it's finally started with all the questions from friends and family (and complete strangers!). "What grade are you in little girl?" "What are you learning?" "You don't know how to read!?"

I particularly wanted to note your point about how it's okay for adults to interrupt children but not vice-versa. I only just recently realized what a double standard this is and have been trying to use more "excuse me's" to my children. It is almost sad how poor MY manners are in this area. :( On the upside they seem to have noted my effort and have reciprocated with better manners to me.

I teach them and they teach me. This is why I love unschooling.

Jean 2 said...

Well-I stopped and asked myself the infamous question-why is it a pet peeve of mine that they interrupt me? And it is what you said it might be...a lack of respect. Now....sit down for this may be shocked-lol-I don't think it is okay to interrupt them either. And I try very hard not to but I am honest to a fault and Jean1 can tell you that I love to I am VERY bad about interrupting EVERYONE-adults probably more so than my kids. So my modeling there-well-not so good. LOL But they still done't interrupt me. Hmmmmmmm....fear I suppose. :)
I did enjoy your clarifications because I had convinced myself your children just may be WAY OUT OF CONTROL (at least in my book) and you had the PATIENCE OF JOBE (which I think you still do). Like anything else in the world, the spectrum is wide and I see that you are teaching them respect -just in a different way than I do. However, we are a little more alike than what I thought-I LOVE LOVE LOVE music (but can't sing-hee hee) and I LIKE to control the radio station and my husband lets me-however, when we have the kiddos with us-we do listen to their music most of the time because I am such a giving and loving mother. HA! (because I just happen to like their music most of the time).
And for future reference, it takes SO MUCH to offend me. No need to wonder there. Diversity is something to be appreciated. I will be thinking of another question. I am a lifelong learner! ;)

Laurie said...

Welcome Toni! I'm glad you out-ed yourself. :) My son's answer to "what grade are you in" is always, "I'm a homeschooler". This perplexes most people because typical homeschoolers will follow grade levels. I usually just say, "First". They are strangers and don't really want to know anyway - they're just making polite conversation and instead of trying to explain unschooling in a couple sentences, I just go with an answer they're expecting. But as for family, like you, I get lots of those questions that you do. ;)

Jean2 - I'm also a HUGE talker (but then I guess all bloggers And I'm bad about interrupting others myself. I have read the cringe in Jean1's face that she tries to hide one time too many. LOL (Other readers, Jean1 is my SIL and Jean2, though I've not ever met her, is one of her best friends) No one's perfect and I try to remember that with my kiddos as well.

As far as out of control some, they probably seem that way but a large portion of that is probably because I give them a lot more freedom in choices than probably your average parent. But to other unschoolers, we probably look like we have too many rules - it's all in the eye of the beholder. ;) They're definitely not "out of control" as many I've been around (and remember I used to teach so I have seen my share!). And just for the record, I do NOT have the patience of Job. Definitely do not. If I did, I'd probably be doing school-at-home with our converted dining room and 5 hours at the table every day. No way do I have the patience for that...probably one of the biggest reasons unschooling initially appealed to me.

Pam said...

Well since you dragged me into this one, I'll have to comment. LOL

I would for sure be SHOCKED. And yes, possibly if it was a child that I didn't know, I might hand it over....but not without making a mental note of how rude that child was...and wondering if the parent had taught that child any manners. If it was a child I know, I think I would model the correct way to ask for something. Or ask them, "Is that how you ask for something?"

Laurie, I've enoyed reading about your views on schooling and unschooling. It is definately interesting.

I think the bottom line, for me anyway, is that we do what works best for our children. My children would not do well with home schooling or unschooling (nor would I!) . And to be completly honest, I feel as though public school has helped Matthew so much. He used to be a VERY SHY child....never NEVER would talk to adults..even ones he knew..right Laurie?. And that has all changed. Some of it may be due to growing older and maturing, but I think going to public school and being "forced" to talk to different adults all day...WITHOUT MOMMY around...has helpled him come out of his shell. He has to talk to his teachers: classroom, PE, music, art, etc..

I have a SIL that homeschooled her children (she has 5 now). And when she realized it wasn't working for her oldest son, she put him in school, after homeschooling him to 5th grade. She also saw the same personality traits in her youngest (at the time) and decided to put him into Kingergarten. All the while, she was continueing to homeschool her middle two...the 2 that it was still working for. I admire her so much. That she wasn't so stuck in ONE theory and was going to force it to work for her kids. She loooked at them as individuals and made decisions for each of them.

Anyway, that's my 2cents.

Beverly said...

Holy Cow! Every unschooler on the planet should just cut-and-paste from right here, Laurie. Good job!