Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Where Is the Line?

I've been living this life with my kids since they were born, perhaps even before then.
When I've needed a name for how we live, "unschooling" has been one of the choices.

At the beginning, I had a large group of like minded friends, and we hung out. Long park days, every week, a bunch of Moms and kids and food and conversation.

Then we moved.
"Back home."

I had expected it to feel like that, but it didn't. All my old friends from when I was growing up had either moved away, or moved on. Most didn't have kids. Those who did, made different parenting choices.

I connected with another group of similar-minded people, another park day sort of thing. My kids were getting older, and were less interested in going out places to do group activities. We kept at it for several years, but eventually, for a variety of reasons, the appeal was less.

There was a progression, of sorts.
First, being a new Mom, trying things out, figuring out how this parenting thing works, and making choices that fit us.
Then, sharing some of those choices with other "seekers." Since some of those choices were somewhat "unusual," there was no lack of people looking for support. Whether those people were online, or around here, there was plenty of opportunity to discuss unschooling, living and learning with my kids, exploring the world. I met some wonderful people both here and online, some of whom have been friends ever since.

As my kids got older, we started to move away from the larger groups. Partly because the focus of the local group changed, to have a lot of people who were into the idea of learning cooperatives, and classes and schedules, which we weren't interested in, and partly because many of the kids my kids were friends with ended up going to school.

Most of them.
Those families were no longer interested in discussing anything to do with NOT going to school, as they refocused and re-prioritized their lives. Any support they needed was no longer going to come from the sorts of discussions we had had before.

As this change happened, I was also no longer in such need of "support" for my choices. We were pretty comfortable with what we were doing. I stopped having those discussions, stopped participating in online unschooling forums, and probably pretty much disappeared from sight from the perspective of a lot of people who had been reading things I had to say. We were busy doing other things.

Just a few months ago, I started commenting on unschooling forums again. At least on a few, mostly on facebook. They are called "pages" or "groups" there, but it's the same thing. People ask questions, other people answer them.

Oddly, some people there remembered me.

It was interesting for a while.
Mostly the very same questions that people were asking way back when, but that's okay. Most people start out with the same, or similar, concerns, as they move away from the mainstream. I have no problem with answering the same questions over and over. It's a lot like how many, many emergency medical situations aren't such an emergency, but those people still need help and support.

Over the past few weeks, two things have happened, and I'm faced with deciding how I want to move through this.

One is that on one of the forums, someone misrepresented some of what I had been saying, in such a way that trying to correct it would be tedious, annoying, and likely not very helpful to anyone. It's the sort of thing that people often want to turn into something "personal," and I have very little tolerance for that. I decided not to bother. I'm not into this in order to argue with anyone, or to disrupt a forum, so I've simply stopped posting there. I can't be misinterpreted or misrepresented if I'm not there.

The other is that some of the questions are not only the same questions, but they are... how to describe it? It isn't that they have questions about unschooling, it's that they think that they DON'T have questions, that they are unschooling just fine, but it "doesn't work." Reading through many of those, it is clear to ME, that what they are doing is not unschooling at all, but instead, is something I've also seen a lot- people who trade in one set of "rules" for a different set, based on what they think they are supposed to be doing, instead of what they know in their hearts and minds is what is best for their family.

When their decision making is coming from some set of assumptions in their heads, it can be very difficult to have a discussion with them at all.

What I'm pondering today is this: should I spend my time trying to help these people untangle the mess they are in? Would it be possible? There is so much thinking that they need to do in order to get things sorted out, and I can't make them do it. In order to help them get closer to where I am, I'd have to work through many, many different aspects of what they are saying. It would take a lot of time. A lot of writing. I don't know that anyone would want to work through so much online.

If I could sit with them, have them meet my kids, it would be easier.

It must be terribly difficult to be trying to do this thing called unschooling when you aren't sure what it is or how it works, or even IF it works, and you get criticism from every angle. But maybe it's important to work through that yourself, rather than have people try to explain it to you?

Where is the line between helping and not helping?