Monday, March 30, 2015

Step Away From That Plan!

It begins even before pregnancy, for many people.


Dreams of children, perhaps what to name them, or whether they will be a boy or a girl.

Images of sweet babies, maybe rocking them, nursing them, reading stories to them.

And then, once they are born, the beginning of getting to know them.
Hopes for their future.
What they might do, where they might go, who they might be.

It is a wonderful, sweet time.

As they become toddlers, and parents find their parenting "groove," there are many plans to be made, not the least of which is where -or whether- to send them to school.

Some people hear about unschooling, this very strange, magical, radical thing.
It sounds crazy, maybe.
Or maybe it sounds perfect. Sensible.

They decide this is what they want to do, so they start to research it. Maybe they find online forums and ask questions. Or maybe they read blogs, or books. The occasional article somewhere (but not the comments!).

They form an impression of What Unschooling Is.
Of how it will work.
Of how much fun it will be.

Maybe they make lists of fun activities to do. Places to go. Books to read. Park groups to join.
They practice defending their choice when they are criticized by well meaning family and friends.
They gather the "answers" to questions about socialization, curriculum, reporting to their state (or not), unlimited media, no bedtimes, freedom of food choices.
Maybe they purchase family memberships to museums.
Get a AAA membership and plan road trips, or even decide to live in an RV and travel around.

And then…

it turns out that their child, that small being they have invested so much time and effort and thought and love in…

is their own person.
With their own personality, and thoughts, and dreams, and ideas, and goals.

Sometimes, those match the parent fairly well, at least in part.
Sometimes, they match the parents' idea, in their heads, of how exciting and fun this unschooling thing will be.

Other times, they don't match at all.


Extrovert parents have an introvert kid, or vice versa.
A family that lives in the middle of nowhere has a kid who craves urban life, or the other way around.
People who thought they'd spend their time "facilitating" what their kid wants to do, finds that their kid doesn't WANT to BE "facilitated," they want to do things their own way, in their own time.

My kids really helped me through this, simply by being themselves.

My oldest was a lot like me as a child.
Early talker.
Early reader.
Very logical and analytical.
Actively interested in nearly everything, especially… well…. everything, actually.
Stubborn as heck.

Things with him went about how I expected.
Everything we did, he enjoyed.
Every toy, every book, every everything I brought into the house or suggested, he thought was cool.

The next child flipped all that COMPLETELY.
He was not like me, or his brother, at all.
He didn't want toys or books or activities; he wanted physical contact.
He didn't want to be talked to when he was  upset, at all. (He is, in fact, still this way, at 25)

It was SUCH a gift.
I found out, in a hurry, that it wasn't about what I wanted, or what I thought, or what I liked.
It wasn't about what I might suggest, or what his brother liked to do.
It wasn't going to match that vision in my head, EVER.

And when there were three, with the addition of my daughter, it was even more abundantly clear.
I had to let go of that whole fantasy in my head of "We Are Unschoolers, with a capital U."

Unschooling isn't about me.
It isn't about my goals, or my beliefs.

It is about family relationships.
About how we work together.
About flexibility.
About changing plans- and finding a way to do so that doesn't upset the ones who have trouble with transitions.

Way back in the very beginning, I, too, like so many people, had fantasies about doing family projects, about finding our passions and running with them, about making something of everything and anything, of living a full, exciting life.

It turns out, we're all kinda homebodies, after all.

I never could have planned any of this.
It all went- and is still going- the way it needed to go, in the moment.
Looking back, we've had our share of adventures and great moments, for sure.
Describing some of it now, it almost sounds like a project or two.

Today, I got maybe the best confirmation possible of this being the best path for us.

My daughter told me that her boyfriend admitted to her that he feels more like family here, with us, than he does with his family- because WE feel more like a family. We do things together. We hang out, make food, play games, and we talk, about anything and everything. There is no separation between "parent" and "child," as such. No authoritarian set up.

Don't get me wrong- he has a great family, and  they love each other very much. It isn't that his parents are bad parents; they are not. They are clearly very GOOD parents, if you go by the wonderful person he has turned out to be.

But it is clearly the case that our version of "family" is, in fact, different from the mainstream concept.
We are much closer, day to day, than most families, because we have been able to foster that, the whole time. We have not had hours of separation on a nearly daily basis.

And although I didn't micromanage how we got here, that part was, in fact, my plan, all along.