2 January 2012
unschool monday :: redefining
So we've begun a new year and we're in the middle of our long languid summer... Our days have found a new rhythm. One that's free and floaty in the only way being on holidays can be. We're eating when we feel hungry, sleeping when we are tired. We've lost track of days and time... Big Owlet, however has started wearing a watch and settles down to table work with regularity. She's wanting some structure. Some reassurance. When I look back at last year, we've been largely without structure and it's taken me until now to sit down and figure out what our rhythm might be, if we indeed have/had one.
I've documented well our journey with screens and bedtimes and food. We've spent the last six months letting go of limits on everything. Radical Unschooling is generally what life like this is defined as. Life without limits... The owlets went to bed when they wanted to, ate what they wanted and when, and watched whatever they liked. They became overtired because they didn't go to bed when they were tired, much the same way that I don't when I'm squeezing the last few minutes of kid-free time out of the day. They watched television and played on screens ALL DAY LONG whenever we were home. Downtime most certainly, but we lost our connection and family rhythm. For months I didn't see much of them or have time to connect because they were glued to a screen. And when they weren't they became violent and rude because they couldn't control the energy in their growing bodies. They reacted to foods in ways that affected their behaviour and health. We were continuously sick for six months, one virus/cold/bug after another. Our credit card debt spiralled as we attempted to meet our owlets ever increasing needs... And, Huz and I lost ourselves a little. Saying yes to everything, removing limits, meant we compromised our own.
I've been a member of online facebook groups and lists where it seems there's one right way to unschool. Radical unschooling is often seen as the pinnacle and there's an understanding that this means removing all limits, including limits on food, video games and tv, playing with weapons and barbie dolls, using course language, staying up 'til you crash out on the floor... If you don't embrace it, you must need help letting go or evolving. It seems there are lots of rules to living this limitless life and there is no room for a grey area... Actually, I found it extremely limiting to myself as a human being and my own set of values and the set of values I'd like my children to find. Our approach is very family centred and for us, radical unschooling meant our centre shifted. Although it works brilliantly for a great number of our friends, for us, this kind of letting go was not the answer to family harmony.
Big Owlet has actively requested more structure for this year. She's asked us to make some decisions on things for her. Asked us to tell her what to do at certain times. Asked for guidance. As has Little Owlet. As unschoolers, we have to listen to that. While we know they've been learning lots, they've not been doing the kind of stuff they like when we are more attentive and we may have become a little slack in that area. So this year sees us working on some themes, sharing ideas more, organising activities and the odd 'lesson' where I introduce a new concept for them to work through. We've reintroduced a gentle bedtime rhythm where owlets wander to bed to read until they are sleepy. They eat family meals and as chief cook, I reserve the right to choose what food we eat. And we give them a nudge when their screen time leans towards excessive. Instead of yes, it's a negotiation. A discussion. And everyone's voice is heard. Sometimes we make decisions on their behalf in the interests of family harmony and health and that's working well. Lots of talking and listening and honesty and loving....
So it seems lately that our approach to unschooling falls a little off the radical register and if it leans towards anything, it'd be Waldorf/Steiner, as it always has. I can hear the radical unschoolers nodding their heads... Waldorf seems to be the anti radical unschooling among those in the radical community... We sit comfortably between the two and can see how they work harmoniously. It doesn't need to be all or nothing as there isn't one type of education that works for everyone. Actually, I think there are as many different approaches to education as there are families. And I don't think creating labels is helpful for anyone. I find judgement creep in and we stop seeing ourselves as individuals. Sets of rules and dogma for particular learning styles is something I find particularly unhelpful when it comes to children learning. Nurturing, loving, security, listening and comfort. These are things children need to learn and live. And however they are provided, doesn't really matter. Whatever you call yourself or your way of life has no meaning really. We're all just living...
And living is what we intend to do. I'm dropping labels from my children's learning experience where I can and just doing what works for us and getting into it head first. A fresh start with lots of new exciting projects on our horizon, listening to their needs. Although I've enjoyed Unschool Mondays and meeting so many wonderful families and finding out about how they're learning and living, I've found that dedicating a day each week to unschooling a little restrictive. Initially I began dedicating a day of the week to unschooling so that this didn't become an unschooling blog, but as learning happens everyday and is really just living anyway, it's impossible to divide it up like that... So I'm letting Unschool Mondays go. They've been a wonderful place for me to define what it is we do and how. But now is time to just get on with it and write about what we are doing whenever and regardless of definition. I'm excited for that. I'll be providing some unschooling resources here and creating an Unschool Monday archive and leaving it at that. From now on, you'll see us living and learning and travelling along with our owlets and enjoying the ride. I hope you'll enjoy it with us. xx