I must say, my heart grasped the spirit of unschooling philosophy long before my head fully understood what it meant.
I wanted to jump in with both feet, desperate to make our home a better place. But my first question was “where do I start”? How the heck do you carry out a unschooling life and education after being so mainstream for so long?
Everyone I asked said to just take it slow. To implement one change at a time and once that change had become more normal, than move on to something else. That’s great advice… but that still did not give me the how and what to start with? I required ideas to get me started!
So…Here are 6 starting points that helped me to becoming more unschooly!
Use a kinder voice!
Using an angry voice as a motivator can make sense as it feels like it gets things done. However, it doesn’t make for a very pleasant home atmosphere. Nor does it contribute to a healthy and thriving relationship with our children. Simply by speaking in a nicer tone can have a huge impact on our home life. I am always amazed at just how effective doing this one thing is. Children respond so much better to a quiet calm voice. Now I’m not saying your to be the image of some fluffy, pink hopping happy bunny or anything. Nor am I saying you can never get mad, or be passionate. The effort here is in the small, typical daily interactions. Raise your voice tone a little higher, look your child in the eye making eye contact and use a softer voice. Sorry I just keep on hearing a Darth Vader type voice when I think of my angry voice, haha ( I sure do not want to join the dark side, even though cookies are tempting! lol!) Give it a try, use your angry (Darth Vader) voice and then compare that to a happier voice… it got higher pitched didn’t it!!
Choose your battles!!!
Stop and ask yourself just how important this particular situation is in the long run. Is it worth getting your child upset over? Is there a way to work it out to the liking of both parties? Maybe find a middle ground? My rule of thumb is to Pause, breath, think, than speak. Look at your child and try to visualize what your child needs from you at that moment. Question why you want to say no right away and if in fact it is absolutely imperative. Hold relationship more important than authority.
Say yes more often!
Sometimes the “no” runs out of our mouth before we even have a second to think about it. Try to find a way to turn your no into a yes!! I urge you to do as above once again in these moments: Pause, Breath, Think, than Speak. Heres an example of turning your no into a yes: Your child wants to use the table for play dough play. However it’s almost lunch time so the table will soon be set. Not wanting to have to clean up a mess before hand, most of us would say something to the respect of “No, we are about to eat lunch”. But all that child will hear and process is the “no” at the beginning. But if you say it something like this, “yes, right after lunch you may use the table”, than the child will immediately hear the “yes” and continue to process the rest of what you say. The positive “yes” in the beginning is the difference to accepting that the play dough play’s postponed. This way of talking as been a huge revelation for me!
No one likes to feel powerless. Children included. Offering choices allows the children to take part in the decision-making and ultimately feel more in control of their situation. Be sure your good with either choice and that you are giving “real” choices!! They will know the difference. Here’s a couple of examples: “would you like to help me clear the table now or after your show”. “Would you like to clean up your toys now or in 10 min”. This made a huge difference in our home and worked particularly well in the younger years, even as young as one or two.. “red cup or blue cup”. However, as time goes on and as we dive deeper into unschooling I find I use this tactic less and less, especially with the older children.
I feel this is important for both parents and children. In some cases the parents may need more time to deschool than the children! Deschooling is about laying off and letting go! Allow children the freedom to play. Let them play in the dirt, explore for bugs, ride bikes, watch a movie, play video or board games…Allow their curiosity and love of learning be their guides. While the children start to discover their freedom and heal from the old mindsets, parents can take the time to learn and understand better what they would like their unschooling family to look like. Which brings us to #6.
- Surround yourself with people and material that inspire and lead you to parent/unschool the way you would like to. We are creatures who learn from watching others. For this reason I urge you to find families with similar mindsets who can encourage you in your new venture. Read books and blogs, watch YouTube videos and chat with like-minded people on social media like Facebook. There’s abundance of information on the web. Find what speaks to you and soak it all up.
A great resource to have is the Unschooling guide by Pam Larcchia! Her email posts were thoroughly enjoyed. It helped me immensely to refocus each week and remember what I am trying to carry out in our home. You can sign up for her free book and weekly newsletters here.
Pam Larcchia also wrote a great article on deschooling you can find on her Living Joyfully page here.
Another Deschooling article by Sandra Dodd