Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Yes, but ... No, but ...

Unschoolers are not exempt from the laws of nature and man.

(I will undoubtedly repeat that many times! :-)

Gravity acts on unschooled kids the exact same way it does on schooled kids. Do Not Enter doesn't mean Do Not Enter Unless You're Unschooling. A hit from an unschooled child hurts just as much as a hit from a schooled child.

This is NOT an unschooled child:

This is NOT an unschooled child.
This is what a child who's shown adeptness at climbing looks like.
This is what a child who is part monkey looks like. :-)

Unschooling does not bestow climbing ability on unschooled kids. Genes determine how much monkey climbing ability we get. The conventional parenting rule to Keep Them Safe erects a "No" cage based on Mom's fears rather than the child's ability. A "No" cage prevent kids -- and Moms -- from discovering what they are capable of today (which may be different from last week.)

Unschooling does not mean you can't say no to ladders like the above. But unschooling does mean not stopping at no. "No, but ..."

If a child thinks you will say "No, go find something else to do that I won't have to supervise," to the ladder if they ask, why would they ask?

If a child thinks you will hover and fill the air with worry, why would they invite you to be with them as they play?

If a child knows you take their needs seriously and will help them find a way (that's safe and respectful) to either climb that ladder or something better that's fun to climb, why wouldn't they ask?

Well, sometimes they won't ask! ;-) because they believe it's safe so don't need help. If they've done something unsafe more than a time or two, it means you need to be with them more. If they are sneaking off to do unsafe things, there's a need you're not meeting. If they've done unsafe things, find a way to keep those things locked away or out of sight. And then find safe alternatives! Don't set your child up for failure. Their safety is your responsibility. Don't hand the responsibility over to them with a rule and expect them to enforce it on themselves.

Climbing ladders like the above is not a need. But for many kids the need to climb is! Find places where they can climb. Fill their climbing buckets to overflowing so when they see the roofer's ladder against the house the need to climb isn't overwhelming. Just whelming for some ;-) It's new! It's different! But it isn't yours and let them know you want to respect those who do own it. Respect and understand the child's desire to climb and find the things they can climb as soon as you can.

Rather than no, period, to the ladder, find lots of yes alternatives to meet the need to explore their monkey abilities. :-)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Have art. Will travel.

"This is one of my favorite pix. I can't even remember the purpose of all the paints out back, maybe we were painting on paper, maybe on boxes or something.

Did I go inside to do something? Go hang clothes on the line? Ellie called me to come and see her art. I think her expression shows that she knows I think it's as cool as she thinks it is (might have been because I ran to get the camera to photograph the art before it got messed up.)

Your project made me think. The ideas you listed brought me immediately to this photo, but the part that made me contemplate is the idea that some other moms might not have reacted with pride lol. I tend to forget how weird many people think we are as parents for our focus on joy not discipline. I could imagine, now that I look at this favorite photo through that lens, some traditional parents thinking "what a waste of paint," "you need to discipline her for ruining the project/wasting all the paint/messing up her clothes/the concrete, etc.," or finding it funny to a point but more of a hassle for them for having to clean child and ground and buy six new sets of paint.

I think that and am so grateful we found unschooling and can enjoy playing outside the box together! How much fun she must have had, how happy she looks, how cool the art she painted, how sad would it be to miss all that and see "disobedience" instead of love." -- Osie

Alexa Meade. She's allowed to paint on skin
because she's a professional!

Perhaps, also, body art makes some moms think "dirty kid = bad mommy." Perhaps it's personal preference for their own skin. Perhaps their moms shamed them for doing this and it's deeply rooted in their psyches that This Is A Very Bad Thing even if they don't know why.

One of Kat's favorite marker canvases when she was 3 was her own body. Sometimes, if she ran out of room, she'd expand onto mine but her favorite was her own. :-)

When the voices make you want to stop a child's joy, it helps to ask, "Who will be harmed?" Usually, for every day purposes, the answer will be no one! If you have a hard time accepting skin art for yourself, see and feel the experience through your child's joy :-)

Photoshopped store ad. No brides were harmed!
The answer, though, isn't always no one! No laws stop an adult wedding guest from self-expressing in very attention getting ways. But thoughtful, respectful adults will choose not to steal attention from the bride on her day. When the answer needs to be no, let them know when they can do it. Then make sure the opportunity happens so they can trust your word and trust that you take their needs seriously.

Maybe Grandma can't see markers on skin as anything other than dirt. You don't need to understand why or agree. Respect her differences as you respect your child's differences. Make Grandma and your child's time together be about supporting their unique relationship, not trying to reform Grandma into an unschooler.

The clerk in the store disapproves? Find stores with child-friendlier clerks!

There are times and places for self expression. Help your kids make thoughtful choices. Help them make respectful choices. And kids find it much much easier to set aside a need until later when their wants and needs are treated with respect.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The King of Flour!

IIIII, am the KING OF FLOUR!!!!!!
"A kilo of flour everywhere doesn't mean anyone gets angry, it means the next couple of hours playing joyfully with our kids, making flour patterns, peeping through flour clouds, creating meteorite impacts into flour and cinnamon, dressing up as 'floury kings', and giggling at floury fairy footprints. Fifteen minutes clean up for the joy of helping him follow his curiosity. So incredibly worth it :)" -- Tam

Kids are curious! That's how they're designed to learn about the world.

If you'd rather the next bag of flour not be played with, put it up out of kid reach :-) Don't make it their responsibility not to touch. See the world through curious kid eyes and make your house a safe place where kids can explore. Including safe from frustrated moms who should know that a whole bag of flour has way more uses than cookies in the eyes of a child :-)

Respect a need for tactile exploration. If you have tactile kids, find ways they can play with flour. When Kat was that age, I bought the cheapest bag of white flour and let her play with it in the tub and scooped it into a bowl to play with again. And again. And again. (Do cover the drain if you try that! White flour is good for making clogs as well as cookies ;-) Play with flour outside.

Find other things they can get their fingers -- and whole bodies -- into. Pudding. Finger paints. (Kat did lots of painting in the bath tub too :-) Rice. (I had a big bin of cheap rice that Kat loved burying her Pokemon in.) Shaving cream.

Let go of the voices in your head that say doing anything other than eating food is a waste. A bag of flour? Way cheaper than most toys and can even last for years if you decide to save it.

Sarah's sons also flouring up :-)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Costumed connecting

Joyce (as Emma) and Kat (as a character from Aria) for Anime Boston 2011
The more I shared in Kat's interests, the more connected we became and the stronger our relationship.

Kids interests are who they are. When we respect their interests they feel valued and respected.

If there are interests you've given a good try to but can't find the passion for, you can support in other ways: by being the designated driver, by paying for what they need, by researching, by knowing enough to have conversations.

You don't need to dress up in crazy outfits to grow great relationships with your kids. But it often makes it a lot more fun! :-)