The Unschooling Parent (Episode 194)
When it comes to our relationship with our children, there are many, many ways to parent. Throwing in alternative education magnifies the role as educator in your home and can make it even more overwhelming to figure out how to be both parent and teacher.
That’s why an unschooling model isn’t just for kids - it’s something you embrace as a family. And, it’s something you can do even when you aren’t unschooling. What?
Let’s replace the word “unschool” with the phrase “growth mindset”. There are many similarities, and that’s what we want to address today.
When we talk about alternative education, we stress the importance of de-schooling first - to break down all the preconceived expectations on what “school” will look like in your home, and really highlight relationships and a growth mindset as your top priorities.
Unschooling, by definition, is an informal learning that advocates learner-chosen activities as a primary means for learning. ... The term "unschooling" was coined in the 1970s and used by educator John Holt, widely regarded as the father of unschooling.
If you want to expand this a bit further, it’s delight-led learning, and a functional education model. That means you are following your natural interests and where/how you’re already motivated to move forward, and you’re embracing an inclusive approach to learning. Our learning isn’t confined to 12 years of school, a classroom, curriculum, or grades.
Unschooling, for our family, is a life-long lifestyle choice. It’s us choosing to keep this as our mantra - the kids as well as us parents:
The world is our school and everyone is our teacher.
We have the opportunity to learn and grow from every experience and encounter. It’s all what we choose to do with it.
There are five ways we parent differently as unschooling parents that has shifted our approach with our children:
#1 - No Expectations
Yes, we drop our expectations on what we think our children should do/be, and we start with meeting them exactly where they are. A biggie on this is recognizing that just because we did things a certain way doesn’t mean they will experience it in the same way. They will have their own perspective, response, and mindset that is different from yours. So when we share stories of our past and how we have navigated things, we share them as an idea, insight, or experiential story; not as a “how-to” manual.
Now, let me be clear - it’s not that our children have no expectations. It’s that we set them together. We created a family vision that becomes the expectation and standard we all live by. Yes, they step up because we expect that - and we decided on it together.
There is a distinct difference in showing up because your parents expect it vs. showing up because you’ve decided as a team that this is how you want to shine your best light, and you understand the reasoning behind it.
#2 - We've Lived Different Lifetimes
Our kid’s perspectives and experiences are not only different from ours, they are a generation that has experienced a whole world my childhood didn’t. They are navigating information overload with access to everything at their fingertips. They have to learn about hacking, spammers, conspiracy theories, social media, video gaming and addictions, and so much more that is in their face in a way we didn’t experience as children of the 80s.
So while we can extend the insights of a moral compass and how to be a good person, the pace and the experiences in this generation is vastly different. Our “nuts and bolts” on how to graduate, go to college, get a job, etc may be obsolete by the time our children even get to that point! It’s not about sharing the process you lived through - it’s a different lifetime.
It’s really incredible to share stories of our past and even watch the sitcoms that highlight the era we lived in - it helps our children better understand the world we came from...and can also remind us on how vastly different the world is now.
#3 - Their Feelings Are Theirs
We don’t in any way assume we know our children’s feelings better than they do. This is a biggie - the whole de-schooling process is to pull back and get to know your children without any agenda first. The key is to really establish your relationship first. When you understand how they tick - what their strengths are, how they are best motivated, what they can do when they are stressed to recharge...these are so, so helpful in creating a connected relationship.
Digging into personality styles can really open your eyes to how differently people may think and respond to things. The more you can understand yourself and others, the more you recognize how the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us - and the more grace you can have to others who respond differently than you.
When you give your children permission to feel all the emotions, and you are willing to meet them where they are, you are laying the foundation for emotional resilience. Allow them to feel how they feel and focus on sharing the tools to equip them to navigate their feelings - not wait for you to tell them what to do with them.
#4 - Parents Aren't Always Right
Not only do we not have the same personality as our child, but we also don’t have the same brains as them! If you’re a parent already, you know this - your children are going to teach YOU lessons whether you’re prepared to learn them or not!
Remember, your children are living in a whole different era than you grew up in. There are some things about our modern day your children may be way more educated on than you are. There are different approaches and responses we may learn to handle in another way due to their insights. And, just like their feelings are their feelings, what we feel is “right” for them may not resonate with them in the same way.
Yes, there comes a point where our children will have to shift from “because mommy says so” to making an educated decision on what they do and why from their own internal motivation, and my input won’t have as much pull. So when do you flip the switch and make it happen?
For us, it’s a give and take approach from the start. Us sharing insights, guidance, and setting clear boundaries when we see they aren’t quite ready to make the decisions themselves. But we do a red light/green light approach with moving forward and constantly testing their own discernment and independence. Our goal isn’t just to give them roots, but wings - and they will have to learn how to navigate that on their own.
And the more we’ve allowed them to make decisions and test that independence, the more opportunity we’ve also had to be wowed by their insights and choices. Here’s a quote from an article I read recently about teens:
With this new perspective—that their childhood environment is radically different than ours, that they are experiencing life in their own unique ways, and that our expectations are entangled with our life experiences—it is presumptuous of us to believe that our worldview will fit neatly into their lives. What was right for us (or what we imagine would have been right for us), may not be right for them.
The more we as parents focus on laying a foundation of building up awareness, intuition, emotional resilience and personal responsibility, the more we can hand over the choice of “right” or “wrong” to our children to discern.
#5 - The Uniqueness In Each Of Us Strengthens All Of Us
Going back to those personality styles again - your children are people, too! They each have a different insight and perspective, and are not merely ‘possessions’ in your home. They have just as much of an opportunity for maximum impact and a ripple effect that will leave a legacy long past them - just like you do. Just because we had them doesn’t mean we know everything about them.
I don’t know everything about myself and I live in this body every day! We are all learning and growing together - and, instead of me telling them how they feel (as I am also figuring out how I am myself), I want to give kids the space - and respect - to get to know them. I’m not simply raising children to be good people, I’m becoming a better person because of the amazing people my children already are.
So your challenge this week is to discover your children. Learn something new about them - what are they interested in right now? What might be bothering them? What are they thinking about what’s going on in the world right now, and their place in it? When was the last time you simply checked in with your child and simply asked them questions about their lives?
Instead of telling this week, ask. Simply ask questions of your children. I’d love to hear what insights they can share with YOU this week that you can pass on!
When we know who we are, we know better how to navigate this life. When we know who others are, we know better how to navigate them. And when we can see our differences as a way to work together with synergy, we can really move forward, recognizing the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us. Namaste.
Dig Deeper with These Posts and Episodes:
- Get the Free Family Vision Email Series Here
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- What’s Left Unsaid – Nonverbal Cues (Episode 192)
- Drama Doesn’t Make An Appointment (Episode 190)
- 3 Reasons You’re Feeling Stuck (Episode 189)
- Creating Sexual Legacy – How to talk to your kids about the Birds and the Bees: Part 3 (Episode 184)
- The Only Advice New Parents Need To Know (Episode 59)
- Have Life Seasons Got You Stuck In A Funk? (Episode 179)
- Awareness At Home
- What are your behavior defaults, and those of others in your home?
- What Is A DISC Personality Assessment?
- Coaching with Ashley