Back to the "common questions" theme, in which I try to dispel commonly held rumors/concerns that us unschooling folk encounter periodically. Keep in mind that these posts are pretty vehement and often sarcastic, a winning combination in any argument.
By most traditional lifestyle accounts, we're a bit unusual: we co-sleep in a family bed, we don't have bedtimes or wake times, we don't police food intake (assuming it's actually food, of course), we don't control TV, etc. Now, we've learned to be careful about how much of that we share with people until we've had a chance to guess at how they'll receive it, but we still face issues now and then. Periodically, people new to this idea have no idea what to say or how to even broach these topics with us; but when they are able to put a voice to it, it usually comes out something like this:
"But kids need structure; aren't you afraid they'll develop bad habits and be unmotivated, unruly, unproductive couch potatoes?" (okay, not a direct quote, but you get the picture.)
WHAT THEY REALLY MEAN BUT DON'T CHOOSE TO SAY
"You're on crack!
What do you mean no bedtimes, no TV rules, no food restrictions? A parent's whole purpose is to control what their kids are exposed to; to keep them away from things that are bad for them; to direct their energies into productive activities; to prepare them for the real world; to teach them what they need to know and to ensure that they develop independence. Do you want them sitting around all day watching South Park? How will they ever grow up to be normal when they're being raised so abnormally? As soon as I get home, I'm calling Child Protective Services. "
Hmmm . . . don't think so. Let me bat these back at you one at a time so that you feel the pain multiple times .
"A parent's whole purpose is to control . . ." Stop right there; you've lost me already. A parent's whole purpose is to love, empower, explore, coach, aid, listen, learn, care about/for. Control is not part of the job description.
" . . . keep them away from things that are bad for them . . " Shouldn't a human being have a right to have a say in what's good or bad for them? Shouldn't a child be allowed to learn and explore their world so they can define it on their own terms? Doesn't most of our learning come from our experiences, through which we establish our own sense of boundaries?
" . . . direct their energies into productive activities . . ." Okay. Whose definition of productive do we get to use - yours or your child's?
" . . . to prepare them for the real world . . ." Yes, and we all know how flawless a place that is, right? Why wouldn't we want to prepare them to change the world for the better if they choose, rather than how to operate in a world that was defined by others? Couldn't the world use a little change?
" . . . to teach them what they need to know . . ." You mean like we were taught about World Civilizations and Trigonometry, even though they may not have had any relevance for what we wanted to do or were passionate about? Hell, I have an MBA and don't know the first thing about that stuff, because it's not important to me to know it. And when I did need to know it to pass the GMAT because I wanted to go to B-school, you know what I did - I learned it.
" . . . to ensure they develop independence." Umm, how do you ensure someone develops independence? By controlling them and teaching it to them? Or should they be allowed to see it modeled and experience it themselves?
"Do you want them sitting around all day watching South Park?" Frankly, no; I much prefer Futurama and Family Guy. For that matter, South Park isn't even on "all day." But it's not my choice, it's theirs; and I'll watch with them so we can talk about it, and celebrate it as a way to connect with my children.
If you think about it, most people in world operate according to paradigms they've developed throughout their lifetime, for a variety of reasons. I think this is magnified when we become parents: our "parenting paradigm" is influenced by how we were raised, our neighbors and friends, our families, our goals, our ability to give up control, our spirituality. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to break your parenting paradigm and establish a new one, so my kudos to everyone out there who is trying to do what's right for their families, thinking creatively, and letting go.