I know I’ve mentioned that I attend an unschooling support group on a monthly basis. I really love it, and find it necessary for my sanity sometimes. But every so often at the support group, one of the veteran unschoolers starts a sentence with something like, “Whatever stage you are in your unschooling journey…” Every time someone has said that, I start wondering what these magical stages are, and how I fit in. Since I both joined the support group and became committed to unschooling only a year ago, I’ve always pretty much assumed I was in the early part of the journey, whatever that is. But I could never really guess what the next step might be for me, until now, that is…
I have to thank Rue Kream for her book, pictured right, Parenting a Free Child: An Unschooled Life. Before reading Kream’s book, I think I was mostly psychologically convinced by the rationales of unschooling, but I hadn’t really taken that next step that brings it into our nitty gritty lives. In fact, as I started reading the beginning of Kream’s book, which at first just talks about the basic reasons to unschool, I was thinking, “Yada, yada, yada. Get on with it already!” I’d haerd it all before, right? But as I got toward the middle of the book, there was an Aha! moment where my brain went one step farther, and I suddenly realized how I could make our family life entirely different than it has been lately. Maybe I hadn’t really heard as much I needed to. The last time I had this kind of Aha! was when I read Alfie Kohn’s Unconditional Parenting.
For the last few months, I’ve been noticing that M has been having a terrible time. He has been very unhappy, and Arp and I were constantly finding ourselves in what I would always later recognize as a power struggle. But for some reason, I was kind of feeling trapped in the cycle. Every time something would happen, I would find those same words coming out of my mouth, would feel those same angry feelings inside. Power struggles suck. M was miserable and was very very angry at us. At the time, I could see the anger, but I didn’t really understand why he felt so angry at us. I found myself frequently saying, “You have to…” and thinking, “Why can’t he just…?” or “Why does he always…?”
After reading Kream’s book, I looked at the interactions that I’ve been having with M through new eyes. Arp and I have been looking at each other lately and saying, “What have we been doing to him?” So we’ve pretty much dropped all that power stuff, or at least as much as we can recognize and manage. I can’t even describe what a change has happened with the interactions that I am having with M. It’s like night and day. I would say that 90% of the anger he was constantly expressing is gone. Utterly gone. And what little is left seems to be because he expects us to act the way we were acting before. So that 10% is slowly dissipating. It’s wonderful to have that bond with my son back.
What is so helpful about Kream’s book is that she takes the theories of unschooling and enables the reader to see how they can play out in real life. As much as I loved Alfie Kohn’s Unconditional Parenting, I think that many parents have real trouble translating his theories into practice. For those of us that are living with the baggage of our childhoods and twenty or thirty years of the emotional habits that come with it, putting new beliefs into action can be a tall order, and hard work, too. Kream’s book is wonderful because she puts her family life right out there. So the reader gets a vision of what an unschooled life can really look at. She brings to the surface how some of the every day interactions we have with our children can be different.
The last two weeks have been really happy in our house. Do I get to call myself a second-stage unschooler now? How many stages are there, anyway?! 😉