Posted by: whimsigal | June 6, 2008

Have a lot on my mind and my "to do" list!

Oh Boy, what a week. My life has been crazy busy and I really can’t put my finger on why that is exactly. Oh well. What I really want to write about today is something that’s been on my mind of late. For you unschoolers out there, you’re probably going to be scratching your heads, wondering if I fell off a wall and bumped my head or something and I know that you may even sic Sandra Dodd on me. (Please don’t do that, LOL) I have these thoughts (fears?) rolling around in my head and just need to get them out here in the open. Lately, I haven’t been feeling like much an unschooler. In fact, the feelings I’ve been having are quite far from it. See, I’ve been thinking a lot about the “old days” and how children were educated then. I’ve been endlessly pouring over websites dedicated to classical homeschooling and old-fashioned education and find myself completely fascinated by the whole thing. What started this, you may be asking yourself. Well, frankly, it all began a couple of weeks ago when I was standing in my kitchen, wondering how to do something home economics related and I had to call my mother and ask her.

I’m 36 years old and I regularly call my mother for advice on things like that. You know why? Because I wasn’t raised in a family where I was made to stand in the kitchen and help my mom cook or clean. I was free to go about my daily life and never gave a thought to the work being done every day to keep me fed and keep clean clothes on my back. In fact, if my mother ever dared ask for my help, she got a most unbecoming “ohhh GAWD! Why do have to ask me to do THAT?” I never, ever, offered to help my mother with anything and it wasn’t until I dated my husband that I saw how selfish and self-absorbed my behavior was. My mother hardly ever made me clean my room. She would ask me to do it time and time again until finally she couldn’t take it anymore and would clean it up without me. God forbid she throw out something while cleaning because she’d never hear the end of it. Now that I’m a parent and am responsible for raising the two boys we brought into the world, I’m asking myself a lot of questions. Like a broken record, one question I hear a lot is, “Am I doing the right thing?”

When I had to call my mom and ask for her help, I thought to myself, “Man, I wish my mom had been a tougher disciplinarian and had made me help her with things.” For years into my adulthood, I didn’t know how to do things and constantly relied on my parents for help. I still don’t know how to properly clean my house or balance a checkbook and that’s pretty sad. I also thought about how many traditions are going to pass with my mom whenever she dies (the way she drinks it could be anytime) and how much my children will miss out on because I simply don’t know how to do things. I started thinking about how children used to be raised in close connection with their families and HAD to work on the family farm or in the family home doing things. I look at my husband, who is so accomplished in many, many ways, and while don’t care too much for my MIL’s behavior, I have to admit that she must have done something right when she raised him for him to turn out the way he has. And believe me, my husband’s parents were tough. I could tell you some stories but then she might sue me (just kidding) so for now, you’ll have to take my word. Don’t misunderstand me. My desire is not to become some ogre of a parent. But I’m wondering if there is a way for the differing philosophies to gently come together.

Unschooling is a beautiful philosophy and in some respects it has helped us get through some very tough times that would have been tougher were we living a traditional lifestyle. Now though, I feel like we need to do something different. Maybe I’m just not “doing” it right but the kids feel bored and I do,too. I worry that we’re not giving them a good enough foundation to start their lives with when they become adults. For years, I floundered without direction or ambition because my parents were always there to help me instead of encouraging me to figure out how to do it on my own.

This probably is meandering and isn’t making any sense but those are the thoughts in my head right now. Oh, and here is the part on old fashioned education. While visiting my parents the other day, my youngest picked up a very old book, printed in 1867, and brought it to me because he could tell it had a history and could sense something important about the book. I opened it and saw that it was one of my great-grandfather’s schoolbooks. It was full of challenging vocabulary, complexly built sentences, and very adult approaches to subject matter like history and literature. Color me stunned when my father told me that my GG was 10 when he was studying this book. 10 years old and reading something that even I would find challenging today. I really began to feel as though I was doing my boys a disservice by not providing them with such an education and here is where I met the fork in the road. Or is it a fork at all? I don’t know. Do you see why I’m confused and perplexed? How can I unschool and yet provide them with a good, solid, foundation with which they can meet the world prepared? Especially since I don’t really have that myself! Writing this out has been very helpful but it hasn’t provided me with any guidance, yet. I’m going to think on this some more and would love to hear from you veteran homeschoolers and unschoolers, too. Am I thinking about this the wrong way? Am I making it harder than it is? (I have been known to do that) Please feel free to leave me your comments.



  1. We just finished “These Happy Golden Years”, almost the final book in the Little House on the Prairie series. There was a lot in the book about Laura’s requirements in school as a fourteen through sixteen year old, in the late 1800s and I couldn’t believe how much she had learned. My immediate reaction was wonder – that she had learned so much in that little school house, reading to herself and then reciting what she’d learned to the teacher. But of course. That is how my kids learn naturally. They get excited about something and then recite it back to me (be it an experience, or book, or movie, or trip, or thought about numbers or tv show). I try to encourage them to do this. There is something powerful about sharing what you are learning. Unschooling, to me, doesn’t mean that they are always coming up with the possibilities or even choices themselves. I strew out camps, classes, books, games and projects to them and if they have an interest we do it. They go through fallow periods, and crazy busy ones. It cycles. I am starting to see that my older boy likes when I push him into things. He needs that extra gentle shove. I am the same way. Unschooling works in so many different ways depending on the kid. I also think that your kids will witness you cooking, balancing your checkbook, cleaning and all kinds of other life skills that we missed as kids. My older one is wanting to do them himself now as I don’t make him. It has only just started the past two years or so and he is almost 11. I have rambled on and have gained clarity for myself and probably yawns for you. Sorry. Hope you find the path that works for your family.

  2. Um. Perhaps you and I were separated at birth. Because my mom was similar. And I feel like you do. I aspire to unschooling but i can’t quite take that step because i believe that there are some things that need routine and discipline. Unschoolers will hate that comment. It’s implying that they don’t discipline and have no routine. I don’t mean that. I guess what I mean is that I tend to see a need to “keep” my dd10 on track sometime to guide her to “seeing through” a project. My mom feels that if you don’t push a child they won’t follow through and I disagree, but I don’t feel it would work to just let her go completely her own way. BUt I believe in child led education. Is there an In Between for people like us? I admire radical unschoolers. It so works for them. But neither radical schedule or radical unschooling works for us. I see with too much “child led” my daughter flounders. Too much structure and she does too.

    We live in such a different world that our grandparents too. I think different times call for different types of education. We can not compare ourselves to earlier generations. Yet…and yet…something worked. Diligence and discipline of curriculum created a type of person we don’t see any more. Again, I’m not implying unschoolers do not discipline or show diligence. It is curriculum I’m talking about more…structured curriculum.

    Or maybe I don’t know what I’m saying. But I’ve been questioning the same things. That is why I always answer: “Color me eclectic” when someone says “What method do you use…?” Eclectic schooling, I once read, means that we are constantly researching and examining our methods. Changing as we grow. Isn’t that what homeschool should be about?

    Blabbering on…hopefully making some sort of weird sense. GREAT POST!!

  3. No yawns here!! Thank you for such an in depth and thoughtful comment, Madeline. I think the problem for me is that I don’t really do the things you mentioned (cleaning, balancing the checkbook) and I feel a little lost in the grown up world sometimes. It’s one thing I don’t want for them. I watched my mom do it all and could have cared less about it myself. Does that make sense? What you said about strewing was really helpful, too. It’s the one thing, and it’s an important thing, that I know I don’t do enough.

    One thing I feel sad about is the impression I have about technology. In some ways, I feel like all the technology we surround ourselves with takes out some of the wonder of the world around us. Okay, now I’m just being maudlin. Can you tell I’m in a funk? LoL

    Thanks again for your comment, Madeline. It was great and you have given me much to think about.


  4. Thank you, Maria! Wow, I’m really glad you were able to take something away from that post. “Changing as we grow”…I really like that. Also, I wish I had a map that would lead us to “in-between land”. LoL It’s really good to know that you’re in the same boat I am with this whole homeschooling/unschooling thing. The frightening thing is that I really thought I had it all down pat. We’ve been doing it for a year and this is the worst case of the doubts I have had since we started.

    Thank you for your comment, Maria! I really appreciate it!


  5. Sometimes I think that I should be pushing Lil’Bug to learn her ABC’s or work on reading. That I should pick up the Little House on the Prairie Primer and start there. It’s a neat cirric and she might love it.

    I didn’t know how to clean a toilet until last year. Cooking and cleaning do not register with me. My parents rarely cleaned to the point that maggots were regularly in the sink (sorry for that image) and the things that we were often fed were ridiculously unhealthy and cheap. I wish I had some of those skills, but as a pursue them now Lil’Bug is right there learning and helping too. She has her own garden plot this year too.

    I think that my take on unschooling is different. To me it doesn’t mean no structure, it means flexibility, relationship, and creativity. You can assist your children in their quest for greater knowledge, try new things, and explore possibilities together. All things are a unit study waiting to happen if you choose to wrap your thoughts around it with that framework.

    For example: Bugs. Lil’Bug’s facination with bugs has led us to nature explores, the local living history farm to learn about crop infestations historically and companion plantings for natural pest barriers, to the Science Center, our own backyard, the library, several videos- one that focused on worm farms, painting pictures of bugs, counting bugs, identification, songs and dances with bug themes……you get the idea? Art, math, science, history, biology, music, and more all on one simple topic. She’s a little and would not have expanded so much without my creative working, but she loved and embraced every last minute of it (as did I).

    To me, that is how we unschool.

  6. Mama P, great comment!!! I really didn’t have a clear picture of how you did things until now. My worry with my two is that they don’t show any interest in doing any of those things. I worry that if I don’t instill their importance now, it won’t seem important until much later, like me. I want to spare them the feelings I have of feeling lost and useless in regards to taking care of myself.

    We don’t seem to be taking any of those exploratory adventures like you and Lil’Bug do. Maybe I’m not picking up on my kids’ cues though. I don’t know!! Argh!!

    I enjoyed your comment very much though. 🙂


  7. I think you do! They like video games! You posted art work they done with Mario, no?

    That may be a tough one to expound on, but maybe not.

    With the game itself you have math covered. Art is easy. They could make up story lines for a new game narrative/plot and have them design the graphics for each level.

    What about the food? Isn’t there food in the game? Have them help you cook lasagna or some such- that covers science and nutrition. Maybe make it with mushrooms, LOL.

    They have costumes from last October, right? That can cover theatre and PE if they act it out. 🙂

    I seem to remember a video on the history of video games. Maybe they’d like that?

    Just ideas and a bit of reinforcement- you have done most of these things already! 🙂

  8. I am going to give you my opinion, which is from neither a homeschooler or an unschooler. I don’t have experience in either homeschooling or unschooling. I went to public school and so do my kids, and they love it. They’ve had great teachers and have made a lot of good friends and are learning a lot. My views on homeschooling are that it can be done with great success. It’s just not for me. My views on unschooling are that it’s not a good idea in the long run. I do love the way unschoolers interact with their children, though. I think more children in this world need to be treated with respect and asked their opinions about things and be able to have a say in things instead of just be ordered around and forced to do things they don’t want to do. As far as the education goes, though, I don’t think unschooling is a good thing. In this day and age a college education is almost a must, unless someone wants to be a laborer, which doesn’t require much education. Unschoolers say they are giving their children more choice in education, but I think it’s the opposite. I think they are taking away that choice. When a child is young they have no way to know what profession they may want to go into when they are an adult. When they may decide to go to college in a certain field they may be totally unprepared for what is required just because maybe that subject didn’t interest them when they were younger so it will take them years to get caught up to speed in what they may want to do. As far as the learning in every day life that unschoolers say is happening, my kids learn in every day life, too, in addition to school. Whenever they are curious about something (like they were about ladybugs the other day) we research it on the internet and check out books from the library on it. When we go to museums they are very interested in things and ask a lot of questions. If I don’t know the answer, I find out for them. I’m just trying to give you an opinion from someone who doesn’t unschool. I do read several blogs of unschoolers and I find their lives fascinating and I actually try to implement some of their ideas into my own family life, but I just think the educational part of it is somewhat lacking. I hope you take my opinion with a grain of salt and not be offended by it because it’s not meant that way. I think your boys are adorable and smart and you sound like a great mother.

  9. Angie,

    First of all, thank you for taking the time to leave your comment. I think it was quite brave of you to do so, given your low opinion of unschooling as an educational principle. I’m glad you find some good things in it though!

    I only have a couple of quibbles with what you said about unschooling. Your comment regarding a college education seems to imply that without traditional or conventional education, a child cannot get into college when I actually know for a fact this is not the case. Usually, by the time a child has matured into the teen years, they are thinking about college and begin investigating what it takes to get in. Contrary to popular belief, it actually doesn’t take years to learn all that material. My grandfather was a math teacher in the public school system for many, many years and has told me that much of what is done year after year is review. My son was playing today and was writing multiplication problems on a white board, just for the heck of it! I didn’t teach him mulitplication per se. We have however discussed what multiplication is and since he understands that it’s adding, he will challenge himself by trying to do problems he creates in his mind.

    You say your children learn outside of school, too, and I don’t doubt that for a moment. I think the only differences between us lie in the fact that I don’t feel my children need to be locked in a classroom for hours 5 days a week, plus have assigned homework to do in order to learn. My 6 year old is reading at at least 3rd grade level and the only school he ever attended was preschool! I didn’t teach him by sitting down with a curriculum “see Spot run”, or anything like that. He picked it up by what we were doing all around him. He is a wiz at computers, too! Just as an example, he knows how to change the icons on his desktop if he doesn’t like the image associated with it and I don’t know too many adults who can say they know how to do that.

    I appreciate you leaving your opinion and giving me yet another perspective to consider because I like to see all the options before me. I also went to public school, as did my oldest, so we are very well-informed about what it has to offer. One thing this post has shown me is that unschooling definitely offers the richer view of life and of learning.

    thanks again, Angie. And I hope you in turn aren’t offended by anything I wrote either! 🙂

  10. I’ll add too- I’m a college professor and in the last two years several teens from our local unschooling group have taken my classes. They FAR out perform their public schooled counterparts who are often 3+ years older than they are. Food for thought.

  11. Hey there-
    Ok, here is my story. I started out well trained minding it for 1 1/2 years. My kid burned out. So then we reversed into unschooling. I am not a radical unschooler, but more of an eclectic. I strew and lead and just sign them up for things because I think they will like them. Most of the times they enjoy my choices, and sometimes they don’t. I learn about them like that and it makes me a better facilitator. Now my daughter does use books left over from Well trained mind days. and likes them. In fact, she uses them regularly. My younger wants his own books too because he sees his sister enjoy them. So next year we will regularly sit down and do some stuff to pass the morning, and then we are unstructured doing what we want people. We’ll see how that works, and we will tweak most likely. We will take long breaks and we will work feverishly when it moves them. Like during the winter or in the scorching heat.
    We had no formal lessons for about a year. My daughter asked for book work again and is thriving. It does admittedly bring me some sort of peace to see the completed pages. The days in which she just does not want to work.
    we don’t.
    I don’t push.
    I don’tmake anybody do anything.
    I follow lead.
    I remember her struggling at some point with some math probs. She tossed the book and did not touch it for 4 mos. One day she picked it up we flipped to the page of such frustration and she sailed through that and through the next 10 pages before she hit a new concept that she struggled with. As of a few days a go, she completed that page with out a prob. Understood the heck out of it, in fact.
    because she wanted too.
    Books, projects, tv’s are tools and just because we are child led, eclectic, unschoolers, whatever. If a chid thrives on some semblance of structure, or if they ask to be taught and we provide them with instruction or a unit study or curriculum does that take away or enhance our unschooly nature?
    I think Unschooling does not ever mean no instruction, or curriculum, it is the relationship of trust, mutual respect, learning together, and instilling the notion that learning is life long and full of adventure and endless possibility that truly makes one an “unschooler”
    I think you can find your balance.-K

  12. Mama K,

    What a great comment! I forget that there are no hard and fast rules about using a curriculum. It’s forcing them to use it that goes against the grain. I see that what I’ve been lacking is suggesting activities for them. It’s something I really have to start doing!

    I loved your comment and took a lot from it!!

    Thank you so much to everyone for your comments here. Keep them coming! Whether you’re for or against, I like reading your perspective!


  13. Hey, I want to comment but I need to think about what I want to say and my brother wants to use the computer! I just wanted to pop in and let you know that I am reading.:)


  14. So I have been thinking a little bit and reading your comments and your words.

    You said in the comments that Iain was doing math problems for fun and that Ryan is reading like gangbusters. Maybe I am totally off-base but it sounds to me like you just need some reminders of how much your guys really do know and how much they are actually getting out of this lifestyle. I know sometimes it is hard to see things about your life as they appear to others. From all the things you write about it really sounds to me like you and your guys are doing and learning lots.

    Of course we definately aren’t veterans at this unschooling business at all. I am learning more all the time and that is one of the things I like about it. With Ian he isn’t doing “measurable” skills like reading or writing he still amazes me with the things he comes up with just by observing the world, playing, and asking questions. (Today he was pretending to be a napkin blowing in the wind–hee hee). So I try to think to myself, “Even if we never did anything more formal than what we do now he is still learning tons of things,” so that makes me feel better during panicky times.

    I know once he gets older I might suggest classes or tours or other activities I think he will enjoy. (Incidentally, do your boys like medieval history, knights or weapons? Buck says he is happy to have you guys over (or we can come to you on the way to the in-laws) to look at his weapons and armor and to talk about medieval times if they would enjoy it).

    I know I am rambling a bit but I guess I am trying to say take heart! I think you maybe are just going thru a panicky time? I hope I made a little sense!


  15. Evie–the path of unschooling is treacherous (at times!) because it’s not just about ‘schooling’ or ‘educating’. It’s about life, and not just their life but your life also.

    My mom’s routine was similar to yours. She would ask and threaten and ask for me to clean…and then when I was at school she’d clean it all up herself. She’d do this with everything. It was full of anger, dissapointment, and heavy sighs. The messages I got were twofold: 1) I’m not capable to doing these things for myself, and 2) if I wait long enough, someone will do it for me.

    Niiiice. As you sugggested, this has created a lot of issues in my adult life. And sometimes I wonder if I am re-creating that with my kids.

    The difference is: I am trying to teach them that they are responsible for their own sake. They are capable and can be determined. I veer off a little with unschooling and chores, because we have them. If everyone’s needs are being considered, then mine count too, and I need help. So, we all pick and choose what is to be cleaned, with what tools, and how long this will last. It’s an open discussion and no hard or inadaquate feelings are experienced.

    Just because you didn’t have chores or didn’t learn how to do things, doesn’t mean that you were unschooled and that your boys will have the same experiences. It actually sounds like the opposite.

    I also think there is something to the old school idea of the three R’s. 🙂 However, I think it needs to be at a developmentally appropriate time.

    If you look at most montessori type private schools that value self direction over worksheets and tests, they score worse on state testing up unil about 6 or 7th grade. At that point, the scores shift and all of a sudden the ‘free thinking’ kids are at the top of the testing. I think the higher level thinking that is fostered really kicks into gear with more sophisticated programs, and that’s at a time when the basic stuff they might not have gotten earlier is picked up quickly and added onto the vast wealth of information they had aquired in a free and open environment.

    I don’t know if I’m making any sense!!!! but I of course think about this all the time, and am always looking for resources that my kids will like, but only if it fits in with my ‘child play’ focus.

    This is the good and the bad of unschooling–but it’s still better than the best of public schooling! 🙂

  16. You have received some great comments so far. I do take some exceptions to one in particular but different strokes for different folks.

    I thought I would chime in because I do have an older child (15) who I have unschooled since he was six years old. It is so easy to get caught up in the way things “should” be done when you label them, that sometimes you forget that we are all individuals. In my opinion, there isn’t just one right way to unschool. All of our kids are different and our day to day lives as families are different. So what works for one will not necessarily work for another.

    I struggled for a long time worrying if I was doing the right thing. Caleb was quick to get me back on track whenever I thought to change things up. The key to making this work is trust. And I don’t mean just for the kids. You have to trust yourself most of all. Trust that even though you are 36, you are still capable of learning anything and everything you want to learn.

    That even includes basic things like cleaning the house and balancing the checkbook. I grew up completely in charge of keeping the house clean. No matter how hard I tried it was never good enough. I wasn’t taught how to clean, it was just expected of me. So when I moved into my own home, I was still lost. I was convinced that I didn’t know what I was doing. In fact only recently have I decided that I am capable of being good at such things. That is why I am reading up on ways to organize my life. And as with most everything I research, I am taking what I like and leaving the rest.

    My kids don’t clean everyday. They aren’t expected to. But when I need help I ask and I make every effort to accept the help they give just the way it is. My goal is to help them feel capable. And I truly believe that if they feel capable, they will not doubt their ability to do it later. Am I making sense? I feel like I am rambling now.

    I do want to quickly address the college scenario. I do not believe that a college education is the only way to make a living. In my life, I don’t see a huge difference in the financial lives of my friends with college degrees and my friends without. I have worked with college graduates who were making the same amount as me. Sometimes less. I see college as a tool to be used if a career path is chosen that requires that degree. But not a college degree just for the sake of one. And many of those laborers make damn good money. What I want most for my kids is happiness, and I no longer believe that a college education is the only way to achieve that.

  17. I have recently read a post or e-mail about the way school changed in the past 100 years. Sure, they left school at age 14 back then… but the things they learned? Fascinating.

    As for unschooling, I need more structure, and so we have certain subjects that need to be covered, no matter what. We do however enjoy the freedom to pick up anything we like and study it. We’ve been picking around Ancient Egypt for ages now it seems. And we’re still not done. 😉
    This works for us, as we start with something that we HAVE to do, then we continue with something that we WANT to do.

    Hmmm, my past. My mother always made me help. I would cook entire meals, when I was 15… I had to vacuum and dust around the house, I had to do my own laundry, and other such things. I still suck at being a housewife. LOL I do. My house is always a mess. I hate cleaning the bathrooms, I hate doing the laundry. I do love to cook though. I’d really like a maid. 🙂

    The way I see it, it’s a good thing that you found your way here… You realized some things, you know, you want to change your direction, and chances are, that now, that you’re ready for change, something good will happen. You’re sticking out those feelers, and you’ll find what you’re looking for. It always kind of happens that way.

  18. I don’t have kids and don’t plan to so I can’t comment on the un/schooling thing, but for the house stuff and especially passing it on to your kids, have you checked out and her friend the House Fairy? As a kid I was expected to do stuff around the house but I was damned if I did, damned if I didn’t…got in trouble for not doing things but often when I did try it was the “wrong” way simply because it was not the way my mother did things. Flylady and her crew have been gently teaching me for over 3 years now to break these habits and get rid of these horrid negative voices, and I’ve heard great things about the House Fairy. Check them out! Good luck to you. 🙂

  19. He he he. I’ve tried flylady. It made me want get out a fly-swatter. Seriously.

    Try happy slob instead.

    Not that I actually do her three step thing either- but she’s way more fun. 🙂

  20. I like Flylady! Although now the emails just get deleted. LOL I checked out that website you mentioned and like it so far! Thanks for the link. I’m sure I’ll end up buying her book. I always do.

  21. I do indeed still have a shine-y sink. That is still the first thing I do when I set out to clean house. So…um….flylady brainwashing really works.

  22. LOL Me, too!!!

  23. I didn’t read through all the comments, so I’m sorry if I repeat something already said.

    So, when did you plant cameras in my house? Huh?! Huh?!!! I have been struggling with the very same thing. My 12 yo just learned to read well, and he and my almost 14 yo are so far “behind” in math that I’m very embarrassed. We’ve been “unschooling” for years…and I have to say, the time has come for some radical change here.

    My 13yo is self-motivated, has chosen her curriculum, and is moving forward. The boy, on the other hand, has to be constantly monitored if anything is to get done. *sigh*

    My mother never taught me a darn thing about housekeeping, cleaning or discipline. As a result, my house is a mess, I cook when I feel like it, and I’m very undisciplined…and so are my kids. My husband is fed up, and we’re making big changes, but it’s hard at this age to get the kids motivated to be helpful around here.

    So, all that to say, I support anyone who is educating their kids themselves, no matter how they do it. Unschooling, which used to be the only way I could see homeschooling, has become a thorn in my side. Time to move on.

  24. I think that every homeschooling mom worries that they aren’t doing enough for their kids.

    I picked up an original Hardy Boys book the other day and I was amazed at the grammar and vocabulary that was in there. I was amazed that they have ‘dumbed it down’ so much in the years since then.

    My mom also never made me do anything growing up. My hubby had the misfortune of having to eat my cooking mistakes. I have struggled learning how to cook and clean the house. I have decided that all of my kids will know how to clean the house, cook some basic meals, and do some basic car care.

  25. I’m late to the party – as usual. Sorry! I read your post and I read the comments, and here’s something that stood out for me. Your words:

    “My worry with my two is that they don’t show any interest in doing any of those things. I worry that if I don’t instill their importance now, it won’t seem important until much later, like me. I want to spare them the feelings I have of feeling lost and useless in regards to taking care of myself.”

    Here’s a thought – when you say “it won’t seem important until much later, like me”… read that again. It won’t seem important. Until much later. Here’s the thing – IT WASN’T IMPORTANT TO YOU AT THE TIME. If it had been, you’d have been less of a snark to your mother and more appreciative when she did it for you. I was the same kid. I had zero interest in cooking or gardening and I only cleaned what was expected of me when asked. It wasn’t until I had a home of my own that I began to appreciate the work involved and how little I knew. I, too, still call my mom with all sorts of questions. In fact, I clearly remember thinking, just before my dad died, that I should start growing up and relying on them less because someday they wouldn’t be there for me to ask. (Intuition?)

    But here’s the beauty of it – when I ask, she answers. She doesn’t say “If you would’ve listened to me when you were 12 you wouldn’t have this question.” It deepens our relationship – there is more than love and obligation, there is NEED there. I would rather live an interdependent life with people who are important to me than be entirely self-sufficient.

    The difference between what happened with us and what we’re doing with our children is that we interact all the time. We’re there for the moments when our children suddenly decide they need to know something, and we can, without judgment, say “Ok, let’s figure this out.” You’re modeling all the time how to learn things when needed.

    Be open about it with your kids. Voice those feelings of “I just learned how to balance my checkbook – boy, does this make budgeting a lot easier. I know exactly how much money I can spend on XXX now. Before I was just guessing.” Even if they don’t take an interest in balancing a checkbook then and there, they’re still absorbing the message that there are things that can make our lives more fulfilling, and they also see that it doesn’t stop when you become an adult.

    My parents didn’t make me cook (well, my dad once tried to implement a weekly meal prep with my sister and me.. we were each responsible for one meal per week. My sister did it once, I never did a single one – some plan!) and I not only enjoy cooking, I am sometimes pretty damn good at it. My parents DID make me haul wood and I not only enjoy hauling wood, I am pretty damn good at it. Who knows how it will end up for our kids in the end?

    The other day when I was complaining about all the soccer duties I had to do, I asked Brady (15), “Do you think you’ll volunteer for lots of stuff when you’re an adult?” His reply: “I’m your son, aren’t I?” 🙂

    All that said, we’re not the poster family for radical unschooling. We don’t have set chores but with 10 acres and living far from civilization, there is a lot of work to be done and we ask them for help – often. I specify when it’s time-sensitive or not, and they’ve learned well the cues for when it’s best to hop-to and when there’s some wiggle-room. I always thank them, we sometimes pay them, and I always help them when THEY ask.

    Unschooling or not, it’s the relationship that’s important. With a good, open, trusting, positive relationship, all things are possible.

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