Lately I've been thinking about the unschooling label a lot. Wondering what it even means. Or if the word accurately describes the way that we live here at our house.
First of all, there was the controversial article that sparked this blog entry by my pal Jen. I read Jen's words and just kept nodding my head. And then I popped over to her Facebook page to say this:
I really liked this. But even these points made me wonder about the term unschooling for what we do. I mean, I remember reading about bed times/sleep from Sandra Dodd. And, like with other topics, she always said that unschooling doesn't mean not enforcing standards that help take into account every member of the family's needs. So, you may have a child quietly go to his or her room at night because other members of the family are needing to sleep, etc. I cannot help but think "but what does this have to do with school"? Isn't it more about respect, trust, and everyone in the family having equal rights? Some nights I may let my kids stay up as late as they like. Other nights, due to circumstances, I may need to ask them to lay down at an earlier than desired hour for a reason. On those nights, do I cease to be an unschooler? No, I don't think so. I'd ask the same of my husband (hey, can you get quiet somewhere? I have to get up early tomorrow?). I'm still really struggling with this. I *feel* like an unschooler but maybe I'm ready to just give up the label entirely and take on a new label... like maybe I'll say we are a family who learns and lives together in freedom. The word school isn't even in there and I like that :)
Then I get a question from a friend on Facebook asking me for unschooling advice on weaning and ending cosleeping. I really didn't know what to say to her. Can you really UNSCHOOL a baby or a toddler? Is a baby or a toddler going to be in school under any circumstances to begin with? And again, what does sleep or nursing have to do with your take on education? Her argument was that unschooling was a lifestyle and that she didn't expect an unschooler to participate in any non-child-led ceasation of either cosleeping or nursing. I figure she was implying that you cannot be an unschooler and also take the initiative to get your child out of your bed or off of your boob.
I say enough.
First of all, I think if you are calling the way that you parent a baby or toddler "unschooling" then you might want to rethink this. I think that a person who naturally leans towards unschooling older, "school aged" children might also lean towards attachment parenting. I know that I do. I tend to be a more attached mom than most of the parents I know who send their kids to school. I cosleep, I extend breastfeeding, I skip vaccinations, I prepare healthy foods, I take my child's needs into consideration. I listen to my child. I have not always met my own expectations. And there have certainly been times when any Attachment Parenting advocate would grimace at the way that I've treated or behaved towards my children. But I've, without a doubt, leaned towards Attachment Parenting.
It makes sense to me that a person who has been attached throughout the infant and toddler years would remain attached during the school years and beyond even. One way that a person might continue that attachment is by unschooling. ONE WAY. I have several VERY ATTACHED friends who opted to actually send their children to a school. Does that make them less attached? No. Does that make them unschoolers? Well, by definition, no. So, you see, attached parenting is not synonymous with unschooling. Right?
I believe that, within an unschooling family, an important distinction from some other, more tradition families is respect. And this is not just respect for the children. No. If you only show respect for the children in the household then you are doing a poor job of teaching said children about the real world (which is supposedly one of the main reasons for unschooling). You'd be showing them that they are the bosses and that when they leave home, everyone is to bow down at their feet and give them whatever they want. No. In my house, everyone's needs are taken into consideration.
And that is why my toddler is no longer nursing and is no longer sleeping in my bed.
He was weaned when I had to go spend several days in the hospital with his brother. My husband needed to get out of the hospital after a month long stay in order to make and sell more of our chocolate. He also needed to spend some time with his two other children and his extended family. My older son had not seen me in a month and so he needed his mother. I desperately needed to spend time with my oldest child. My daughter needed to spend time with her father. So, despite the toddler's desire to continue nursing, once everyone's needs were taken into consideration, he was weaned. He was almost two, I was no longer producing milk, and his "need" did not trump the needs of four other people.
He was kicked out of our bed for equally legitimate reasons. For one thing, co sleeping was no longer safe. He fell out of the bed often. In our small house, there was no where that we could set up a mattress on the floor for him. He also didn't sleep well in our bed. Therefore I didn't sleep well. He tossed and turned all night long. He was a very fitful sleeper. I couldn't take it anymore. I was tired. I was stressed out. I needed rest. And quite frankly, so did he. Furthermore, my other two children wanted to sleep in the bed with me occasionally and with the kicker in the bed, it made for a miserable night for everyone. So, we set up the crib next to our bed. For the first month, I would put the baby in the crib and then lay down in the bed next to him while I waited for him to go to sleep. After he was totally accustomed to this, I started to just put him in the crib and leave the room. He has started sleeping soundly nearly every night. We are all sleeping better. And during the day we have more energy and we feel better. We spend more fun time together during the day.
Now, I am still trying to figure out how this makes me less of an unschooler.
What do you think? Is unschooling the same thing as attachment parenting? Do you think that it's a misconception that in an unschooling family, children are in charge and the needs of the parents are no longer taken into consideration?
In my next unschooling rant, I'll explore my thoughts about the label "unschooling" and what unschooling means to me.