Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Unschooling One Through the Storm of Adolescence

Maybe it seems like I'm lowering the bar over and over again for my daughter, Doctor Who.  And, maybe I am.  But, if so, it's not as simple as expecting less from her.  In fact, when I see what she is doing, I see her working hard on things that matter to her.

Does unschooling seem like lowering the bar to you?  Sometimes it does seem that way to me.  But I know her.  She is committed to herself to work on several stories that she is writing.  The more she writes, the more her ideas flow...  The more her inspiration truly looks inspired.

So, in unschooling her, we are making the choice to allow the zeal and eagerness to write to lead her.

But can you tell that I am a bit uncomfortable with unschooling?  
Has it been obvious as I struggle with what to do with her?  
Has my ambivalence been clear to people who read this blog?

With regards to "lowering the bar", maybe I'm not lowering the bar at all.  I'm removing the bar all together and replacing it with... something else...  (It DOES feel like it matters what you call things...)

I vacillate between feeling like I'm letting her off of the hook or ignoring some important skills to feeling delighted as she follows her bliss.  I'm not exactly sure where I stand with it.  Unschooling is a total leap of faith both in her and in her innate appetite for learning and in unschooling itself.

But I have to choose unschooling for her. 
Does anyone else out there have a challenging teen?  If so, you understand.
The storms she brings on herself!  The storms we all weather together.  It's tough.  And I feel like the choice to unschool is the choice that gives her the freedom she needs in order to not lose it all together.  It allows her to let go of trying to please me or to meet my expectations and encourages her to embrace her goals and to find her own way to meet them.

Doctor Who and I talk so much about how to make things work for her.  Although she isn't always happy, OK, she is seldom happy, she knows that that matters to me and she knows that I will continually adjust our framework in order to suit her better.

At this moment in time, she is happy to consider herself unschooled.  

I've always known I needed to give her a huge amount of freedom as well as needing to provide her with enough structure to not get lost.  Homeschooling Doctor Who has been a huge balancing act from Day One.
With alot of love, our relationship has saved us many times and, now that I think about it, I'm happy too!


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  1. "I vacillate between feeling like I'm letting her off of the hook or ignoring some important skills to feeling delighted as she follows her bliss."

    Yeppity yep yep.

    Despite my own experience with unschooling certain subjects (despite a full course of public school/college)--and even though I am continuing to unschool myself--unschooling feels like slicing open the sides of a wading pool and watching the water gush onto the lawn.

    Oh no! What have I done? I can never "unslice" that pool!

    Perhaps without the pool, they will discover the ocean.

    ...Or Lake Michigan (in our case).

  2. Yes, yes and yes. You put words to what I have felt and couldn't figure out. Unschooling feels like letting them off the hook and I always struggle with it. I wonder if I'm being manipulated. I wonder if they're just playing me. But then you watch them...and you know. And you have to tell everyone else in the world that you know your kid and you know when they are happy and that you didn't homeschool to be like everyone else, you homeschooled to do what worked for your child and you. :) Great post!

  3. I'm struggling with it, but at an earlier stage I guess. We've tried unschooling a bit, as in some experimental days, and it makes a lot of sense to me on the one hand, but on the other it scares me.

    It sounds like DrWho is very self-motivated. I've wondered if it's easier (generally) for girls to be more self-led than boys.

    1. I don't know if I could say that gender thing unequivocally, but my son definitely prefers schooly school.

  4. Oh no. Not at all. While my little one is only 7 (in exactly 10 days Waaah!) he is more than a little self motivated. I think he shares the obsessive gene with his dad. I definitely see him seeking to learn things that interest him and squirreling away those things that have yet to intrigue him

  5. Great post, Karen! Teens are hard because they're full of boundless energy. It's gotta be hard to use that energy to its fullest, but I know you do just fine. And I'm pretty sure you know you do all right too, except for those moments. But heck, I have my doubts about sending my kids to school. I comfort myself by telling myself, we all have to make it one way or the other whether we're schooled or unschooled. And life is always a surprise.

  6. Oh wow, pull up a chair and let's pour some wine and talk! Dr. Who sounds a lot like my very *ahem* challenging teenage daughter in many ways. I could have written the first paragraph of your post and -- yes -- I'm struggling with this. I am thrilled when I see her spending time on the things that really matter to her. And in a way I am so proud that she doesn't seem to give a rat's patootie about what *I* think is important. ;-) But part of me feels like I'm failing by not ensuring that she gets some semblance of a traditional high school education. It helps me to remember how little of my high schooling has mattered in my life and how -- in college -- I left so many parts of myself behind to be a "good" student. When I look at it that way, I realize "River" is much wiser, in some ways, than I was at her age.

    1. *Ahem* You might be right...the wine is on me!

      At certain bright moments, I realize that high school is kind of a waste land and ANYTHING a person wants to know, they can learn.

      River and Doctor Who might just outshine all of us!

  7. Maybe if you take away the term "unschooling" and think about it as just living maybe you could get past it. Terms often make you feel like you have to follow this or that or it is suppose to look like this or that. Removing those ideas or expectations - which can be REALLY difficult - can be so freeing! I have a post that might of interest to you and some of your readers - Living their Lives -
    Thanks so much for sharing!

  8. OMG I have this issue with my 15 year old son! In our local group of homeschoolers I have gotten advice from unschool him or add more stuff on his day! There are def. subjects we have to do in high school, he was a little behind in school (when he went) BUT I try to unschool mostly in the summer months so that he his freedom to explore what he wants to do. then I incorporate those things into his subjects for the following year. Like for science this last year he did animal studies, basically he studied animals that he gets to help out with at a local zoo. it was a win win the zoo was impressed that he knew so much about the animals and I got him to apply himself! hehe


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