Re: PLEASE help my unschool my 14yo....

Pamela Sorooshian <pamsoroosh@...>

On Jun 4, 2007, at 9:41 AM, Meredith wrote:

Start taking what he *is* doing more seriously.

This is SO often the key! I don't think it can be emphasized enough.
And it applies at all ages. No matter HOW trivial what they are doing
seems to be, to a parent, take it seriously. If a kid is spending
many hours a day watching soap operas, take it seriously. Start
watching together - subscribe to Soap Opera Digest. Bring up the
characters in your conversations. Bring up the situations and compare
them to real situations happening in the world to real people. And,
notice what it is that seems interesting about the soaps, to your
kid. Is it relaxing? Is it exciting? Is it the relationships or the
drama or the tragedy that is attractive? What is holding his/her

I picked soaps because most parents would probably think their kid
was wasting his/her time if he watched soaps for hours and hours
every day. But, replace "soap operas" with anything else - whatever a
kid might be spending their time on.

"Attention must be paid." (from Death of a Salesman)

An unschooling parent needs to be fully present with their kids,
sensitive to their kids' needs, and extremely respectful of their
kids' interests. This is simple and very difficult, at the same time.
It is so simple, it really asks so little of us, as parents, to pay
attention to what "is" right in front of us. But, it is very very
difficult to do, sometimes, especially when what our kids are
presenting to us appears to us to be negative or dull or unproductive.

I work at it, still, myself, sometimes. My 16 and 19 year olds have
been playing The SIMS for hours and hours, every day for a week.
They've been up until 3 or 4 in the morning playing and slept until 1
or 2 in the afternoon. This is hard for me - I have a little urge
inside myself to try to get them to do something more productive.
Having been down this road many times before, though, I stifled that
urge in myself and purposely thought supportive thoughts (they are
having so much fun with this, they are having fun TOGETHER and
enjoying a lot of hours of side-by-side play, a lot like when they
were little). And then, suddenly, a moment of clarity struck me - my
older daughter left last week for Alaska - she'll be gone for 3 or 4
months and most likely will not ever really live at home again. My
other girls' response has been to nestle down in the house and play
together - play something that involves creating and controlling
families' lives (The SIMS). DUH!

So - I got serious about supporting their play time - just by doing
little things like helping them find a missing disk and bringing them
some food and giving them a little kiss as I walked by, etc. MY
realization is what changed - not their behavior - but it changed the
entire feeling of our home - in a flash!

Next thing I knew, Rosie was writing a screenplay (NaNoWriMo is
sponsoring a screenplay writing month) and she's using the SIMS to
develop the characters and putting them into some kind of storyboard
software that Roxana found for her.

The kid who was upset that his mom put his straw in his milk box?
Paying more attention might show a series of situations like this one
- he probably is reacting to being treated just like the other kids -
it probably felt sort of like being part of an assembly-line. It
would probably help to single him out more, in advance, and
constantly ask him things like, "I'm putting the straws in for the
little ones, do you want to do yours, yourself?" Take every
opportunity to treat him as different and special.

My point is that you don't have to have the insight in advance. You
don't always have to have the knowledge of what the kid is going
through, what need they are trying to fill. You won't always know.
But if you pay close attention and take on face value what they're
showing you, and take it seriously whether or not you understand it,
you'll often get more insight, sometimes only after-the-fact.

In the post about the kid being upset about mom putting his straw in
his milk box for him, it was implied that his reason for "wigging
out" was trivial. I think it was supposed to indicate to us that the
kid is having meltdowns over such little things.

Instead of considering these little things, consider that they are
important and significant enough for a child to be really upset by
it, enough to disrupt an otherwise fun outing. This is not a trivial
matter, this is a matter that is serious to this child and, if it is
important to the child than mom ought to take it very seriously, as

As we get older and our kids grow up, we eventually come to realize
that all the big things in our lives are really the direct result of
how we've handled all the little things.

When people have several young children, they can often get into a
sort of mass production, assembly line, mode of operation. In a mall,
mom can be focused on getting food into the hands of each of the
kids, for example, while making sure none of them are wandering away.
Easy to not be aware of how one of the kids might be not comfortable
with the assembly-line approach until the kid explodes over some
seemingly trivial thing like mom sticking his straw in his milk
carton for him.

Take more time to pay more attention. "Sweat the small stuff." <G>
Slow down a lot. Time the extra minutes to check whether or not each
kid is comfortable in the car. Check whether each kid is getting the
food they really want. Check - "Do you want a straw? Want me to put
it in?" Take the time to focus on little things like this and the big
things will be good, too. Kids will learn to be more patient with
each other, to take care of each other, to pay attention to how
others are feeling, etc. Look into their eyes now, check in with how
they're doing, support what is important to them. Life with these
kids, when they are teens, will be pleasant and comfortable.

For the parent of the 14 year old - all the exact same advice! Figure
out how you might apply it to your situation. Don't worry that the
stakes seem higher - let that go. You still have years!


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