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Learning in Freedom

Welcome to Learning in Freedom, a blog all about the learning adventures (and mishaps) of the Allen family. My four children are unschooled, following their interests and passions every day and living the lives of their choosing. The purpose of this blog is to share our every day lives (and my not-so-humble opinons) with anyone interested in stopping by. We hope this will give a glimpse of how natural learning unfolds from day to day......

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Pushing vs. supporting

I had a discussion at ARGH in March about the idea of forcing your child to attend a class they were reluctant to attend, after showing interest. My bottom line is that even if my children gain something valuable from being forced/coerced, what they lose is MUCH more influential...trust in themselves.

The topic came up again at Unschooling Basics this week and Joyce Fetteroll answered it so well I thought I'd just share the post in it's entirety. The ~~ parts are quoting the original poster and the rest of this is all Joyce. She was one of the voices I found SO incredibly helpful about a decade ago, when I first discovered how unschooling could impact our entire parenting journey, not just the educational aspects.

The above picture is of Jalen, helping me get our seeds started early this spring, not because anyone made him but because he likes to grow things. He scrubbed some doors and moulding for me today too, because he saw me doing it. Funny how that self-motivation thing works eh? :)

Oh, and I've climbed mountains and gardened and all sorts of things that are very challenging just because I wanted it enough. There's a saying amongst climbers about why they climb a mountain; "because it's there".


On May 9, 2009, at 1:26 PM, DJ250 wrote:
~~ I have a friend who's interested in unschooling
but feels that her rather shy daughter would not have
varied interests if she hadn't pushed her at certain times.~~

Quite possibly.

There are adults who were pushed through music by
well meaning parents who are grateful for the pushing.

There are adults who were pushed through music by
well meaning parents who have so wrapped the
memories of coercion and tears and powerlessness
around music that they want nothing to do with music.

(Music can be filled in with anything: basketball, cleaning
up, writing, math, horses ...)

Both shed tears and complained, so how does a parent
know what the outcome will be? Unfortunately we so
want to give kids all the advantages that the stories
of people who are grateful they were pushed, the times
when our kids find happiness in something we pushed
them into, loom larger than the far more common stories
of people who avoid what they were pushed through.

How many people were forced through 12 years of
math and hate it? How many love it?

So, are the only two options pushing while praying
or not pushing?

No. But this is a slippery slope because helping kids
past the humps can end up being pushing. So, the
first idea to examine is that each time we push,
we run the risk of the child deciding they need
someone else to push them, that they can't move
past the difficulties on their own.

It will be also helpful to keep in mind that you
could be wrong. It might be the worst thing for
that child. And you'll be helping your child with
another life skill by letting them assess and decide if
it's right. Each time they decide, they learn a bit
more about themselves.

So, with that in mind, I'd talk it over with the child.
*Don't* begin with the idea of convincing them they
should let you push them since you feel it's a good idea
for them. Listen to them.

~~Mom pushed her to try a 4-H horse competition which
the kid found she rather liked after doing it.~~

And while she pursued that she was not pursuing
something else. Maybe the other things would have
been something she liked even better. Or

The point is that there are a million choices we can make,
a million things we could get interested in. Everytime we
focus on one, there's nearly a million others we're not choosing.
We can't ever know we've found the ultimate, best thing.
But having the freedom to choose and explore is even better
than certainty.

~~Mom says she wouldn't have so much knowledge about
horses now and wouldn't have found out she enjoyed such
a class if she hadn't been pushed a bit to do it.~~

The daughter might even agree. But the most important thing
is the mother is deciding on the value and that the pushing
yielded something the mom values.

The focus should be on the child. What does the child want?
We know less what the child wants, less about who the child is
-- the child knows less! -- the less we listen and the more
we push.

My daughter Kat's a very good distance runner and loves
running. She joined the school cross country team.
My husband loves running too and was on the same team
when he was in high school. He loves competition. Not one
of those rabid beat 'em types, but he gets jazzed setting
up goals for himself. He tried to help her train to beat the
cream of the crop. (Not a huge stretch since she's a natural
at it.) At first she enjoyed it. But as she continued, she
started to realize the goal of beating someone (and the
possibility of failure) didn't float her boat. She just loved
to run. It was hard for Carl to even grasp the idea of not
caring about competing and there was a lot of strain until
he finally accepted that someone could have great talen
but want to do something other than what he'd do with it.

~~She feels it's human nature to go the easy route instead
of trying things that are tough.~~

It's human nature to avoid what we feel is a waste of time,
energy and resources.

It's also human nature to pour energy into what we
find fascinating.

If someone is made to climb a mountain, they'll find
the easiest path, and perhaps even cheat.

If someone desires to climb a mountain, they may
even make it more difficult -- challenging -- for
themselves if the route doesn't light their fire.

If it were human nature to go the easy route, I
wouldn't be sitting here writing out a response!
No one would write a novel. No one would
climb Mt. Everest. No one would bake a cherry
pie from scratch. No one would have kids ;-)

~~She said when she was growing up maybe if someone
had pushed her more to take tougher science classes,
she would have become a vet.~~

It's much easier to blame others for our failures than
to accept responsibility.

That sounds harsh and judgmental. It's meant as a
universal truth. When we decide we aren't capable
of something and feel that we can't accomplish
something unless someone else uses their power
over us to make us, we can absolve ourselves of failure.
It's not our fault we aren't doing x. It's other people's
fault for not pushing us, or not clearing the way for us.

A far more useful life skill for kids is knowing they can
do whatever they set their minds to. That trumps
a knowledge of horses or guitar skills or ability to
spell or whatever someone's personal need is.

While it would be *easier* if her parents had
pressured science on her. (*And* she had liked it.)
Now, not being a vet isn't their responsibility. It's hers.
She'd be living the idea that you can do anything you
put your mind to if she decided to become a vet right
now rather than modeling that you can blame your
failures on others.

For a shy child, it would be far more valuable for mom
to help her find ways the daughter can use to get past
the humps to do the things the daughter wants to do.
If the daughter gets the idea she needs the mom to push
her, she could end up at 20+ wishing her mom had pushed
her in science so she could be a vet.

~~She knows of people who perused the college
catalogues, saying "Hmm, what are the easiest classes
to take."~~

When college is seen as another hoop they're
pressured to jump through, why wouldn't they
choose the easiest route? It isn't until school
change to be relevant to people's lives, it isn't
until a college degree isn't seen as the key to
success, that kids won't be choosing for expediency's

When college is seen as one option to explore what
fascinates you, then interest will be the determining
factor in choosing courses. That's what will carry over
from living a life exploring what fascinates you.



Blogger Michael said...

Thanks to both you and Joyce for this terrific post.

Given that it's Mother's Day, I thought this would be a good opportunity to wave at you from here Oop North and tell you that from what I know of you, you may well be the coolest mom I've ever known. Certainly one of the coolest, by far! Keep on being a rockstar!

See you at the Northeast conference again in August?

3:57 PM  
Blogger Sissie said...

I have in the past thought of myself as "Lazy" because I cut corners on tasks---My Dh said--"you're not lazy, you're efficient"
When a person finds an easier way to get something done---it's ingenuity and efficiency!
Thanks for the great post!

12:47 PM  
Blogger Madeline said...

Wonderful! Thanks for posting this.

9:08 AM  
Blogger Mary Beth said...

I agree wholeheartedly. We have always encouraged our kids to try things that interest them and drop them if they are not meeting their needs. It is how they find out who they are. I currently have a teenage daughter who is ready to move on from ballet, which had been very important to her, to explore other forms of dance, such as hula and belly dancing. She is making lifestyle choices and becoming involved in causes that she feels are important. I am proud to know her.

8:30 AM  

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