Since we’ve started unschooling, I’d say that although we’ve done lots of science, math, art, literacy learning, using our bodies, the majority of what we’re tackling right now is relationships. By relationships I mean the whole spectrum of feeling and how we recognize and act on those feelings and how that affects our selves and others throughout the day.
The way kids are managed in school, where the only choice they have is to do what’s expected or to “disobey” leaves little room for emotional learning, for self-regulating awareness and skills, for conflict resolution, within self and with others. Additionally, when kids are in school they spend much less time with their siblings and parents.
We have opportunities all day for this now, where many opportunities were just boxed up, shelved and never opened while the kids were in school. If the kids watch shows for 3 hours, they feel yucky afterward. Then they sometimes take those yucky feelings out in conflicts with others. This applies to me too! If there’s a problem, it’s all the other persons fault. They were the one who [insert complaint here]. On top of the multitude of opportunities we now have with one another learning at home, we also have more need to resolve them because we all live together and are spending a whole lot of time together!
I’m trying to demonstrate and share in conversations with the kids that it’s important to ask yourself, especially when upset, am I helping? Am I making things better, more the way I want them to be by my actions and words? It’s so hard to let go of the anger, the feelings of being wronged, misunderstood, of the yucky inside and instead try to help but it’s the only way to move forward, so it’s important.
Today the kids had a communication breakdown that left both of them upset. I went over to them to try to help, while a bit upset myself that both kids were hurt and angry, and after I’d finished talking about how we can all do better to be kind and give others space, the kids told me that I’d upset them by the way I’d been talking. I acknowledged that I raised my voice a bit, apologized and then reminded them that often when we realize we’ve hurt someone or contributed to a problem, it hurts. It feels uncomfortable. That’s an important tool to help us make different choices later. Often the conflicts in our house come from a need for loving connection that’s not being met. Usually when we have conflict, what we really need is some meaningful, loving time together, really being aware of the other person. I am working to be more aware of this and to find ways to help us all to recognize this and ask for what we really need from each other.
I’m working on how to talk with the kids and not to them when there’s a problem. It’s harder when I am upset! But just as I expect them to try to help, that’s what I expect of myself too.
I expect it will take a long time to normalize in these areas and that we will continue to work on them throughout our lives. I also recognize that there needs to be space for these kind of things to bubble up for progress to happen. I’m certainly still working on all this and will be for as long as I’m alive.
It took me years and a lot of work and motivation to get to a place where I can be angry, realize I’m angry and make decisions that (most of the time) are not just anger fueled, but are made in order to create the solution I want, whether that’s understanding, comfort, being heard… I hope to be able to share what I’ve learned with both my kids.