Friday, April 14, 2006

No One Advertises Unschooling

This is a direct quote from a magazine ad for the Cayman Islands in a travel mag:

"I brought a little boy and went home with a lifelong buddy

When I took my 8-year-old son to the Cayman Islands, I thought he'd probably just play in the sand while I kicked back and caught up on some reading. Then we went kayaking. Then we went snorkeling. Then we went hiking. Then we went fishing. By trip's end, we'd done more together in five days than we had in the past five years." (italics mine)

Wow, how sad is that? It doesn't take a fancy vacation to connect with your kids. If you've only spent five days worth of time together in five years, it's time for a reality check. But how indicative of American life is this ad? Sadly, I'd bet it is all too true for too many parents and children. When lives go from before-school care to school to after-school care or sports or structured activities, there's very little time for just kicking back and getting to know one another.

No one takes out glossy full-color magazine ads for unschooling. Maybe if they did, it would read this way:

"I brought home a little boy and within weeks I had a lifelong buddy

When I took my 8-year-old son out of school, I thought he'd probably just do some workbooks while I kicked back and caught up on some reading. Then we went out in yard and kicked some piles of leaves. Then we went snail-watching. Then we went hiking. Then we played a game together. By week's end, we'd done more together in five days than we had in the past five years."

There's no corpporation to profit from such an ad, no tourist councils, no resorts. But that doesn't change the truth of it. Letting go of schoolish expectations is a vacation of the mind. Bon Voyage!


Glenda said...

I enjoyed this post.

I would've enjoyed it more reading it on the beach in the Cayman Islands, while taking a break from snorkeling and kayaking with my son and hubby (wink)!!

Kids are SO cool to spend time with. I'm glad I get to experience that 24/7 with mine.

Robin said...

Yeah, I could do with a trip to the Caymans, anytime soon... especially with the rain, rain, rain here.

Just dreaming about Seven Mile Beach and a tall pina colada and some snorkeling gear... ahh.....

Now if the government would ever pay me the same amount to educate my kids that they give to the schools ($8,000 per kid, per year I think it is here now), maybe we'd be there!

Kathy said...

What I find interesting is that for all that my life with my two kids is filled with school, and work, and after-school care, and extracurricular activities -- it sounds so much like yours. Somehow we still spend a *lot* of time hanging out and doing fun stuff and learning together at home and around.

If you ask me, the Cayman Islands ad is targeted at a particular kind of guilt-ridden parent (who probably isn't going to connect all that well with the kid when they get there anyhow) but it's no way an accurate reflection of the family life of most people, even most affluent dual-career family people.

Robin said...

Well, I can only speak to my own experience, everyone has to do what works best for them and their family. M. went to school two days a week last term (a Sudbury-model school) and I was simply astounded at how much less time together we had. When you add in the shlepping to and from, it took a lot out of our day. And he didn't have after-school, extra-curricular activities, or any homework at all, that was just the 9:30 - 3:00 school day. And the two years I was a working mom, I felt a huge impact on the time we had together. Those have been my experiences. For me, there's something very very different about spending vast amounts of unstructured time together. With the school schedule or my work schedule, time has to be slotted in here or there on evenings or weekends.

Unschooling for us gives us the freedom of big huge chunks of time together, time without an agenda. It just doesn't feel nearly the same to me, in my life as scheduled blocks of time. I won't speak to anyone else's life but mine.

Glenda said...

I worked part-time for the first 4 or 5 years of DS's life, and there was definitely a HUGE shift in how we were able to spend our time once I was home 24/7. To not live by the clock or a schedule is so freeing!! Being able to make pancakes or cookies at 11:00pm, or to be outside in the dark blowing bubbles instead of being inside getting ready for bed . . . things like that are much more difficult when a parent and a child have to get up the next morning to be at work and school by a certain time. I enjoy having the freedom to do those things other than on a weekend or holiday.

On the days when I worked all day, I felt the loss of the time together in a huge way. Yeah, we still spent time together after I got home and before DS went to bed, but I knew, from being home with him all day so many other days, what I was missing when I was at work rather than at home.

Like Robin, I'm speaking from my own experience. But I do know **from my own experience** that, for our family, there was definitely a big difference in how life felt when I worked parttime as compared to how it's felt since I quit working. The latter has been very positive for DS, DH, and me and that's the arrangement we'd like to keep in place for many years to come.

Kim said...

We've been doing a version of dual-income parenting for 13 weeks now (all of the hours, none of the pay), and I can't believe how little time we have together. Even with me "working" from home two days a week with Patrick at my feet, we have so little time to just hang out and play. And dh has even less. And everyone is grumpier as a result. What time we are home together are usually spent doing chores, running errands, etc.