Thursday, April 20, 2006

Synchronicity

This week, almost simultaneously, two very disparate things were posted on two lists/boards that I am a member of, and the contrast could not have been more startling if they had been planted there on purpose.

On a very open-ended "alternative" parenting board, a mom posted about how no matter how kids are raised (Christian, not Christian, public school, private, homeschooled), they all do "the same shit" and their parents have to "deal with the same crap" (essentially, kids sneaking around, going out with their parents' knowledge, drinking, smoking, getting into trouble).

Meanwhile, on a list of unschooling parents, there has been a very inspiring thread about how wonderful their teens are. How they respect themselves, their parents, their friends, their siblings. How close they are to their parents, how responsible, content, thankful, and joyful they are. How the parents feel that their teenagers are their "bestest friends".

There's a great big ol' myth out there in our culture, and it is this: no matter how you raise your kids, as teens they will raise hell. Unschooling puts lie to this myth. Why? Because whether kids are Christian or not Christian, schooled in public, private, or homeschooled, if their relationship with their parents is one of submission to an authority over their lives, rebellion is a likely outcome. On top of this, throw school into the mix - whether it's six hours a day of various teachers and classes telling you what and how to learn, or whether it's your mother at the kitchen table telling you how to learn - and you have a veritable recipe for disaster.

Teenagers' lives are full of transition, change, massive amounts of energy, overwhelming emotions - these things are true. Give them a cage to rattle and they will certainly pound those bars hard, trying to determine if there's a chink or a gap anywhere. When they're told what, how, where, how much, and why to do or not do things their whole lives, then when they get to the age where they're clever enough and independent enough to sneak around and get into some serious trouble, it's a good likelihood that they will do so. But what happens with teenagers who are raised with respect for their opinions since childhood? With kids whose ideas about themselves and their preferences and their direction in life are entirely determined by themselves? They still have the energy, emotions, and drive of every other teen, but it can be used to further whatever their life's passions happen to be. I think about the incredible amounts of energy I wasted on anger as a teen - rattling that cage and rattling it hard - what could I have accomplished with that energy and drive if it was my own to use as I wished?

Today and every day, I am building the relationship with my kids that will sustain us through the teenage years and beyond. I will listen to their hopes and dreams, and try to help make them happen. If those dreams include video games I don't care for, hobbies I'm not interested in, a hairdo that makes me cringe, or music I'd rather not listen to, I will enter into their worlds until I see these things as they do: see how cool and enveloping it is to play that video game, how fun that hobby is, how freeing that hairdo, how that music has layers and textures and a message I didn't hear on the first listening. My kids will spend their energy, their drive, and their emotion on things that are meaningful to them, today and every day.

And so I can honestly say as I look to the future, to the teen years: I'm looking forward to them.

6 comments:

Karen said...

Great post Robin! I chuckled reading your response to the post...and hers to you. You have way more energy for that 'good fight' than I do - I think it's amazing that you keep trying though

Karen

Jen said...

Lovely post Robin. I am so delighted to have found your blog. Would you please share the unschooling list that has the inspiring thread on wonderful teens? I have several children who fall into that category and I would love to be in contact with other like minded families. Thanks much!

Jen

Beth said...

Robin, thank you for this post. My 17yo has never gone through the stereotypical American teen rebellion phase and I seriously doubt he ever will! He's always been unschooled: he is a loving, kind-hearted, compassionate and passionate, bright, energetic kid, adored by his little brothers and about whom I receive plenty of complements from other adults. Respect and unconditional love for our children goes an awfully long way ...

~Beth

Almost Lazarus said...

3 of my 4 teens have been worry free. Not a bad average. The fourth? Not rebellious, not in trouble with the law - just a very sensitive creature out of place in this laid back "who cares" kind of family. She just requires more attention....

Technicolour Nightmare said...

I wonder if you could talk about how unschooled children manage to do things that they don't want to do when they get older, say when they have to get a job.

Robin said...

I will certainly think about writing more on this, but I'd guess that unschooled teens just do what they always do - follow their passions. My son earned $56 selling plants at a garage sale last summer (he loves to garden). My 6 y.o. daughter has made over $100 this year playing her violin. My kids follow their passions. I'm sure their living (job) will come from that, just like my DH's and my jobs/careers have.

Usually when we (humans) do something that we don't want to do, it's because there is some other good reason to be doing it. Millions of soldiers fight and die for a country because they think it's worth defending. Mothers change diapers in the middle of the night because they want their babies to be comfortable. People work in jobs they might not like in order to feed their families. And my kids will do things they don't like too - they don't care for cleaning out the guinea pig cage or chicken coop, but they love having the animals, so they do it. They don't care for emptying the dishwasher, but they'll do it in order to get out of the house and to the park more quickly. I don't see it as any different than the reasons I do things I don't like to do. And on that note, I'd better go fold some laundry :-)