“I just can’t get my kids to do _____” You fill in the blank. Their homework? Anything around the house? Their chores? The list is endless. Unless of course you let it go. Part of unschooling is learning how to let go of the idea that we must always be ‘getting’ our kids to do things. But if we don’t ‘make’ them do ______, will they ever learn to do it?
I must say that this is the hardest part of unschooling. Or at least it was for me. The nagging thought at the back of your brain that says your kids might grow up to be slackers who aren’t motivated to do anything. They’ll live in a dirty house, never wash themselves or their clothes and won’t know anything about history, science, math, etc. The reality is quite different. The reality is that since I’ve let go of the have to’s (and I am far from perfect at it – my most common slip is in the cleaning of the rooms area) my kids have become more responsible. Sometimes it happens so casually that I almost miss it. But not today. I bought the kids McDonalds for lunch, and since they no longer deliver (yes, they used to) I brought the food back in one of their large shopping bags. After the food was long gone, the backs, cups and Happy Meal boxes sat on the table. Usually at some point I sweep all the trash into the shopping bag and throw it away. Today I didn’t. Not on purpose, but because I got sidetracked and spent about an hour on the phone with a friend. When I came out, all the trash was in the bag, the ketchup and salt were put away and any dishes were in the sink. Wow! This is not a big thing, but I felt like it was. Maya just cleaned up. Without being asked, or hounded, or told to. Which makes it much more satisfying.
Then tonight Joshua and I went out to dinner and a movie, and Maya and Ben stayed at our apartment with Maya’s friend Greta. We left money for them, and Greta’s Dad lives in the building in case they really needed something. When we came back, they’d ordered pizza, tipped the delivery guy, and left the change on the table. And eaten the pizza, of course.
It’s little things like that which satisfy me. While we were out, Ben re-read a book he’d completed yesterday. Nobody told him to do that. He just decided he wanted to. Even with the Wii and a laptop at his disposal.
This is what unschooling is about. It’s like ‘whole body’ learning. It’s all inclusive, from reading to ordering pizza and cleaning up. And ideally none of it comes from coercion. Little things add up to create whole lives.