Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Unschooling does not mean Unruley

I find myself at odds with the concept that because you unschool you don't discipline your kids, have rules for them at all, or that your children shouldn't be taught appropriate behavior for certain situations.

I think its probably one of the biggest misconceptions among people who do not unschool, and maybe even some that do.

I believe that children need guidance. Unschooling does not mean that I do not guide them. It means that they get to have a say in their lives. It means that while I may guide them in certain areas I also am teaching them how to make those choices safely, and wisely.

For example: My children are taught to speak respectfully to adults, even in their disagreement. They are reprimanded if they do not. I expect them to be able to speak to adults with respect. I also expect that if they disagree with an adult to do so respectfully. Their opinions and thoughts are valid. They have the right to disagree with adults. They just must do it with integrity and respect.

My children were taught from an early age that in certain situations they have to behave a certain way. This in my opinion is an important tool for the rest of your life. You would never walk into a court room and run screaming and jumping around like it was a rock concert. In turn you wouldn't go to a rock concert and act like you were at a funeral. So when I take my children out to dinner, or to a movie or to the grocery store I expect certain behavior. I expect when I take my 4 children to dinner somewhere that they can sit and entertain themselves until their food arrives, that they can participate in conversation and that they can use manners while at the table. I do not expect that they will scream, throw tantrums, or run around the establishment as if they were never taught what was appropriate behavior for the situation. If they feel they just can not contain their energy they can ask to go outside for a few minutes. I started this rule as toddlers. If they were just to amped up then I would take them outside. They are not allowed to disrupt other diners simply because they can not behave with situational behavior. When taking my children to the grocery store they were taught that it is not ok to run screaming through the store or to beg me for junk. Instead they were taught that in the grocery store they should help decide what types of foods are on sale and plan meals for the week. They were taught to walk through the store out of courtesy for others.

As an Unschooling mom of 4 kids I think instructing my children on what type of behavior is appropriate for what situation is one of the most important life skills I can help them with. I know that some will say that that is stifling their nature but I disagree. I think that children who have been taught what is appropriate in each situation are appreciated by people around them. I think it also gives the child more confidence. They know what is accepted and that means they will have less feelings of inadequacy.

Rules do not have to be arbitrary. I do not believe in having a lot of rules and dictating to children what I think they should do. I do however believe that some guidelines help children to learn what is acceptable. I think its important to set those guidelines in place early and teach them from a young age. I also think its important to be consistent and to have love and compassion be your guide in what is best for the 'rules' you set.

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