Friday, December 4, 2015

A Subtle Misconception About Unschooling Part III

Do unschoolers need to learn to tolerate situations they don't like and people they don't like?

This is often an argument purported as to why children should go to school.  In the homeschool world, we don't consider it a strong argument.  We agree that children need to learn to be responsible and to tolerate things they dislike, but not for seven hours a day, every day.  I discussed cultivating responsibility and self-discipline in a different post.

People are often concerned that if you "allow" unschoolers to choose their own activities and interests, they will not learn to "buckle down" in the "real world."  Preliminary studies show that this is not the case.  Unschoolers tend to choose careers that have to do with their childhood interests, tend to choose enjoyable and meaninful careers over lucrative careers, tend to creative arts and entrepreneurship.  All of these things imply that unschoolers don't "need" to tolerate things they don't like; instead they are more likely to blaze new trails to figure out their needs in more creative ways rather than tolerating painful situations.  Preliminary studies also show that unschoolers do not have trouble in college or holding down jobs.

But the nuance that is nudging me is the idea that the benefit is that child is learning to tolerate being in situations that she doesn't like.  

I think it is because I don't think that Chana (or any mature unschooler) needs to "learn" how to tolerate being in situations s/he doesn't like.  I think every single mature unschooler already KNOWS how to tolerate being in situations they don't like.  It comes with maturity and a sense of responsibility and character development.  They tend to be gracious and polite, self aware and sensitive to a sense of community.  All of these qualities mean that if they are in situations they don't like, they handle them with aplomb.

I believe this is a quality that develops from being unschooled, from having a sense of being in charge of their own choices and their own lives and their own actions and their own learning.

And yet, I said that the experience of being stretched in this way is good for Chana at age 14.  So how is that different than her "learning" how to tolerate it?

About a year or so ago, I wrote a post about how I often choose emotional development over academics in the early years.

I think there is a very subtle distinction between what I am doing as an unschooler and how people perceive what is going on.  The perception is that Chana is "learning" to tolerate discomfort.  What I am actually doing is putting her in an environment where she is practicing the skill she already has.  My assessment is that she already can politely tolerate discomfort for a long term goal.  (And if an unschooler is excited about the goal, discomfort becomes largely irrelevant.)

All of these features: socializing, tolerating discomfort and authority, following through on commitments, learning things she isn't particularly interested in.  These are all things that a mature unschooler is capable of.  They don't need to "learn" them.  However, a fourteen year old unschooler might benefit from being in a situation where practicing it is useful for her character development.  The classes Chana is taking is a good forum for her to stretch herself using these skills.

I'm still trying to figure this out, so I might clarify further in the future.

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