Monday, September 5, 2016

Postscript to Unschooling: Putting my money where my mouth is

I meant to include this in the unschooling post.  I often feel somewhat bad that I don't read to my boys very much.  Reading To Your Children and Family Dinners are two areas where I don't get to nod satisfyingly as I read all the articles touting them since I'm Doing The Right Thing.

We've gotten into a terrible habit at bedtime which is that the boys like to watch TV before bed.  The reason this is terrible is because time before bed is a great time for intimate conversation, feelings that we've been avoiding all day coming up, answering questions about how things work and life philosophy, and reconnecting.  All of which is neatly avoided by watching Rabbids Invasion or Bloons TD fighting M.O.A.Bs.
The reason this habit came about is because I was thoroughly overwhelmed at bedtime for many years, was out of patience and energy, and was negotiating with my husband to the point where we would play chicken as to who would fold first and not be able to stand it and put the kids to bed (which often missed the window and headed into overtired) and eventually evolved into an extremely rigid schedule based on our evening activities, and eventually morphed away from that as the kids' bedtimes shifted around.

The point being that sometimes I have the energy to follow through on all the things that I feel are "important for their development" and sometimes I feel like I'm negotiating with myself for sanity and I have to make extreme choices about what to drop (read Greg McKeown's book Essentialism for more about that).  And philosophically I shift between "this is a pleasant life" and "relax, everything is fine" and "you need to be on top of those things."  It's a continuum and I feel different degrees of joy, comfort, and anxiety at different times.

So on Friday night I decided, Hey, won't it be nice if I read them a book?  That will stop the maniacal fighting and boundless energy and we can read! And it will be wonderful!

I went and got Caddie Woodlawn, which I adored as a child.  And The Secret Garden.  Elazar, age 9, adhd, was willing to listen.  Jack, age 6, and Aharon, age 5, were a disaster.  They were fighting and giggling in that "we want attention and won't let you read" way.  So I ended up giving warnings and then disciplining and this is pretty much exactly what I don't like to do.  I think I realize now why I avoid this.

I did stop the Secret Garden and switch to Pippi Longstocking.  Aharon was not allowed to sit on near us, so of course he desperately wanted to, and tried to sneak quietly next to us, which was okay with me but not okay with my law-abiding 6yo... But Pippi was a better choice.  Ironically, our lives are a bit closer to Pippi's because we are unschoolers.  Elazar was riveted.

So I have one kid that will love reading.  And one kid that might be able to tolerate it, but the third is wreaking havoc in reading time.  How do parents get their little ones to sit during reading?  I feel sure I've heard of this phenomenon.

I asked Elazar last night if he wanted me to read more to him, and he did.  He fell over laughing when the children asked Pippi who tells her to go to bed and said she tells herself once nicely, and if she doesn't listen, she tells herself much more strictly, and if she still doesn't listen, she's in for a spanking.


  1. I love reading your thoughts and I love Pippi! Feeling like we could use reading her again.

  2. I read Pippi to Cheni. She loved it! I have issues with baby crawling over us and destroying books as my two middles would love to be read to.
    Then today I was reading to them and falling asleep so thoroughly that I was interrupted because I was not making sense... I am eagerly awaiting independent reading in them all.