Thursday, June 19, 2014

Officially Unschooling 2 Years Now

We've officially been unschooling and (doing our best to) parent peacefully for 2 years now. How did I mark the occasion? By making a total ass of myself. 

We were scheduled to head out to visit some family when we walked out to the garage and found one of the car's tires completely flat. As luck would have it, I'd just loaded the trunk up with all sorts of junk to take to the resale shop. Full. And now I had to unpack it all to get to the jack and spare tire. So I was unloading the trunk, feeling stressed out, when Josh (9y) saw a VCR he thought was his. It wasn't. We had words. I told him to either be helpful or get out of the garage, in not so nice a way. He stormed inside to his room yelling, "I'm not going!", slamming doors, and I yelled back, "Good!"

Super mature, right?

I quickly realized I needed to be the bigger person and go apologize, so to his room I went. Apparently I had not given myself enough time to calm down because there was more yelling, legos thrown at the wall, screams of "you can't control me!" and threats of being locked inside the bedroom for all eternity. We were quite angry with each other.

Finally I got myself under control. Josh asked what I would really do if he never came out of his room ever again. I told him I would miss him every moment.
"But you said you'd be happy a minute ago."
I told him I had said things I didn't mean because I was angry. He noted that he had thrown his favorite lego set and broken it because he was angry. We talked about how we both had done things we didn't mean to out of anger, and how we both can work on expressing our feelings in a healthier way. It ended up being a really good conversation.

So the point of my sharing this story is to say (yet again) no matter how long you've been doing something, you're still going to make mistakes. Even if other people find you to be an inspiration, you'll never be perfect. Life always has a new lesson to teach. Everyone has a personal battle to be fought. In moments when you feel yourself slipping, you can stop yourself. When you slip even farther, you can still recover. When times get hard, refocusing on relationships helps me pull it together. Every relationship has its strains, but if at the end of the day your child feels truly loved, you're doing something right.

Some More Thoughts on Praise

We were visiting some folks recently and I noticed something about the way they interacted with Bug (3y). First of all, they were asking him all sorts of quizzical questions (like whether he could recognize letters, colors, shapes, or count) completely out of context with the rest of the conversation. Then when he was about to answer, they'd speak over him. Every time. 

The other thing I noticed was how quick they were to praise even the slightest thing he did, especially if he was able to get a word in edge wise.

I pondered over this for the next few days and took extra notice of how we interact with Bug at home in those respects. I noticed that we do indeed wait for a considerable pause while he gathers his thoughts to respond in conversation, and the wait is well worth it because he comes up with some really clever things to say. I love being able to get his unique perspective on the world. I also think it is so important to model good conversational skills in this way. Too often when discussing with other adults I notice how people tend to speak over each other and respond without actually considering what the other person said.

Tuesday at breakfast I had an interesting thought considering praise. Bug was eating bacon and said, "Buh. Buh. B for bacon." We do our best not to praise, so my response was a simple, "Yes, that's right. Bacon starts with B." He went on to name the starting sounds and letters for everything else on the table. We thought up other words that started with the same sounds, and even changed up the classic "C is for cookie" song to "B is for bacon" and "C is for coffee". It was a meal full of learning. If we had initially praised him and made a big deal about his 'b for bacon' statement, I wonder if he would have continued along that same path or if his thought process would have been derailed. Distracted and refocused on our reaction.

I've written before about how I think praise for normal behavior, like thinking or being kind or courteous, makes the behavior seem abnormal by calling attention to it. I think we need to be especially careful about avoiding praise when it comes to helping our children learn to think.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Responses to Car Post

I'm enjoying reading through the responses to my last post, the one about leaving my kids in the car. I'm shocked (though really I shouldn't be) when subjects like this come up how many responses are rooted in assumptions. 

Assumptions about knowing my children's character better than I (they won't unlock the doors for me when I get back). Assumptions about what kind of transmission my car has (they could accidentally knock the car into gear!). Assumptions about the location in which my car is parked (the brake could come off and they'd roll downhill into traffic!). Assumptions about the other patrons at the post office that day (Car jackers! Human traffickers! Kidnappers! Any of them! All of them!). (To this point in particular I beg you to read statistics on crimes against children. Papa and I are astronomically more likely to cause them harm than a stranger.)

My favorite are the assumptions about my character from one snippet of our story, like this gem- "Stupid selfish bitch poor excuse of a mother disgusting".

If you've taken the time to read through even a dozen of our posts here and come to that opinion of me, that's fine. If you choose to communicate that opinion to me in the manner above, I don't give anything you have to say any merit. None. If you don't bother to read more than the one post before forming your opinion of me, I'm not going to hold your opinion in any regard either.

Let's try to base our opinion on facts, and take the time to research those facts, instead of basing them on assumptions. Ask questions. It's okay to do that. Really, it is. If you're leaving a comment on a facebook page, you likely have the whole of the internet at your fingertips as well. Put it to good use.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Leaving Kids in the Car

Today I left my kids in the car alone. 

We were at the post office. It was 86 degrees outside. I took the post office box key off my chain, left the car running with the air conditioner on, turned to my 9 year old and said, "The phone is right here if there's some crazy emergency. Lock the doors behind me when I get out. Be right back." Then I stepped out leaving him with his 3.5 year old brother to walk inside the glass walled building to the PO box, approximately 25 feet away, from which I could literally see both children in the car.

In the perhaps 90 seconds I was out of the car I wondered if someone was going to call the police. According to Texas state law, it is illegal to leave a child in the car for longer than 5 minutes if a) the child is younger than 7, AND b)not attended by another person of at least age 14. Technically I did nothing illegal. I was not gone more than 5 minutes.

I understand the danger of leaving small children in the car. I do. This post is not about that.

This post is about the culture of fear mongering that is so prevalent today. It honestly pisses me off that I had to expend energy worrying about someone calling the police while I checked our PO box; knowing that someone could have turned our lives upside down with a phone call. I am more than triple the distance from my children, with absolutely no visibility, if I go check the mailbox in the front yard while they stay in the house. Am I to think this is too risky as well? Am I to hover over them as they run around on the playground? Are we to never let our children experience any independence?

It feels to me that this mentality of being hyper-vigilant and over-protective is trying to undermine parents' confidence. If you are even minimally confident in the way you've raised your children, and if you trust them to handle the situations they are in, society is ready and waiting to punish you for not second guessing yourself. Heaven forbid anyone feel confident weighing the risks and benefits of their own situations and making an informed decision.

I don't know what to do to battle this mentality except to say-

Follow your gut. Be confident in your parenting. Trust your children.

Some Tips for Having your Kid's Pictures Taken

Hi Everyone, I know it's been a while. Life is busy. Facebook isn't a priority. What can I say?

I wanted to take the time to post today about having your children's pictures taken. Papa is a children's photographer and there are things he sees all too often that really frustrate him. I wanted to share what I think would be his tips here, and hope he doesn't mind me speaking for him too much. 

#1. Do not force your child into the arms of a stranger.

I feel like that should be obvious, but apparently it's not. If your child/ren are upset or uncomfortable about taking pictures, don't force them. Not only does it go against everything you're (hopefully) teaching them about how they own their body, trusting their instinct especially in regards to other people, etc, but it's going to create fear around the entire process of having pictures done, meaning they will be fearful and anxious the next time you try too.

#2. Don't yell at, threaten, and belittle them in an attempt to get them to smile.

Doesn't work. Should be obvious. I know I don't feel overjoyed when people I love suddenly start barking orders at me while bright lights shine in my face. I'm betting your child won't either. Really, a set of portraits is not worth setting back your relationship with your child. It just isn't. A good photographer should be able to help your child feel relaxed and comfortable, and get them to laugh- capturing a genuine smile. If they don't, find a new one, but at least give them a chance.

#3. Don't talk about how terrible the pictures are in front of your child.

I can't even tell you how many proud children suddenly became heartbroken when their parents nit-picked their pictures. Remember, this is an image of your child. You are talking about THEM. If you don't like them, fine, but either wait until your child isn't around to overhear or choose your words carefully when discussing it with the photographer.

#4. Please don't place any worth on how well your child did for a camera.

The worth of a person comes from a lot of things. Let's teach our kids it comes from how they treat others, the choices they make, how they uphold their values. Not from how the photons bouncing off them flew through a lens to be captured. Again, your relationship with your child is much more important than a set of pictures.