Monday, August 6, 2012

One Little Word

I originally wrote this post to help parents who choose to unschool their kids.  But as I thought more about it, it's much more universal than that.  Parents are often looking for advice or guidance on how to do this right. Yet, we all know there are no courses or handbooks that can tell us exactly what to do. Some of that is a good thing - because what works for one family, may just not work for another.   But if you stick with principles, instead of look for a handy-dandy list of rules, you will have much more success. If you think about what kind of parent you WANT to be, then you'll have a much better shot at feeling good with the decisions that will face your family.  

So what makes unschooling work is a lot like what makes good parenting work. And it seems to boil down to one little word.

What is the word?

Ron with Katie, Alyssa & Michael in the tent

A simple preposition that makes all the difference. Think of how important that word is, when you visualize these scenarios.

Playing WITH your children.
....board games
....card games games
....make believe the treehouse
....on the tire swing
Playing in the sand at South Padre (Sue & Katie) the fort in the living room
.... in the pail of bubbles

Working WITH your children.
....on how to assemble a kite
....or ride a horse or a bike or a jet ski
....about how to change a flat tire
....on how to use mod podge, or make stepping stones
....on how to build a power point, or connect the modem

Talking WITH your children.
....about getting a new pet
....about which movie to go see
....about advertising you both see/hear on TV or billboards or radio
....about what kind of job he might like
On the road to Alaska...
stopping off to explore Yellowstone
....about why grandma has to repeat things so often

Interacting WITH your children.
....about how they feel when kids are mean
....about how to stand up for what's right
....about how to really listen and fight the urge to interrupt
....about what can be done about the homeless man on the corner
....about what you can do when you feel bored
....about what's considered rude or inconsiderate or kind or helpful
....about grocery shopping, or laundering, or cooking

 I'm sure you can come up with a bazillion more examples of things you do WITH your child. I just want you to realize that no matter what it is - the WITH aspect is the most important part!

Remember 20 years ago, the debate was "Quality" time vs. "Quantity" time? It had a lot to do with women choosing careers - but it's really not that black and white. You can have "quality time," and just not enough of it. And you can have "quantity time," but not be engaged or really present with your children. It's never simple, is it? You have to walk into it all consciously - checking and rechecking to be sure you're parenting in the way that you want.

Modeling behavior, having heartfelt discussions, getting the opportunity to share life experiences can only happen when you're WITH them. It seems obvious, but sometimes when you're tired or the kitchen is a mess, parents can get impatient and prefer the kids to go do something in the other room. That's when I want you to remember the little word: WITH.  Time will fly, and your relationship with your child as an adult as well as so many aspects of their own personality, will be directly related to how much WITH Time you gave them.
All of us together before
Michael left for the Peace Corps, Katie left for NYC, and Alyssa got engaged
So if you have to, paste a little piece of scrap paper like the one above with the word "With" on your bathroom mirror...or your put it up on your fridge with a magnet... paint it, cross-stitch it, print it - whatever you have to do to keep it in the front of your mind!

*Yes, this was also at my Unschooling Blog, but I needed it for my daily August 6th NaBloPoMo post! ha! So you might be seeing this twice. 


Reticula said...

YES! You said this so well. And so many parents need to hear and heed your advice. Even when it comes to cleaning a room, doing thing with is so important.

Sue said...

Thanks!! :)
Not very many people have even looked at this post though - so I doubt I'll have a lot of influence! haha!
Also, those pictures were really wacky up there, so I fixed that (I hope!)