I had joined these online unschooling information communities, where parents from all over the world can interact. There are many knowledgeable people there as are many people just stepping into unschooling. It is an incredible space.
However, like anywhere else in the world, intolerance abounds. Or perhaps it is intolerance in me at listening to generalizations on how unschooling should be.
My current discomfort is with Sandra Dodd. Yes, her site is still on one of my highest recommendations for information on the subject, but I find that like any other human, she is rather set in her view of unschooling, which makes it rather difficult to listen to some of her opinions on unschooling.
I guess, what I will have to do, is start my own ‘brand’ of unschooling, which really is what every parent does, whether schooling or unschooling or other.
This post is about my belief in respecting a child. It is about not knowing what is best, and doing what I think would best support my objectives. I can only ever find out.
Two statements made by Sandra recently remain in my mind as hallmarks of how we can become rigid in our thoughts and how we stop learning when we begin “teaching”.
“If she can’t give enough to make unschooling better than school, she should put the child in school.”
“If she can’t give enough to keep the child from being an absolute mess, she should give him up for adoption.”
I made a response to these on the lists, but I have no belief that it will be posted, since said Sandra also has the ability to block posts. It will take a person willing to reflect to actually absorb the response statements like this get.
Sandra, I bet you were right where we are in the beginning and didn’t actually begin knowing it all. How would you have felt when you didn’t know what was to come and things were rough, and some ‘expert’ suggested that your child would be better off without your contributions if you were not able to ‘crack it’? You still don’t know the future. What if they get messed a few years later? Will you give them up for adoption?Or, in other words, I don’t know if I can make unschooling better than school. I don’t know if I can keep my child from being an absolute mess whether I school or unschool, raise him myself or give him up for adoption. All I know is that I believe that I am making the most respectful choice I can make for my child. By the time I am forced to accept that I did indeed mess my child up, it will be too late, since of course, I’m not intentionally messing him up. My child would also have some security in what was happening, however messed it was. Would he cope with whatever parents he would get through adoption? How do I know the adopted parents won’t mess him further? I will never see my child as messed, so I cant trust my own judgment. I want the best life for him, even if it means I should keep my toxic self away. So tell me, wise one, should I send him to school or adoption? By these standards, does anyone deserve a child at all?
It is not that Sandra doesn’t care about the well being of a child. I know she does, or she would never have made this phenomenal effort. I think, somewhere down the line, responding to so many questions, providing so much invaluable advice, working so hard to extend support to new beginners, she has lost that much essential space for self-awareness that makes it possible to keep our own selves nourished. When that space gets crowded out, our actions start being automatic based on what we usually say, and they take on a life of our own, while we still continue to see ourselves as sensitive and caring.
I have no doubt that she actually means this statement as well-intentioned advice to mothers who question the need to give their children the freedom to do whatever they want and learn from that. What she means is that if you grudge your children that, there is no point making this huge effort toward unschooling, because you will have ended up making all the effort, but with the same result as school. I also took it like that. I just think that it comes from a place of being God, and I resent her implication that she knows what is better for my child.
I still have a lot of respect for Sandra. Her words are invaluable support for someone beginning a journey, like me. I read them, I reflect on them and often they empower me to have a more enabling attitude toward growth. Mine and the others too. So don’t go, “Oh, I was reading her because you recommended, and now I’d better stop before she wrecks my self-esteem”. Read her, read everyone. Just trust yourself. Trust that you are doing the best you can, and that is always good enough.
It is also a learning on how there is no point idolizing a person to a place of infallibility and then being outraged when they turn out to be human. It is a lesson for me to see the humanity in me, in others.