As unschoolers, we trust our children to make the choices about what they do with their time. Who would know better how to spend one’s day than oneself? This is where, as parents, we often get accused of unparenting. Nothing could be further from the truth and I’ll tell you why.
Parenting a child who unschools means you need to stay in tune with your child. Really see them and know them and understand how they tick so that you can best facilitate their journey. With no curriculum to guide you, the child is the guide and you all know how much they change every day. So, this is no small feat.
I have tended toward the radical unschooling end of the spectrum, as much as our lifestyle allows. B chooses when he goes to sleep, how much and when he eats, what outside activities he wants to go experience, and until a couple days ago, how much screen time he wanted.
When our schedule changed in September, four months ago, he was given carte blanche with the computer, game systems, and his tablet. I noticed as time went on that less choices were being made to do other activities. Science experiments, that were once an almost daily thing, were not an interest. YouTubers were becoming a source of ‘friendship’ of sorts. Our cabinets and closets and shelves of toys, books, games and puzzles were becoming completely ignored.
I was still strewing and asking often if certain activities might be of interest and was increasingly being told, not right now. While months were going by, I was holding the trust that he would soon learn to self regulate his screen usage. Then I started to notice things he would say about sucking at real life or that he didn’t smile much any more. He started chewing his nails until they bled. We talked about it feeling difficult for him to shut down the screens and do other things that he enjoyed. He ‘couldn’t.’
Not every child, or adult for that matter, is going to be that way. Part of the trust and being in tune with your child, is being aware of when you need to step in and help set healthy limits. We all need help now and then. He is upset about having these new limits and I even heard, “you’re not the boss of me!” We will get through it together because, no, I’m not the boss of him, we are a team, but I’m also his mom. My duty is to do what’s best for him and help him be his best self.