These two subjects are at the hart of Radical Unschooling – not because radical unschoolers necessarily find freedom in these areas more important than any other, but because we have been brought up to believe that kids cannot possibly handle freedom in these areas.
I have thought the same – that has actually been the main reason I did not consider myself a radical unschooler. But then a year or so ago my husband and I discovered the non-agression principle – and the more we thought of it, the more we realized that we could not enforce any rules on our kids for their own sake. I’ll come back to discussing the non-agression principle, as it applies to unschooling. It will suffice to say, that I can enforce rules, for my sake – that we are not allowed to encroach on each others freedom in this house – but I cannot, without feeling very immoral enforce encroach on the freedom of my kids.
That is one part of it – but there is also another. I don’t want to force my kids to eg. play outside – not even force them through bordom. I don’t want to force my kids to eat healthy food – not even force them through hunger. I want my kids to do things that feels good for them, and I want them to discover how wonderful it is to use their bodies – without coercion. I want them to discover that healthy foods are yummy and feels good. That swimming is fun and using your body and learning new things feels great. Not because mommy says so, but because they want to.
Well then – how did it go this freedom? Not so good…
Actually we tried it before we left for Spain – both with food and with TV – but mainly because I believed that some how my son would “self regulate” on both. And he didn’t – he ate more and more crap food, and watched more and more TV. Not just that – he wasn’t thriving. And we weren’t thriving. I was increasingly hard to get him anywhere, it was increasingly hard to engage in a conversation. It was just.not.working. So I stopped, pulled the strings and called the shots. I.was.the.mommy.person.
When we moved to Spain we had a period of time, where we were really busy and stressed, and the kids were watching a lot of TV again, and again – Lucas was not thriving. We had conflict upon conflict, he was miserable and shouting and angry. I blamed the TV. Pulled the strings and called the shots. Peace found it’s way to our home… almost…
Because we still had conflicts about the TV – daily conflicts – and then came the time when we discovered the non-agression prinicple and we realised that a ban on TV was like … a ban on cannabis or coke – something we imposed on him for his own sake, just like government imposes the other bans on us for our own sake… it felt immoral, wrong. But how could we deal with it? At first we made “agreements” – and he fought against them every inch of the way – because really, the agreements were me calling the shots.
Then my mother in law got sick and frankly the constant fighting was just too much for me. So I let go – again. But this time was different: Because this time I made sure to spend time with my son – even if he choose to watch TV all day every day. And magic happened: He did not become grumpy, aggressive and distant. He still watched a lot of TV. But the negative reaction that I had earlier ascribed to TV, simply was not there.
But frankly – watching TV bores me – I hardly even watch it with my husband (and when I do he will tell you that I fall a sleep like 90% of the time – the other 10% is because I end up picking up my phone and browse Facebook). So if watching TV is the only way I can engage in my sons life – I’d go bonkers. So I have to find a way to engage him without TV. So I make a list – if I ask him “would you like to go to the pool?” 90% of the time he will turn of the TV and get his bathing trunks before I can get dressed. Same with playing LEGO, or board games, or computer games, drawing, playing with play dough and doing logic puzzles, going to the zoo and playing with friends. And if we do “stuff” toghether every day – the negative effects of TV are not there? And on days where I am too tired to do stuff – I could opt for cuddling on the sofa and watch TV, because as long as he has that time to connect with me – the negative effects are not there.
The same goes with candy and junk food acutally – he would eat and eat and eat – and have stomach aches, but keep eating. But then I noticed something – if I do my best to make sure that we have food in our house that he likes, like really yummy healthy stuff, and I serve that – for breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus as a snack – then he will eat it. He will eat it and not even ask for candy. But I have to be pre-emptive. I have to be interested in what he likes, what he eats. And he is not different from many other kids his age: He likes raw vegetables – the fresher the better, he doesn’t like foods that are too mixed (with a few favorite examples), he likes rice and pasta, and ketchup – but he doesn’t mind if the ketchup is home made, or the rice is boiled in home made chicken stock. He loves green things – he could eat two kilos of fresh peas a day when in season.
But aren’t you just catering to his every whim? Aren’t you just spoinling him? I don’t think so. I think that I am showing him the same respect I would show my husband. Yes – but kids are so picky sometimes! Yes – and so are some adults, my self included. We respect it with adults – I have just decided the extend that respect to my kids as well.
Why has my daughter not been mentioned in this? Because she has had most of these freedoms most of her life – and she has never had a problem with it.