A few Halloweens ago my two kids were ready to head out the door about 30 minutes before we were scheduled to leave for trick or treat, just like they are every year.
As we were walking around that night I said to my husband “well, I guess it’s not true that they never want to leave the house.” See, I had been struggling. I am an energetic extrovert (when I’m not in an introverted period). I like to go, go, go. I like to be out of the house doing things I classify as fun and/or productive. It’s the world I grew up and and it’s what I knew. It’s what feels good to me most of the time.
I have one child who is a homebody. They like to be cozy with their family at home. They like to have us mostly in the same space chatting, laughing and playing- sometimes independently, sometimes together, and sometimes independently together.
I have another child who also likes to be home sometimes. They also get a little stir crazy and like to go out of the house regularly. Because our children’s learning is our priority, we take the preferences of everyone in the family into consideration and meet them as best we can.
There had been a frustration brewing about how to get all of our needs met with such different wants and needs during the day. As the leader of our family, this was exacerbated by my deep need to be out in the world amongst people. We had made a few adjustments that had helped but I could not get past expectations about what a day should look like.
I found myself thinking things like “they never want to do anything”. “They never want to leave the house. Make no mistake, I only counted doing as things done out of the house. Eek! These statements were made from emotion and ignorance rather than fact, and I was caught there. I could not see what was actually happening because I was stuck in my vision of how things are supposed to happen.
So that Halloween was a big shift. Both of my kids were so excited to get dressed up and trick or treat in our awesome neighborhood. As always, we had a blast. I started thinking about what other things make my kids excited. Some involve leaving the house and some do not. One of the many great things about Unschooling is that we can fill our days with fun things that happen wherever we want! I realized that night that having a good time together was really good for me, and of course, for them (duh!), and therefore their learning.
I started to realize that both of my kids love going to professional sporting events, theater, museums, shows, Costco as long as it’s not crowded, amusement parks, and other places I like too. My vision was so laser focused on something else that I missed what was right in front of me. I also began to understand how much doing was happening at home. So. Much. Doing!
So I adjusted my expectations and the priority became enjoyment. To accommodate my own needs I started to really take note of what my kids enjoy out of the house. They love riding their scooters/skateboards and playing basketball and soccer with me. They mostly love to go swimming as long as I go in too (I’m pretty fun 🙂 ). They don’t like large crowds, chaos, or being physical in the hot sun. They like hiking in the Rockies where it is cool and mostly shaded. These are all things my husband and I love, too. And they all get us out of the house, happily.
Adjusting my expectations was a game changer. It mostly helped me to see my children for who they are and better tailor their learning environment. Happy, comfortable children learn better and retain more.
From time to time I still find myself needing to get out when my kids are comfortable to stay home. They are older so I have a little more flexibility but mostly they still like us to be together. So now, if I just need a quick people fix I suggest we run out for a slice of pizza at Costco, a Slurpee, a drive by Ikea (both kids love this because they love to see the flags and it feels European) or to the library. All of these are quick, fun-for-all-of-us things that don’t take any preparation or thought. They are easy and it allows all of our needs to be met.
Changing my perspective in this way has helped us to Unschool better, create more calm, remove resentment and entitlement, and create an environment where my children have more mental energy available to learn instead of wasting thought trying to convince me of who they are.
I’m glad I was open to the shift. Seeing my kids for who they are is the best part of Unschooling.
Author’s Note: This post is intended mostly for other Unschoolers. If it helps you to see things in a useful way, that’s great! If it feels totally incomprehensible to you, that’s okay too. Unschooling is a different way of living that puts learning at the forefront of a family and it takes a lot of learning on the part of the parents to understand it. Here are some resources if you are thinking of or are currently Unshooling: click here.