the importance of being busy

I’ve been busy. I’ve been planning and writing and learning. This whole growing your business thing takes time and effort. It’s fun. But I’m working harder than I have been for a while.

And Tigger is not upset. She is mostly getting on with things. And reading a lot.

At the end of the Christmas holiday we had some conversations about what she wanted to be learning and what skills she wanted to develop and came up with a routine for her. She has 5 things she needs to do most days: piano, violin, art, writing, math. All of it is in the spirit of music practice. You need to do some every day to get better. Some of it is exercises to develop new techniques. Some of it is pieces. Some of it is just repetition to improve the execution. We are going to add in some music theory using a workbook we bought a little while ago because I think it will help her with where she is going.

She also has homework for some of the outside the house stuff she does: science, Spanish, her writing group, drama. I know it looks like writing is on both lists but the second list is just a reminder that there is some specific writing she needs to do every week.  She has so many stories on the go that she could write for an hour a day and still not have done the writing she is sharing with her writing group.

We are reading A Tale of Two Cities together. That isn’t happening every day but I’m trying to remember to do it a few times a week.

And we talk. She has started asking me  how things are going when we are in the car or before bed. It feels like some weird reversal but I’m letting that feeling go and responding genuinely. And I think that is leading to her responding better to those kinds of questions. She is very resistant to things she thinks are manipulating her to do things. But if I am learning, too. Or if I’ve been busy and she wonders how things are going… Much better.

So Mom of Monkeys’ questions about unschooling the other day really spoke to me.  I realized that the “problem” with unschooling for so many of us is not about whether the kids will learn. It isn’t about what the kids will do at all. It is about what we will do.

If I’m busy working on my business all day, aren’t I neglecting my duties as a mom and a teacher? Shouldn’t this homeschooling thing take up a lot of time in my day?  Doesn’t my kid want to be the centre of attention? And won’t she resent me doing something else that isn’t really about her at all?

I didn’t homeschool when she was little. And my kid is not normal (is anyone’s?). But the particular 11 year old that lives in this hous doesn’t seem to mind at all. She gets on with stuff. She needs reminding sometimes. And she does that “do I have to” look. She is 11. But she knows that the list is a list of things she wants to do. (Yes, even the math.) And she recognizes that she is happier with a bit of a routine, loose as it is. And she still gets lots of time to devour books (good books AND trashy books).

And I think there might be something there about not wanting the weight of having to occupy me. She has always been very independent. So she doesn’t want me sitting with her for a lot of this stuff. She doesn’t want anyone listening to and commenting on her music practice unless she asks. I did a lot of work to set up the art practice, but then she can get on with it on her own. I found the math books that she is using, but she is working through them on her own.

Occasionally, I ask to see what she has been doing. She is a little bit resistant to showing me, but usually lets me go through the math book or the art binder. I haven’t seen any of her writing unless she puts it on her blog. She does share the one story with her writing group and gets comments from others (and the leader, who is a published children’s author). And I can hear the music.

But then I don’t show her the draft blog posts and e-books that I’m working on all day, either. And she only has the vaguest idea of what I’m learning right now (about business).

We talk to each other about what we are working on, in the way you might talk to a friend. I explain some of what I’m doing. She is interested. But beyond a certain level of detail, she isn’t that interested any more. She doesn’t need to know about Search Engine Optimization, for example. (I’m not sure I do, either, but I needed to learn a bit about it to figure that out.)

And that’s the thing. As a homeschooling parent, I need to know that she is learning. And I need to know some broad strokes about what that is. But I don’t need to know all the details about what she is learning. She isn’t me. I know people will ask me, and think me a horrible mother if I don’t know. But it isn’t really about me. I don’t have control over what she learns no matter how much other people would like me to.

And at the end of the day, it is she who will have to demonstrate she has the skills and knowledge that she needs for whatever particular purpose she needs to demonstrate them. And my job is to help her do that.

Right now, my job is to help her identify what she wants to learn, what she wants to get better at, what she skills she needs. And my job is to help her figure out what regular activities will contribute to that learning. And as we move forward, my job will be to help her work out what she needs to demonstrate to others for different purposes and how she can do that.

I don’t need to spend a lot of time on that. And my example, of learning and of earning a living using my skills, is worthwhile, too.

The problem with unschooling is that it requires mothers to go against the dominant cultural script. We do not have to be selfless and self-sacrificing in the name of our children. We need to be ourselves, in relationship with our children.

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7 thoughts on “the importance of being busy

  1. I think that’s the thing about parenting in general. They have to learn how to be themselves and we have to learn how to be ourselves. They are not us and we are not them.

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  2. There is so much food for thought here, JOve. Helpful as I’m trying to work some of this out right now. Thanks for your thoughts on my last (long ago) blog post, btw. Still thinking things over, but have already made some changes in our homeschooling – hope to blog about it all soon. Great post here…

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  3. Pingback: Update on This and That « The Outer Edge of Normal

  4. This post really resonates with me right now. HoneyGirl and I gravitate more and more toward this end each year. I do believe though, that unschooling is only possible with a child possessing independence and the need to take pride in owning their own learning. Our girls generally make good choices, even with their free time. I find that I am becoming more of a facilitator or resource person than teacher.

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  5. Yes, good food for thought. Tigger is really growing — thinking about my little one and her desire to be with me often, my big one and her always increasing independence, it seems like we are always in transition, always adjusting. Either that, or sometimes we say, “wow, things have really changed recently, and I haven’t quite caught up to it.” I feel like we are unschooling with my youngest right now, yet at her age (almost 6) her relationship with me and our family is at the center of her life. Violet, almost 10, is looking outward, needing to reconnect with me but also needing long periods of time away or time alone. All of that affects how I spend my time, too.

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  6. Well said! I couldn’t agree more. Your school days sound like mine. I did (and do) exactly the same thing–set them up and send them off, and monitor and mentor. Sounds like you have a wonderful young lady in your house.

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  7. JoVE – just staying with homeschooling cousin in Western AUstralia, and Clare and I are talking more and more about how muchw e like your approach – the challenge of keeping following the kid’s interests, without abandoning areas that don’t immediately grab them, without reproducing a school environment at home which seems a little pointless.

    And I find so many parents (well, almost invariably mothers) of young kids get really low, I am sure related to giving up of themSELVES for the doubtful benefit of their kids, and that seems to be even worse for my cousin here, living somewhere in the bush where you really do have to drive to get anywhere with this 14/11/8 yos. Love your desire thoughout Tiggger’s life NOT to give yourself up.

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