January 9, 2008

My Very Own Unschooling Philosophy

I'm gearing up to apply some major coercion and bribery to get Jerry out and about when we're in New Zealand. He's a real homebody. He almost never wants to leave the house unless it's to play with a friend. And since he doesn't have any friends in New Zealand (yet) and I know I'm going to want to get out and about, I'm thinking I'll need to rely on coercion and bribery. I know as an unschooler I'm supposed to respect his wishes and all that but if I was always putting Jerry's wishes above mine I'd be extremely unhappy, and I'd never get out of the house except as a taxi driver. The thing is, I know Jerry will have fun doing the things I want to do. It's getting him there that's the problem. Leaving the house for Jerry is like going to the gym for me (not that I've stepped foot in a gym recently). He doesn't want to go, but when he gets there he's glad he made the effort. Monday was a typical example of this.

He said he was bored, so I said "Let's go somewhere." He hemmed and hawed but finally agreed to go to the Museum of Contemporary Art to see the Takashi Murakami exhibit. (He's a Japanese Pop Artist.) On the way there Jerry admitted that he didn't really want to see the exhibit but I said we were almost there, and I really wanted to see it, and he did SAY he wanted to go, etc. So we went and of course it was awesome. Of course Jerry had a good time. We went into this room: And we saw stuff like this: And this: And cool toys like this:
Yes, there were some bare breasts (monstrously big ones in a couple cases), which bothered Jerry a bit. He's not too keen on nudity and wishes artists would stop putting it in their work. But we managed to avoid most of that stuff.

All in all it was a fun outing. We ate lunch in Little Tokyo, talked about the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, marveled at some really cool architecture and played with my new iPhone. Here's a picture (taken by Jerry) of the refrigerator where we ate:

So, back to my original topic--coercion and bribery. If I'm the parent and I know he's the kind of kid that needs a little extra push to make it out the door in order to do something I'm 99% sure he'll enjoy, I think I'm going to give him that extra push. I'm not saying I'll ignore his needs or desires, or that I'll resort to intimidation to get him to go along. I'm just saying I'm willing to nudge him a little.

I've noticed a pendulum effect on this unschooling journey of mine. In the beginning I wanted to dip my toes in the water and wade in slowly, then I thought it was best to jump in all at once, which is what we did. I was really focused on unschooling the "right" way for a while there. I'm completely aware of the fact that there isn't a "right" way to unschool. But since I didn't have my own way I had to follow somebody else's and I chose to take the (mostly) Radical approach. Now that I've been at both ends of the pendulum I'm starting to find my own place within the two extremes. I'm not saying I know where that place is. I just notice that I'm finding MY way. And this decision, to give gentle nudges when needed, is my first step toward creating an unschooling philosophy that's just right for me and my family.

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