August 18, 2008

Great Advice For Talking To Relatives

There are so many things I want to tell you about the HSC Learning Without Limits Conference but I'm going to pace myself and tell you about it a little at a time. I will tell you that I was buzzing with excitement the entire weekend. I made some new friends, learned some new things, and my feeling that unschooling is the right path for us was absolutely, 100% confirmed (again and again).

Now I'm going to share the most important nugget of wisdom I found amidst the gold mine of information at the conference. It came from Pam Sorooshian.

On the last day of the conference I cornered Pam in the hallway outside the ballroom where we'd just watched a fabulous slide show of photos from the weekend. I'd been dying to ask here one particular question and hadn't found the opportunity yet.

What I wanted to know was this: "How should I respond to my mother-in-law when she says that if Jerry doesn't have to do some things he doesn't want to do now, he'll never learn to do the things in life that none of us really want to do, but need to get done nonetheless?"

Warren's mom has mentioned her concern about this a few times and I could never really answer her because I guess a small part of me wondered the same thing. I suspected that, just like the rest of us, he would do some things he didn't really want to do because he'd have a conflicting need that would trump his desire to avoid the unappealing chore. For example, even though I hate washing dishes, I do wash them because I hate having dishes piled on my counter even more than I hate washing dishes. Pam confirmed that this was true.

Then she asked, "Do you really want him doing things he doesn't want to do?"

Wow. When you put it that way I guess I'd have to say no. Not at all. Pam pointed out that she has three girls and she definitely does not want her girls feeling obliged to do things they aren't comfortable with. That put a whole new twist on the question.

She suggested asking my mother-in-law, "What is your real concern?"

"Not being capable of doing things he doesn't want to do" is very general. Is she worried that he won't wash his dishes or clean his house as an adult? That one I can handle.

Or is she worried that he won't have the tenacity to reach his goals? I have to admit, I've asked myself this question, too.

Pam pointed out that most of us want our children to find meaningful work that they love so they won't have to do things they don't want to do--like go to a job they hate. Yes, they may need to, say, take a job they aren't crazy about as a stepping stone to the job of their dreams, but that's about seeing the big picture and goal setting--it's not being able to do unappealing activities.

Does Jerry see the big picture? Yes, he does. Most of the time. And when he's unable to see the whole thing Warren and I are there to fill in the gaps. Is he able to set goals? Pam said he probably does it all the time with video games. And he does. That's what video games are, right? You set a goal to beat the game and you work at each level, beating them one by one, until you've reached it. Are video game goals the only goals he's interested in at the moment? No, but video games do feature prominently in most of them. He wants to design video games and thanks to a program we discovered this weekend (more about that later!) he's well on his way. He wants to build a gaming computer and we're darn close to reaching that one (we'll start as soon as we get back home). He wants to beat all four Guitar Heroes. He does know how to reach goals but they're his own goals for himself. Not mine.

So that tidbit was one of the best things about the conference. I'll get to the rest later.

On the homecoming front, Jerry and I were supposed to be driving home today but Weird Al Yankovic is playing tonight at the State Fair so it looks like we'll be staying one more night--Jerry can't stand the thought of missing it.

I never in my life expected to find myself at a Weird Al concert. Ever.

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