Unschooling & Parenting Respectfully - Without Feeling Like a Martyr

Are you feeling curious about unschooling and whether it might work for your family?

Wondering how to apply the principles of cooperative parenting with your kids?

I've definitely been there. My oldest child is now 18, and we've been working toward mutually respectful and cooperative relationships for a long time.

I first learned about gentle parenting in 2002, and we've been unschooling since 2004.

My family of seven has experimented with many variations of alternative parenting over the years. We've tried so many things, and ultimately, what we've arrived at is something I call Relationship-Based Parenting.

Relationship-Based Parenting is something like a step beyond unschooling, and it's also a step beyond attachment parenting or peaceful parenting.

We recognize that the relationships in our lives and the lives of our children, are the foundation of all learning, all interactions, and all communication among our family, as well as beyond it.

Healthy, cooperative relationships are everything.

The way we handle our relationships with our children, as human people in need of compassionate guidance and respect, colors every other thing they will do, be, or have in life.

We've swung the pendulum too far before--in several directions.

We've learned over the years that respectful, cooperative living is a mutual endeavor between parents and kids. It's not about letting the kids run the show, but it's also a very far cry from authoritarian "Do As I Say" parenting.

A lot of people think that unschooling looks like the kids having tons of messy and/or expensive fun, maybe playing video games all day or subsisting on 300 popsicles a week.

A lot of people also think that the kids are supposed to be enjoying themselves at all times, and that a "good unschooling parent" will bend over backward to entertain their children, let them do whatever they please, and buy those 300 popsicles, too.

Oh, but there's so much more to the story...especially if you want to continue unschooling for the long haul, instead of just for Kindergarten and maybe half of 1st grade, before you're feeling at the end of your rope.

Too many parents I meet are initially enthusiastic about the unschooling lifestyle, but…

Eventually, they experience burnout, overwhelm, or even a change in circumstances that spells the end of their attempt at alternative schooling.

In the Fall, we see too many families of unschoolers getting swallowed up into the public school system, for a plethora of reasons.

Now, individual reasons and situations aside...as a general rule:

Single parents CAN unschool. Divorced co-parenting CAN coexist with unschooling. Unschooling is not just for those who earn above a certain income level, or for two-parent families with one adult at home full-time. It's NOT just for neurotypical kids, nor even just for neurotypical parents.

However, it's not always possible either...

Unschooling can and does work when there's a deep, abiding desire for it to work. And sometimes, you've got to talk to someone who gets it--really gets it--to stay the course when things get tough.

There's so many variations--parenting your children with mutual respect, without the public school system, is something that's doable for many, many families.

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