It took me until my 30’s to even begin to learn what it even means to be in control of my own problems. I’m still working on it as I look ahead into my 40’s. I was rereading this post about unschooling apraxia by Jennifer McGrail. The following phrase jumped out at me:
“His not being able to tie well or write neatly are not an issue unless he decides they’re an issue.”
Did anyone along the way ever teach you that there isn’t a problem unless you decide there’s a problem? Or, like me, did you learn from early childhood that everyone else around you must be right about what’s problematic… and they have the right to define it for you?
“Well, you should know better.”
“You’re too old for that.”
“You can’t till you’re older.”
“Why can’t you read this yet?”
“You should know what 6 x 9 is.”
“You can’t study that until you learn this.” [Heaven forbid we learn this by studying that.]
“Your child will never be prepared for college if you don’t…”
Socialization. Talking in class. Choosing a major. Debt. Parenting… oh, lawsy, especially the parenting “problems” people will tell you you’re having.
Responsible financial planning and employment. The “right” neighborhoods and the “right” houses.
Your emotions. Your sense of being used or taken for granted.
Your reaction to being abused by a spouse or loved one.
Your non-compliance with church doctrine that goes against your conscience.
Your lost opportunities from following what others thought was best.
What if none of those things is necessarily the problem?
What if we tell our kids they get to decide what’s a problem?
How many times will they assess and say “but I can do this instead” if we allow them to follow their natural curiosity and inclination to problem-solve the world they’re growing into?
These are traits we stereotypically (and unfairly) attribute to handicapped overcomers in made-for-TV inspirational movies. You know, the special cases with unusual problems that force the matter. We ogle people with noticeable differences and marvel at their ability to create integration by thinking differently. It seems so counterintuitive to the conformity values we grow up with that we treat it as a total abstraction or an entertaining fantasy. After all, conformity has been the key to our success in society.
But what if self-direction is not a marvel? What if this is what being human is, every day, if we don’t suppress and tamper with it?
The most annoying response I consistently get from my unschooled kids is, “Yeah, I know you asked me to do this, but I decided I could do that instead.” This is the thing my unschooling mom friends complain about most as well. Independent-minded little monkeys who are busy experimenting with their world and figuring out their own best way to fit in with it. Yep, so annoying.
What happens when people learn they can assess problems realistically?
Imagine an adult who’s capable of saying, “Yes, I know the sequence of tasks is difficult, but that’s not a problem for me.”
Or, “I know I think differently about the world, but that’s not a problem for me. I’ll just do things this way instead.”
Imagine an adult who’s not burdened by the fake problems most of us have picked up from others’ (mis)perceptions. How many “problems” out there are myths and superstitions handed down by word of mouth from one person to the next?
Imagine an adult who peacefully deals with issues of autonomy, conformity and integration. An adult who doesn’t look at things they’ve never learned before or environments they’ve never been in (like college, or new jobs, or a new country) as too full of invisible lurking problems, but just something to be assessed and dealt with. Possibly something a bit scary, but that’s okay. Because scariness doesn’t have to be a problem either.
Imagine an adult who knows it’s right to say, “The way you’re treating me isn’t healthy, and I’m not going to be able to see you anymore.”
Imagine an adult who feels okay about walking away from a church that’s hurting them, because they know that bad boundaries are a real problem. And they’re free to believe that good boundaries are part of stewarding the life God gave them.
Imagine an adult who looks at the advice they’ve tried taking, the things they’ve missed doing, and says, “But I haven’t lost anything. I learned things. And I can see other ways to still do what I hoped to do.”
Imagine a child who grows up believing that they can take charge of problems by assessing them, by defining them, and by creating unique solutions that fit their personality and circumstances.
The biggest transformation in unschooling is giving our children their lives.
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