Today’s guest post comes to us from fellow unshcooling dad, Robert Gottlieb. Luckily, we had the pleasure of meeting in person at the unschooling conference we presented at in 2012. He has a son the same age as Miro and we’ve stayed connected over the years. His family’s story into unschooling comes from the same foundation as we do: Attachment Parenting. I love reading his story and the more stories I read about connected families, the greater I feel about this way of life! We hope you find inspiration in this family’s journey into unschooling:
Our Natural Journey from Attachement Parenting to Unschooling
It’s strange to look back on it all now, as it seems obvious we would be here now, but you could never have told that to the old me back when my 15 yr old was born.
You see, he taught us how to Attachment Parent him. Attachment Parenting (or AP as it’s commonly abbreviated) is basically unschooling for babies. Babies aren’t traditionally thought of as needing to be “schooled” in the brick and mortar sense of the word.
Typically babies are expected to just develop language and learn to walk. So Attachment Parenting basically is the concept that the parent is responsible for giving the baby everything it needs. And lets face it, us AP parents gave way more than that anyway! So what this looks like is this: if a baby cries, we pick it up and make it feel secure by holding and loving it. We don’t believe in “crying it out” nor do we believe in cribs or other ways of separating the baby from us parents. There’s way more to it than I’m talking about (including on demand breastfeeding, etc), so feel free to look it up if you are a parent of a baby.
What’s interesting for us is that we did not know what AP even was, when our son was born. We just knew that if we put him in a bassinet he would cry, but if we picked him up he would stop! Also, we noticed he liked sleeping next to us on the bed (which was quite handy for the breastfeeding mom in the middle of the night). All of this to say that we were learning to take cues from this small human being as to what he needed and wanted as well.
Fast forward a bit (to when he was school age) and that’s when the trouble began. We tried putting him in several different learning situations, because we thought that’s what we were supposed to do. We tried public school, homeschooling, charter schools, private school then back to home schooling again.
None of it “worked” because we were trying to teach him something. We weren’t understanding that he was learning all the time and that everything we were trying was only putting obstacles in his way. During this time period, we had learned a small amount about unschooling, but we didn’t really understand how it all worked. More importantly, we didn’t trust we could “do it right”. So we kept having run ins with our son, where he’d yell at us and we’d yell at him.
Then one day, I was reading about unschooling again (a few years later). I can’t quite tell you why it clicked, but it did. It was a big aha! moment for me. My next challenge was to help my wife see why this works and how it works. It didn’t take much convincing for the unschooling “school” part as my wife clearly saw that schooling wasn’t working. But it was the Radical part that was much harder, given that she was mostly with him whereas I work in an office. By Radical I mean full freedom (bedtime, food, etc). We found that the more freedom we gave him the more our relationship improved.
Fast forward to today and for father’s day, my son wrote that I was the coolest dad on his Facebook status.
During all of this time my now 8 yr old daughter benefitted greatly as she never saw the inside of a school. Her life is all about soaking in as much information as she can. She is so full of energy and questions! She loves life because she knows how to learn from it. That’s not to say life is perfect for her. She does, after all, live in this society. But she has a way of letting things roll off of her. She doesn’t absorb the negativity around her.
So why does all of this work? Because we parents are the model. What we do, our kids will mimic. That’s how they learned to walk. Kids do have their own unique personalities too, but they still learn from observing the world they live in. They look up to us parents as the humans they can trust on this planet. And we are there for our kids. Because there are no silly rules or punishments in the way, we can have a serious conversation with our kids. They trust that when we talk to them, we are hearing them and we are working together.
I hope that when they grow older, and if they decide to have kids, they learn from this environment and choose something similar. In the meantime, I’m just glad to be their parent, friend and collaborator in this world. They are awesome human beings and I love them very much!
Hi I am Robert Gottlieb. I’m a software developer by day for our federal government, and by night I’m father and best friend to Rhiannon (8) and Alex (15), and hubby to Corinne. I’m a foodie and a technoweenie. I’m a Mac enthusiast and love to tinker with Operating Systems and Programming Languages (yes a self proclaimed geek).