Already Monday again! This time, let's talk a bit about dads who aren't that crazy about unschooling. Sometimes we tend to drag them along begrudgingly. Maybe a little muttering in opposition - or maybe it's a downright "Are you out of your mind??" Maybe dad is anti-unschooling altogether!
And yes, occasionally the dad is pro-unschooling and the mom is dragging her feet. But 90% of the time, it's the mom who likes it and the dad who is resistant. All of the information I've collected for you is applicable either way. But for this, I'm going to go with the majority and talk about reluctant dads.
Let's look at what's going on, and how we can handle it.
They’re his kids too.
First, the obvious acknowlegement: They’re his kids too. He may have been fine with you taking the lead with regards to child care - but that was when most of the decisions were pretty conventional. But now, you seemed to have veered off the path - and he's not sure what that's all about.
Your Growth Doesn't Match His Growth
You've been reading, researching, absorbing... and he hasn't. You’ve joined groups, read blogs, and frankly you LOVE the idea of unschooling. When you eagerly share what you’ve found, he pokes holes in the idea and is not convinced. You may still be new at all of this. You’re enthusiastic - but not necessarily knowledgeable about all the questions he wants answers to.
And, yes, I know. That can feel disappointing. We want our spouse to be as gung ho about our ideas as we are! Well… I guess that’s another Life Lesson. I’ve been married over 30 years, and I have to tell you, we do not always see eye-to-eye! But we listen to each other. And we find the common ground. And that, of course, is a good starting place.
Because you’ve been exploring all the resources, you’ve conquered some of your own initial fears. He’s not there yet. Remember that when we are fearful, we tend to want to try to control the situation. That’s human nature.
So step one:
1. Identify the fears.
Specifically. What is he worried about? Some of his concerns may seem shallow or irrational to you, now that you’re further along. But that’s ok. He is worried about the future of his own offspring! He deserves to be heard. (And isn’t that what all of us want anyway? Just to be heard!)
The workbook in the links will help you get to the bottom of the fears.
[This podcast was originally recorded for membership/subscribers. They received a workbook to dive deeper. It's still available if you'd like to join the membership and have access!]
And you can always come back to me if he wants to know things like:
How will he ever play sports? Maybe that was how he learned about teamwork!
Will he be bullied for being “An Outlier?”
How will he get into college?
Maybe he has other misconceptions that need to be cleared up.
Here’s a tip for Arguing 101
Don’t quickly jump in with your rebuttal.
Give him time to say all of what he has to say.
Then it’s best to be on the same side - not adversaries.
“I agree! I was worried about that too. But I read that...”
“I’ll see what I can find about that and get back to you.”
Remember too, you can always use that concept of
“Let’s try it as an experiment. Not a forever commitment. Let’s see how it goes.”
As he sees kids learning, making friends, enjoying their lives, he may begin to feel better about it all.
What did they LEARN today?
Maybe you started as a homeschooler and gradually moved toward unschooling. Or maybe the kids are getting older and it’s harder to see the learning that’s happening.
So let’s say you’ve gotten past the initial fears and you started sending him articles to read or podcasts to listen to. But he’s not interested in doing that really. In his mind, that’s YOUR area. He finances it. He’s maybe even working extra hours so you can be the stay-at-home parent.
Need Help with Criticism?
If you’re more of a DIY type, I have pulled together articles, journal prompts to dive deeper, resource links for dealing with critics - and there’s an entire section on what to do if the critic is your spouse!
This 30-page digital mini-magazine can help you conquer your own fears and give you the tools and strategies you need to deal with the critics in your life.
A little backstory…
Maybe you started as a homeschooler and gradually moved toward unschooling.
Or the kids are getting older and it’s harder to see the learning that’s happening.
He comes home and wants to see what they’ve been working on - and no, he doesn't mean their Minecraft level advancement.
What SCHOOLISH thing have they done?
I know that’s familiar to a lot of you.
You started on this path and maybe he SEEMED onboard. While he didn’t really relish the idea of pouring over resources, your confidence and enthusiasm rubbed off on him. He set his skepticism aside… for a while.
You continued to read and learn, you’ve chatted with experienced homeschoolers and unschoolers. Your confidence is actually growing a little - mainly because you SEE the learning that’s happening in your home every day. Because you’re there.
But he’s at work.
Typically the child-raising is left to the mom or the stay-at-home parent. Your spouse may want to be more involved, but he’s not really sure WHAT to do to connect with them.
And then, inevitably, the kids don't know something that is generally expected of kids their age. Or you're having a bad day with a lower than usual confidence level. Or he’s having a bad day and seems to notice all the flaws.
Then, suddenly, his lack of information, his lack of a good foundation (with regards to unschooling or even homeschooling) becomes really glaring.
The answer seems to be to drop little seeds of information along the way. If you do this from the start, the path won’t be as bumpy.
Once you’ve found what his fears are, be sure to give examples that help him see there’s nothing to fear. Little by little you can help strengthen their foundation.
You may even need to step back into your own early deschooling stage - where are examples of various subjects popping up in your home or in the activities your kids enjoy? Sharing those (pre-emptively) will help a lot.
Feeling Left Out
Sometimes the parent who works outside the home just feels a little left out. The stay-at-home parent and the kids begin to develop a bond that's really strong. And if dad comes home saying,
"Why's everyone still in Pjs?"
"What exactly DID everyone learn today?"
Then he notices that the kids and the mom exchange looks of
"OMG, here he goes again."
And then the disconnect gets worse.
In his own home. And that doesn't feel good at all.
So maybe the answer is to include him throughout the day.
- Text him something funny one of the kids said/did.
- Send him/her a short video (of you or the kids) waving and saying," Can't wait until you get home!"
- Share an example of something one of the kids accomplished, emphasizing that they had persistence and worked hard at it.
- Help figure out something to do with everyone once the working parent gets home. SO he/she can be included.
Helping to facilitate that kind of connection will go a long way. It will help the kids feel closer to the parent that's gone all day (and vice versa) and it will help the parent engage in interactions that SHOW how bright and curious the kids are.
It all boils down to fear, doesn’t it? ... always.
Look at what you can do to minimize it or throw a little light on it.
Know that lots of unschooling families start out this way - so don't worry that this isn't going to work before you've even begun! Time is going to help you.
Help dad by including him, listening to him. He loves the kids. And he loves you.
It’s worth the time it takes to figure out where the obstacles are and how to get past them.
So hopefully that helps you a little bit.
And I’ll see you next week!
Sometimes it helps to have others who are walking this same unschooling path to talk with. And add to that strong supportive community, Sue Patterson is there with 30 years of experience. She has certainly seen what works and what doesn't - and is happy to brainstorm with you!
With coaching calls, tons of members-only resources, your confidence in unschooling will grow! This will help you so much in dealing with critics - even spouses!
From the Facebook Group
I know many of you aren't doing FB these days. Our Unschooling Mom2Mom Facebook group is pretty big and we have posts that I want to be sure everyone can see. This was posted recently and might help you too:
Spouses Disliking Unschooling
This is an issue that comes up all too often.
But often, their desire to return to a traditional schooling approach is because you/we were floundering and they wanted to swoop in and fix things - the only way they know how.
So it’s complicated and nuanced.
And probably why someone in my coaching group, Creating Confidence, brings up their spouse issue nearly weekly. You’re invited to join us, so we can help you figure out what your next steps might be. You don’t have to do this alone! We have recorded workshops and PDFs/worksheets to help you get more clarity on how to improve the situation.
This Unschooling Guide: Critics and Naysayers has helped a lot of people.
Creating Confidence Membership Group coaching with me!
Blogposts about Dad resisting unschooling
(although Moms might be reluctant too)