Open Source Learning. Autonomy in education. Self-directed learning/Unschooling.
Open season on all things we might bump up against.
Formally Radio Free School. This blog was started by un-schoolers at radio free school, a weekly radio show by, for, and about, home based learners.
When we officially started our unschooling journey over ten years ago, my son was five years old and my daughter was three years old. We found a small group of friends that were either unschooling or homeschooling and for the most part practicing some sort of attachment parenting. I felt free to not only discuss co-sleeping, extended nursing, and fears of parenting, but also to share my love for my husband. For the next several years I continued to meet many moms that shared the same passions as me not only in our educational philosophies but also in our marriages. Somewhere along the way though, things changed.
One evening I dropped my two teenagers off to hang out with their homeschooling friends. As I returned home ready for a date with my husband I said, “I have somehow become the odd mom in the group.” I shared an experience that was becoming more regular for me when I dropped the kids off on the weekends or in the evenings with their friends. My homeschooling friends made jokes about me hurrying back home to hang out with my husband. At first it was fine when they made their jokes, but after a while, it started bothering me. Was something wrong with me? Was it weird to want to have date nights with my husband rather than spending time with my mom friends who I saw frequently throughout the week? For me, these little bits of time alone together were our time to invest back in each other since so many years had been devoted to the kids. I suddenly felt like the outsider with my homeschooling friends, but in all honestly, I did want to run home to my husband. Never having family close by to watch our kids for nights out alone, date nights had become something I looked forward to now that our kids didn’t need or want us watching over them constantly.
When we started our unschooling journey I liked that the homeschooling parents we met seemed to enjoy each other’s company. Now, I keep asking myself, “What happened? Why are so many of our friends getting divorced or living in unhappy marriages? How did so many of our unschooling friends lose track of each other? Here are my thoughts:
1. When unschooling, the kids often become everything. We focus on their every need and at the end of the day, we are exhausted.
2. Unschoolers tend to do everything as a family. This is one of the things that drew me to unschooling as my husband and I both loved including our kids in our daily activities. This can be great except when one day your children are teens that need time away from the family. You are then stuck trying to find things to talk to your spouse about.
3. This is something I never considered when we started unschooling because I had a very beautiful, picture perfect view in my mind of everything unschooling, but perhaps many marriages were never good from the start. Perhaps the kids created a connection but as that connection changed, the marriage couldn’t hold things together.
4. Maybe as unschoolers we aren’t immune from the pitfalls of life. I think as homeschoolers we often think we are protecting ourselves and our families from the cruel world. Reality is there are unschooling teens who are depressed, unschooling teens that try drugs, and unschooling teens that have sex. Also, there are unschooling parents that get divorced. As different as we sometimes feel from mainstream society, we still feel the effects of living life.
What can you do? Well, I can only speak for myself. I have been married for almost 24 years and I am still pretty happy with my guy. Here are some things that have worked for us through the years.
1. Hold hands often. I remember times when the four of us would hold hands. My husband would put each of the kids on the outside and the two of us in the middle. Then he would tell the kids, “I want to hold Mommy’s hand today.” (I still remember feeling a little giddy when he did that.) We often touch our kids and forget that our spouse needs touch also.
2. Find pockets of time alone to talk or do whatever. When our kids were young, we were always coming up with ways to find time alone. My husband is someone that needs to talk without interruptions. As an unschooling momma this was hard for me to do. So, one thing we did for a while was wake up early on Saturday mornings and have coffee together before the kids woke up. At other times I woke up and ate breakfast with my husband before he left for work. It was a short amount of time together, but worth it.
3. IM, text, and email…… even if in the same house. For as long as we have had internet, my husband and I have instant messaged each other throughout the day. Often this is the only time to talk about issues since the kids are always around. Sometimes we have even IM’d each other while in the same house. It is a way to talk without interruptions and without the kids hearing every word. Plus, a short text during the day is always a nice reminder that someone is thinking about you.
4. Be flexible. Unschooling can bring numerous benefits to a family but in my opinion, you have to be open to changing and accepting new situations. Don’t be afraid to change things up.
What works for you? What secrets can you share to remaining in a happy, healthy marriage while unschooling? Also, what goes wrong?