"We want him to gain more experiences..but he won't leave the home!"
Lately, I've been hearing such laments from a number of parents of teen unschoolers.
The parents worry that their child is not pulling his weight; that nothing is happening etc.
They wonder, "Is our unschooling practice dis-empowering him?"
Some parents are taking action:
"He'll be off to school come the Fall- so that he can challenge himself, of course."
One parent is planning on sending her son out to a family friend out west this summer, in order for him to gain work experience on a cattle farm. The intention is to get some new ideas flowing for the kid; a change of scenery; generate other interests.
Who can blame a parent for fretting when the son is snug as a bug, seated at the computer in pyjamas all day, sipping cappuccino and barely leaves the house? What if he's still here in five years time?
Scary thought. And yet, he's content, isn't he? So why the concern?
|"Please don't wake me up. I'm only sleeping."|
"It's not all about how happy he is," one mother tells me angrily. We've both read somewhere that there needs to be a little stress in a life in order for any personal growth to be made. I believe it.
How will the young 'un be prepared to face life's challenges if he hasn't been challenged by life?
So the question is, do we seek out challenges (and a little stress) or do we wait for these to come (as come they undoubtedly will)?
If you go by the premise that there is actually no such thing as a completely stress free life, it might be useful to consider that your child might even be coping with stress or worry that you are unaware of. How do some people cope? There's escapism and what might look like the child being content with his life, doing stuff on the computer could in fact be a way to de-stress or deal with anxiety.
On the other hand, the kid could be really content and will eventually emerge, seeking relationships and community outside of the home.
And remember, some people (kids included!) just don't need a lot of interaction. Some find enough stimulation in books, family, the cyber world of the internet.
From all that I've read and seen, kids go through a tricky time starting at age 12 to around 15 and then they grew into their own and begin to amaze you. With my own, I didn't have the chance to see this play out as they have opted for school but with my friends' kids, I have to say this is true.
I think of one kid I know who is now a ballet dancer with the Royal Winnepeg Ballet. Her mother would lament and fret constantly that her daughter was always reading—never socializing or doing other things. However, by the time she turned 16 she was interested in a whole other bunch of stuff (boys included).
Sandra Dodd has written about this in some of her works and in our interview—that there is this weird period where to the worried, judgy eye, the kid seems to know nothing compared to school kids. He or she seem to be doing nothing, appear unmotivated and then...the plunge happens into what ever it is they are suddenly anamoured about. After all, as Matt Hern puts it, "Nobody wants to grow up ignorant and dumb."
Everyone wants to contribute in some way and it is up to us as parents, guardians, teachers, aunts and uncles to help the kids in our care find that way.
It doesn't hurt to make a deal with them if you really feel you can't wait for the change to happen: "Join this or that, do this or that and I'll do such and such for you."or whatever works—just to get the kid out of what could be a limiting habit of refusing to try something new.
See if a friend could invite your teen to that art show or to a movie etc. Let others know what's happening and let them know you would appreciate them including your child if opportunities arise.
There is no shame in discussing your concerns with others who get it. By and by, as happens time and again, your teen will find something they will latch on to that will be a channel for their passion and contribution.
Everybody seems to think I'm lazy
I don't mind, I think they're crazy
Running everywhere at such a speed
Till they find there's no need.
"I'm Only Sleeping"