how un-schooling and Cousteau gave J the freedom to cry…

I read recently in an “unschooling” movement blog that it is completely normal and healthy for children to go through something similar to withdrawals, when they have not been in school or a school routine for several months. We have been out of school over two months and sort of stumbled upon unschooling by accident. I am not pro unschooling or anti unschooling… I will say I find it intriguing though especially since I have seen J (8 yrs old) go through some of these school withdrawals, so to speak. This Monday we will start somewhat of a schooling routine but I plan to make it as non-obvious as possible and let the girls direct anytime the opportunity presents itself. Here is the WIkipedia definition on unschooling. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unschooling

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As for the unschooling withdrawals (for lack of a better phrase), J has been recalling moments or incidents at school that she found upsetting. I would like to preface this by saying that my girls school is absolutley one on the best schools you will ever encounter. The teachers and the rest of the staff are compassionate, thoughtful, bright and have given my children so many treasures. However, I learned early on that it is unrealistic to expect for each teacher and an entire school community to not carry some of the older philosophies of teaching and caregiving. It can be the absolute most perfect school… but you can not control the learned behaviors of even the MOST amazing teachers. For this, I use to stay up at nights worrying about… and have since realized that adversity IS a gift. It is important for children to know early on that the adults they love are not perfect and that most of us spend our entire lives trying to become better people and hopefully ,through that process, we shed away a bit of childhood baggage and learned behaviors.  J has recently been talking about how one of her beloved teachers told her that she “doesn’t need to cry because she is a big girl”…and depending on your parenting beliefs as well as your culture and numerous other catagories we may fall in, you may find this completely acceptable. I find most adults in the South absolutely find it ok. I, however, find that it can damage a child’s spirit and self-confidence to determine what their feelings want and need from them.  As for Jordan, after the incident with her teacher, she began a destructive pattern of holding her breath and running to the girls bathroom to cry anytime her feelings were hurt. This made me and Steve’s heart crumble into a million pieces. We had no idea. I let her know that of course she can and should cry when ever she feels hurt. This, of course, is how children deal with feelings that are too big… It is also how adults can be alerted to the fact that the child is in need of attention, love etc. At that time though, she wasn’t buying it what I was trying to tell her and she changed the subject anytime I tried to approach it.

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This evening, J watched about an hour of Seascope. Seascope is a low budget yet AMAZING collaboration of 56 different five-minute educational Cousteau videos. J is incredibly fond of Jean-Michael Cousteau. She, along with Jean-Michael is absolutely committed to saving and protecting our oceans. Tonight before bed, something extraordinary happened. J asked -“Mommy, Do you think Jean Michael Cousteau cries? How about Ghandi? And what about Nelson Mandela?”.

I love that through watching Cousteau’s videos that she was reminded of her true self and her unique interests. While the world may seem so different and make you want to follow the crowd,  J could just relate herself to Jean-Michael Cousteau, and very rationally think “Well, if he has cried… certainly, I can cry”. And through this little break through, not only do I realize that my baby is growing her very own wings and that she can handle these things in her own time, but she can also do it gracefully. She still loves the teacher that told her to not cry because she understands unconditional love. She just let that pain and confusion become a gift… and thank god, because she is 8… and an 8 year old should feel free to cry.

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Thanks for reading and we will see you next week after a full week of travel school. Here is one out of many great articles that deals with the risks of having children suppress their feelings as opposed to working them out, validating them and then moving on. This is short and to the point but really resonated with our family. thinkitthroughparenting.com/…/tell-kids-its-okay-to-cry-reasons-to-use-this-parenting-tool

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