From Chaos to Form
Again, I don’t want to sound critical or judgmental about your previous unschooling choices (and as veterans of my work know, I have a lot of respect for certain elements of unschooling). However, I have seen so many people who call themselves unschoolers who have children who are rude, disrespectful and generally unpleasant to be around. And I mean no unkindness toward your daughter – my whole parenting philosophy is about the fact that it is really hard on the child to be the one who calls the shots. It’s no fun for a little one to be in charge. And reading what you wrote makes me think that that is what has happened.
And so it could take a long, long time for you to gradually turn things around. It could seem like it’s not worth it, it could seem like an unbelievable amount of work. But if you, in your heart of hearts, feel that what your child needs is form, rhythm, a parent who parents, and all the things which will allow her to be a child – and not a miniature adult – then you will somehow find the strength to make this happen. And again, a lot of that strength will lie in your ability to persevere when nothing seems to go right.
My curriculum is of no use to you unless you can find a gentle but firm way to create a learning environment. And before that can happen, you and your child need a balanced parent/child relationship. I am not suggesting you forget school work until she listens to you – but I am suggesting that you use school work in a way that will gently bring her into a child-nurturing way of interacting with the world.
Go one step at a time. Work on the big things like no media, bedtimes and meal times. Then have a time for school work and a time for play. Do not be afraid to tell her “Sweetheart, I know you want to XXX but this is what we are doing now.” If she has a tantrum, ride it out. Do not waiver. Send her loving thoughts – and always be at least 3 steps ahead. Do not ask her opinion or tell her what you’d like to do. Present what we are doing now. Do everything with her. If she runs away or starts to scream then – well here is where you need to be prepared. I hate to suggest this, but it might be the only thing that works – this is a repair situation which you describe. So it could be harsh. Tie things into rewards – have an outing set up – if she refuses to sit for a story, then “Oh dear. Well, we can’t go to the park then because we need to share this story first. ” Get up. Put the book away. Don’t sit there waiting to see what she is going to do – waiting to react. You don’t react – you create. She reacts. You must try to get this relationship back in order.
I hope this hasn’t sounded too harsh. But I have seen this kind of scenario many times before. Be patient – above all, with yourself.