In fifth grade I told a girl if she came to school more she wouldn't have to ask me so many questions. She said she was going to beat me up after school, and to be behind the Beta building. So I went there, afraid, and stood as near a teacher as I suavely could, and the girl didn't show up. I was willing to meet her where she told me to meet her. I had perfect attendance that year (the only year I ever did, I think) and that girl, sadly, dropped out, pregnant by one of her male relatives. She was already 13 and the rest of us were 10 and 11.
I was a safety patrol that year. A lieutenant! Had a canvas belt with a shoulder strap and a badge. Creepy, looking back at it, but there it is. 1963. I was out at recess, near the "I'll beat you up" area and, lined up to go back into that room, we were told that President Kennedy had been shot.
Yesterday I was minding my perfect-attendance online life, and being at home with two of my kids when I was jumped behind Beta by people who didn't know I was there.
Lyla Wolfenstein had sweetly and innocently posted a quote. Lots of unschoolers have been posting quotes on Facebook lately. I've quoted three different other-unschoolers in the past few days myself, here and there. I do it all the time. That random quotes generator on my unschooling page is mostly other people's words: SandraDodd.com/unschooling
Lyla put up this quote: "If watching TV is his thing and complaining about TV is your thing, you've spoiled a chance to have a shared thing." It's on the page about sharing experiences with our children, which has the writing of three other unschoolers, not me: http://sandradodd.com/t/sharing
Some people responded with justifications for limiting TV, and for "creating balance" in their children's lives. Some just went straight to "don't get me started on Sandra Dodd" and going off on me as some sort of TV-worshiping demon. One wrote, of that quote "Sandra just drips with cynicism and negativity here directed at the parent." Someone wrote "I would go out of my mind in a house where tv was a central focus or a battle and where kids spent their lives on a couch." I pointed out that that was a misconception, and our TVs were hardly ever on, but that was by choice and not limitation.
Someone else said that when that she occasionally parks her kid in front of a TV so she can do other things, and when she does watch along, the child is THRILLED (her caps). When I quoted that back and said "exactly what I was talking about," she got all pissed off that I had used her words to defend my point. But her words PROVED my point.
People were super snarky and sarcastic, and I kept trying to stick to the original point, and they kept trying to discredit me and seemed to accuse me of heading a cult and being or not being an "authority." There was much gnashing and flailing.
I can't quote it all whole, because it's only for facebook friends of the author to read. I can quote myself, though. After I was calm yesterday, I woke up thinking about it and went back to find there was even more, overnight. I wrote this:
You wrote that you didn't criticize me directly. Either you knew I was Lyla's Facebook friend and figured I would see what you wrote, or you thought I was NOT and intended to write those things behind my back. Either way, given all the choices in the world you chose to write negatively about me over and over. It doesn't make you a better person and it doesn't make me a worse person.
Someone said she hoped no one felt worse or had a knot in their stomach over this discussion. I'm not sure it's a good wish to hope that the hateful people feel just as happy as the kind ones.
I don't want to make parents feel bad about themselves. I want parents to make decisions that lead them not to have things to feel bad about. Big difference. And when I talked about being useful, I meant to this discussion, not to your children. I'm going to take this discussion out, now, to my blog probably, so that those who want to comment can.http://sandradodd.blogspot.com,
and that's here so the quote can end.
I'm used to people reacting badly to the suggestion that they should put their children's needs first. I'm accustomed to parents asking for help and then getting hostile when the help suggests they might want to change their point of view. I have a collection of the "supportive" statements people say all the time that they want: SandraDodd.com/support
Some people defended me, some hit me hoping I was down. But I wasn't down, and I wasn't hurt. I learned many years ago as an SCA officer to be careful what I put in writing, and not to give advice I couldn't defend or back up. That stood me in good stead when unschooling discussions came along. I already had a great deal of practice in "I meant what I said and I said what I meant."
I have represented my children's learning and lives faithfully, with their permission, for 23 years, starting with La Leche League meetings where mothers share their experiences for the benefit of other mothers, and moving seamlessly over Kirby's first five years to helping other mothers unschool. Kirby will be 24 in July. My kids knew that my sharing their lives was helping other children have more peaceful lives. They met other unschooled kids in the same situation, just as they had already known other La Leche League kids whose breastfeeding and early development took place with witnesses and sometimes the audience of new mothers.
I'm not apologizing for sharing what I I've done and am doing.
At least one of the people who ranted about my TV quote charges money to advise other parents. I realize sometimes people are frustrated that I'm giving away help that they'd like to charge $35 an hour or whatever for, but as I've been doing it online, about unschooling, since about 1991, I'm pretty sure I don't need to stop doing it for the convenience of people who don't even understand (nor want to try to understand) what has come out of these many years of discussions.
One person in the discussion did admit that she went and listened to my voice, and that I did sound friendly. She said "one of your podcasts," but I don't have any podcasts of my own. A couple of people have asked to interview me on their online shows, and have let me put up the sound file or link later. There are links to sound files and videos here: SandraDodd.com/listen
People who have met me and heard me speak often relax their hostility (if they had any), and many of them apologize at some point if they badmouthed me without knowing what they were talking about. Some stick by their unreasonable rants to the point that they'll say "when I agree with you, I'm amused" in a too-self-conscious way. It's about me, again, instead of about the ideas of how to be happy with their children.
One person wrote (not a friend of mine, not someone I know):
I used to dismiss nearly everything Sandra said... I believed if she couldn't communicate with parents the same way she believed we should communicate with kids, she wasn't "walking the talk". As I've grown as a parent and unschooler, I see her words so differently now. Where others see (and I *used* to see) harshness and negativity, I see clear, caring communication. I don't know if I can explain the switch that happened. When I got that she was speaking to me as the mother of my children, NOT the injured child of my mother, that's when I saw her differently.While I'm pulling quotes, I didn't comment on this one over there, but will here:
I set limits on tv b/c we just don't watch it. Maybe it is an issue of modeling--the kids just do other things. If they want to watch a tv show (at night) they do, but usually they are busy or they forget. Or they will watch it later on hulu. Or the kids will just watch several episodes of some show as if they are watching a movie. I have no idea which shows they watch..."That makes my point too. The mom has no idea. They're not sharing those shows. There's isolation on top of negativity. And "I set limits because we just don't watch it" isn't clear.
I have never seen more "balance" in my kids lives than once i fully embraced their interests, stopped trying to apply MY sense of balance onto them, and yes, stopped complaining about who and what they were passionate and interested. i could (and might) :) write a book some day.If she writes one, I'll definitely buy a copy!
Someone wrote, "We parents out here are actual PEOPLE too." I responded: "All those parents' children are actual people too. I'm an actual person, too."
And so, full circle, I think that if watching TV (or anything) is a child's thing and complaining about TV (or whatever it is) is the parent's thing, an opportunity for a shared thing has been lost. How anyone could argue against that without admitting they have an antagonistic relationship with their children is a mystery. WHY anyone would argue against it so defensively and adamantly is less mysterious, but still I can hope they'll soften up some and be nicer people in public and at home, too.