Thursday, June 9, 2011

Teenage Rebellion: An Unschooling, Respectfully Parented Perspective

There seems to be the almost universal belief among North American parents (I'm sure this is a phenomena found elsewhere as well, but I'm just talking about what I've personally seen) that their kids, whether these are theoretical future children or actual kids, and whether they have yet to reach their teen years or not, will hate or at the very least dislike them.  Teenagers hate their parents: everyone knows that.

My mother has told me that when my sister and I were small, she used to say to my father that he had to take over primary parental duties once we hit our teen years.  She's told me that she loved being a parent, and loved spending time with us, right from the get-go, but being surrounded by warnings of "wait until they become teenagers!" she always thought that would change when we got older.

Out for a Fall walk in 2008. We so obviously hate each other.

I suppose it's actually a very reasonable belief that your teens will dislike you: after all, most teens I know and have known do dislike their parents!  What isn't true though is that that dislike is inevitable.

The dreaded teenage years came in my family, and likely to my parents surprise, nothing horrible happened.  I mean, problems came up in day to day life, for sure, but looking back, I actually think that in terms of parent-child relationships and issues over "discipline" type stuff the teen years were (and are, as my sister is still a teen) smoother than when we were younger.  I attribute this to the fact that it was a constant progress over the years from more traditional parenting to more respectful parenting (which mirrored our transition from relaxed homeschoolers to unschoolers).

Though there are definitely unschooling parents/teens who don't have very good relationships with their teens/parents, it seems that the majority of unschoolers really and truly do.  Which to me, is a wonderful thing to see.  And I believe the reason for that is actually pretty simple.

When the subject of "teenage rebellion" comes up now, my mother is fond of saying "why would you rebel, since there wasn't really anything to rebel against?"

Now, I think there is an important distinction to be made here: some parents proudly brag about how their teens aren't "rebellious," and what they really mean is that their children are obedient to their parents wishes (or, possibly more likely, are simply very good at hiding the aspects of their life that their parents would disapprove of).  When I say that most unschoolers I know, myself included, don't or didn't "rebel" against our parents in our teen years, I don't mean it's because we fit the perfect-child model of some narrow-minded authoritarian-parenting suburbanite.

While I've never been very big into alcohol or drugs, I definitely drank long before the legal drinking age (though admittedly the whole culture in my home province of Quebec is very different from the rest of North America, in that virtually everyone drinks at least some amount from the time they hit their teens, with the parents knowledge).  My sister, who turns 18 (legal drinking age in Quebec) this summer, has been going to bars since she was 15 or 16, with my parents knowledge (again, very common practice in Montreal).  Both my sister and I have been openly anti-state, anti-hierarchy, and anti-authority for years.  I've dyed my hair unusual colours, shaved the sides of my head, and worn clothes throughout my teen years that plenty of parents I know would have disapproved of.  Sometimes we stay out late into the night.  We've been known to participate in Pagan religious rituals.  We swear frequently.  We hang out with people who are big into drugs.  If all those things were listed entirely out of context, it would probably sound like we were the people that many parents warn their kids about (then again, for all I know, parents have warned their kids about us...)!

This was taken last summer, but I still have the same haircut (though I need to shave the sides again).

So why do we get along so well with our parents?  It's pretty simple: control.  Or, more accurately, the lack of control.

Think of the things that most commonly cause friction between teens and their parents: breaking curfew, bad marks in school, skipping school, using drugs, subscribing to different religious and political views than their parents, disobeying parents...

Compare this to a respectful unschooling parent: no school, no marks, no curfews, no orders, and a belief that teens are entitled to their own beliefs.

I want to make it clear though that being a respectful parent doesn't mean agreeing with or approving of everything your teen does: it just means accepting and not attempting to control what they do.  Thus a parent that's strongly anti-drugs of all types might share all their opinions on the issue with their teens, give them information on why they believe what they do, etc.  Yet despite that, they wouldn't ground, punish, or shame their teen if they came home high.  In a mutually respectful relationship, teens are far more likely to genuinely take their parents opinions into account when deciding what they want to do, but teens are still their own complete and autonomous people, and will make the choices they deem best for themselves in the end.

My mum, sis and I all attend this event, and my father cheerfully lets me tell him all about it.

Parents in general, from the most to least mainstream out there, all seem to frequently express a wish that their children communicate with them and be honest with them.  Yet what the more authoritarian and punitive parents seem oblivious too is that no one is going to be honest with someone else if they know that by being honest, they're opening themselves up to be yelled at, punished, shamed, or treated with anything less than respect.  Those parents also don't seem to realize that good communication has to work both ways: parents can't expect their children to spill all the secrets of their lives, all their important thoughts and deeds, to someone who thinks their own personal life is none of their kids business.

I also want to make it clear that I don't, and didn't when I was still in my teens (having just turned 20 a couple of months ago, I still have trouble remembering I'm no longer a teen!), tell my parents everything.  I'm my own person, with my own life, and some things stay private.  Sometimes because it's something very personal, or a secret not mine to share, and sometimes it's because I know it would worry or upset them to know something.  Yes, occasionally I keep things (and have kept things in the past) I know my parents would disapprove of away from them, not because of any fear that I would "get in trouble" or anything like that, but simply because I don't want them upset or worried about things they ultimately have no control over. 

My (and my sister's) relationship with my parents is really good.  We talk to each other about everything from how we've been feeling, what we've been doing, interesting links online or news stories, what our friends are up to...  We don't stray away from subjects such as drug use and other illegal activity.  I'll cheerfully announce that a friend is taking up graffiti, and Emi will call to say she's headed out to a bar after band practice, so expect her home late.  I've never worried about coming home smelling like weed.  And because of the relationship we have, my sister and I have never hesitated to get our parents help when we're worried about a friend doing hard drugs, and we'd never hesitate to call instead of driving home with someone who's drunk. 

I'm incredibly grateful for the relationship I have with my parents, and that my parents are the people that they are.

So in conclusion, here are my very inexpert opinions on what makes a good parent-teen bond: respect, honesty, communication, and a lack of coercion and control.  Basically?  Treating each other like full and complete human beings, with different desires, beliefs, aspirations, and experiences.  It's such a simple concept: don't be your teen's enforcer, be their partner.  And if more parents acted this way?  Well, then I think we'd start seeing a hell of a lot less of this "teen rebellion" thing!


  1. Thanks for this post Idzie. My kids are of 'teenage' years (15, 13 and 12)and the first thing I would like to point out here is that rather than experiencing the 'dreaded teen years,' I am finding it way easier than when they were little. When they were little, they didn't know how to deal with all their intensity. Now they do (through art, poetry, sports, music, DISCUSSION etc).
    Very enjoyable!
    Also,a really great author to read is Robert Epstein. His books which I have reviewed on my blog) talk about the creation of teenagehood-which in many cultures does not even exist.
    I suggest the book Teen 2.0 Saving our Children and Families from the Torment of Adolescence.

  2. My parents were pretty open and honest and pretty much let us do what we wanted to do and while yes I kept things from them they know now only a short 3-4 years later. And I agree especially in the teen years that it should be more of a partnership then an enforcer and lesser person type thing.

  3. As the mom to two Awesome Teens I have to say that I am so sick of hearing parents berate their teens. I relish mine. I thank them for being individuals and for having the courage to be themselves. I also think that they are far easier to deal with then their younger siblings who are 6 & 7. I encourage my teens to explore new ideas and broaden their horizons but I do not expect them to be anything other then who they are.

  4. I wish this page had a little heart/I-love-this button so I could click it. (Okay, I spend too much time on Deviantart. xD) Sometimes I feel like your blog is reflecting my own thoughts. I've always felt like I can converse with my parents as equals – perhaps we're not in terms of age & experience but I wouldn't be afraid to tell them anything, or of getting in trouble, like you say.

    Your experience/family culture on drinking sounds much the same as mine – I remember having wine with water at meals when I was about ten, & my parents have never told us whether or how much we can drink. It isn't particularly an area thing (although my mother is half-Spanish, and in Spain they're also relaxed about it, like in your area).

    I often feel that underage drinking problems are partly egged on by the fact that underage drinking is taboo – there's a restriction so I guess people feel they have to defy it, if that makes sense. :/

    Anyway, thank you for this great post, it's things like this that restore my faith in the human race! :) Love the last couple of paragraphs especially.

  5. I don't get it. Yes, you get along with your parents, but you are still choosing destructive behaviors. You may not be rebelling against your parents, but it sounds like you are rebelling against society. That's still rebellion. It just means your mom, instead of guiding you, is rebelling along side you.

    It seems to me like there are many more productive ways to express your own individuality without choosing destructive behaviors. Being an individual does not have to mean rebelling for the sake of rebelling. That is not to say that rebellion is always unnecessary. I rebelled plenty against sexism and the war and oppressive societal "rules" (not to mention church rules) when I was young (60's and 70's).

    It is possible, though to assert your independence without rebelling just for the sake of rebelling (which, again, it seems you are doing in terms of society). I have raised 4 teenagers. We were and remain very close. We respect each other. They never felt the need to rebel and had lots of freedom. They also knew that I felt it was destructive to use drugs (ever -- I didn't even do it while living and protesting through the 60s/70s)) or to drink before 21 (the age here). They knew that I thought the healthiest sex was that shared with a serious partner with whom they knew they could raise a child should that be the outcome of their sexual activity. They knew that, while I would not judge them should they make choices I would not make, I also would not condone those choices. Nor would I help them execute actions I did not feel were healthy (I did provide birth control for each of them. Only one of them needed it in his teens -- and he was 19. He ended up marrying his partner. Because they were very well educated regarding sexual health, they made their decisions based upon a variety of factors, none of which were rebellion against society or their parents, nor oppression). Because of these parameters, they did tell me everything and they came to me seeking advice on how to make things right after they made mistakes. They are now 28, 29, 31, and 33.

    Obviously, we had our struggles as well -- as we were 6 people living in one household, each with our own personalities. But, we were still able to be close AND have parameters. Above al, we were their parents first -- friends second. They still thank us for offering parameters, particularly moral guidance..

    I wonder what will happen when you are in any other sort of relationship -- like with a boss, co-worker, or a spouse. From the attitude you present in this post, I don't read you as a particularly interesting person beyond your closeness to your parents and your rebellion against society. How else are you demonstrating your individuality? What are your strengths and interests? Who are you beyond a young person who doesn't follow anyone's rules?

  6. There are people who you cannot reason with - for all others, don't ignore. :)

  7. I'm 43, I've raised two sons who are now 20 and 22 years old. I couldn't agree more with your post, Idzie. I never came upon that period of time when my teenagers didn't like me, but I also didn't parent the way most of my friends and acquaintances did. I never had rules for my kids (beyond treating eachother with respect and kindess) and I didn't have to ever ground them and they never "talked back" to me. I think you can definitely be a parent as well as a friend to your children.
    My oldest is now a Cryptologist in the Navy and my younger son is a musician at heart, taking music classes and doing well, also.
    I love how you said: "parents can't expect their children to spill all the secrets of their lives, all their important thoughts and deeds, to someone who thinks their own personal life is none of their kids business." That is so true. I hate that whole, "Do as I say, not as I do" attitude. Anyway- once again (for the 100th time?), very nice job on your blog post! :-)

  8. Hmmmm, how is one to respond to that?
    "What else are you???"
    What a question.
    Isn't that what blogging and writing and feeling and emoting and expressing and cussing and sympathizing and learning and adventuring and exploring and evolving throughout one's life is about? And someone wants a tidy four sentence explanation?
    For some of us, our whole lives are about this question. For me, Purpose is about "Creating the Grandest Version of the Grandest Vision I ever had for myself" (from Neale Donald Walsch).
    And it changes.
    It changes in a moment, it changes in a mood, and it changes, sometimes, in a dream.
    Keep on keepin' on to all of us, I say.
    God doesn't expect us to all be Same.
    He wouldn't dream of asking it.
    She likes us big and beautiful.

    ☮ and ♥,
    and wearing dreads and drinking a microbrew at 43 years old.

  9. @Anon- It sounds like you are questioning rebellion in general. Some people do rebel for the image of being a rebel. Idzie is not that person. Rather, she questions, challenges and asks questions with the hope of making it possible for others to do the same. In short, her work is that of a trailblazer.

  10. I am anonymous. I am realizing how my post sounds now and I am sorry. I am not a writer. I was really trying to have a discussion about this. I was honestly just confused. I also home-schooled my kids. It was a long time ago and things have changed so much. I always considered us to be unschoolers, but I can see a lot has changed since then. Maybe now we would be considered something else entirely.

    Anyway, I was trying to understand your point of view (admittedly after only reading a few posts) and did not think through how the way I wrote down my thoughts might come across. I figured since the posts I did read are so honest and forthcoming that you wouldn't mind some prodding.

    When I went to like your facebook page, I noticed that you'd written a status about how upset you were about my comment. I was shocked. Again, I think your blog is so honest so I figured I could respond with frankness.

    I am not a troll (I had to look that up). When we did our life learning we were pretty much alone in it. We had no publications, no internet, and no blogs, of course. My kids are turning me onto blogs like your blog and I find it very interesting.

    I apologize if it sounded like I was criticizing you. I wanted to understand a bit and share some of our story. Apparently I came off "preachy" (facebook). I can see how.

    I'm sorry for that.

    I have to say, though, that the comments on your facebook were pretty harsh too. Just as I jumped to conclusions without knowing much about you, you assumed I was a terrible person. Some assumed I was very religious (I am not). Some called me a troll. Some said I know nothing of unschooling. We all make assumptions I guess.

    I am sorry if mine hurt you. I will edit before posting next time.

    My best to you. It is exciting to see that alternatives education is still going strong and that a new generation is all grown up.

  11. Great post!
    I dunno...use douchebags to strengthen yourself, lol.

  12. @rfs: Thanks for your comment! I love hearing about parents and teens who actually like each other. :) Also, thanks for the book recommendations!

    @Megan: I hope I didn't make it out in my post as if I think people have to be unschooled to get along with their parents, because they obviously don't (though I do think unschooling can make it easier by removing some common points of contention). As I said in the above comment, I love hearing about families that get along well with each other. It's just great. So yeah, thanks for the comment! :)

    @Crystal: Yay, more getting-along-well-with-their-teens comments! :) Yeah, I too hate hearing parents berate their teens. It's so sad and so very disrespectful, which the berating parents seem entirely oblivious to. Anyway, thanks for your comment!

    @Sol: Aw, thanks, really glad you like the post!! A big part of why I write is to connect with people in some way, so reading comments like "Sometimes I feel like your blog is reflecting my own thoughts" makes me really happy: that someone out there is reading what I've written and feels exactly the same way. It's just cool. So thanks. :-)

    Yup, sounds familiar! At family (and extended family) dinners from the time I was about 10 I'd be offered wine as well if I wanted it (not as much as the adults, but at least a bit in my glass). That was just considered normal!

    Yeah, that makes sense and I totally know what you mean. It's like the more taboo and limited something is, the more likely people are to want it just for the sake of it, instead of stopping and deciding whether they *actually* want it... Or something like that. Anyway, thank you for your comment! :-)

  13. @Life: Apology accepted: thank you very much for making it. It's definitely true that communicating online, with only the written word, and no body language or similar cues to go along with it, can be difficult, and can easily lead to misunderstanding. I was going to say I feel guilty now for posting your comment on my page as I did, but honestly, I feel like I interpreted it to the best of my abilities, and genuinely believed the comment to have a strong negative tone. So I won't feel guilty about that! What I will say is that I apologize for jumping to conclusions that weren't seemingly obvious in your post, and I apologize if anything I, or the other commenters after I posted your comment, said was hurtful or harsh. Even believing your comment to be nasty, my intention was never to be hurtful to the author of the comment: often anonymous negative commenters comment once, then leave, never to be seen again, so I though it unlikely the commenter cared enough to go to the Facebook page at all.

    I've heard from many people that the unschooling movement, and what's meant by the term, has changed a lot over the years. Having only been alive for the last 20 years of it, I don't really know in what ways, personally! I will say though that in this post I'm mostly not talking about unschooling, so much as what I refer to as respectful parenting, which to me basically means not attempting to control your kids. This would fall in line with what's meant by the terms radical and whole-life unschooling, I believe, but not necessarily plain ol' unschooling.

    I do strive very hard to be open and genuine in my writing (and in both my online and in real life interactions with people), so no I don't mind (and actually prefer) people to approach me in a similarly open and genuine manner. "Prodding" though is a different matter: maybe that's not what you meant by the word, but when I think of prodding I think of people who like to play "devils advocate": poking at people just to get a reaction. I realize that's probably not what you mean (I just regularly go on small rants about words I like or dislike, so feel free to ignore that bit if you wish), but I'd say I'm not a huge fan of "prodding" all the same.

    Again, I'm sorry at the harshness of some of the comments made on Facebook. I was working from a very different assumption about your motives. I regret the misunderstanding, and am glad it was cleared up so we can be discussing things as we are now!

    Even when I was young, there was far less information on unschooling/life learning than there is now, and the first time I knowingly met another unschooler I was 17! It is wonderful just how much info is out there now, and a desire to contribute to that pool of knowledge and experience is part of why I write this blog. There are so many great blogs out there, glad your kids are turning you on to some of them! :)

    Once again, definitely not happy about the misunderstanding! I hate when things like this happen, as it just leads to everyone feeling bad. Thank you muchly for your comment, and for a chance to clear things up! I'm going to try and respond to your anon comment in the spirit it was apparently written in, not the one I interpreted it as being, so look for that response soon...


  14. @Anonymous (aka Life): You seem to be claiming that "destructive behavior" is an objective thing: It's not. What's destructive for one person may be genuinely harmless relaxation for a different person, and even downright healing for a third. Each person is different, and knows themselves, their needs, desires, strengths and weaknesses, better than anyone else, and are thus best equipped to make decisions about their own body and their own life. Having supportive family and/or friends and/or community, plus access to knowledge, and very importantly freedom, are all very important in making healthy decisions, I believe, but what exactly healthy means for each individual can only be determined by them.

    My mother is not "rebelling" (except in the sense she's pretty anti-corporate, anti-anything that infringes on the rights of others): she's supporting my sister and I in however we choose to live and be. The way you use "guide" sounds very coercive to me, and is definitely not how I'd characterize my parents' roles. I know, and always have known, how my parents feel about things, they've always provided plenty of information on demand (though most of the information in regards to the "rebellious" things talked about in this post I learned independently, thanks to my own interest), been supportive, etc. But if by "guiding" you mean "attempting to control," which it sounds like you do, then no, my parents didn't do much of that.

    I wonder why you seem to think your rebelliousness was justified but mine isn't? The world is a colossally fucked up place, and while I don't tend to self-identify as a rebel (I much prefer identifying as a "radical"), I'm definitely very interested in rebelling against (though I'm more likely to use the word "fighting") systems of oppression--the institutions, governments, corporations, social constructs--that oppress, hurt, incarcerate, and kill human and non-human animals, and that are destroying the very planet, and all the beautiful wild life that is part of this planet. Because to me, rebelling against that couldn't be more justified. (Continued)

  15. My interests, passions, and drive in life right now, the communities I'm becoming a part of and the people I'm choosing to surround myself with, largely have something to do with fighting oppression, or hold at least some similar views to mine on the subject (plenty of friends aren't super radical politically, but we share at least some of the same important views). If that means I'm defining myself as being a rebel, then I'm quite fine with that. I'm a radical, a green-anarchist, a feminist, an unschooling/freedom-based education advocate/activist: these things in large parts define who I am, and I'm quite happy with that.

    I'm glad to hear you're close to your kids. I love when families can manage that. I also think you're entirely entitled to your own opinions on the matter of drugs, drinking, and sex. However, what I don't believe you're entitled to do is make decisions about those things for others: you know what's best for you, but you don't know what's best for other people. Again, I feel like you're making statements about what behaviors are harmful as if they were objective things, when in truth it's not objective at all. Alcohol, especially in very large amounts, is harmful to anyone: it's no more harmful to a 16 year old than it is to a 22 year old (and while you say you think it's "harmful for people under 21, which is the age where you live," how does that make sense to you if the legal drinking age is 19, 18, and even 16 in other places? Is drinking in Massachusetts at age 18 more harmful then going to Quebec and drinking at 18? Is the law right just because it's the law?). Many studies have shown marijuana to be less harmful physically than alcohol, and there are no recorded cases of someone dying directly from the use of marijuana (this isn't including deaths from driving accidents while under the influence or similar things, which can all be said of alcohol, which is legal, as well). What's healthy sexually differs greatly from one person to the next, and there is nothing objectively less healthy about having sexual relationships that aren't monogamous and long-term. This sounds like a seriously slut-shaming opinion you have here. You also seem to assume that all sexual activity could lead to a pregnancy, which is often only true of heterosexual sex (it's not cool o cut queer people out of the discussion by focusing on one one type of sex between specific types of people). You mention oppression in things your son wasn't rebelling against. So, what, you think it's bad to rebel against oppression?? That seems like a pretty sad outlook.

    Again, I'm very happy to hear your own children are so happy with your parenting and the relationships you have with each other. But please don't assume that what was healthy for your children is healthy for everyone, or that they couldn't have made different choices in their lives and still be in as good a place as they (presumably, from what you have to say) are now. Also, remember that "morality" is EXTREMELY subjective. What's good to me obviously isn't good to you. (Continued)

    1. Morality is extremely subjective? That sounds like there are bo morals except the moral for everyone to do as they please. The germans decided it was moral to murder all people who were not of the "superiour" aryan race. Thats where man made morals have led to.
      Just something to think about and explore.
      Personally i really liked and agreed with

  16. What, so you don't think I have any friends? Mentor-figures? You think I've never done something for money? My parents aren't exactly the only relationships with anyone I have in my life! Humans are adaptable: I can deal with authority in whatever way seems best to me in the individual situation, which often means I follow the rule or act in the appropriate way to not be kicked out of a place. I function in the world just fine. But ultimately, I DON'T believe in the rule of law: don't believe in imposed authority, or governance, or anything else like that. I believe humans are remarkable creatures with a remarkable ability to, in the right circumstances, co-exist cooperatively, without rulers or enforcers, in a way that benefits humans, other animals, and the environment/the world. That's why I hold the political beliefs I do, and I feel that that's what I, and other people in the movements I feel an affinity with, are fighting for, both as an end-game and in day-to-day life. I have no intention of being less rebellious and just becoming part of the status quo. The world needs some serious changing, thank you very much, and I want to do whatever I can to be a part of that change.

    "You don't seem like a very interesting person" is an incredibly judgmental thing to say, and a frankly ridiculous judgment to make after reading one or two online posts (written, no less, on a blog focusing on a specific subject/theme). As I've already said, being an anarchistic feminist hippie is a big part of who I am, and you'll probably get that impression from poking around on this blog, but to think that then gives you enough information to decide how interesting, or uninteresting, a person I am? That's just silly. If you were to read every single post ever written on this blog, you might get a bit better of an idea of who I am. You might find out that I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer; that I memorized The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes when I was 10; that I adore stories and fantasy; that it makes me so happy to listen to people just causally jamming; that I hate "debates" and people who like to play "devils advocate" (aka, get a rise out of other people just to amuse themselves); that I love folklore and mythology; tie-dye and the colour purple; finding and making and eating food. What you're less likely to know from reading this blog is that I've started trying to write poetry daily again; I love the smell of sweat on a hot summer day; I just got a couple of really awesome zines that I have yet to fully read, but want to; I'm looking forward to a friend's birthday party next weekend; I've cried for days at the loss of a friendship; my sexuality is the one thing I don't have a label for; I saw a Great Blue Heron flying over a lake a few days ago; I like having tea parties... These are just a handful of things, however big or small, that make up who I am, and how I feel and think in this moment. It's impossible to know from one blog post whether or not you'd find someone "interesting" (though if your opinions on things are as very different from mine as they seem, it's quite likely we wouldn't enjoy spending much time in each others company, seeing as we simply wouldn't be able to find enough in common).

    Also, the way you ask "what other interests do I have," I feel like you expect me to make a list in each post: "unrelated to the subject I'm currently discussing, I'm reading a book right now on colonialism, and I just looked up Jane Eyre online, and I had a really interesting discussion yesterday on art..." That's not really the way you write blog posts or articles!

    I could go on, I think, but I feel like I've addressed all the important points, and this is a looong response as it is! Excuse any snark that shows up in this response: sometimes I just can't help it! ;-)

  17. Interesting post; a lot to think about, whether or not I agree with it. My question is, having been brought up without any real authority, how do you think you will be able to handle *having* to submit to authority, such as in a job setting (in which you are not the boss, of course)?

    Another question, hope you don't mind haha. Throughout your posts, one thing that I have noticed is that you seem to go through life without any definite goals. I'm just wondering how that's like for you. Do you sometimes feel like you are aimlessly floating around? Or do you actually have goals that you haven't written about? Just curious.

  18. I must say that I am truly enjoying your blog. You seem like a very emotionally stable, thinking, young man with an apparent ease at writing. I get a sense in your writing that you are trying to be open and honest. I treasure all of these qualities and appreciate reading what you have to say.

    That being said, I am an unschooling mom to three kids who are not yet teenagers. I look forward to their teenage years as I love seeing them grow and express who they are.

    I'll check back often.

  19. I always enjoy your posts. We are also entering the teen years. With love, joy, respect, honor, and LIKE : )

  20. My daughter just turned 18. From the time she was 13, I kept waiting for things to change, for her to turn into the angry, rebellious, hateful person who didn't want anything to do with me. Year after year, people told me "oh, just wait--14 is the worst! No, things will get bad when she's 15...." In fact, even though I love littler children--I'm a preschool teacher--I have enjoyed my daughter more each year. The teen years were awesome--and now it's fun and weird to find that she has so much to teach me. I attributed the enjoyment to the fact that I never spent time laying down the law to her--we talked about limits and expectations, and managed to find common ground. I wish I hadn't spent so many years dreading a teen-aged bogeyman that never materialized!

  21. I'm currently unschooling my son. I particularly love this one though. I was not unschooled, nor homeschooled. Matter of fact I went to big bad public school all my life. When the teen years came, they went just like the rest of my childhood. Rule free, expectation free. My mom didn't expect me to be a cheerleader, play basketball, or join a club. She didn't expect me to make straight A's, and if I failed a class totally either it was something I needed to take again because I wasn't getting it or the way it was being taught needed to be examined (everyone learns differently and my teachers were willing to work with me during down time or outside of class, or a tutor/mentor with a different teaching method was a possibility). The only rules I had were the school rules/dress code (which my parents found ridiculous and has been changed since I graduated!) and the city curfew. Once I was 16 and no longer had a city curfew, I had to be home or where I was staying by 1am. Purely because my hometown has a lot of drunk driving incidents (probably because too many teens were too scared to call their parents for a ride)...and she didn't want me out when the bars/parties let out. My mom did not condone teenage drinking or smoking pot...but we weren't going to get punished for it either as long as it was done responsibly. It was up to us to do our homework, or ask for help. Our "punishment" was failing the class, plain and simple. "Punishments" for things like speeding tickets or the such was paying for them...getting a job if we had to. We didn't lose our car privileges, or get grounded. Our only punishments ever were the consequences of our actions. Sounds a lot like real life huh? In the summer out of school, we were allowed to do as we wish as long as we weren't harming anyone of anything (my brothers had a hard time with that part, from the broken ceiling fans to the other brother through the wall. They were ADHD and hadn't been parented at all until my mom married my step dad when they were 8 and 10). We never had a bed time, or the such. We were responsible for ourselves and our actions. We didn't have a certian way we had to dress outside of school. So we wore all black if we wanted, rocked unnatural hair colors, etc. If I wanted to wear nothing by my rainbow bikini and jeans all summer long with my hot pink hair that was fine. We were allowed non-facial piercings (because my parents didn't want to have to deal with the school). My friends would always see me as so "rebellious". I'd always say, "Its hard to rebel when you have nothing to rebel against". I did get in trouble a few times at school, because my mom taught me to question authority, because she never wanted me taken advantage of. Some teachers don't like being questioned...

    It was nice to always be allowed to live life and make my own mistakes :) I look forward to doing it with my unschooler. I also look forward to our continuing relationship that wont be damaged during the teen years.

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  23. Great post. I got linked here from Scarleteen, and was interested to note that you didn't mention sex as a source of tension - parents who subject their kids to medically unnecessary genital alterations (regardless of whether they are "male" "female" or "intersex"), shame or punish them for masturbating or partnered sex or refuse to provide them with information, help and support with regards to birth control/condoms/pregnancy tests/getting an abortion if they choose it/continuing a pregnancy if they choose it/parenting if they choose it/giving the kid up for adoption if they choose it, or refuse to provide information, help and support without shaming or punishing about sexual orientation and gender identity (kids need good sex ed)... really piss me off. Not to mention parents who try to shame and bully their fat kids into becoming thin, and more generally any parent who gives their kid the message that there is a wrong way to have a body. Still, I didn't get the impression you were saying these kinds of authoritarianism are ok.

    And yeah, I really agree with you about parents who expect their kids to tell them everything about the kids' lives but don't think they have to tell their kids anything about their life.

    1. I absolutely agree, those are really important things that definitely often cause conflict, and I'm really glad you commented about that!! I feel like I should have more to add, but I'm pretty tired and can't think of anything else, but wanted to let you know I really appreciated this comment and agree with you that sexuality and gender are another thing that parents who want to be good parents have to respect about their kids, and provide honest information and support about when it's wanted.

  24. Also, I think the comment about only being allowed "non facial piercings" because parents didn't want to deal with the school, is one of those things that shows how arbitrary rules hurt people, because ear piercings are probably one of the safer kinds you can get (I'm not defending parents who pierce their kids ears when they are too young to give their informed consent -I know that when that is is something you could debate about somewhat, but it's unquestionably wrong to pierce an infant's ears- or when they are old enough to but don't consent, I'm talking about if the kid wants a piercing).

    I am a homeschooling mom with a 14 year old daughter who just FEELS LIKE REBELLING. In fact, she can't find anything TO rebel, but she knows she can do it and her dad and I will support her.

    We have a wonderful relationship and I know it is because of the mutual trust and respect.

    Enough about me, loving your blog!
    You might even see "traffic" from my blog because I have yours linked on it.

    Peace, Karen

  26. Let me start by saying I am fascinated with unschooling and the freedom it gives people to realize their full potential. My question might seem trivial but I'm just wondering if you were encouraged/coerced/made to eat vegetables?!

    I have read many things about how biological mechanisms make it difficult to like certain foods if you are not exposed to them frequently as a child. This was certainly the case for me and I feel one of the areas where my parents perhaps did "know best". I've noticed a lot of info on here about your liking to find/cook/share food so I was curious about your early childhood experiences.

    Would you recommend preparing separate meals for a child who doesn't like the food the rest of the family eats? Would you allow them to make their own food - even if it was unhealthy options every day? It is the one area I don't feel I could step back on if I ever decide to become a parent. Maybe because I had a lot of freedom myself growing up, but not when it came to mealtime!