Unschooling and Helicopter Parenting

March 26, 2010 § 6 Comments

Child’s Play wrote an excellent post about how unschooling has helped her be less of a helicopter parent. I highly recommend you check it out.  It’s a great read and her pics are some of the best out there.

I have to admit that I related to this post a little more than I wanted to. I even felt a nagging, “Pay attention to this!”

The truth is I STILL helicopter way more than I should. Yes, my kids are 21 and 14, the oldest doesn’t even live at home anymore. But on too many an occasion I still whirr my Mommy blades so fiercely you’d think I was trying to spin time backwards.

In a way, I think that’s exactly what I’m trying to do, or at least just stop time long enough to catch my breath. You’re how old now?

I know that the reason I have parented this way is because I had such a rough time as a kid. I know I’ve been way over compensating and for the longest time I truly believed that my constant protection was in their best interest.

When my kids were in school I was on the PTA, I was a classroom helper, I chaperoned field trips, I delivered milk to classrooms and I was even on and eventually made head of the “lice squad”. (pun intended)

When my kids were in school I also sat on the local community council, I co-directed and taught a children’s drama program – that they participated in – and served on several committees that organized neighbourhood events.

I was involved in virtually every aspect of their lives give or take a few classes here and there and outings with friends that didn’t happen at our place.  I was, for most of their lives, the epitome of the helicopter parent.

The thing that was lost on me was to balance that need to protect and nurture with trust. Not just trust in myself to be able to handle something bad happening to my kids, but more importantly, trusting my kids to be able to handle something bad happening to them.

Because life is not all sunshine and roses and Mommy can’t really be there every minute of the day.  But oh how I tried.

What does any of this have to do with unschooling?  Well, it has everything to do with it.

Unschooling has afforded me that balance. Unschooling has allowed me to let go of the need to control and worry about every detail of my kids’ lives.  Unschooling has given me permission to be myself and incidentally, I’m much more easy going than I ever thought I was.

And I’m learning and practicing to be a more trusting and supportive resource as opposed to a stifling helicopter parent.  Unschooling is not just about our kids, it’s about us too.

While I wish very much I had come upon this kind of sharing of wisdom two decades ago, I’m deeply grateful for it now.

If unschooling has taught me anything, it’s that there are no time limits on learning.


§ 6 Responses to Unschooling and Helicopter Parenting

  • Shady Lady says:

    Helicopter parent…yeah, I think I might be that just a little bit. It’s hard to tell though. Princess is very attached and she is, after all, only 6. We’ll be moving into our new house and there are kids in the neighborhood. This is a first for us. Princess has never had kids to go outside and play with. I’ve been wondering how I will handle that. My guess is that I will start out hovering, but in time will find my way inside. Hmmmm….I don’t know for sure. Leaving her outside makes me nervous. Oh shut up! 😉

  • Sheri says:

    Shady – What?! I didn’t laugh. Well, not until I read the “Oh shut up!”…then I burst out.

    All that is perfectly normal and exactly where you should be. You’re right, she’s only 6. And everyone knows the world is not the same as it was when we were 6.

    You have plenty of time yet to hover without worry that you’re being over protective.

    It’s just that when it gets to the point where your almost 15 year old is TELLING YOU you’re being overprotective…as is my case, then it’s time to think about it.


  • Shady Lady says:

    Yes, Sheri…I know that both Princess and I will find our way. Freckle lives in a neighborhood with lots of kids and she has made the transition. I guess I’ll figure it out. And I’m glad you laughed, I’m trying to find my funny. It got lost for a while…

  • Sara McGrath says:

    I think that unschooling allows me to give my kids breathing room. We never did school, but I know the separation and worry would have driven me crazy. I had a rough childhood, too, that probably contributed to a compulsion to over protect.

  • To pick up on the phrase “the world is not the same as it was when we were 6″… all statistics indicate that the world nowadays is actually a safer place than it was 30 years ago. What has changed is the media attention on everything bad that happens. For instance, in the 4 years I have lived in this neighborhood, there was not a single break in, no kid has been kidnapped, nobody has mysteriously vanished or been beaten up or shot. 🙂 (Hooray!!)
    We have forgotten on several occasions to close our garage door at night. This meant, there was access to our two cars, two bikes, a bunch of tools and other stuff we store there. It also meant there was access to our house, because that door of course also remained unlocked. Well, nothing was stolen, and we were never robbed. (Double hooray!)

    And yet, I am watching carefully over my children. Yes, they are now allowed to play with their friends, and they’re even allowed to walk down the block to this little walkway that is framed by trees, and the kids call it deep dark forest. It’s actually in the middle of the neighborhood and visible from all the houses in that area. But it’s a 5 minute walk away from our house. Well, I make my kids check in with me every half hour, because I’m just too darn nervous. If they don’t check in on time I go and see for myself… just checking, you know. 🙂

    I guess what I’m trying to say is, most children are growing up in a perfectly safe environment, and it is our job to find this balance between supervision and letting go. And I’ll be the first to admit just how difficult this is. 🙂

  • Sheri says:

    Sara – Hi! Thanks for your comment. Sadly, I think having a rough time as a kid does often lead to my sort of over protection. What made it worse was that my kids both hated school and I wasn’t secure enough in myself at the time to start homeschooling. So I did what I thought was the next best thing and immersed myself as much as I could in their school lives.

    Unfortunately, for our family, it set a pattern of me hovering that I’m having difficulty breaking. But I’m working on it. 🙂

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