The First Step Toward Unschooling: Unschooling the Parents.

Unschooling the parents

‘Just let me live my life’ were the words that came out of my sons mouth yesterday as I tried to teach him about following a recipe. He was furious. He was wanting to cook, I was wanting to help him cook. He was wanting to make biscuits, I was wanting him to follow a recipe. He didn’t want to. I wanted him to. We hit a stalemate.

 

‘Just let me live my life and let me learn how I want to learn’

 

I caught myself in that moment, caught between the double me, the one that says, in my head… ‘But you will stuff up the biscuits, it is about chemistry, the reason I follow baking recipes is that there are some things you cannot guess as they will be flops, I have written a cook book I know these things!’

 

Then Heston Blumenthal came to mind…

 

I don’t really know that much about him other than that he is a very creative chef. What if someone had clamped down on him and his cooking as a kid…he invents things, in fact he is totally creative around food. In reading his Wiki profile it seems he mainly taught himself and his big ‘Aha’ moment was when he decided to ‘QUESTION EVERYTHING’ which is precisely what my son is doing. It is also what these wonderful women speak about around being an unschooling parent in this great interview.

 

 

So, I pat myself on the back here as I turned on a pin of thought and emotion. Heston’s face came to mind as my son had his face in the pillows and really had had enough of his controlling mother. I thought. My son has a point. Reframe your thinking Lehla. Let your son lead and bring on the biscuit making.

 

We needed things, we went to the shop. As we walked down the aisle he said let’s get Vanilla and Orange extract. I said ‘Really? What together? and then I said, Oh I, yes let’s! I will do as Daddy does and say YES!’ I said ‘Yes’ then we also bought chocolate, butter eggs etc and the rest we had at home.

 

The rest being.

 

Salted peanuts, gluten free flour, milk, an egg and sugar.

 

He said ‘You can do it with me’ I said ‘Ok but I really struggle not to take over’ he said ‘Don’t worry.’

 

He had squashed the chocolate bar in to a ball and then added flour and milk and a whole bottle of vanilla extract and half a bottle of orange extract. Then he asked me to get the salted peanuts. I crushed them then put them in and he said ‘I didn’t ask you to crush them and put them in!’ I said ‘I can’t help it, I have to step away, I go on automatic pilot and I am really struggling to not take over.’

 

He said ‘it is ok.’

 

I said.

 

‘Can I grease the tray?

He said ‘Yes’

 

We made shapes, then squashed them down and made flat biscuits, I told him that if you put flour on your hands when you squash them into shapes then they don’t stick to your hands. We did it the biscuits were in.

 

Smells of a French Patisserie wafted across the kitchen, they were delicious. Those biscuits were delicious.

 

This story could have gone another way but for me it took energy, it took leaps not to take over and even when I had decided not to, I did.
Balancing when I am being helpful and when I am not is such an art.

 

I have ways of doing things and I am through my kids learning and ‘unlearning’ and realizing, like Heston when it comes to Unschooling ‘Question Everything’ especially myself!

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About the Author

Lehla is an illustrator and an author of books, she has written for The Guardian. She trained as an actress at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She wrote The South African Illustrated Cookbook, The Lovely Book for Wonderful Women and she illustrated a kid's book by M.J. Amani called 'Excuse Me, I'm Trying to Read' and also 'I am Me, You, Us and We' by Caroline Trowbridge. Above all she is a mother to three fast growing kids, she juggles her time between them and working on new books and projects. She has recently co authored with Anthony 'Jump', Fall, Fly - from schooling, to homeschooling, to unschooling' Her art work can be seen at http://lehlaeldridge.wix.com/lehla-

12 Enlightened Replies

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  1. ellenrowland says:

    Lehla, I cringed while I read this because I struggle with my control issues in the kitchen when my kids want to cook. Cooking is a big passion for me and I tend to get very territorial while also wanting to let my kids experiment. This “double me”, as you so accurately put it, often results in frustration and tears, followed by guilt and apologies on my part, which is definitely not part of cooking and creating! Being aware is the first step. Bravo to you and Jahli for compromising and baking up sweet memories!

  2. Yes, control is a big thing. I don’t think I knew that I was as controlling as I am, or let me reframe that. There is a part of me that can be terribly controlling. The part that I have to control (?) in my head, or accept, etc… It is a learning process for me. I am very much like my son, I like to make things up and am much better at free fall cooking than following a recipe! So it is ironic. But with this style of learning for me as a parent I realise it can shine a light on the parts of me that want order. Am work in progress…
    Yes sweet memories and I read this piece to him and he laughed and said. ‘You should stop it, don’t carry on, it is right as it is!’ and this whole process has lead to him wanting to make cooking films. So it is a journey, he didn’t want to read recipes, a friend suggested he watch them, he now wants to make a cooking programme. So it is like what Sugata Mitra says, he said something along the lines of this… learning can take you to the edge of chaos and beyond what you could ever possibly imagine…

  3. Barb says:

    I hope you wrote the ‘recipe’ down… 😉

  4. Well actually, I think I did. Anyway he has made up a new one and has made a film in which he does his own cooking show. Based on his new biscuit recipe!

  5. Yep, this is me exactly. And I can’t even bake!

  6. In what way? Are you like me, or my son or like Heston..?

  7. Like you: I find it very hard to let go and let them find their own way. I tend to try to find instructions (lke a recipe) and show them how it’s done. Whether I actually KNOW how to or not. I’m getting better at it, but slowly 😀

  8. Rebecca Bermudez says:

    Love this. I’m like you, not as a mother but rather by nature a rule follower. But I learned early on my own rules were limiting me and it’s been a frustrating (albeit predictable) aspect of my life. By being aware of it though it’s easier for me to let me kiddos be free form and experimental. I’ve always been frustrated that after 11 years of piano lessons I’m incapable of playing anything without sheet music, can’t bake or cook without a recipe etc. My daughter has made amazing sandwiches, planted her own pumpkin plants, and definitely thrives on independence.

  9. Yes, it is amazing how rules are ingrained…it is wonderful Rebecca that your daughter is thriving on independence.

  10. Hi Lehla! Just saw this article shared in Worldschool group. I was so thrilled to see it’s by you. This made me really think. I am controlling in certain respects and have noticed I like to “share” my ways w my daughter. I am often torn bc I do see she has a unique approach and way to do things. I allow myself to surrender and watch or let her take the lead. It’s a huge learning experience for me. That said, I am still working on being ok w messiness and not having to “organize” or clean up as we play. I love how for your son, this experience and your letting go, has evolved into his own passion to do a cooking show of some sort. I find creativity sprouts when we drop expectations and let things happen….

  11. Thank you for sharing

  12. Ha ha, yes it is me!! Yes, control is an interesting thing and following the lead can be amazing but for me I also have to quiet that voice within me that just wants to take over!! I have learnt a lot about myself on this journey that is why I think that book two that we do will be Unschooling the Parents as kids naturally, esp if they have been out of school know what to do! I also think that kids learn from just being around people that do things, they become inspired and intrigued and then they follow a path. My son right now seems to want to learn German as we are with a German family. So he is chatting away pretending to speak German which is the beginning of learning a whole new language. I guess when you talk about the cleaning up bit, then that is also your way and it makes sense to show her a way but it is a fine line isn’t it, one that I constantly have to juggle. And yes dropping expectations, you are right, let things happen. It is a journey for the parents it really is!

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