As I was tucking Macy, age 9, into bed last night, we had one of those sweet, late night conversations. Macy is my middle child and lives in the closet under the stairs. Seriously. Our house is small and we have had to get creative in figuring out how to fit three growing kids, a work from home mom, and various pets into our teeny, tiny 2 bedroom house. Macy was the perfect candidate for the Harry Potter room. It's a tight space and it's hard to fit all of her stuff in it, but she loves it.
When I tuck her in her bed at night I have to remember to crouch at just the right angle so as to avoid whacking the back of my neck on the doorway. Most days her stuff accumulates in her doorway and spills out into the living room. I end up kicking it back in so I can shut the door. At the end of the night, she has to wade through the pile to get to her bed and we have the same conversation each night as we are saying goodnight.
Macy: "Didn't I just clean this room?"
Me: "Seems like it, huh?"
Macy: "I'll do it first thing tomorrow, when it will be easier."
Me: "What about the morning makes it easier?"
Macy: "Everything's easier when you feel like doing it, you know?"
Me: "Yep, I know."
I got to thinking about the tasks that exist in my life that I rarely feel like doing: housework, filing papers, paying bills, reorganizing the growing pile of CDs on top of the stereo. And yet, regardless of my feelings about it, there are times when they must be done. In the course of a day, or a week, or even a month, they all, eventually, get done. But they are usually the tasks that are last on my list. Long after knitting, reading, running, writing, eating and sitting on the couch with the newspaper and a cup of tea. I try to remember this when I feel the need to pester my kids to get their things done. I know how it feels to not be in the mood. I'm often not in the mood.
A parent asked me the other day, "But what happens if my daughter never does want to learn how to read? What will I do then?" This is a parent who has been frustrated with her current schooling situation and wanted to know more about unschooling. Her daughter is creative and artistic and intelligent and could care less about reading. She's 8 years old. I suppose you could say it's last of her list. I feel for this mom, I really do. It must be agonizing to wonder if it really is possible to let go and trust kids to learn what they want, how they want, and when they want to.
"What if I regret unschooling later?" she asked. The answer for me is simple. I have always said that we will unschool as long as it is working. As soon as it isn't working anymore, we'll stop. I secretly know that this day will never come. My kids may decide someday that they're missing out, or there is something they want that school has to offer. I've told myself this may happen. When that day comes, I have told myself that if I truly am an unschooler, I will let them go. I will support them as best I can. And I will be ready and waiting when, and if, they decide to come back home.
Will this sweet, bright, artistic 8 year old never want to learn to read? I doubt it. But if she were my daughter, I suppose I would many, many more years before worrying about that eventuality. Unschooling has taught me to keep the focus on today. Do my children have what they need today? The answer is yes, for the most part. Macy's room is still messy. The pile of papers and unpaid bills still lies on my desk. Everything's harder when you don't feel like doing it.