I get about the online unschooling traps a bit, and one of the things I notice is a certain level of guilt about not facilitating consistently at all times. I know that I've felt it too! So lately I've been dissecting it a bit and I have a few thoughts I'd like to share.
First off let's compare unschooling with school for just a moment. When children attend school there are holidays and weekends, and schooling parents don't feel guilty that their children aren't learning during those times (well some might, but we can't cover all bases). Also, schooled children take mental breaks throughout the day, every day they attend school! After all who can sit in a room being talked to non stop and not zone out, at least occasionally? So it's probably safe to compare the ebb periods with week ends or holidays or just plain daydreaming. There's nothing wrong with daydreaming! I bet some of the greatest inventions, novels, scientific theories etc were dreamed up when their creator was tuning out.
Unschooling parents are most commonly schooled parents. I can make that assumption because the overwhelming majority of people in our society attend the institution for their education. To that end, we tend to have ingrained ideas of what education and learning should look like, and deschooling ourselves is a complicated and ongoing process that I suspect takes longer than we know, and may not ever be truly completed, although we may come close. (actually I think deschooling ebbs and flows too, but that's another post). Sometimes our kids are hell bent on extracting every bit of knowledge they can possibly attain through all manner of sources, and in those times we feel involved, virtuous, we feel as though our choice to unschool is paying off because we can measure their progress. But when they hit that brick wall and the ebb stage take over, us parents often feel a bit wobbly about it all. But you know what? It's impossible to live in a state of "nil learning". IMPOSSIBLE! Even though what they're learning may not outwardly appear educational, or it might not appear at all, they are still learning stuff. They really are!
School analogy: A kid may go to school all day and learn "nothing" (many of us have asked a schooled child what they learnt only to be told "nothing") But on the bus on the way home they learn about bus route, bus fare, reading timetables, it's just that the schooling parent might not notice that and assign it any value, but the unschooling parent does. Using public transport to navigate your way around the world is a really useful and worthy skill.
Right now we're on an ebb period. Sometimes I feel like I should go and razz the kids up, get them off their computer games and make them do something that my previously institutionalised, schooled self deems appropriate. And sometimes in the past I have done just that. But this time I'm not doing anything. I'm not standing in their way, I'm not banning them from Mario Brothers, I'm not telling them to go outside and play, and I'm certainly not handing them text books and expecting them to complete set exercises. Why? Well strike the text books off first, simply by saying that they voluntarily complete work in text books when they feel like it, if I go and force them to do it they won't enjoy the books anymore and they won't learn from them if they're just using them to get me off their case. As for going outside and playing, well they do that every day anyway. They walk the dog, they play chasings, they sometimes play a ball game and most days they engage is some loud wrestling match that disturbs the overall peace of the household significantly.
I have a feeling we'll soon get flowing again.
the ebb, sleeping near Mario Brothers