As we have our house for sale, and are maintaining the excessive neatness required by that, i’m reminded of just how messy this unschooling life is. Consider our last house here-four hours earlier, this room was spotless.
Or our dining table, regularly needing to be shovelled off so we can eat.
Although i’m not the cleanest person alive, I do like order. I was struggling with mess recently, so I started browsing online for what other homeschoolers had to say, and was again reminded of why i’m so not radical.
The radical unschooling solution? Who cares, it’s just your high standards. You shouldn’t force them on the rest of the family. If they’re your standards, YOU uphold them cheerfully, demanding no help from anyone else. Give your family the blessing of a clean house. Theoretically, your children will see you and automatically pick up your good habits, and eventually exhibit them to your satisfaction.*
After finishing my laughing fit and picking myself up from the floor, I started musing about how this method started. The reason I came up with is because most people hate housework. They see it as repetitive, neverending drudgery-and if you don’t want to do it, why would your children? This is mostly due to clever marketing-many people own every ‘labour-saving’ device there is because of this belief. People bitch and moan about having to clean. The message to children is ‘Housework is horrible. Avoid it any way you can’. So I can understand RU-ers thinking totally avoiding mentioning housework is a winning strategy-if you don’t force them, they may not end up with an aversion. But nor will the parents end up with any significant help in the vast majority of cases.
But we are crafty parents. We learnt the secret trick with children years ago-you can make anything fun. And if you do, they will believe you. Like the husband having dishwashing races with the kids last night, where he washes them as fast as he can while the child drying has to try to keep up. It usually ends up with suds and dishes all over the kitchen (luckily they’re all stainless steel, so throwing doesn’t matter) and masses of shouting and laughing. Hence, our kids have no issues with doing dishes when they’re asked.
Instead of avoiding the issue, why not make housework enjoyable, by doing it together? By showing them that keeping house is a worthy task? Unless they’re mega-rich they’re going to have to do it every day of their entire life.Turn it into a job they can do well, and take pride in-children like being useful. I think many people have forgotten that. They enjoy knowing they’re making a contribution to the family, and love knowing that their work is valued and appreciated. It also helps to cultivate an appreciation for actually having this all of this stuff-once you know how many people in the world live in poverty and how lucky you are in comparison it seems selfish in the extreme to complain about washing the dishes after your fabulous meal.
Plus, there’s a lot they don’t notice. For them, the cleaning fairies really do come. I was asked by my seven year old recently what I was doing. The answer? Scrubbing the bath. She’d never realised it had to be cleaned. I imagine many children could move out without realising, especially if you clean when they’re asleep. Without a conscious effort to show them what is done and how it’s done, there’s every chance they won’t know until they have to tackle the job in their own house.
Sure, I could wait for their lightbulb moment, when they decided to be clean and tidy of their own volition-but i’d rather take the initiative. And then take the extra time I have to spend time with them.
*Cynic that I am, I confirmed my suspicions by doing some digging on the websites-all three who recommended this had 1-2 children and free rein on technology. A small family of screen addicts creates so much less mess than a large family of craft addicts!