Sunday, October 3, 2010

70 Ways Unschoolers Learn to Deal With Frustration

One of the questions frequently lobbed at unschoolers is how kids who are "given everything they want" will ever learn to deal with frustration, as if saying "no" to things your kids know full well you can provide is some sort of exercise in character-building. (To me, this is the equivalent of asking how they will learn to deal with physical pain if you don't hit them, but I realize it is not generally meant with that level of malice.)

My parents never withheld anything from me that they were able to provide, and I promise, I have dealt with *plenty* of frustration. And I'm getting better at it - many of these things would have been the apocalypse to me, as a very sensitive child, but the more I live the more I learn how to laugh things off. I promise you, school and punishments are not how I learned this.

So, I am here to assure you that no matter how much you lovingly provide to your kids, they will still have to deal with this stuff:

1. Broken appliances

2. Broken computers

3. Rained-out picnics, park days, vacations, baseball games...

4. Not getting invited to parties

5. Video games you can't quite beat

6. Neighbors with small yap-type dogs

7. Rude people out in public

8. "Some assembly required"

9. Nightmares

11. The flu

12. Youtube comments

13. Long lines at the grocery store when you were ready to eat an hour ago

14. Pens that won't write until you scribble on every nearby surface and try to suck out the ink like a vampire

15. Not getting answers to emails

16. Having too many emails to answer

17. Basically any trip to the post office. (Goes double if you're not even the person needing to mail something.)

18. Check engine lights

19. "What do you mean, that was the last roll of toilet paper?"

20. Needing to pee while someone is in the shower

21. Boring Saturdays where you can't think of anything to do

22. Having to schedule time with schooled friends around their homework

23. Cat hair + favorite sweater

24. Favorite teddy bears that just can't be sewn up anymore

25. Not getting or losing a job when you've tried your hardest

26. Getting rejected or dumped when you've tried your hardest

27. Helium balloons that were let go prematurely

28. Depressing shit on the news

29. Any mention of politics

30. Being the last person to shower and having to take an ice-cold military shower

31. Pets that die, run away, or have to be given away

32. Contests entered and not won

33. Flat tires

34. Telemarketers

35. Clouds on the night of the meteor shower

36. That toy everyone wants for Christmas/Chanukah/whatever but it is completely sold out but how can you understand that when you're six?

37. Being too little to reach the light switch, see all the books on the shelf, pour your own juice, walk the doggie, help mommy carry stuff...

38. Being too young to drive a car, go out late at night, get a job, choose where you live, vote, have your opinions and feelings taken seriously by most people...

39. Bad first dates

40. Bad haircuts

41. Dealing with disabilities, illness, and injury

42. Dried-out magic markers

43. Power outages, phone outages, internet outages...

44. "If you are calling about a rabid badger attack, press 1. If your refrigerator mold has become sentient, press 2. For all other calls, please hold..."

45. Losing socks to the Underpants Gnomes

46. cl1ck here 2 make ur pen15 b1gger

47. Not making the team or passing an audition

48. Not realizing your favorite necklace/bracelet/earring that someone Very Important gave you is missing until you get home - from somewhere very large and crowded.

49. Queerphobia, racism, sexism, transphobia, fatphobia, classism, ableism, xenophobia...

50. Songs that get stuck in your head, forcing you to listen to them to make it stop, even if you hate them

51. Rubik's cubes, sudoku, crossword puzzles that keep making obscure 1940s movie references...

52. Tangled computer wires, ropes, and Christmas lights

53. "Thank you for calling [office]. Our office hours are [large span of time that definitely includes the time of the call]. Please leave a message and we will get back to you during regular business hours."

54. Not having more than two or three of your best friends concentrated in any one part of the country or world, so no matter where you go, you miss a lot of people

55. People who argue against unschooling by insisting that you, personally (or your good friends, personally) will Fail At Life

56. Being asked, "So, what do you do?" during a period of your life where what you're doing doesn't sound outwardly impressive. ("Um, I blog, and stuff...")

57. Your reed breaks right before a recital, your tights run on the way to a job interview, you get a charley horse right before the big game...

58. tryng 2 dciphr txt spk

59. "Hi, I noticed your hair looks like shit! Can I interrupt your shopping trip to straighten it?"

60. Puberty. And for people with uteruses, the ongoing joy of periods.

61. [Person you consider a good friend] likes [statement you find personally insulting] on <3

62. "Please allow 6-8 weeks for delivery"

63. Needing desperately to talk to a friend, but they're only allowed 15 minutes on the phone or an hour on the computer, No Exceptions.

64. Loud, persistent noises over which you have no control

65. Toothaches, headaches, stomachaches, growing pains...

66. Realizing a favorite DVD (or worse, video game) has an irreparable scratch only after you've become totally absorbed in it

67. Needing to leave the house FIVE MINUTES AGO and you/your parents CAN'T FIND THE KEYS

68. Being in the middle when two friends have a falling out

69. Those days where nothing sounds good to eat, nothing sounds fun to do, your clothes itch, everything is annoying, and nothing anyone says can make it right.

70. Losing a loved one

Artificial barriers not required. I promise.

(And I could've gone on longer. Feel free to post your own examples in the comments!)


Penta Mom said...

What an excellent response to that assumption that we are coddling our children if we "give them everything". It's impossible to shelter kids from your list, and from many other natural events and situations! Excellent post!

Michael said...

This post is made of pure win. Bonus points for linking to the Sneaky Hate Spiral and references to sentient refrigerator mould. (Slight penalty for spelling mould like an American.) :P

Elisha said...

@Penta Mom: Thanks :)

@Michael: I must admit I stole the sentient-mold bit from you. (Mold, dammit! I am America, and so can you.)

Amy Jane (Untangling Tales) said...


This reminds me of the things-I-don't-need-to-put-up-with-in-real-life list of what we spare our kids by keeping them home.

And my uncle told me a couple years ago (right after he told me about his granddaughter getting in a fight) how sorry he always felt for us kids about what we missed out on, "being homeschooled."

No, he missed the irony.

kelly said...

Oh my gosh. This is such an amazing article. Thank you so much!

Word Imp said...

Hi, just wanted to let you know that the Word Imp has returned!

Bee said...


Maybe that wasn't the most classy or mature way of agreeing with you, but it's the first thing that came to mind. I have had much of the same thoughts, but not so well articulated as you just put it. Well done.

Kate said...

LOVE this!!!