Friday, January 20, 2006

Who's Got the Time?

An interesting thing happened when we decided to unschool Umberto. We had a week before we (the adults) returned to school, and during that week we forgot about time. We stopped going to bed at nine, and getting up at seven. Lunch was not served at twelve. These things did not cease to happen. Rather they flowed into our lives in what really seemed like a more natural extension of our needs. We went to bed when we were tired. We got up when we were rested. We ate when we were hungry. We never looked at the clock. We stopped making plans to be at places at certain times. We gave vague promises: "We'll be there around 11."

For some this may seem not all that radical. For me it was a huge revelation. I am one of those people who show a half hour early to my appointments. I hate being late for anything. You won't catch me being fashionably late to the party. No way. As a mother of three, it fustrated me when it took forever to get out the door. There was lots of shouting, pushing, and sighs of irriation as I put on many pairs of little socks, shoes, and coats. Going places was miserable for all of us.

And routines! Oy. They were a chain around our necks. Horacio and I are not good at enforcing routines. We'd spend a week dealing with the crying and screaming of bedtime, and then the next week we'd just give up. I think we enforced routines more out of a sense of "this is what we're supposed to do" than because we wanted to. Good parents make their kids go to bed at eight right? Good parents provide stability through routine. I'm not sure where this idea came from but it is ingrained in both Horacio and mine's heads.

So for a week we just let it go. We lived like we had nothing else to do but live. And peace descended. Seriously. With nothing to fight over, we were all happier. I stopped shouting as did umpired. Horacio showed a lot more patience. We played more. The kids did sleep when they were tired, and in fact, seemed to be a lot more willing to sleep. They even ate better. It was simply amazing at how much stress we relieved by just forgetting about the clock. And indeed we did fall into a kind of routine.

Unfortunately the real world intruded a week later. Now that we're back in school, it's much harder to maintain this sort of life. The kids stay up a lot later than normal because they want to see Horacio and me (our classes get out late), and they wake up too early to see Horacio off. I feel the need to organize again as I organize my own work around their lives. I love school but I find myself fantazing about a world where there are not schedules. Where we just do what we need to do without having to worry about time.

But still a lesson arose from this time: trust the children. I realized during that blissful week that our kids really do know what they need. I have faith that Umberto will learn as he lives. He knows what he needs, and I have to trust him.

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