And because Allie mentioned something back here about housework, so I thought I'd do another post about how that works here.
I know some people manage it, but I find it impossible to allow the children full autonomy in their learning whilst still insisting they do other things to help out around the house. Maybe it's because I'm an all-or-nothing sort of person, but it seems I can either do non-stop coercion or none at all! And none at all is friendlier, more respectful, nicer, more effective.. just generally better, in my experience.
Well, there's me and Tom here who are both officially adults, and Ali and Zara who are nearly officially adults and Lyddie, who is officially very young and creative, and the baby. And a fair amount of mess and chaos is created. This is exacerbated by the fact that as well as unschooling, we also practice unfooding, (Did Deborah invent that word?) therefore food is being prepared by random people at random times in random ways. And there are no clearing-up rules.
So, what's the end result? Well the house isn't spotless, and I don't do all the work. I think we all do as much as we want to, as much as makes sense to us, enough to keep the place to a standard with which we're comfortable. The trouble is, we all have different standards.
One of the boys shares my taste in cleanliness/tidiness, and quite often washes dishes, hangs clothes and tidies up voluntarily. I'm frequently pleasantly surprised when I go to do a task and find he's already done it and he does it without fanfare and not expecting thanks or praise. His brother, on the other hand, is happier in a more chaotic environment and would wait far longer before he chose to clean or tidy anything. So it's rare he cleans or tidies anything! But he's happy to hold the baby while I do the work, and is always available for unloading or loading the car and other heavy lifting work.
Zara would be the first to admit she's no 'clean freak' either. But she loves to take care of her baby sister at every opportunity, which again frees me up to work on keeping the house within my comfort zone. And Lyddie loves to clean and tidy up, wash dishes and do anything domestic at all. I only have to start a job and she goes to fetch her chair to stand on so that she can join in and/or take over. Washing dishes then becomes a science experiment in the sink, or a game with teaspoon-people in dish-boats, so that's ok.
Things work best around here when people are left to do their own thing, in their own time and their own way, according to their strengths and weaknesses and their likes and dislikes. I actually like washing dishes and tidying up. But I hate ironing! I think we all do, so none of that gets done. Zara and I were heard pondering the other day whether we actually possess an iron. She thinks we do, somewhere.
Reading all that makes it sounds very peaceful around here, doesn't it? Well it is, but only sometimes ;-) There are days when nobody tidies, washes or cleans anything, or has the inclination to help in any way and if I'm tired when the chaos drops noticeably below my tolerance level I have been known to get upset. Reactions then vary. Out of three teens, two usually keep their heads down and one comes to help me. And Lyddie helps too. And the two helpers are both good at reassuring me that the world doesn't hate me and nor did it mess the house up on purpose. And we rush around cleaning up until I'm happy again.
Hmmm. Is my sometimes being upset about mess coercive, then? Well maybe it is, but not consciously or deliberately. So I wonder if it counts.