I often run down the main fire trail that winds its way through our local bush. The track descends gently at first, but then drops away so steeply I have to take care not to lose my footing. After I have descended 57 metres from my starting elevation, I turn around, ready to make the return journey. It doesn’t take long for the muscles in my legs to start burning as I climb back up the rock-strewn sandstone track. When I get to the midpoint of the ascent, I always have the same thought: Why did I run down so far? This isn’t fun at all. I’m never doing this again. But of course I do.
I wonder why I put myself through such agony, time after time. It’s not as if there’s anyone watching me. No one would know if I cheated and didn’t descend quite so far. I could stop running at any point and it wouldn’t matter at all. So why do I choose to do something so difficult?
My daughters Imogen, Charlotte, Sophie and Gemma-Rose also run down that steep hill. I don’t make them. Like me, they just want to do it.
Hill running isn’t the only hard thing my girls choose to do. Three times a year, they write novels during the various National Novel Writing Months (NaNoWriMo).They take up the challenge of writing 50 000 words in 30 days. At the beginning of the month, the words flow easily. It’s fun. But as the days pass, writing becomes more and more difficult. There comes a time when they are tempted to give up.
“I can’t wait to do something other than writing,” Sophie says. “I want to take more photos, write some blog posts, work on something different.”
She could give up and fail the challenge. She could choose not to write another word. But she says, “I can’t not finish.” Something pushes her on.
Then there’s music. I never have to push grumbling girls towards the piano to make them practise. Their fingers fly up and down the keyboard, playing scale after scale, over and over again. A certain section of music refuses to sound right so it’s played multiple times. It can be frustrating. But my girls choose to do it.
My daughters do a lot of things they don’t have to do. They freely choose to do them. Why?
Are my children following my example? Is it all about wanting to be part of ‘The Team’? Or could it have something to do with personality? Perhaps Elvises are just stubborn and don’t know how to give in. Or could there be something else influencing us?
Perhaps we all have an inbuilt need for a challenge. We need goals which will stretch us. We all want that wonderful satisfying feeling which results from hard work.
I think back to our non-unschooling times. In those days, I set the goals for my children. They followed my expectations which were often based on the expectations of others from outside our family. There was no need for my children to seek their own challenges. Maybe there wasn’t time. Whatever the reason, they certainly didn’t choose freely to do difficult things. They were more inclined to avoid work when the day’s learning was over.
Of course there are all kinds of difficult things. Parenting is one of them. What keeps us going when things get tough? It’s love. And children also do things because of love. Maybe love is the greatest motivator of all.
So if no one pushes unschooling children, will they choose to do only what is easy? No. My unschooling children work hard without any pressure from me. I’m sure they’re not unique. I think I can say (even though I’m not sure of the exact reason)…
Unschooling children will choose to do difficult things.
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