'Ann Pleshette Murphy, parenting expert and "Good Morning America" contributor, questioned the unusual approach. "This to me is putting way too much power in the hands of the kids, something that we know kids can often find anxiety-producing, and it's also sending a message that they're the center of the universe, which I do not think is healthy for children," she said. '
The above lead in and quote were included during our first segment on GMA on our unschooling lifestyle. I was stunned reading this - I didn't know how to react; it seems so, so wrong. So many questions!
How much power does Ms. Murphy think we're putting in their hands, and at what point in their lives? Does she think that asking the kids to help decide on a location for a vacation at age 7, or to decide where we'll take a field trip at age 9, or what they want for dinner at age 12 is anxiety producing? How about deciding how they want to learn about a topic, or that they want to take a class, or that they want to read yet another book on Greek mythology? Or does she think we are asking them to set the entire family budget at age 5, or decide whether or not to pay the mortgage at age 10? And does she think that in a family where we spend so much of our time focusing on the kids' wants and needs that we can't spot any anxiety if our kids exhibit it? We know what the kids aren't comfortable deciding - they tell us. We don't say "you have to make a decision or else..." - it's so against the unschooling way of life. Perhaps she thinks we force them to make all of the decisions for the family? Like I said, it's a bit mind boggling.
The comment about the kids being the center of the universe was equally stunning. My kids are the center of my universe! (Well, they do share the stage with my wife.) They know it. It empowers them. It gives them confidence, allows them to take chances because they know we're here for them. They have also learned over time that all kids are (or should be) the center of their own parents' lives - so, they have come to understand that while their own family provides them with unconditional love and support, they can't expect the same from the rest of the world. Maybe Ms. Murphy would consider it shocking that the kids continue to learn and develop, and that they mature into understanding the difference between being the center of the whole universe as little children versus being the center of their parents' universe as they get older.
Our unschooling philosophy is based our understanding that people continue to learn throughout their entire lives. They learn about traditional school subjects; about interesting topics; and about living in a society. Our philosophy is also based on the parents providing guidance to their children - for example, helping them to understand that they are not the center of the entire universe. After all, our goal is to do our best for our kids, and to help them develop into successful adults. Why would we not teach them this? Why would we do something that would cause them anxiety?