Lately both my boys have been asking very clearly and vocally for more autonomy. They say things like, “This is my project and I decide!”
Brace yourselves, I think we’ve entered the tweens.
I know some kids came out of the womb stubborn and independent, but not my kids. This is a whole new thing. It’s exciting and scary both. It’s not that they haven’t had any opinions about their own work and lives before now, just that they have always been small opinions. They wanted to learn something, but they wanted me to plan it. They wanted to do something, but they had no road maps or plans beyond these vague desires. When they got frustrated, they wanted me to finish it. Now, they want to grab the keys to the car.
I’m glad. I was sort of waiting for this. They surprised me by having so few forthright passions and by being so malleable when they were younger. I’ve adjusted and appreciated their Renaissance qualities and taken advantage the best I could by trying to pack in as much basic content as I could while they were so open to learning about anything and trying anything. If I said, time to learn about the Romans, want to try a new sport, how about you do it this way, they nearly always said, “Great!” Now, they want the reins.
I see it in their friendships where they’re busy telling the parents to butt out and let them settle things themselves. I see it in projects they set for themselves around the house. This weekend, they spent an entire day planning a “restaurant” for the Husband and me. They planned the menu, did the shopping, set the table, and cooked all the food. And while I spent most of the day fielding questions about the location of various kitchen items and the clarity of recipe instructions, every bit of help was resented, especially by BalletBoy, who couldn’t stand that there might be anything he didn’t know and needed to ask. I was not allowed in the kitchen. A year ago, they would have wanted me in the kitchen the whole time.
I see it in school too. They’re both working on the Brave Writer Partnership Writing imaginary islands project. A big part of the project is making maps. Since we don’t do photocopying as the project suggests, I had them make a digital drawing on the iPad of the outline of their island and then printed off multiple copies for them to make multiple maps. They each have planned really cool maps inspired by the neat map book Where on Earth? with all kinds of backstory and details. The book is a bit of a departure from the project directions, but that’s just how Brave Writer projects go, right? They meander away from their original instructions. The kids have been making some really neat maps and imagining things I wouldn’t have thought to tell them to do, such as shipping routes.
However, we have also clashed over things like, “Coffee won’t grow if it’s as cold as you said the temperature is,” and, “Nowhere has an average age of 5 years old. That would mean no one lives long enough to have children,” and, “You’ll need a story to explain why this part of the country is so rich and this one right next to it so poor, or you should consider changing it.” Let me tell you, they don’t really love that input.
On the one hand, yes, it’s their project. But I keep running into the need to let them learn and make sure it makes sense. If more projects are going to be the future of school (and I think it is for us), then those things need to come into play. Just doodling colors on a map doesn’t tell a story. You have to think about it first or it’s not school, at least not for us.
But I also know I have to let go more and let them figure this stuff out on their own. I need to help them work on those skills of asking if something is going to work or not, asking if they followed all the rules, asking if they fit all the pieces together, asking what they could improve for themselves, asking if it makes sense. And if they want more autonomy and control, then that’s a skill set they need. Perhaps most key is figuring out when to ask for help on your own and how to take it. Of course, I have to figure out how to give help without giving too much.