Thursday, September 13, 2018

Parenting, Unschooling, and Transgender Kids

Unschooling is a form of homeschooling that emphasizes child lead learning. It is the process of supporting a child in exploring their interests and passions in ways that fit their learning style and personality. Unschooling involves trusting that we learn what we need to know when we need to know it; that we learn best when we are authentically engaged and what we are learning has a real world application or value in our lives. Parents or adults are facilitators, mentors, and partners in learning who see their role as one of supporting, encouraging, and guiding.

There are as many ways to unschool as there are families who unschool. It is not a one size fits all, here’s your curriculum, here’s how you need to do this, form of education. Ultimately, unschooling is about trusting your child and following their lead, while creating a relationship with them based on unconditional love and respect. 

Parents who understand unschooling often have an head start on understanding what is involved in being a parent of a child who is transgender. Experienced parents of trans children know that their role is one of following their child’s lead. This involves trusting their child and maintaining a relationship where their child feels safe expressing not only their thoughts and emotions, but also expressing their gender identity. 

Parents of children who are transgender are often learning along with their child, just as unschooling parents do. Parents do their own research and help find the resources necessary to support their child’s growth and development. They join groups for parents, and find LGBTQIA friendly social circles for their kids. They find other adults to support their children, such as doctors or therapists or trans adults, when their own knowledge and expertise isn’t enough. Unschooling parents do these things, too. They find activities and groups that are a good fit for their kids, they go to conferences, they find people who will teach or mentor their children when their kids want to learn skills that mom or dad don’t have. 

Transgender kids are dealing with all of the challenges and ups and downs of growing up, the usual hormonal changes and puberty, friendships, dating, school, peer pressure, and finding their place in the world. And then, transgender kids are dealing with a whole extra layer of challenges, such as a second puberty, living in a world that often doesn’t feel safe, exploring how they want to express their gender identity, and even figuring out which bathroom they can use. Trans kids have the best possible chance of getting through all of this when they have family support. 

For some trans kids who have schools that are not willing to accommodate them, or who are perhaps struggling with dysphoria, mental health , or other challenges that make school an unhealthy situation, unschooling is a wonderful option. Getting out of the school environment gives them the space they need to explore their gender identity and expression. Being able to live authentically while transitioning, or not having to worry about grades while starting hormones, can give them the break they need from the stress and pressure of academics. 

School and academics are not more important than a child’s mental and physical well being. This is something that most unschooling parents understand, and it’s also something that parents of children who are transgender need to remember.

Visit Raising Allies Resource Page for more information. I will continue to update and add to it over time.

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