coaching and practice

Is there a place for 'coaching' within the unschooling paradigm?
I'm going to reframe the question from an unschooling perspective: how do your kids feel about "being coached"? Is it something that gets them inspired and excited about what they're doing? Does it make hard work into a slog? Does it set them up to weigh and measure their own worth as human beings against a set of external standards? Does it build them up, give them a sense of capability and confidence?

Coaching can mean a lot of things and happen in a lot of different ways, but "good" coaching, like good teaching has to meet the needs of the person being coached, or it's damaging. That means some people are going to have great experiences being coached and others not so much.
I'm also aware that being a musician and performer requires a certain level of attitude and discipline.

Not "a" certain level of anything. People are different. Skilled artists and craftspeople don't all fall out of the same mold or take the same path to excellence. In fact, many very capable, talented, successful artists and craftspeople follow rather eccentric routes. Reading or listening to biographies is actually a great way to wrap your head around how natural learning works in real life! Because for every artist who follows some stock school model there are a handful who fell into art while doing other jobs, or took a break in the middle to try something else, or dabbled until something changed and they took a leap of faith.
As per some experts it takes 10000 hours of practice to become a good musician.

It's tragic that that gets used to promote the idea that to be good at something you have to slog through a lot of shit you hate. In real life, the real take-away of that particular study was this: passion matters. People who derive joy and pride and fulfillment from what they do, do it a whole lot. Thousands of hours. It's not: "work hard and you'll be great." It's: "doing what matters to you is worthy." Talent matters. Personality matters. Luck matters. Feeling like you deserve to take an hour away from your responsible adult life and to make art, that matters, too. The thousand-hour study is a plea to everyone who's ever thrown up their hands and said "why can't you be more responsible instead of playing those damned drums all the time" to chill out and back off and let artists spend the time it takes to feed their art and their souls.
And this is where 'serious' musicians (or sportspeople or business people etc. etc.) hire coaches.

"Hire coaches" is too narrow a way to describe it. When people want to get better, they look for ways to do that. Sometimes that means finding other people to help... but that doesn't always look like coaching. Sometimes it means finding a new friend, or friends, to hang out with and make art with and/or network with. Sometimes it means biting off more than you can chew and asking everyone around "holy shit, wtf am I doing?" and getting lots of free advice. Sometimes it means watching youtube videos or listening to a million old records. Occasionally it looks like traditional coaching, for a little while, but often that's a very little while - long enough to get over a hump, learn one new thing - a workshop, a class, a weekend with someone who's passing through town.
Can an unschooling parent be a coach as well?

Depends. On you, and how much of your ego is tied up in your kids, on how good you are at watching and listening for the cues that say "this isn't helping", on how adaptable you are to the needs of others. It depends on how your personality dovetails with your kids'. It depends on the extent to which your kids are doing what they do out of joy and how much they're doing it because it's what you want - making themselves who you want them to be to get your love. As parents we have a whole heck of a lot of power to hurt our kids by seeing who they could be rather than who they are.

Something to ask yourself is how much it would hurt your feelings (make you angry) if your kid wanted a different coach, or no coach, or wanted to take a big long break from something they were really good at.

Rather than seeing yourself as a coach, try seeing yourself as a friend. Friends learn from each other. Among artists and craftspeople, learning from friends can be a really wonderful part of the process... but it can also be fraught when our personalities and insecurities clash. Often, life involves discovering which of our friends we can turn to for what kinds of help - there are friends I won't call for financial help and friends I won't call when my art needs a kick in the keester. Imposing the words "parent" or "coach" on the relationship can make the input of a particular friend seem more valuable than it really is.


deschooling and old friends

We were at a party with several other families, people we've been friends with for years.
As it got later into the evening all the kids started getting into trouble, starting fights, throwing tantrums. They never used to do this before. Our kids are 2, 5, and 7 and they were all the worst kids at the party.

One of the tricky things about deschooling is that you can feel like you don't know what to expect from your kids or yourself any more. You got used to having one set of expectations and rules for how to act, and without them it can feel like you're floundering when things go awry. Eventually, you'll have learned a new set of expectations and tools for various situations, but in the meantime... well, it can feel like things come out of the woodwork and blindside you, to mix my metaphors. To me "as it got later" is a giant red flag - because I remember when my kids were those ages. One needed to be able to take breaks from any kind of social situation. One needed to be taken home before things got to the point that he skipped from "this is fun" to "fight or flight" mode - it sounds like your 5yo may have that kind of short-circuit, too, at least right now, and maybe your 7yo, too. That's something to plan for - as in, plan to avoid, whenever possible, by having a sense of when your kid is tired, or overstimulated, or needs something that another kid can't provide. 
I don't want to give up these friends as we've crossed so many milestones together but I hate coming away from these events feeling like this. I should also include that these kids are my children's best friends

Don't think of giving up so much as taking a break, cutting back a little. You all need time to transition, still, learn some new skills together. Throwing your kids into situations where they're going to flounder doesn't help any of you, or your friends. Get together with one other family at a time, two at the most - I don't know how many people were at that party but "ten we've known 15yrs" sounds like five couples to me, plus kids - way too many people at once right now. If I'm wrong and it was just a couple families, then no more than one. Keep things small. Skip parties, but have playdates.

When possible, divide up your kids, too - your 2yo doesn't have "best friends" at this point, so don't hesitate to send them to a separate play date or leave them home with a sitter if the elder two are inseparable or have friends in the same family. If you're married/have an adult partner, plan to split up for social things as needed. One of you takes one kid and the other two, or hire a sitter for one so each kid has an adult.

If avoiding parties entirely would have dire social consequences (worse than your kids becoming "those kids" that no-one likes to invite at all), plan to arrive late, maybe, with kids well fed on favorite foods so that there's no sense of "missing out". Maybe attend parties in between other fun things so that it's easy to leave. Definitely only take one or two kids rather than all three - with that age range, they're not all going to like the same things, and there's a good chance you'll be tied up with the 2yo just when the elders need a hand. Avoid that dynamic by not bringing more kids than adults to parties, at least for now. In five years, things will be different.
I came away feeling judged

While I certainly agree with all the adage that "there's no special unschooling world" it's also the case that homeschoolers are a minority and unschoolers a minority within that. So there are some aspects of minority life that are yours, now, and being judged is one of them. If you have any other experience in your life as a member of another minority group, that will be familiar to you, but if not, well, here you are.

People won't understand, or will misunderstand, or will see you through a lens of stereotypes, or will judge you just for being different. You'll feel caught between wanting to explain and being annoyed at having to explain - again, still, really? didn't we just do this? You'll be frustrated to be The Homeschool Family, official representatives of all homeschoolers, everywhere, and tarred with the same brush. Sometimes it will make you a little crazy. The best advice I can offer in that regard is to, yes, get your house in order and all, but also try not to take the mutters and side-eyes and the rest personally. And, because some days that's easier said than done, find at least one home/unschooling friend irl or online you can commiserate with when three people use "the s word" in one day, or ask what grades your kids are in, or want to know how they'll get into college. Again. Knowing it's not just you can make it easier to let that stuff roll off your back.


I know kids will misbehave, but my child chose violence as their reaction.

Something that I've found helpful is taking the words "behave" and "misbehave" out of my vocabulary. Kids, like adults, get frustrated, misunderstand, miscommunicate, make assumptions that aren't true or don't pan out, get facts wrong, get tired, hungry, bored, lonely, aggravated, and sometimes find themselves in over their heads. And their behavior reflects that. But unlike adults, kids don't have very much experience in the world, so they're not very well equipped when things go wrong. Their behavior tends to telegraph a lot of what's going on with them as a result.

Especially with my first kid, who got to experience the steep part of my learning curve as a parent, when I thought about his behavior in terms of whether or not he was "behaving" I missed seeing the reasons behind his behavior - I wasn't looking for reasons, I was looking for performance. The more I looked for reasons, for what his behavior was communicating, the more I knew about him as a person, and the better I was at being his partner.

"difficult" kids

...when one person is holding the family hostage...

It's really, really important Not to see a child who's different from the rest of the family as a hostage-keeping bully. That kind of thinking is actually a part of abelism - parents often have a lack of empathy for higher needs kids and see those kids' attempts to communicate in terms of bad behavior, rather than seeing intense behavior as a desperate attempt to communicate that something is wrong. I know I fell into that trap with my first kid and it took a lot of hard work to get out - and a big part of that work involved getting away from the idea that one person "shouldn't" have bigger or different needs than anyone else in the family. It's not about what should be or what's fair. Needs, health, ability... those things aren't evenly distributed in life, and some kids lives are harder. They need more than anyone else in the family.

It can all seem so simple to parents who have kids that can be coaxed or pushed into doing things with just some grumbles or a bit of fussing. The conventional wisdom is that mom just needs to put her foot down, or explain things right, or set the right boundaries, set a good example... and if she does that and the kid still won't comply, well, then, that's a bad kid. Worse if they're atypical because as a culture we've framed disability and difference in terms of sweet compliant goodness on the one hand and evil monsters on the other. The brat who's allowed to hold the family hostage now will be a serial killer later. It's in all the superhero movies and cop dramas, urban legends, country songs, and most of all the superstitious gossip that parents pass back and forth like it's the absolute truth: you have to put your foot down, but some kids are just bad seeds.

That kind of implication can be devastating to families. When parents find that the conventional methods of insisting, explaining, and "modeling" don't help, those kinds of messages often lead to them throwing up their hands. Nothing to be done, after all, with a bad seed. Virtually all the messages to parents about what makes a "good parent" suggest exactly that.

What radical unschooling has to offer is a whole different way of approaching differentness - by seeing "difficult" kids as people who are having a hard time and, as their parent, looking for ways to make their lives easier. Making life easier, with a kid who's having a hard time, often means getting a long way away from conventional ideas about rights and fairness and what "should" be - because wanting those things isn't anything like reasonable for this kid, right now. It often means shifting your thinking so that you plan for your child to be exactly the way they are these days - not in a defeatist sense, but in the sense that you learn how to think ahead, to do the things your kid can't do, to help them do what matters to them, rather than trying to convince them that something else should matter more. It means adapting your expectations to your child, knowing that they'll learn what they need in their own ways, on their own timetable.

Sometimes it means you experiment and get things wrong - I really want to be clear and also empathetic about that. Yes, you try things and your kid still loses it. Or you try things and they kinda half help some of the time. Or you try things and your kid says "mom, you can stop talking now" and you do a happy dance that they actually used their words for a change. But having them know you're on their side - their actual side, trying to support them in what's important to them - that helps a lot. Even when there's no way to get things "right" your kid knowing they have a friend, someone who's got their back, that makes a world of difference.