Three months ago I never imagined our lives to look the way they do now. Looking back, I guess I was just fumbling my way through parenting – knitting together examples from my own upbringing with bits and pieces I had picked up, as well as resorting to instinct. That last part is now almost laughable to me – ‘resorting’ to instinct, as if my natural parenting intelligence and impulses, and those of my daughters, were the last port of call. I am not claiming that people are born with some innate ability to parent perfectly, nor that I am a perfect parent, but I am saying that I haven’t been trusting my intuition enough.
When my eldest daughter wasn’t able to sleep without being rocked by me, I ignored my gut and forced myself to leave her to ‘cry it out’ while I, too, cried it out. I felt the pressure from the reminders of my entitlement to ‘me time’.
When my youngest daughter had one of her tantrums I made a half-hearted attempt to implement the naughty step. I was inconsistent with it because I didn’t believe in creating a battle of wills with my child – in truth, I can’t remember a time I used the technique when there weren’t other people around.
I had believed I was putting my children first, that I had their best interests at heart. That was not true. I was concerned with what others’ thought – of me and of my children.
Then I began teacher training.
I have a year to go and, well, I’m pretty good at it. One problem. I don’t believe in what I’m doing. At first I felt discomfort with the effect the education system had on the children I was teaching – the conveyor belt-like treatment of the kids from how they move through the school to how they move through the system (this Ken Robinson lecture hits the nail on the head) – and this inevitably led onto having great concerns over what my own children were being succumbed to.
So, home schooling, right? I mean, I am practically a qualified teacher. No sweat. But did I want my home to be a replica of school? Er, no that would defeat the object. Thank god for the internet. The net has a wealth of information about home education – from research and theories about how learning happens to blogs and facebook pages written by those who do it, who live it. The approach that struck me as right for our family is autonomous education, or unschooling – learning through living.
It was at this point the snowball started to gather real momentum. If learning is intrinsic to living then how can any part of our lives be separated from it? This question has only served to ask further questions about my approach to every aspect of life, not just learning. As a result of adopting a more gentle and more free attitude towards learning, I am building a gentler, freer attitude towards everything.
So now not a day passes that I don’t read something, or engage in discussion, that links to my new outlook: attachment parenting, peaceful parenting, gentle parenting, green living, sustainability, autonomous learning, libertarianism, outdoor learning… Where will it stop? I hope it never does.
I will always implement elements of my own upbringing when raising my children; I will always pick up ideas from here and there; but now I will be more discerning about what I take and what I leave. I will be mindful. And I will trust my instincts.