Something that I put a great deal of thought into, more than just about anything else in my life, is parenting. I read books, visit websites, network with other parents and, above all else, listen to my instincts. I put a lot of thought into the relationship I have with my children. I make decisions about their education based on research that takes into account their physical, psychological and intellectual needs. These are not things I take lightly.
From the outside it probably looks like my kids are a bit ‘spoiled’ (a word I despise in reference to children). They don’t have a bedtime, they sometimes curse and most of their learning is completely autonomous and organic. They are free to disagree with us and let us know when they feel we are being unfair. Sometimes when we ask them to do things they say no, or not right now. They don’t have to eat whatever we put in front of them or when we tell them it’s time. All of these things are completely intentional on our part. I can just imagine that many of you are shaking your heads, tsking and just generally disapproving. I’m okay with that. I’m not responsible to you, I’m responsible to my children.
I believe the relationship we have should be based on mutual respect. I don’t define respect as unquestioning obedience, I define it as the ability to communicate with honesty and trust while always taking the other person’s feelings into consideration.I believe they learn best through an enriching environment where they are encouraged to ask questions, experiment with their ideas, indulge their passions and make mistakes. I believe the goal of education isn’t to stuff a child’s brain full of information they may or may not need later, or even be able to recall if they do need it. Instead I see education as a tool to equip them with the skills to find information when they need it and help them maintain the desire to always pursue knowledge. I believe that rote memorization is not only unnecessary but actually impedes the natural development of learning. I believe that to be well-rounded adults who are prepared to face the challenges of adulthood that emotional needs are just as important, if not more important, than intellectual needs.
I don’t believe that childhood is merely preparation for adulthood. I don’t believe that it’s necessary to practice waking up early as a child in order to be able to do it as an adult. I don’t believe it’s necessary to deal with bullies as a child, when you may not have a fully developed sense of self, in order to be able to stand up for yourself as an adult. I don’t believe you have to spend years deferring to an authority figure in a classroom in order to be a good employee someday.
I know some people will read this and think, “But aren’t you taking a big risk? What if you’re wrong?” To that I say, what if you are wrong? None of us have a crystal ball so we can see the consequences of our current parenting decisions. All we have is the information currently available to us and our kids as they are right now. The (well-researched) information I have, coupled with my own instincts, have resulted in kids who are happy, well adjusted, intelligent and inquisitive. (And, in case you are wondering, on track academically without any coercion from me.)
They are, admittedly, far from perfect. But what child is perfect? What PARENT is perfect? I’d ask you to ponder that question before you criticize, judge or dismiss my parenting choices.
Sincere questions about our parenting or educational styles, as well as what I’ve learned in my research are welcome in the comments and I will attempt to answer to the best of my ability. But please try to remain respectful and open-minded. I’m not suggesting that you have to parent the way I do to be a good parent and I ask for the same courtesy!