Adventures in Unschooling

Posts Tagged ‘attachment parenting

I am not talking about a formal education here but rather an informal one. My kids have been a major driver in the topics that I have chosen to learn about in the last five years.

When I became pregnant with my first child I started reading about pregnancy and child birth. I was interested in natural birth but I didn’t know where to find midwives etc. And like many people who lack information I was also a little bit scared of birthing away from an hospital that had “professionals” on hand. So I went with a hospital birth.

I won’t go into it right now but my experience was not pleasant and I started searching for alternatives when I became pregnant with baby #2 (who was born at home in the water).  FYI: Baby #3 was born in a birth centre with a midwife. We did this simply because it was free and it was an equally  wonderful water birth. I heart my midwives. 🙂

My midwife with baby #2 was very holistic and encouraged me to look at more natural way of doing things.  I spent many, many months reading about everything from the safety of  natural childbirth and home birth, to the unhealthiness of processed foods and meat, to the merit of natural medicines.

This research branched off in many areas and resulted in our adopting many different philosophies in parenting and eating. We became vegetarians (who are mostly raw vegan now) who wore our babies in slings and co-slept. Even now, my baby is 15 months old and I am still nursing her. I have no immediate plans to stop.

Then when Trey started to grow older and started to become a lot more challenging I started pouring through dozens and dozens of parenting books. We desperately tried to undo the damage we had done by following Dobsonian (LOL! Dr. James Dobson) parenting methods. We followed his advice for a while but that seemed to only make our kids rebel more. Time outs, punishments, yelling and in our desperation, spanking, only made Trey angrier and less cooperative. I have now learned that a hug can be much more effective at encouraging good behaviour than a time out!

It was through this learning that we learned to practise attachment parenting with our children and not just our babies. I am constantly falling off of the wagon but I try again and again because the happiness, security and self esteem of my children is important. In our parenting we strive to show our kids that we love them even when they act in ways that are difficult for us to accept. And that is hard for us to do too.

I have also looked into many different topics relating to their health. I have read extensively about vaccination, vegan diets, antibiotic use in children and treating childhood diseases at home.

When our eldest was about three and a half we started thinking about schooling. I had always known that I wanted to homeschool but as we started looking at all of the different philosophies of parenting we became aware of one called unschooling. We fell in love with it and have been thoroughly enjoying practising it in our home.

And when our kids show interest in a topic now we find that we begin to learn about it too. For example we started learning quite a bit about nature on our nature walks. We now have all kinds of field guides that help us to identify plants, clouds, animals and bugs.

And lately our kids have sparked an interest in space in my husband. My husband has been avidly reading about the different planets and I have been inspired by his interest and have been immersing myself in the articles and photos from the Hubble Telescope site as well as from my own guides at home and from Wikipedia. 

I have learned things about space that have been blowing my mind.

For example. I have learned that the sun is actually a star. And that there are many, many stars that are much, much, MUCH bigger than ours (see illustation below). I have also learned that some of these other stars have solar systems of their own.

Which means there is potential for life in other areas of our very vast universe. I have also learned a lot about telescopes (how they are built and which ones are good for which conditions etc.) and Kevin has been teaching me all about planets.

I am also up to date on the current theory of star birth and am getting to be pretty well versed in the terminology. Words like nebula used to mean nothing to me but I can tell you what it is and what the difference between an asteroid, a meteor and a comet is. LOL.

All this just because my son got interested in planets. 🙂

The image below came from this blog post: http://tomsastroblog.com/?p=5198  You can click on the image to see it zoomed in. It helps with reading the names etc.

There are many practises and trains of thoughts on this one issue alone. Not as many as there are on birth but still plenty!

And we are finding ourselves drifting to the “dark side.”

After many, many, many nights of being regularly awakened between one to six times a night by our little Anna we have started to think about CIO. Otherwise known as Cry It Out.

People can get pretty desperate when they are tired.

So, today I was talking to a friend about my temptation to try CIO with Anna. Now, this is a friend who understands. Her baby (exact same age as Anna) has been struggling longer than I have with a baby that has an even more distorted sleeping (or non-sleeping) nighttime pattern.

I don’t even know how she has survived. I would have cracked and been hauled off to the giggling academy a long time ago.

And this friend did me an enormous favour. While supporting me in whatever decision we arrived at she also offered a link to a very interesting blog post about CIO: http://womanuncensored.blogspot.com/2009/12/just-let-her-cry.html

This was so encouraging. It reflected all of the reasons why we have NOT let her CIO before and it was nice to have a refresher. Check it out. Please.

Dr. Sears doesn’t encourage sleep training. Instead he uses the term “nighttime parenting.” I think a paradigm shift is required here. Why should we all of sudden stop responding to the needs of the child just because it is dark outside. Just silly!

And as a aside. Here is a post on circumcision:

http://womanuncensored.blogspot.com/2010/01/aids-circumcision-fallacy.html

I am always against male genital mutilation. If your primary reason for circumcising your son is so that he looks like his dad or because of cultural reasons, then please, tell the child’s father for me, “GROW SOME BALLS YOU INSECURE PUSSY!!!”

And if you are responding to all of that bad science about HIV transmission being reduced by genital mutilation then you should watch the video.

And it’s pretty common knowledge that sensitivity is reduced in circumcised penises. I don’t think parents should make decisions like this for little ones.

I won’t even pierce my little ones ears because I don’t want to hurt her and break that trust. When she can understand the reason for the pain, she can get her ears pierced if she should CHOOSE to. It all comes down to respect!

I have been reading The Unprocessed Child: Living Without Schoolingby Valerie Fitzenreinter. It’s not the best book I have ever read on the topic of unschooling but it is genuine and impactful. It’s a good book on respecting children.

About a third of the way into it there is a chapter called “Independence.” And it really hit home for me. It’s short and full of common sense but there is something that really connected for me.

It encourages us to really let kids make their own choices. That kids learn when the environment allows them to succeed and fail without fear. So we are eliminating bedtimes. And so far, when Trey has gotten tired he tells us and we go and put  him to bed. He also sleeps in later that way and we surely like that. I have put them to bed when they seem in need of it (crying a lot, rubbing their eyes and exhibiting other symptoms of exhaustion) but I am feeling rewarded by their judgement in when they need to go to bed. This has also eliminated bedtime tantrums.

When I started reading the chapter on “Discipline” I had a flashback to high school when we were forced to read Lord of the Flies. It’s a good example of the distrust that adults have for children. It feels like it was pure indoctrination. When I think of civility in grown up circles I am often surprised at the pettiness, backstabbing, imaturity, and sheer violence of adults. We point to peer raising peers (a bad idea by the way) and say that deep inside children are little savages, but I see many war-mongering men who are big savages too. I don’t think that schools teach us civility and respect at all.

In fact, I think the best way for children to learn to be generous, respectful people is or a) for them to be around people of all races, ages and backgrounds and b) to have those attributes shown to them.

We tell our children what to do and then wonder why they can’t make good choices for themselves. We yell at them and neglect them when they really need us (when they are screaming and angry) and then wonder why they aren’t compassionate. We demand compliance from them and then wonder why they can’t stand up to their peers. Shameful! We should treat them as we’d like to be treated and how we wish we had been treated when we were alone, crying in our bedrooms without supper.

I have found that you can cut a lot of bad behaviour off at the pass with a big hug and a nice chat. Everyone feels good this way. When I banish them to their bedrooms because I don’t want to deal with the behaviour we all end up angry and we all have a bad day.

Most of all, I hope I can learn to be this way. I want to be a good, attached mom. It’s so hard when they are learning to assert themselves.

No one said that parenting was easy. Sigh…

I am not sure if I will be able to get this all down (from my head to the computer) and have it sound like I want it to but here goes…

My sister was telling me about this dog whisperer show where the host demonstrates how you need to exert ownership of your pet and make it clear that you are indeed the head of the household in order for your dog to respect you and behave appropriately. He also states that you should never hit or punish your pet. That a problem with behaviour is a result of a problem in your leadership.

OK. I know that kids and pets are different but maybe there is something to be gleaned here. Iwant my kids to want to behave well. And I know they need much more one on one attention than our pets.

I know that it is  wrong to spank your kids and control them through manipulative behaviour but I also think it must be scary for a child, who depends on her/his parents, to think that he has so much control over his environment.

The dogs who are lacking leadership from the head “dog” have disturbing behaviour like biting, chewing, peeing etc.

Maybe this explains why kids with too little structure tend to make bad choices at all levels of their lives and why kids with too much structure tend to lie and sneak around behind their parents’ backs. Maybe they need someone to exert caring “ownership” of them.

I think we need to be empathetic of our children and the underlying reasons why they are driven to misbehave. For example, addressing their insecurities.

But we have to make sure that we don’t become so buddy-buddy with them that we lose the ability to correct their behaviour when it is needed.

I am writing as I am thinking a lot of this through for my own home. I know that Trey’s toilet training is going better since I am validating and encouraging him. All the while being clear about my expectation that he stay dry. And we haven’t had a tantrum in three days and the boys are being more obedient in general and kinder to each other.

Thank you Dr. Sears!

dsc04026I know that I have always loved his philosophy of baby-rearing and I am finding myself happy with his parenting advice as well. He really helps me to understand how attachment parenting looks when you are dealing with toddlers.

I have also looked at a few other books from the library and I think I like this one the best. I think it works better for our family that some others. I am finally starting to understand why so many people dislike James Dobson’s advice but I don’t think that he is as bad as they claim. So much reading and thinking…oy!

This parenting thing is a lot harder than it looks.