Friday, February 22, 2008

The change

Hehe, if you didn't enjoy the previous post, my apologies. In this family we love a good prank so I hope you can see it was all in fun.

Why haven't I been blogging you ask? Well, because we are on the verge of a major family change. A change that we've been waiting for a long time.

No, I'm not pregnant! Since I know that's what you were all thinking.

We are becoming a family who no longer has a hierarchy. Craig and I (and probably most of you too) grew up in a world where adults are superior to children. We demand respect without feeling the need to return it, we lay down rules without feeling the need to explain them, and we treat our children as our followers when in fact, they are our leaders.

For the past 14 years we have run our household that way. We have made demands on our children, laid our agenda onto them and haven't taken advantage of the teaching that they have to offer us. Our family has turned into a "us against them" operation and we have lived with the result of that.

We have sent them to school in segregated classrooms and demanded they learn the "3 R's" in a robotic, scheduled way much like a production line.

We have 2 parts of our lives, the home part and the school part. As much as parents are involved in their children's school life, they are still outsiders looking in. This has created a grand canyon sized separation in us and our children. We don't know them and they don't know us.

This has all resulted in children who are resentful and have low self esteem and confidence and parents who struggle to maintain a sense of "control".

I'll start with the family changes. These changes have been most difficult for Craig and I since we have to "unlearn" a lot of what we were taught as children. I have always been a beleiver for baby-led care and learning. We don't let our babies cry it out, we allow them to learn the things they learn at their own pace and in their own way. We give them the tools to use, but we allow them to do the work. And you know what? Every (unless there is some disability I suppose) baby who is allowed to do these things eventually learns to walk, to talk, to feed himself. They know their needs will be met because we listen to their cries and comfort them and tend to them. This gives them a sense of security and confidence to crawl around the house learning about their world. We put up baby gates, outlet covers and cabinet latches to keep their world safe and if they get into something that could harm them we say "that's an owie" and remove the object from their reach.

Somewhere around the age of 2 or 3 though, something changes. We stop allowing them to freely investigate and learn from their actions and their world and we demand they follow OUR lead. It's no wonder that the "terrible 2's" emerge. Suddenly their world changes drastically, although it doesn't seem so to us. Why do we suddenly stop trusting in their inate ability to self teach? Why do we suddenly decide that WE can teach them more than they can learn by touching, tasting, hearing and seeing? We tell them what to do and when to do it so what they learn is not to trust themselves and that big people are more capable than smaller people and that big people are in "charge" of smaller people. Then we wonder why they push the smaller child down on the slide at the park.

This seems to become more and more true the older they get. "You can't" or "no" becomes a part of daily life. Children start to beleive that they can't and stop trying. They second guess their instincts because they are afraid of being wrong. In our attempt to make them good people we take away from them something that may never be regained.

We dont' do this out of spite or because we want to take something away from them. We don't even realize we are. We feel like that by demanding they respect adults that they will grow up to be respectful to others. We feel that by saying "no" when they want to do something we teach them that the world isn't always going their way and it's not always fair. We don't realize that instead we are creating kids, teenagers, and young adults who don't truly respect others because they have always been made to feel inferior than their elders. We teach them that the word no is a tool people use to get their own way in life at the expense of your fun and learning.

We also send them a very mixed message. We urge them to be individuals and free spirits, yet we squash their attempts to do so for the "greater good" of society. We send them to school to learn the exact same way as 24 other children in their class.

School. Traditional education makes little sense if you take into account the individual make up of children. Again it goes back to babies. Does every baby say his first word at 9 months old? No. Does every baby walk at 12 months? No again. Does every baby sleep through the night at 6 weeks? no. Why? Any pediatrician will tell you that it's because some 6 week olds are ready to sleep all night, and some aren't. Some 12 month olds are ready to walk, some aren't and that's OK! It is! Aside from a few parents most of us are ok with that and when our child learns to walk at 14 or 15 months we are no less thrilled with them. They learned it, it didn't harm them to learn it a little later. It certainly didn't harm them not to be assessed, reassessed, x-rayed to make sure their bones were formed right, whatever. By the time they are 4 you will never be able to pick out the child that learned to walk at 8 months from the child that wasn't ready until he was 14 months.

Yet the day we put our children in school that ALL changes. While it was ok for little Bobby to take his time walking when Susie walked early, suddenly it is a major concern that Bobby can't write his name and Susie can. It is alarming that Bobby isn't learning his ABC's and Susie learned them the first day. What we aren't seeing is that during free time, Bobby built a intricate castle out of lego's. Bobby can count to 20, but he can't WRITE HIS NAME!

Maybe Bobby learned to count to 20 by counting the lego's as he was building his catle. Maybe what Susie sees clearly on the chalkboard Bobby can't completely grasp unless he hears it said. Bobby and Susie are very different children....... but are expected to learn the exact same way. Susie got lucky in that her mind understands the way the teacher teaches. Bobbies mind learns a different way. That doesn't make him dumb, in fact he is probably extremely intelligent. But from that first parent teacher conference he is marked. Bobby failed. Bobby isn't doing well at reading. What does Bobby hear? That he's not good at writing and in his mind a tiny little post it is pinned up in the area of his brain where reading is learned. Every time, for the rest of his life, that Bobby goes to read something that post-it note starts to flash and whether he recognizes it or not, Bobby is, from that day forward a failure in reading in his own mind.

Bobby might have been a great reader if that wasn't taken away from him so early in life. If he didn't have to carry that post it note around with him for the rest of his life. Because Bobbies mind was learning to build castles and count at that very moment, he will struggle on some level with the written word forever. He may overcome it, he may not.

Did you know the average age for a child to learn to read is somewhere between 3 and 9? NINE?! Did you know that a previousely uneducated 17 year old can learn an entire curriculum of math from Kindergarten to 12th grade in about 2 months?

That 17 year old can do that because he is emotionally, socially, biologically, and mentally ready to learn math. Because he is previousely uneducated he has no negative post-it notes in his brain about math so he is able to fly through it and retain more than most of us.

Am I saying that you should just not let your children learn anything until they are a teenager and then cram it all in and send them out the door? Well no, that wouldn't make much sense. But allowing them to lead the way, allowing them to show YOU when they are ready is definitely a good thing.

Children learn all the time whether we like it or not anyway. Right now, for instance my 5 year old is walking up the stairs and counting the stairs backwards. HE already counted them forward to know there are 14. I'm not telling him to do math, I'm not making him do anything, and he doesn't even know he's doing anything but playing. He's not failing at anything, no one is better than him. We all learn from the world around us. As parents it isn't our job to shove information down their throat when we decide it's time for them to learn it, it is our job to let them learn through life, to make learning fun based on what interests them, and to try to slide some learning experiences in.

It's interesting. If I were to put a peice of paper in front of my 14 year old with simple subtraction facts on it, facts he could probably do with little effort he would likely protest, whine, and take an hour to do it. But if I take him to the cemetary and walk around with him trying to figure out how long each person lived he would thoroughly enjoy himself and would have done the same thing, learning more from it. That's our job, to find what interests them and guide them. Learning is a bit of a side effect.

So. As soon as it is confirmed that the state has received my documents my children will be removed from public school and we will begin homeschooling. Just TALKING about it has sparked a new interest in learning for all of them. The beginning of this week my daughter was told by her teacher that she "can't" read a book she was interested in because it was beyond what she could read. She is now halfway through the book and retaining much of it. Because it INTERESTS her! We have many things planned and are all very excited.

Austin, who hates math is looking forward to going online and making a cookbook for our family of recipes he'd like to make. Most recipes are for small families so he will have to convert the measurements to feed 8. He is excited about math because he loves to cook!

As far as family change. We will see our kids as equals. They are not less than us. If we want their respect we have to show it, just like anyone else. We will take the words "NO" and "Can't" out of our vocabulary. Does that mean our kids will get everything they ask for? No. Craig was a bit worried about this when I brought it up. When our son asks for a $50 game we won't say No, we will instead say Yes.... "yes you can have that game, lets figure out how you might earn the money to buy it". That lets him know his needs will be met, his interests respected, but he will have to work for it.

Some of you are going to read this and cringe, thinking in your mind of the kids you know who are running wild, disrespecting others and property because they didn't have rules, boundaries, and limitations. This my friends is a result of HANDS OFF parenting, also known as "let them do what they want and ignore it" parenting. That is NOT anything that resembles to me affective parenting. What we are doing is not hands off parenting. As a matter of fact it takes far more effort from us than our old way of parenting did! We watch, listen, interact with our kids. We talk to them and understand their point of view. Our kids learn respect by being respected and being understood. We are very much a part of their lives and education. Hands off parenting is neglectful parenting, these children grow up disconnected from their parents and crave attention and love wherever they can get it.

This whole thing is probably going to be more difficult for Craig and I than anything. Just today I dealt with a situation that tested what I've learned.

Jacksen and Autumn were having an arguement over a toy. I asked Autumn what happened and then asked Jacksen what happened and when I got to Jacksen and asked him to talk to me about it he yelled "NO!". Normally my reaction would have been to put him in time out until he was ready to talk but I bit my tongue, thought about it, and realized that he was allowed his opinion and he was allowed the right to not want to talk about it right at that moment. When he realized that his voice was being heard, and his opinion respected he opened up and told me that the toy he had was very special to him and Autumn had it and he didn't want her to play with it because if it got broken he would be very hurt. I offered the suggestion that maybe the toy could get put in his room until after she left for the day and he excitedly put it in his bedroom to play with later. He then told Autumn why he put the toy away, she understood and it was over.

Some may say I should have forced him to share the toy. Why? If something were very special to me and I were forced to let another person use it I would feel very hurt, scared and resentful. As an adult I would be well within my right to simply put the object away. So why isn't my child offered that same right? As you can see my parenting was very hands on. It was not simply allowing Jacksen to do as he wished or be a bully. It would have taken far less time and energy for me to put him in time out and give the toy to Autumn but I would have missed the entire point and Jacksen would have felt resentful, hurt, misunderstood and like his feelings didn't matter. Instead he felt empowered and like he mattered. Next time he will have the tools he needs to explain his feelings to Autumn a little better.

Ok, ttfn if you have questions please leave a comment!

1 comment:

Sarah Blue said...

WOW! I am so glad that I found your blog. I agree with just about everything you've said here. It is so nice to hear other moms who really care about their children and are taking an active stance to prepare those little ones to take care of themselves someday.

And I agree completely with the sharing issue. It always bothered me that grownups would forcefully take a toy that belonged to one child and give it to another, just because that one wanted it. If a grownup had done that to another grownup, he would have been called a Thief.