Tuesday, September 27, 2011

There's More Than One Way to Skin a Cat

I was raised by a fairly judgmental mother.  It's funny because now she is so much more open minded that it actually surprises me when she reverts back to her old ways.  As with all people I think I carried some of that self righteousness into adulthood.  When I was a teacher, I was extremely irritated to watch parents make such gigantic mistakes.  It seemed to me that they must not even be trying.  Then I had my own kids...

Curly was a wonderful baby... as long as you never out her down.  So my instinct was to keep holding her.  In truth I held her for at least 3 months straight.  was that the "right" thing to do?  Hmmm well maybe it helped know that she was loves and could trust that someone would always be there for her... Or maybe it kept her from learning to comfort herself, and it is the reason even now at nearly 10 years old she struggles with that skill.

As a baby Bear was a happier baby when she had some space.  So I held her much less.  In her case, since Curly was still only 2 (and I've mentioned how she clung to me) it was good that Bear wasn't a clingy child.  And maybe the space I gave her as an infant allowed her to become the independent child she is today... Or maybe it caused her to question whether anyone else is actually there for her and keeps her from asking for help today.

My point is that in both cases I did my best.  I made the choices I thought were right at the time and hoped for the best.  I came to realize that parenting is not a one size fits all experience.  I look at my cousins and I who were all raised in vastly different ways, and for the most part we all turned out to be good people and good parents ourselves. It is obvious that as long as a child knows he or she is loved and can honestly say that his or her parents did their best they will turn out ok.  So why do people insist there is a "right" way to parent?

The same holds true for homeschooling.  I have tried different ways of homeschooling.  They range from classical to unschooling, and we have found an eclectic mix that fits our family's needs.  I try very hard to not judge other people's methods.  It turned out that classical was far to rigid for my kids.  There weren't enough opportunities for self expression early on, and so we decided to try something else.  Unschooling felt like flying without a parachute to me.  Actually both Curly and I felt lost without a plan.  I have seen unschooling work for people, but I am too much of a control freak to trust on the process.  We all loved the unit study approach but found it difficult to keep up with preparing for each unit.  Finally we tried a balanced approach.  We use fairly traditional methods and materials for math, writing, and spelling.  I look at these things as skill based, and I believe that skills can be taught and need to be practiced regularly.  All the other subjects, art, music, history, science, geography, social studies, etc. we learn through experience.  I try to arrange a rich life with plenty of opportunities to hear, see, smell, taste and touch.  Because these other subjects are knowledge based experiential learning ensures that facts are connected to something real.  In this way they are more likely to stick.

So why am I making a big deal about this now?  Because at much as I try to have a live and let live approach to life I feel judged regularly by unschoolers.  Not as much by the ones I know in real life, but by the ones who's blogs I read.  They act as if the only way to truly embrace life is to be an unschoolers and the rest of us are just sheep.  I have experienced more bigotry from them than from anyone who questions whether homeschooling is a good idea.

My question is why?  As homeschoolers we all struggle with moments of insecurities.  In fact, this applies to us as human beings in general.  So why do we judge others?  Does it make us feel less insecure about our own decisions to bash other people's.  Wouldn't it make more sense to assume that we are all doing the best we can with the information and wisdom we have.  We all chose to step off the beaten path, and follow our own instincts.  We need to remember that there are as many different new trails as there are people to blaze them.

1 comment:

Chris M. said...

I hope you weren't talking about our blog! ;)

A few of the things you said really stood out for me. I, too, have seen that judgment from unschoolers. I have found a few online unschooling discussion forums throughout the years; a few of which I quickly "unsubscribed" to when I saw how some of the people really judged others for just doing things differently than how they would do it. While I have also experienced this judgment with other homeschoolers following more classical approaches, I found this judgment from unschoolers more surprising because I (naively) thought that unschoolers would be more open to a wide range of ideas and viewpoints (don't know really why I thought this, I just did :).

I think your question about does judging others "make us feel less insecure about our own decisions" hits the nail on the head. I've often wondered this same thing--if judgments come from the person's own insecurities. A kind of defense mechanism to try to ensure themselves what they are doing is the "right" way. I don't know?? I'm sure we've all been guilty of judging others at some point in our lives, but I think it is so important to move past this and to accept people for who they are and the choices they make for themselves.

I agree with you that there are so many different paths and we all need to find what works best for ourselves, our children, and our families.