Monday, November 23, 2009

Slow Parenting

This morning over breakfast I read an article in this week's Time Magazine titled 'Can These Parents Be Saved?'  It's a riveting romp through the past generation's parenting habits and how some moms and dads have turned into anxious helicopters buzzing a continuous circle just over their children's heads lest they fall down or make a mistake, or worse, eat something with partially hydrogenated soybean oil in it!  The author, Nancy Gibbs, did an outstanding job of compiling seemingly harmless events such as a school auctioning off the right to cut in front in line with the car and drop a child off directly in front of the school building, or the development of the leash and harness systems you've seen some toddlers wear, or groups of parents lobbying to get jungle gyms off of playgrounds, or worse yet, schools cutting out recess to use that time to improve test scores with parent approval, or some preschools offering Mandarin Chinese lessons - she compiled these into a much bigger picture of what is going on with us crazy parents.  Alone, these events seem rather benign, but put them together and they paint a rather startling picture.  She's right!  She states, "we were so obsessed with our kids' success that parenting turned into a form of product development".  A child was something we could truly sink our teeth into - like a project!  She is also pointing out how our worries are sometimes getting the best of us and rendering us ridiculous.  She stitches words together more precisely than I can to convey the message and she's good at it - read the article if you can here because I don't feel like I'm doing a good job getting to the heart of her premise:

It got me to thinking about those of us who homeschool and how we might or might not lean in this direction of over-parenting.  Of course we want our children to be successful in life, but what does that really mean?  Are we secretly aiming for CEO positions with multi-million dollar a year salaries for our kids?  Is that success?  In whose eyes?  Why are we homeschooling anyway?  Why are we pouring so much of ourselves into our kids and their educations at home?  Is this about them, or......could it possibly be about us??

Please don't misinterpret what I'm saying.  I'm not trying to be accusatory.  I'm just trying to encourage some thought about all of it, to help us all stay balanced and therefore raise balanced kids, because I think the slope is slippery and we can easily tumble down it and hit a rock at the bottom.  Ouch.  I've been thinking about it all morning - it's a rather eye-opening subject.

She brings up the idea of s....l....o.....w......p....a....r....e...n....t....i....n.....g; some call it free-range parenting.  Loosening the grip, letting kids be.  Letting kids have ample time to play so they can tap their natural imaginations and learn to problem-solve.  How about dropping some of your children's activities?  Slowing down the pace.  She points out that due to our national economic situation, many families have had to scale back all of the running around and much to their surprise, they are learning that they like it!  Their relationships with their children have even improved.  Less car time, more face-to-face time.

We homeschoolers can benefit from some self-examination in this arena, too.  We are in a very unique situation, one where we spend an awful lot of time with our children (not time spent awfully, just a lot of it!)  Of course we want the best for our kids.  We pulled them out of school or we decided to homeschool them from birth, for deeply personally reasons.  We need to be aware, though, of how much of ourselves we are asking our kids to become in our hopes and dreams for them.  How much pressure are we applying on a daily basis for them to pull ahead, for them to learn everything about a subject we can possibly get our hands on?  I would wager that some parents might use the level to which their children excel as a direct measure of their success as parents - an affirmation of sorts.  Then it becomes an issue about us, and not the children and their best interests.

I struggle with this concept internally as I put together materials for Max to learn from.  I have to be very, very careful that I stop to think about life from his perspective, not mine.  The last thing he needs is pressure from me, whether it's real or imagined, for him to learn something or worse, my expectation that he needs to excel at it.  There is a fine line between a genuine interest in a subject on his part, and my excitement to teach him said subject. My excitement could easily overpower his desire to learn - and then I've blown it.   As a relatively new homeschooling mom, I am concerned about this for Max's sake.

We purposely opted to not sign up for classes or co-op events for a while so that we could feel our way through homeschooling.  I am so glad I resisted the urge to jump at the science class, the art class, the web-based opportunity that meets every Tuesday and Thursday at such and such a time, etc.  Our days have taken on a peaceful rhythm, one that I am reluctant to trade in for more activities.  We have lots of breathing room, many casual hours in which to read, draw or just hang out.  The only threat to Max's well-being I would wager, is!  And my desires for him.  I am so glad I picked up Ms. Gibbs's article this morning and read it through.  Maybe it was just good timing - sometimes that happens.  You'll be mulling over an issue in your head at various levels and then along comes a book or article that helps you sort it out.  This appears to be one of those times.  Please post your thoughts, even if you disagree.     

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...