Unschooling is all about the child learning through engaging with their surroundings and then pursuing more deeply the concepts that spark curiosity and interest. The environment is key for learning to be a natural and smooth process. The environment should encourage children to explore their interests, learn from experiences, and pursue project based learning. Everything in the learning environment should encourage experimentation, problem-solving, creativity, and open-ended play.
There is so much to debate around parenting. There are endless choices to make – different styles, techniques, “tricks,” ways of disciplining, and so much more. But what if those choices don’t matter? What if there is not a right or wrong way to parent? Stay with me here, don’t worry, I’m not suggesting it’s fine if people are neglectful of their children.
A friend and I had a long conversation about how overwhelming motherhood can be. Before becoming mothers, a lot of us have an idea of what motherhood will look like, but it can be challenging when reality doesn’t match up (you can read more about realistic expectations of motherhood here). While I was very shocked by how challenging I found motherhood as a new mother, looking back, it makes sense. How can we know how to parent our child when we don’t know who our child is?
We get ideas about what parenting is – guidance, discipline, teaching, and love. But these ideas make the assumption that our child is an empty vessel for us to pour into, but anyone that’s been around children knows each kid comes with their own unique way of being. Research even backs up the theory that children are born with personality traits and differing temperaments. Some kids are happy to play alone and are often quiet, while some cling to your leg screaming all the time. No two kids are the same, and therefore, should not be parented the same.
Ok, so kids are different, why can’t we parent them the same?
Well, the short answer is, you can.
But it won’t feel right and it wouldn’t be in the best interest of the child (look into the concept of goodness of fit for more info on this).
The more you grasp for answers outside of yourself, the more you follow what others say you should do, and the more you parent from the ego (decisions based on what might make you feel embarrassed or proud & taking your child’s behaviors personally), the more you’ll feel disconnected.
It doesn’t matter the style of parenting you want to do, what matters is what makes you feel aligned and connected as a mother (or parent).
Parenting disconnect is easy to recognize – you have a lot of guilt, you often feel like you’re failing, you are typically overwhelmed, parenting doesn’t feel fun and most days, feels like a challenge. While parenting intuitively won’t solve all your problems, it will, without a doubt, allow you to feel more present and connected as a mother.
“Learn to trust it, trust your intuition, and in good time, answers to all you seek to know will come, and the path will open before you.”
Caroline Joy Adams
What Is Intuition?
Intuition is the ability to know something without analytic reasoning, bridging the gap between the conscious and non-conscious parts of our mind (Forbes). We all have gut feelings and science is now reaffirming the importance and value of listening to your “gut instincts” or intuition in daily life.
Scientists believe intuition operates through the entire right side of our brain, the brain’s hippocampus and through our gut (digestive system has neurons as well).
When you have parented by all the “shoulds,” it can be challenging to make the switch to intuitive parenting. Getting in touch with our intuition and listening to it can take practice and patience. It is totally normal to need to check in with yourself to decipher if you are parenting from a place of fear and judgment or from the gut. As I began making the shift, I utilized meditation, journaling, podcasts, and alternative parenting/motherhood books (read some of my favorite books for gentle/alternative parenting here) to help me get more aligned and connected to my intuition.
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Gardening makes you a better mother or parent. Not because you’re “being more productive” or “more natural” but because you can learn a lifetime worth of lessons in one garden season. If you allow it, the garden can help you grow and evolve. Gardening has taught me many lessons in such a short time. My garden has forced me to hone skills and qualities I’ve tried many times to master as well as qualities I’ve never utilized. From the natural process of growing a garden and the environmental challenges, such as deer devouring my garden, the following are a few of the skills and lessons this garden season has forced me to practice.
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Effort Makes All The Difference
A seed cannot grow if you never plant it: in gardening and parenting. If you don’t put forth the effort, you can’t get what you desire. If you want Zucchini, you need to plant Zucchini seeds. If you want a child who lives with kindness you must show and teach kindness. We have to put in the effort to get the beauty & bounty; whether that be a thriving and healthy garden or child.
“Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get.”
— H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Growth Takes Time
It takes time to see the growth from your efforts. A sunflower doesn’t bloom the day after you plant the seed. It takes time.
“A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.”
— Liberty Hyde Bailey
As the garden takes time to give back for the effort you’ve put in, it teaches you patience. Instant gratification doesn’t exist in the garden. We find instant gratification with most things in modern society, which leaves us inept with patience and therefore unprepared for parenthood. With gardening and parenting, we learn even with love and effort, we won’t immediately get what we desire.
“Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.”
— May Sarton
Peace & Contentment
The garden, with all it’s beauty and calmness, teaches peace & contentment. Something about it’s beauty feeds the soul and shows you the way to your inner peace.
The Importance of Having A Relationship With Dirt
Gardening will show you how important it is to have a relationship with dirt. As a parent, this is an important lesson. Your child will crave to play in the dirt and for their health and wellness, it’s important you allow them to do so and even encourage them.
“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”
The Undesirable Will Happen (and that’s ok)
The garden will never go exactly as planned; neither will parenting. The garden will show you that no matter how astray things may go, with commitment and love, it will still be beautiful. Flowers will blossom and fruit will form.
“A flower falls, even though we love it; and a weed grows, even though we do not love it.”
These are all beautiful and necessary lessons to hone for motherhood and a garden is a wonderful and forgiving place to learn such lessons.
What have you learned or hope to learn from your garden?
Children explore their roles in the world and their impact on the world around them through creative play. It’s important for children to process and understand their world as well as express their emotions through creativity for emotional well-being.
Follow these easy tips to support your child’s development through creative play and building the skill of creativity!
Set Up The Environment
The environment is key in encouraging creative play. It is important to create a “no” free zone that children know they can engage in without criticism or many limits.
If it’s not possible to always have this space set up, you can get a large baby gate to section off an area that you can add toys or art supplies the child can engage with freely. Providing a playroom, if possible, is a great option as well.
Simple Toys and Supplies
Research actually found children engaged more and formed more cognitive connections when using simple, wooden toys rather than electronic “learning” toys.
Keep simple toys that can be used for multiple purposes and imaginative play available at all times.
Schedule Free Time (or Don’t Schedule)
Always make sure there is time in the schedule for your child to engage in play without direction or a goal.
Give Children Space
Simple, give children space to play on their own without direction. However, ignoring children or forcing them to have alone time will only create children to be more “needy.”
A child’s emotional and attachment needs must be met before they are interested in solo and imaginative play.
Show your child how to use their imagination! Read some fantasy books together or grab a stick and pretend it’s a wand.
Teach your children it’s ok and even encouraged to engage in creative play and use things in creative ways.
“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use the more you have.”