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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It is so strange and beautiful how every pregnancy and birth has its own story. I always hear how different each pregnancy can be even for the same woman, but I had no idea how true that could be until I became pregnant with my second child.
We had wanted a second child for a while and were hoping to have two little ones close in age so they grew up enjoying each others’ friendship. I also knew I wanted to be a full time stay at home mom while the kids are little so taking a pause on my career made more sense if we had multiple children closer together (although now the plan has changed since we plan to homeschool/unschool long term).
I became pregnant with our first almost immediately, so it was a bit surprising and frustrating when we couldn’t seem to get pregnant with a second, although it made sense because I was still breastfeeding full time. I loved breastfeeding and I knew how much my little one loved it, so I couldn’t bring myself to wean her just because I wanted another child, so we patiently waited. Finally, around when our daughter was 20 months my cycle returned and we conceived our second child! (I also think switching to a Berkey water filtration system helped with this, but that’s another conversation).
The pregnancy was immediately entirely different than my first. As soon as I was pregnant with my first, I found myself irritable and moody, constantly achy and tired, and most challenging, I injured my back a few weeks into the pregnancy, which remained injured and painful until giving birth. It was definitely a challenging pregnancy. With my second, I found my mood and patience improved almost immediately. I felt great other than wanting extra sleep and the occasional upset stomach!
With the pregnancies being so different, I was surprised to find I had the same long last month of pregnancy full of prodromal labor. Being much more active and healthy during my second pregnancy, I thought I wouldn’t have the long and exhausting prodromal I had with my first, so when contractions started happening around 38 weeks, I thought baby would be coming soon, but I was very wrong!
Our sweet baby didn’t come until 42+4 after about 4 days of strong labor. Once I hit 42 weeks, I was planning to get a scan to make sure everything was healthy with baby so I could feel comfortable letting the pregnancy continue as needed. I never made the call to make the appointment because right at 42 weeks, my contractions became much stronger and regular.
I listened to birth meditations, did lots of spinning babies moves trying to make sure baby was in a good position, walked, went up and down the stairs, did squats, and labored on my yoga ball. I was in pure bliss and excited to meet my baby. I thought surely the baby would come in the night. The contractions were waking me up so I labored in the shower while everyone slept.
I finally fell asleep around 4 am and was disappointed and discouraged to wake up the next morning with my contractions slowed and my baby still not here. This went on for 2 more days (Saturday and Sunday) and while it was physically exhausting, it was much more mentally exhausting. I cried countless times feeling so discouraged that again, just like with my first, I had been in labor for days. I kept resetting myself, attempting to stay in a positive and oxytocin filled space.
Finally Sunday evening, I got some encouragement. I lost my mucus plug! Soon after, my contractions became more intense and I could feel baby getting lower. I moaned and huffed and puffed through them grabbing my husband and tensing up. It was the first intense pain of my labor, so I was so happy to be experiencing it because it meant PROGRESS! However, with how exhausted I was, I was not handling them well and I had forgotten to relax and let the pain and pressure flow.
Although the contractions were only getting more intense, I told my husband to go to sleep since baby would be here soon. I too tried to sleep and somehow slept between my contractions which were only a few minutes apart and was in a half asleep daze for each contraction in which I’d wiggle and tense up while lying down. Around midnight, the pain became so intense I couldn’t rest anymore and I was wiggling everywhere. In my half asleep daze, I had a realization. I needed to try and relax and breath normal during a contraction. At least just try it rather than wiggling and making noise. IT WORKED. My contractions somehow went from intense pain to slightly painful pressure. I found myself back in the blissful and excited state I had been in my first day of labor.
After a few of the relaxed contractions, I had to jump out of bed because I very suddenly and urgently needed to use the restroom due to an intense contraction. I went to the bathroom and struggled to get off the toilet because the contractions just kept coming. I threw on a diaper, a very cute adult diaper I purchased for postpartum, in case of another intense contraction so I wouldn’t have to run to the potty again. I walked to the living room and had insane pressure so I hummed and calmly breathed through the contraction but another immediately hit and I again felt like I had to pee. I tried to make my way back to the bathroom. I didn’t make it. (Thank you diaper!)
While stopped by a contraction, my body involuntarily started to push and I felt a big warm rush. My water broke! It was such an intense and relieving feeling. A warm gush soaked the diaper and more water trickled when I attempted to move. At this point I whisper yelled attempting to wake my husband up. I quietly yelled “Wake up! The baby is coming!” I attempted to put one back on, but it wasn’t happening because baby was coming! With each contraction, my body was pushing. I told my hubby to put the shower curtain and some towels on the bed and I knelt on the bed while holding his shoulders. I slowly and calmly breathed when my body wasn’t forcing me to push (fetal ejection reflex).
After a few pushes, I could feel the baby’s head just an inch or so inside and I recall telling my husband “I feel something but I don’t know what it is” ( I wasn’t sure it was a head because it was wrinkly from the pressure). I pushed two more times, none of which were forced, and the head still wasn’t out and I calmly repeated to myself “It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay. They’ll be here soon. They’re almost here.” With another push, the head was out! The baby immediately started crying and my husband said “What do I do- she’s crying!” I told him leave her and get ready to catch the baby because I still had to push them out! We were both ecstatic and completely calm. I kept repeating “our baby is here!” With another push, the baby shot out and only their legs were still inside. My husband held them up as I took a few breaths before my body started pushing again. They were out! I asked my husband to hand them to me and he passed the baby under my legs as I flipped over onto my back.
I laid there in bliss that our sweet baby was there and we both were doing great! I asked my husband to take some pictures and grab some towels and the bowl for my placenta. Within a few minutes I delivered the placenta. We started to clean baby and I up and decided to finally check what our baby is. Our baby is A GIRL! We were pretty shocked and excited!
We were both in a beautiful, exhausted, daze completely amazed we just welcomed or second daughter into the world. It was so peaceful and nothing felt rushed. I nursed our sweet baby, took photos, and slowly started cleaning us. I had my husband help me to the restroom and shower so I could get cleaned up. After a quick shower, we all relaxed, ate food, and basked in the beauty of the experience and our new sweet child until big sister woke up and met the new addition.
I absolutely loved my freebirth and know it was exactly what I needed. If we choose to add to our family in the future, I will definitely choose to free birth again.
1. Make a Detailed List Of The Parent You Want To Be
Include at least 10 characteristics of what an ideal parent is to you. For example, you could say you want to be calm, kind, and affectionate. There is a free handout to help at the bottom of this article! Read more about setting expectations as a parent.
2. Write 3 Things You Want To Change About Your Parenting
Get specific and write out all the details. I would even suggest writing a story down of an example of the parenting characteristics or actions you want to change. This will help you clarify the issues and pinpoint what you want to change and how you may be able to do so.
3. Make An Action Plan
Write a detailed plan for the new behaviors you are going to use to replace your old unwanted behaviors. GET SPECIFIC. For example, instead of telling when my kids aren’t listening I will calmly give them two choices. Write yourself an example to make it real: “You can get your shoes on by yourself or I can help you.”
4. Make a List of 3 Ways You Will Bond With Your Child(ren)
Choose specific activities that you will both enjoy and can do regularly. Also try to choose activities that allow you to chat and focus on each other. For example, if your child is sporty, instead of playing laser tag or something with a lot of distractions, try putt-putt golf so there’s lots of time to chat. Some ideas for bonding with younger children is art activities, going on a walk, or some of these easy activities. Whatever you choose, schedule it in at least twice monthly. Get a calendar or planner, write it down, and stick to it. The consistency of your efforts will mean the world to your child (whether their old enough to express it or not).
5. Reflect and Improve
Although reflection requires a lot of effort, it will by far make the biggest difference in your parenting. Take time at least weekly to check in on your parenting goals and see if you’re meeting them. If not, where can you make little adjustments to make the goals more obtainable. What new examples can you write down to help remember and put into action the way you want to parent? With each reflection, you’ll be able to better embody your parenting goals.
Car seats are extremely important and have saved many little ones’ lives. It’s important to use a car seat when in a car, however, because they’re intended for the sole purpose of keeping baby safe from an impact, they do absolutely nothing in terms of supporting the baby’s development and actually hinder development. Because they actually impede baby’s development by confining and limiting movement, it’s important for baby’s well being to only be left in the car seat when in the car.
Please note this article is not intended to shame parents but rather to inform and empower them to make the best decision for their family.
Switching from one container to the next reduces the amount of time and ability for a baby to kick, turn their head side-to-side, wiggle and move as a baby is supposed to do in order to develop the needed strength and coordination to learn new skills such as rolling over, sitting up, crawling and walking.
Over use of a car seat (along with other container devices such as a baby swing, rockers, strollers, etc.), can result in issues such as delayed development, flathead syndrome (plagiocephaly), maldevelopment of the neck muscles (torticollis), ADHD, and maldevelopment of reflexes.
Time in containers should be limited to no more than 30 minutes maximum per day
Although a baby carrier is still considered a “baby container,” it is a much better option that leaving baby in a car seat. A carrier allows baby to be close to you, regulating their breathing, heart rate, and it allows baby to feel safe and involved with whatever you are doing. Baby can learn by watching and listening to you, while babies are often left out of whatever is going on when left in a car seat. It also prevents head deformation as baby has different positions for head support, if any, when in the carrier.
Wearing babies allows you to carry them in a position that’s beneficial to their physical health and development. It helps prevent flat head syndrome and can promote digestion (helping with colic and refluxes). Babywearing also increases the amount of time spent doing skin-to-skin with your baby, which research has connected to decreased rates of postpartum depression.
In terms of supporting development, a Playmat is your best option. It allows baby to move freely and develop his or her own movements. Although a great option, I know it is not always a realistic option when in public spaces. However, if you’re in a safe environment with baby, always have a Playmat on hand to let them develop their skills!
Organic Explore Playmat
Organic Cotton Round Playmat
Portable Play Yards
A great safe option to let babies play and grow is a portable Play Yard. It keeps baby from any accidents while still keeping them safe. While it’s best to use a play mat in a safe environment so baby can feel more involved with the surrounding world, play yards are a good option for when that may not be safe or realistic.
Of course there’s always the great option of just holding your baby!
Having Someone Else Watch or Hold Baby
If you’re engaged in something important or unsafe enlist others to hold or watch your little one. Almost everyone will say yes to holding your baby!
Convertible Car Seat
A great solution to limiting time in a car seat out of the car is eliminating the option! Get a convertible car seat that will grow with baby that stays in the car. This way if the temptation arises, it’s not an option because you definitely won’t lug around a huge convertible car seat. You’ll happily strap on the baby carrier or grab the play mat and head on your way.
The Maxi Cosi is my favorite because it has great safety ratings, it’s easy to use, and they don’t use toxic flame retardants on their seats.
How do you avoid or limit container parenting? Any tips?
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.”