Tightrope Parenting

There are some things I’m dogmatic about.  I don’t ever intend to send my kids to school, for example.  But with most things, I feel like parenting and homeschooling are a tightrope walk.  Not A Man on a Wire sort of tightrope walk, because that thing made me afraid of heights.  More like the Wii Fit sort of tightrope walk, because then if you fall, no one dies and you can just hit “retry” to get across the wire again.  Here are some of the balancing acts I feel like I’m trying to walk:

Structure vs. Freedom
I feel this in everything we do.  How much should we schedule, both officially, with classes and activities and unofficially with times to do things, like that a specific morning is for a specific subject?  How much should we just live for the teachable moments that arise and make space for more of them by not scheduling anything?  Too much structure tires everyone out and is undoubtedly a creativity and/or interest killer.  There’s absolutely something to be said for being in the moment and learning right there.  But not enough structure can lead to anxiety on the part of the kids because they don’t know what’s coming and on my part because life is just harder (at least for me!) when you don’t have any plans.

Pushing vs. Laying Off
When do you say, whatever, he’s got plenty of time to figure out how to brush his teeth properly/write the letter e lowercase/remember which is dollars and which is cents?  And when do you push on skills?  I think it’s all about being alert to the individual kid (not to mention the need for any particular skill), but it’s a tough act.  Sometimes I believe kids need a little push.  On the other hand, too much pushing and you’ve got a kid with a complex.

Leading vs. Following
There’s this whole concept of child-led or child-centered households.  I feel like that sounds great in theory, but in reality, I like to think we’re all equal members of a family.  The reality is that someone has to lead.  Sometimes it’s them, whether they’re pointing the way for how or what to learn or what’s the best activities for all of us.  Sometimes it’s me, deciding what’s possible based on our budget or my expectations of them.  It’s hard to let go and trust the kids, but I know I need to do it sometimes.  This is one place where I don’t know if I’ve got the balance I want, but I’m looking for it.

Philosophy vs. Reality
I get these grand ideas about how things should be sometimes.  I also really believe that you have to have a philosophy.  Without any moral backbone to what you’re doing – in life, as a parent, as an educator – then I don’t know what the point is.  On the other hand, you also have to do what works.  I think there’s a danger in only doing what works, but reality has to inform philosophy.

Family Time vs. Alone Time
This one is more than just a two way pull.  There’s the need we have for time as a family, for social time in our community, for alone time as individuals and for one-on-one time with each other.   The husband and I are strong introverts.  I suspect Mushroom is as well.  It’s often our desire to push the kids off on one parent at a time while the other gets to hole up and ignore the world (as we introverts are wont to do).  I hope we can keep looking for this balance and find it.

4 thoughts on “Tightrope Parenting

  1. Great post! I often struggle between my philosophy of parenting vs. the reality: sometimes you do need to push a little to get things done, sometimes child led isn’t the best idea and sometimes we just need time alone. Remembering that no matter what happens on a given day we DO get a do over most of the time helps.

    (Just wanted to mention as this is the first time I’ve commented, that I found your blog from one of the yahoo homeschooling groups.)

  2. The first two were things that really changed in our house as the kids got older. Especially with my 13 year old, I am far less, err, well, Waldorfy and unschooly. But that’s mostly because he wants more action, more work, more challenge (even if he wouldn’t put it quite that way). The younger two get more whatever time. So far so good.

  3. That’s nice to hear that it can change as they get older… On the other hand, I’m guessing that older kids bring new balancing acts for parents. All things in moderation. I’m working on it.

  4. That makes total sense that as the kids get older that more structure and/or providing challenges would be needed or wanted by a child. But when they are young, I say let them learn their own way. Save the structure, pushing, and reality for when they are older – you only get to be a kid once so let them enjoy their childhood! I guess I’m still in the unschooly, Waldorf mode and the truth is the whatever time is just as enjoyable for me as it is for my 5 year old so I don’t want to rush it.

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