Playing Follow the Leader

Welcome to February edition of the Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival, hosted by Authentic Parenting and Mudpiemama. This month, participants have looked into the topic of “Fostering Healthy Attachment”. Please scroll down to the end of this post to find a list of links to the entries of the other participants. Enjoy!


"The mother"

Homeschooling is making me into a better parent. The longer we homeschool (which is more unschooling in our home), the more comfortable I am in letting them decide what to learn. And, more importantly, the greater their interest is in learning.


I can lean into the trust I have in my kids whenever I am worried we’re not being rigorous enough in our study plan. And they inevitably come up with more creative and fun ways to learn than I could. They learn more when they take the lead because their brains work differently than mine. They learn the way that is best for them as individuals.


So, why am I writing about homeschooling in a carnival about fostering attachment?


Because I am taking the lessons I learn in homeschooling and applying them directly to parenting. We are a crunchy household. There’s little we do that wouldn’t make most mainstream parents shudder in horror or at least roll their eyes. But, it’s not those things that most people focus on that matter to our family. Those things (breastfeeding, babywearing, organic, whole, raw foods, careful environmental practices, etc) are incidental. They are the outward shows of our core family philosophy of unconditional love and genuine respect.


Unconditional love and respect in a family means, for the scope of this post, taking everyone’s needs into account. To break it down further, this means seeing each person individually, valuing where they are, and balancing their needs against each other person’s position. For example, my need to arrive to our family Spanish lesson on time must be weighed against the 5yo’s sudden need for food, the 3yo’s urgent need to find a particular lost toy to bring with us, and the 19mo’s need for control over his time to linger on the potty. These are often instant needs that crop up when we’re going somewhere. Can an acceptable snack be eaten in the car? Can we substitute for the lost toy? Can potty time happen at Spanish? Can we be a little late? How much bend do we have? How can we work together?


There’s lots of bend and opportunity to work together because, above all else, each person feels heard and valued. And there is precedent in the past that if they compromise in some way, their needs will be met, perhaps delayed, but not forgotten. Having the history of being listened to and valued, gives a sense of trust. It brings elasticity to our bond. That resiliency makes our relationship stronger because it can withstand the times when one of us misses and fails to meet needs.


One of the hardest things I find is to meet my children where they are instead of where I wish they would be. I compare one with another or think one should have more maturity than they do. Or I flat out find their opinion inconvenient and want to override them because “I know better.” It can be difficult to appreciate the unique being that is my child when they’re adamant or even angry about feelings of being treated unfairly. For example, when my 3yo is crying because no other toy will do than the green dragon, which has somehow ceased to exist on the earth, I try not to wish he had the coping skills of his older brother or the distractibility of his younger brother. I would prefer that he be compliant to my wish that the purple dragon is an acceptable substitute.


But, I want to meet him where he is. I don’t want to raise convenient children. I want to raise adults who have opinions without the worry that holding those opinions will be cause to assail their character. I want to help him cope with the upset and gently assist him in deciding for himself whether to calm or stay upset. I meet him where he is unconditionally so that he is in control of how he will cope. He can lean into my support knowing that he won’t be overwhelmed by his feelings alone and that his feelings are accepted and acknowledged-valued even.


Just like in homeschool, they always come up with more creative, more satisfying solutions than I could ever come up with. They learn far more with me lending my support than they do with me pushing them to “get over it” or “be the way I want it to be.” Sometimes, although not often, this means we don’t make it to Spanish or we go on time and spend the session learning to express feelings of frustration in Spanish.


Sunset voyageSo, here’s the kicker that keeps me going even though it’s hard, when I give them the reins, we share more. We connect more and love more gently when they have the freedom to explore. They go just as far as they feel safe by themselves and then come back on their own to ask for a hug or help. They know I’m right there to support them when they need it.


They see trust and support modeled to them and they give it back a thousand times over. They look out for one another. They treat their siblings and other children with respect. They shower affection on the people they love because they receive it unconditionally. That’s fostering the knowledge of how to create strong bonds of love that they can take with them long after they’re out on their own.


(I will share one caveat, my mother’s heart would prefer to keep them close to me and spare them from any difficulty or harm. It seems hard to meet each individual where they are, but the truly hard part for me is not wrapping them in bubble wrap and keeping them protected from the world-If it wouldn’t do them such a great disservice.)


Visit Authentic Parenting and Mudpiemama to find out how you can participate in the next Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:


13 thoughts on “Playing Follow the Leader

  1. This phrase: “to meet my children where they are instead of where I wish they would be.” is so close to my heart. I work on it all the time and never finish learning how to do it totally right. It’s the attempt that counts, I think (and hope).
    I just love how you talk about your children and what you hope to give them.

  2. I’ve taken a lot from this post, as it covers a lot of stuff I’ve been thinking about and trying to address recently, especially the fact that I also tend to meet my children where they are instead of where I wish they were. It’s so hard not to wish that my toddler would just see things *my* way and behave in ways that would make my life easier ~ sometimes I lose sight of the fact that she’s a person in her own right too, and my requests are probably totally unreasonable to her. It’s a journey …

    • Thank you, Helen @ zen mummy. I think my post may cover too much stuff, actually. I’d prefer it were 3 or 4, but lack of time made this one the post… It would be far easier if we could just “make” them do it our way, it is a journey.

  3. Ooooooh, oooooh, oooooh! I am squeeling with joy as I read this post. Brilliant as always. I often wonder about homeschooling/unschooling and how that impacts the paren-child relationship. I have read a lot of cautionary tales about attached parents and homeschooling. This post made me a lot more confortable with the idea.

    “One of the hardest things I find is to meet my children where they are instead of where I wish they would be.” This resonated deeply with me. Sometimes I find it so hard to just let Tiny “be”. She is right where she is because that is where she is supposed to be. Doesn’t matter what I want or wish for. And that is ok. I just forget that sometimes.

    “So, here’s the kicker that keeps me going even though it’s hard, when I give them the reins, we share more. We connect more and love more gently when they have the freedom to explore.” YES YES YES! When I hold Tiny back, her energy changes for the worse. I can tell she feels caged. She pulls away from me physically and emotionally. Her spirit fades. When I let her lead the way she blossoms, she is invograted, and we are much more connected.

    I could keep going but a certain someone would like some milkies. 🙂 Thank you for another thought provoking post. I don’t know where I would be without your inspiring words!

    • Thank you, Jennifer! Wonderful comment. I’m curious about the cautionary tales about attached parents and homeschooling that you’ve read. If you see this, would you mind sharing them or summarizing what you’ve seen please? I haven’t come across any yet.

      So true. I have this model (both for schooling and parenting) that I’m giving them the gift of knowledge from on high and they’re just little sponges. Well, they are sponges, but my pedestal has certainly disappeared as I’ve watched them.

      I love them so much, how could I possibly stunt their innate selves with my need to control? It’s beyond my abilities anymore.

  4. This is something I truly believe in, but it’s become a tad more difficult in the 3.5-4.5 yo stage that we’re in right now. Thank you for reaffirming the direction I’d like to take my parenting – having children who feel valued and heard is so much more valuable to me than having children who conform to my expectations.

    • Thank you, Dionna. Yup, every time one of my kids is “being difficult” (as the annoying label in my head says) I keep repeating that this is the developing adult and I do not want to raise sheep that follow along meekly without questioning. It is taxing, but I want them to challenge and question me. Within that space, I can model how to interact respectfully and playfully. Sometimes, it’s hard to overlook the rude behavior and respond to the respectful interactions. They know how to push and watch for reactions, sometimes (especially at 3.5!!)

    • Thank you, Mendylady! Yes, sometimes (well, oftentimes) the raw need for me both physically and emotionally is too overwhelming. I have my crutches: I need lots of quiet time (hard to come by) and I indulge in cookies or something to cope when I can’t escape. I’m working on my fears around anger and understanding how to handle my own overwhelm. It’s hard sometimes.

      I think we have far more laughter and love than disconnect on the balance.

  5. I love how you said that homeschooling is making you into a better parent: I couldn’t agree more! I’ve begun to describe my Unschooling life with my children as a Spiritual Journey, and how could it be anything but?

    I find that many people think ‘learning’ is about subjects like science and reading and geography. To me, and you obviously, learning is synonymous with GROWTH–intellectually, yes, but also emotionally and spiritually. The best learning happens in the context of connection and safety and respect. Your post shows exactly the deepness of learning that happens in your family because of the immense connection and safety and respect that is practised everyday.

    What a wonderful journey you are on!

    • Thank you, Patti. Yum, I’m savoring that idea of it as a “Spiritual Journey.” That opened a few more doors in my mind just now.

      “The best learning happens in the context of connection and safety and respect.” Exactly this!!! ❤ ❤ ❤

I love comments and try to reply to each one. I look forward to connecting with you. Namaste

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