I think one of the hardest things about parenting is wondering if you are doing it right. Or even if there is a right way to do it. I am pretty sure there is not, for we have had to change things up about as often as the kids hit growth spurts. And they hit A LOT of growth spurts.
When they were younger, we read a ton of books on parenting and homeschooling and they all agreed that consistency is the key. If you make a rule, stick to it. If you decide to embrace a particular style of parenting, do it for life. According to the literature, it doesn’t matter if you are authoritative, authoritarian, or permissive, as long as you never waver.
Those authors never had children apparently. At the very least, they never had multiple children. Nor are they human because humans aren’t likely to be so myopic.
There was a parishioner in my church when I was a pastor whose parenting I admired, both because she was so close to her children and because her kids were kind, intelligent, and full of life. She once suggested that when I become a parent to remember first and foremost that all children are different and should be parented accordingly.
She was so right. Not only do my kids need vastly different moms when they are hurt or sad or even in a good mood, but they need entirely unique paradigms for learning.
And even those paradigms shift as they grow.
Eggplant is the model of an unschooler. He comes up with so many ideas he wants to consider and is always willing to seek out mentors and resources to help him through. He took his time learning to read, for example, coming to me when he needed to learn a rule and such and then requesting the space to try out his newfound knowledge on his own. Now, he reads voraciously and his spelling has sprung along with his reading.
Rhubarb, on the other hand, thrives on guidance, lots of guidance. She is thrilled when I come up with her curriculum. And then she is thrilled to do the work. She takes interest in nearly every topic I suggest and enjoys having a teacher. When I create a spark for her, she goes on to ignite the fire. In deciding upon reading materials, she will often ask me what I enjoy reading and then at least try it for a few chapters before deciding whether or not to continue. She too reads voraciously, though she learned in the opposite manner of her brother, with me directly teaching her every step of the way.
Lately, Blueberry has revealed her preferences. She wants knowledge, lots of knowledge, and she wants it now -- whether she can get it on her own or not. She is a little sponge, except the kind that moves about seeking any facts she can find to consume. The struggle is that she is also a perfectionist and is in a constant battle with herself over the acquisition of knowledge versus her ability to process it perfectly.
I am reading The Well-Trained Mind, through interfaith lenses, to help understand how to enliven her learning experience. So far, as we discuss the ideals of a classical education and implement them slowly, she is happy. It suits her. It also suits her siblings, who like to play her instructors. Eggplant sets up desks in the morning out of bins and planks of wood and then he goes through her work with her, me observing from the sidelines and stepping in when I am needed. This fulfills his desire to lead, Rhubarb’s love of taking action, and Blueberry’s thirst for facts.
Rhubarb, always happy to try anything having to do with education, is also excited about trying out her own version of a classical education.
It has been a pleasant transition to this place.
And it could easily change by the next growth spurt.