Sunday, November 27, 2011

Where am I coming from?

I guess my recent post on unschooling was a bit strong.  It is something I feel pretty angry about.  So where is that coming from?

Let's give you some back ground.  My eldest was born when I was 27 years old, in my plan, just the right timing.  We had just bought a house and I was getting older and having a baby made me feel more settled. 

In my teen years I started to have an interest in natural therapies, in avoiding unnecessary medicines and in living in tune with the natural way of things.  This then shaped my future decisions.

When I had my first baby I wanted to avoid interventions (I did) and I wanted to breastfeed (I did).  I ended up co-sleeping my baby and when he was about 4 months old I started going to Nursing Mother's (now Australian Breastfeeding Association) meetings.  I volunteered as librarian and after reading a book about Nestle and its involvement in encouraging bottle feeding in undeveloped countries and the benefits of breastmilk I decided I would feed as long as possible.  I also read a William Sears book on attachment parenting.  It sounded great and I resolved to have a terrific relationship with my child so that we would work synergestically together.

What I didn't know is that Asperger Syndrome kids have attachment issues.  They don't do well with over stimulation, irregular routines, inconsistency in how things are done.  Being a mother to a young Aspie boy and trying to be use methods that work with "attached" kids was a very frustrating experience.  He would twist things to suit himself all the time.  He didn't have any interest in doing things to please me, like any well attached child "should", but only to please himself.  I felt like such a huge failure.  I hugged him lots (when he would let me, sensory overload issues), I gave him choices (especially when he was overwhelmed but Aspies shut down when overwhelmed), I didn't smack (maybe I got that right?), I co-slept and breastfed long-term, I didn't move more than 10 metres from his side for most of his first two years but he didn't respond in the way Dr Sears said he would.

So after a 2 day a week stint in day care to "help him get ready for school" from 2.25 to 3.25 years old I realised he was not "normal".  Getting anyone else to see it was not easy.  I started to think I was imagining things so I moved on to other "normal" activities for his age.  Resistance and stubborness became his standard response to anything I tried. 

I had met some homeschooling families by now and had been exposed to ACE and its workbooks (knew they wouldn't work at all), to Montessori and to natural learning.  We didn't have the money to buy Montessori materials or to put him into a local Montessori day care so I went with natural learning.  It is very hard to entice a kid who lives in his own world to listen to books or to watch videos or to do crafts on a topic he doesn't care about.  It was like pulling teeth to even find a topic he was interested in.

Over the next 4 years we moved 4 times, had 2 more babies and struggled with my dh not having full time work that was enough to meet our bills.  With the next children being "normal" I finally realised that life was easier as their mum, they listened, they learnt, they were loving.  I got my eldest his diagnosis, despite my GP not believing there were any issues and close freinds still not "seeing" it.  With that has come the realisation that I am the Mum, that this kid needs me to push him, that letting things flow naturally will leave him lacking in education.

If you wonder why this concerns me so please consider this.  My dh left school at 15 years old.  He had not even completed Year 9.  He thought he had enough education despite not having good marks (undiagnosed learning difficulties and possibly Aspie himself) and went to work.  Fast forward 15 years to when he wants to improve the life of our family and decides to go to University.  He couldn't do the work.  He has the smarts but not the skills to show them.  He has learnt everything he knows in a "natural" way as his interests led.  But it has not been enough.  He has struggled to do more later in life with his education without that strong foundation of skills.

I do not want my daughters-in-law to go through long periods of their DHs (my sons) being out of work, or my sons to have the disappointment of not being able to follow a dream due to a lack of education.

I owe my kids not only an interesting life with time to follow their passions and interests but also a good education in a structured manner that they may not appreciate receiving right now yet will bless them in the future.

I really feel that this "fashion" of allowing kids to follow their interests in learning is still too young to show its fruit.  In my opinion some good ol' fashioned book smarts will not harm them and has an awful lot more history to show that it has merit in educating our children so that they may lead fulfilling lives.

Hmm, might need to take a break from blogging soon unless everyone likes reading rants.  :-)

Best wishes


  1. Ha, rant on. It is always interesting to hear other people's experiences and how they have gotten to the place, and the views they have now.

  2. I really appreciate your frank comments Jen, and I think it takes courage to express your opinion and reveal a bit about how you arrived at that view. It sounds like it has been a tough gig and I hope you get to a place soon where your home school is working how you dream it can. Meg

  3. Thanks for sharing this. You've made some really good points :) I think the problem for many of us is that we find something that works and then we tell everyone else that they should do it too - that our way is the BEST way. I have actually seen a lot of kids who have been attachment-parented and are very insecure and unsettled. It's a real shame that people like yourself end up so frustrated. Thanks for being honest and giving younger Mums the opportunity to see that the latest parenting "fad" *might* not be the best thing for their children. I think experts who make blanket statements have a lot to answer for (one that bugs me is: "all toddlers will run after their mother if she walks out of sight" - that hasn't been true of *any* of my four children!)

    All the best!

  4. Thank you for your supportive comments.

    It is always a little difficult to go against the flow, and homeschooling seems such a small thing when I compare it to other things like having a special needs kid who lives life in his own way and having a dh who until recently had been out of work a lot. Not a lot of people understand how these things can affect your confidence and outlook on life.

    It is coming together now for me in how I homeschool and parent but I guess I just want to be the Devil's Advocate in pointing out that while the principles sound great sometimes these "new" ideas don't work out so well.

    Best wishes

  5. I've found over the years that people that most strongly advocate for something may have never really faced hard choices where what's best for most kids isn't good for a particular child in a particular situation. Name your controvery -- natural child birth, breastfeeding, unschooling, etc. I'm sending lots of hugs for another mom that's making hard choices.

  6. Rant on! :) it's always good to hear from other mums and you are absolutely right in this ! Every parent is different and so is every child . I read about attachment parenting but I never wanted to even try it:) I now homeschool but I also know that not all mums are called to homeschool and it probably doesn't suit every child either! As is the methods of homeschooling...we use Charlotte mason but I know it probably doesn't suit every child nor every parent :) so keep ranting lol!

  7. Jen this post is something I've also been trying to write (it's still in draft stage at present - try to delicately select the words).
    Unschooling concerns me greatly for the exact reasons you expressed here. I want my boys to have choices and I want them to be able to support their families well. I also want them to be hardworking men, doing the things that have to be done. I don't want to raise men who only do what interests and appeals to them. It seems such a self-centred way of educating children.
    Your unschooling posts were wonderful Jen. Thankyou.

  8. Great post Jen. It is honest, and yet it is your story. I too have concerns about unschooling but that is for another day! I particularly liked seeing some of the ramifications of different philosophies (especially with a special needs child). I also liked how you expressed your long term goals - for their future. We need to be aware of the difficulties we or our husband have faced in our lives and yet not parent out of fear. Thanks for being honest.


Thank you for visiting. I would love to hear from you and tend to reply in the comments. It is nice to just have a chat some times.

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