I’ve just been to one of those groups where you start the meeting by going round, giving your name and saying a little bit about yourself. Most people seem to welcome the chance to pop themselves into a category or adopt a label of some kind.
I on the other hand hate it. I avoid it as much as I can; the anonymity is so refreshing and I loathe being pigeonholed.
We get so possessive about labels, taglines and categories, as if we don’t know who we are without them. I’ve been going to this philosophy group a while now and can see some still revel in opportunity to tag ‘who they are’ as if the label made them so.
I’ve run out of imaginative ways to not say who I am and have got to the point of just saying ‘I’m Ross’, after which there’s a long and awkward silence! But I refuse to be allocated to a category even if it makes others feel better being able to tidy me up into one.
Categories are something that can really trip parents up. Make you feel you have to be following certain trends irrespective of whether it suits or not. This is particularly true if you’re home educating.
Are you a home educator or an unschooler, structured or autonomous?
Does it matter? Not really.
Parenting, education, is far better if it’s flexible. (And those are two categories that are inseparable from one another anyway).
Flexibility means you don’t have to stick with a pre-set agenda or category, and are adaptable and open to change. If you have to stick with your label it can become restrictive. It can prevent you being open to flexibility, then there’s a danger you’re not open to learning new ways that might suit your child better.
For instance, you may have a hankering for a completely autonomous approach in your household, yet have a child who thrives better with some structure and the security of being told what to do. Some are born leaders, some aren’t. Some need leading out. And instructions can make some feel secure.
Conversely you might want to adopt a school style day in your Home Ed routine because you’re familiar with it and it helps you think what to do, but have a child so passionate about their interests it creates conflicts between you. That’s the last thing you want if you want to home educate successfully.
And anyway, you could do both on different occasions for different subjects. And whatever you do your child changes as he grows – you have to remain open to that.
So the thing is; there’s a whole plethora of ways to raise and educate and you can use elements of all approaches.
But what matters most is not the category you’re in, but that what you do suits your child, your household, your circumstances and you as well. This of course takes compromise. But compromise is good for a child to see. Leading successful lives requires getting on with others and that always takes compromise.
Labels, tags, categories and camps can lack compromise and are usually nothing to do with the child’s needs, are instead about our adult needs. But it’s the child who’s important here, surely!
Do what works for you and your children, I say, irrespective of categories or labels. Explore the range of possibilities and, like me at the group, enjoy the freedom that comes from not having to live up to a tagline!