Tag Archive | alternative lifestyles

Don’t be afraid to make your parenting your own

We all know there are all sorts of ways to parent.

But so may of us get sucked into a crowd-pleasing way without being aware of it. Seduced by the latest fad, the latest trend, the latest style. With keeping up – whatever that is – scared we’re missing out or even worse; denying our kids something important.

So parents can end up flowing along like sheep with the rest of the flock without deciding independently what’s best for their own family and their own family circumstances.

And then we get scared of independently choosing alternatives. This is how many people are put off home education, for example.

‘Alternative’!?

Some folks are scared of even the word! It suggests something a bit drop-out-ish (although I’d argue – what’s wrong with that?) And scared of a path that takes them away from all the other sheep.

But what these people who are choosing alternative approaches to raising their family are really doing is choosing to think for themselves and I admire that. Because people choosing alternatives are thinking. And what’s wrong with the deep thought or philosophising about how to raise the kids, in contrast to not thinking about it or just following others regardless of what’s working well or not? What’s ethical or not. What’s humane or not?

We need to give those who choose ‘alternatives’ deeply considered respect.

I love to read about families who are choosing alternatives, whether that’s parenting, educating, living together, lifestyles. They’re totally inspiring. I read about families who are choosing an alternative way of educating. I read about families who travel having sold the house. I read about families on a personal mission. And I’m in awe of people making these independent choices. They have truly chosen to make their parenting their own.

I often read statements about how much it takes to raise a child and they are scary – and manipulative. But underneath these are just other people’s ideas. They are not always exact.

In contrast, there’s also the idea that happy, healthy, educated, intelligent children can be raised on very little cash. All it takes is an investment of time, energy and love. We need money to put a roof over our heads, buy the food and facilities, but we don’t need the latest game, the latest must have, or Jack Wills gear! Some families are breaking away from that consumerist (and unethical) culture (perpetuated in schools) and choosing to educate their kids with other values. On very little.

For we do not have to ‘buy’ education. We may need an income and a different kind of daily expenditure, but it is relationships, stimulating experience, conversation and interactions that educate as much as curriculum and classrooms do.

However, we have to be brave. We have to swim against the tide of convention in order to make our parenting our own. We have to choose to be ‘alternative’ if that’s what you want to call it.

But did you ever consider what alternative really means? Alternative means diversification – and that is good. It’s diversification that Darwin says is needed to ensure the perpetuation of our species.

Diversification IS what alternative is, is what makes our humanity progress and has done so since its evolution.

So let’s show some respect for ‘alternative’. For people who choose diverse paths.

By making your parenting your own, by choosing diverse approaches to raising your kids, you are helping that process. By making your own decisions about what your children really need, both in their education and their life which are inextricably linked, you are teaching them also how to think beyond convention, think independently, and consequently make their own decisions when their turn comes.

And you are showing them how to brave.

Good on you all!

Still hungering to open minds!

I would like to think things had changed from when I first wrote this quite a few years ago. Judging by the accusations still thrown our way I sometimes wonder!

Out in the real world experiencing real things

As home educators you get accused of a lot of things:

–          You get accused of tying your children to your apron strings and being unable to let them go.

–          You get accused of narrowing their education to the confines of your home.

–          You get accused of wanting to molly coddle them instead of allowing them to acclimatize to the rough and tumble of the ‘real’ world.

–          You get accused of both wanting to academically cram your children and the opposite of totally neglecting their education.

–          You get accused of being weird and alternative.

–          And the worst thing of all; you get accused of being a parent who does not care about education since you don’t send your child to school.

What is so galling about these accusations is that firstly, in the case of most home educating families, the exact opposites are true. And secondly they are usually made by people who have no first hand experience of home education and who speak in complete ignorance! Often in fear.

Far from tying the kids to their apron strings most home educating parents are giving their children an opportunity to be out in the ‘real’ world. The real ‘real’ world that is, not the artificial world of school.

Far from narrowing their education, home education extends the child’s experiences far beyond the home and the world becomes their learning environment, gaining them an understanding of how the world works and how they fit into it beyond the classroom. Home educated children are exposed to a wide range of people and a wide range of social experiences over and above the limits and unnatural clustering of school ones.

As for academically cramming or neglecting their education; most home educating families strive to achieve a far better balance in their educational provision than that which a child would normally achieve within the restrictions of the national curriculum. A balance between first hand learning and study, a balance between passive learning and active engagement, a balance between physical activities, arts, sciences, field trips, experimentation, personal development, independent learning, investigation, creative innovation, intellectual stimulation and a social diversity which extends way beyond that which they would receive going to the same school with the same bunch of people, day after day, year after year.

Far from being molly coddled most home educating families give their child some say in the educational process, unlike their educationally spoon-fed contemporaries in school, thus building essential skills needed for independence.

And far from being weird and alternative we are actually very ordinary parents who want the same simple things every parent wants for their children; their health and happiness, continued development and achievement, and realisation of their individual potential.

And finally, far from being neglectful of their education, we are totally and one hundred percent committed to it. Why else would any parent take such a mammoth step?

Things have changed a bit – there are thousands more families accepting home schooling for the workable option it is.

But I still hunger to open closed minds. To invite people to do a little personal learning, step beyond their normal conditioned responses and seek to understand that there are many, many approaches to education that are as equally successful as the one they are used to through school. And to grow a little tolerance and compassion towards those people who would make different choices to their own.

Please pass it on!

Wild in the UK

Ben Fogle; ‘Lives In The Wild UK’

I’m totally loving the new Ben Fogle programmes; Lives in the Wild UK on channel 5.

I’m not especially an admirer of his but I love what the people featured in the programme are trying to do; trying to live their lives a little differently and not bow to mainstream pressure to do it the same as everyone else.

When you listen to the interviews with them during the programmes their heartfelt values and principles come shining through and I always admire anyone living by their values, even if it’s going to be challenging. For many of them it certainly is.

As a former home educator I know all about challenging. And I also get to meet some incredibly courageous people also living by their independent values, courageous because they have to step away from mainstream thinking and other mainstream lives, as home schoolers do.

Looking at these programmes it is comforting to see others, not necessarily home educators, but others who are upholding values outside the mainstream thinking of a heavily consumerist society, that tends to judge people by what they have rather than what they do or what values they uphold.

People who are finding that others ways of living, that are not to do with the treadmill of wealth adulation, are turning out to be more fulfilling than even that. Who are returning to their connection to the earth, in fact to ways in which we all must have first lived, living as much with their hands as with their computers, in order to restore something that modernity tends to be neglecting; our need for something other than big wealth, technology and a consumerist treadmill.

Collecting fuel for warmth, raising crops, farming and feeding and keeping a physical roof over your head can be just as much a treadmill as the commute to work to earn enough to buy it. But these people are finding that doing it for yourself sometimes, instead of always buying it in, can be satisfying in ways that buying cannot.

It’s making me look at my life and see if I can think more creatively and find little ways and changes that help me do the same, rather than always opting for the mainstream way, which so often seduces us by default. And the more we do this as parents, the more we encourage our children to question and examine their own ways of living, rather than always opting for the norm without questioning if it’s right for them or the damage it may be doing them.