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.
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!