When my kid climbs up the slide, I see the looks from other parents who wouldn’t dare let their kid break the ‘rules’. I confuse adults when I redirect them to ask my child questions and then listen to her answers because most adults act like kids can’t think or speak for themselves. And the opinions about our choice to raise an unschooled, only child? I attract comments like fleece attracts dog hair, even from strangers!
The School For Young Children (SYC), Lil’s former preschool where Alex also attended as a child, is one place where I don’t feel like the odd duck. SYC teachers agree that children have valid feelings and their words matter. They take time, as we do, to understand and meet kids’ needs.
The result of such a system of thought is that kids at SYC of both genders wear tutus, use tools, and go wild with art supplies. They are allowed to play in any way that doesn’t hurt people or property.
Children experience conflict amongst each other and learn through resolving disagreements. When SYC kids share or apologize, it is out of genuine expression, not obligation. Parents are encouraged along the way to express their own feelings and grow themselves.
It’s OK NOT To Share…
SYC alum Heather Shumaker drew on her experience, and those of SYC teachers who include her mother, to write It’s OK NOT To Share…and Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids. This handbook for parents include the child development science behind why it’s best to let kids experience conflict and empowerment. Heather’s writing won’t put you to sleep, though – each chapter is full of immediately useful phrases and situational solutions.
None of the ideas in It’s OK NOT to Share are new to me. Our parents raised us with many of these ideals and the rules (though I bristle against the very concept of renegade rules) come naturally to us. The practices Heather outlines are exactly how we have been parenting for almost seven years now. Can you believe Lil will be seven at the end of the month? I can’t handle how fast time flies!
What the book gave me was a sense of peace about our renegade parenting. We might feel lonely sometimes, and receive odd looks and comments, but bringing up our daughter as we do is justified. We hope that by empowering her to speak up for herself, to resolve conflicts, and feel her emotions, she will grow up to be competent and compassionate as Heather Shumaker suggests.
I look forward to seeing Heather next week at her reading and book signing at SYC next Wednesday, September 19 at 7 pm. I would love to see you there!