Enid Blyton, Barbies and Disney
My daughter loved to challenge me, not intentionally - it's just that my children were forever challenging my ideas about learning and parenting and education.
At around age 10 or 11 she got hold of a heap of Enid Blyton books and read them again and again. I had trouble handling it, in the same way I had trouble with Blinky Bill copping a spanking for being naughty... And the sexist stereotypes! Oh boy... I avoided buying or borrowing books that offended my sensibilities but somehow they managed to find their way into our home. I grew up immersed in this type of literature / culture - very 1930s-60s. I noticed daily how it shaped my thoughts and responses and underpinned my attitudes - and how it was often at odds with my core values.
I'm glad I wasn't inclined to ban books I didn't like or value. I'm glad my daughter found books she wanted to read and enjoyed them enough to read them many times. I got to witness that although, like me, those words shaped her thoughts and responses too, she was free to do what she wanted with them. Naturally I'd grumble and point things out like stereotype, inappropriate behaviour of the characters and how and why I disagreed with some elements of the story - I had to be true to myself - but mostly I had the sense to leave her to it.
Whatever she saw in those books she needed right then, at that time in her life. She found the books, she chose to read the books, she loved them for whatever reason - and I still don't know what that reason was. And that's okay.
I had boundaries though that shaped our lives while the children were little: horror movies, for example, rarely featured. I started reading The Dark is Rising to the children as I'd enjoyed it immensely and all three asked me to stop as it was too frightening. They enjoyed The Never Ending Story (the book is heaps better than the movies). And the horror in fairy stories never phased them.
All three children played with Barbie dolls and Matchbox sports cars. But mostly they chose LEGO and playing outside, or the Sylvannian families. I resisted buying My Little Pony and a few other toys that were fads, fashionable and as I saw it, pure marketing hype. My in-laws refused to buy LEGO for their grandkids for the same reason. Unlike them, I wised up, preferring to trust my children's choices, knowing that we could talk about any and all aspects of their choices without me needing to control everything all the time.
I think that was the hardest part of being a parent - and still is - letting go of the need to think that I had/have to be in control all the time, that I am responsible for the outcomes, past, present and future, all the possible and potential ones as well as the real ones that actually occur. This burden of responsibility, fed by fear of getting it wrong, of stuffing up my children's lives forever (mainly because at that stage I still blamed my parents for what I considered wrong in my life) kept me locked into the illusion that I needed to be in control.
My wonderfully stubbornly independent and opinionated children resisted my attempts in obvious and subtle ways, gently guiding me towards learning to trust them and, in more recent years, myself. It wasn't not easy - generations of authoritarian parenting printed on my DNA would get panicky now and then, especially when someone I looked up to got narky with my so-called 'permissive' parenting style. But it worked. It really worked. Not overnight - nothing I did was overnight - I am an incredibly slow learner! And I found that it was okay to challenge and change my core attitudes, beliefs and values.
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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine
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