My son, having two parents that sit and work though textbooks just for fun, started reading well by the time he was four. At about the same time, he’d sit on the toilet- his deep thinking spot- and come up with crazy mathematical patterns. At 5, we took him to the library for the first time, where he picked up a chapter book and hasn’t stopped reading since. As a baby he was very serious and rarely cried. He would just sit and take in his surroundings. We could reason with him at a very young age and have him respond in a manner that we found appropriate- the child would actually give up whatever behaviour we found annoying/inappropriate.
Flash-forward a few years and we had a daughter. A daughter who has been perfectly demanding from the moment she’d been born. She could easily get by on four hours of sleep in twenty-four period. She’d cry and scream (sometimes even hit and kick). She had no interest in books or sitting still. She couldn’t settle at night. She had fears of the dark. She would demand things at the store and have the most horrific tantrums imaginable if she was denied. What were we going to do? We had no guide for this. We were in uncharted territory. Our greatest asset with our son had been our ability to reason with him- to explain and have him hear- this time we weren’t even given a chance as our daughter would be off in a whirlwind of rage as soon as we even opened our mouth.
It only struck me a couple months ago as I was laying in bed beside our youngest child, who is only six months old, that despite only being two and a half years apart in age, my children had very different experiences as young children. My son was not introduced to television at home until he was three years old, and then it was only on for short periods of time. He did not have a lot of toys and his most cherished was a wooden train track set that he would quietly play with for hours at a time. We had a few favorite books that we’d read over and over again. I would cuddle with him at night (which is why it struck me when I was cuddling with the newest baby) and sing him songs. I’d sing all time time. I was going through a very earth mother/goddess phase and we’d talk about the sun, moon, stars and trees. We’d gather things from nature to explore. We didn’t go out much, our routine was simple. My daughter, however, started watching TV as an infant. I was sleep deprived and if she’d sit in front of the screen for 20 minutes then I was happy. Liam started reading and family started giving us books. There were new books every night and then we started chapter books at bedtime. Liam was starting to use the computer from time to time and then Morgaine would watch and want to play too. Wanting to give Liam a “head start”, we started him with school and Morgaine tagged along behind him. We moved to a new town and within month we’d received boxes of books and toys. Our small house started to look like a toy store (or, umm, junk yard). Liam had been so easy that we started demanding that Morgaine behave in the same manner he did with disastrous results. Liam was NOT typical and asking Morgaine to behave in the same manner was FAR from realistic. Morgaine didn’t have time to be a little child and learn about herself and the world around her. Her life had been a whirlwind of activities, demands, and stuff. She was never free to just be as Liam had been for the first three or four years of his life.
It became painfully clear that what we were doing was just not working when my husband took some time off work to be with us as a family. I started feeling even more pressure to show that we were doing things. That the kids were smart and I could keep the house clean and we NEVER sat still. Life was pretty nightmare like. There was almost constant tantrums, whining, crying, and demands, demands, DEMANDS (and hitting/kicking when those demands were not met). Liam, who had been a good student, though on the hyper-active side, started hating school work. He needed to move and touch things constantly. I began to realize that while Liam was smart he also hadn’t had much time to get to know himself in his own skin and his needing to touch and move seemed to me to be an indication of him trying to find himself in his environment. He’d started academics so early and was rewarded for doing so and other areas that were vital to his development got left behind. In the months that Mike was home there were many heated discussions on what we were going to do with the children. How would they ever manage in the world? Maybe the should just go to school because clearly, whatever we were doing wasn’t working.
In the past month and a half we’ve worked slowly to make many changes to their environment and we’ve started to see many positive results. Two weeks ago, I receive Simplicity Parenting as an inter-library loan and it served to reinforce what I’d been trying to do in the home and how those changes could really have nearly immediate and lasting effects on the children. While I’d made the changes in the months before because they felt right this book made me more determined than ever to stick with it despite some less desirable feedback. Over the course of the next few weeks, I’ll be writing much more about what we’ve done and the almost AMAZING results we’ve seen (but you’ll have to bare with me as one of the big changes is much less computer time for everyone). I’ve come to realize that Waldorf inspired homeschooling feels most right to me (it incorporates a lot of the things I was doing naturally during my earth mama phase) and it’s something that I am striving to bring more and more into the home. I strongly feel that given some time just to be a child will do a world of good for my daughter and even for my son who is also thriving in this new environment.