How Long Will I Continue To Trust My Child?

Parenting has a lot to do with trust. You set the stage for so many things. You prepare, you explain, you suggest, you encourage, you discourage, you show and you tell. But you also trust your child to pick up on the other side of the equation, to take what you’ve offered and run with it, to be a person, and specifically to be a new person. To be an individual who has never existed before.

A lot of parents want to do more than set the stage. They want to guide their kids in a particular direction. From the day their kids are born they are pushing them to make the next milestone.

But that isn’t me.

I was excited to see when Dylan would roll over, but I never laid interesting toys just outside his grasp and encouraged him to roll towards them. No matter, he learned to roll over anyway. We never did any “practice walking” with me leading him around the house held up by his hands. No worries, he learned to walk plenty quickly! Right now I’m not doing much in the way of teaching him to say certain words. I talk to him, and I figure he’ll learn how to talk.

Even for the more milestone oriented parents, most of them don’t institute some kind of “walking program” or “sitting up training” or “first words school”. The early years are pretty educationally laid back. The years go by, and somehow your child learns to do a million things – roll over, sit up, crawl, walk, jump, run, climb, talk, point, turn the pages of a book, stack blocks, eat with a spoon, help put on clothes, pull the cat’s tail and then not – all without any kind of formal instructional effort on the part of parents.

Check out the beginning of this post, Natural Learning: One family’s story:

I have 3 daughters. Tannah, my eldest at 5, walked at almost 18 months. Willow, the middle child, walked at 10 months. And Harper, my baby who has just had her first birthday, is yet to walk-but she can climb!

I did not put Tannah in remedial walking. I was not taken aside by an expert to say that she was behind her peers and we would have to work hard to have her catch up. Willow was not in a gifted walkers program. There was no pressure on her to then perform all her milestones early to keep that “gifted” label.  Harper does not have a “walking difficulty” because she is learning in a different way to other walkers.

That’s the language of schooling, of course, and many of us are familiar with that language. School is about making sure a child learns certain things and fits in certain boxes. It’s the opposite of trust. It’s control instead.

I’ve long been intrigued by unschooling. I read the blog I’m Unschooled. Yes, I Can Write which is written by a person who did not go to school and is now an adult. In the post Unschooling and Trust, the author explicitly ties the two together in several different ways:

Trusting that Nature/evolution/the Divine/God/Goddess has created human beings capable of learning, capable of following their innate drive to learn, capable of making the important decisions in their lives.  It’s trusting that nature got things right.

Trusting, as a parent, that you have the capability (and strength, ability, surety) to make the decision to take your kids out of school, or to never send them to school to begin with.  And trusting that your children are capable people, able to learn and grow guided by their innate desire to explore the world around them.

Trusting yourself, as someone who is themselves of an age to be in compulsory schooling, to have the insight, foresight, strength and ability to take the leap of leaving school, or if your parents made that decision at an earlier point for you, trusting that you really have always been and continue to be capable of controlling your own learning, “education,” and life.

What causes us to go from the trusting days of early childhood to the controlling schoolhouse years? Some people might say that school subjects “matter” more than babyhood skills. But surely walking and talking are pretty damn important. Maybe you would say that walking and talking are “instincts”, but that doesn’t account for all the other things young children learn to do.

Right now I feel very trusting about my relationship with Dylan, his desire to learn and grow, and our ability to navigate an enriching experience together. But how long will I continue to hold onto that trust?