Child-Led Parenting: How Values Around Education Play Out In Our Home Life
Schools with child-led philosophies, from Montessori to Reggio to Bank Street, are all the rage with millennial moms, myself included. Phi started going to a Reggio-inspired school just after her first birthday, and after we move to Brooklyn later this year she'll begin preschool at a Reggio-inspired school there.
Because the values I find at work in Reggio-inspired schools align nicely with my own values, I walk away from drop-off trusting that she's in the right place. I know that the adults in Phi's school community will encourage creativity and independence, just like I do at home. She goes outside every day, even most winter days, and the teachers do an amazing job integrating nature into the kids' lives in the classroom.
Of course, the way values like creativity, appreciation for nature, and independence play out is different at home, where it's just me and her. Here are a few ways play-based parenting works for our little fam:
Anyone who's met Phi knows she's not afraid to ask for what she wants.
When Phi heads downstairs in the morning, we open the refrigerator and she tells me what she wants to eat. Most of the foods she loves, like yogurt pouches and apples, are on the lower shelves so she can take them out herself.
Lately, she's taken more of an interest in getting dressed. She used to be happy choosing what to wear from a few options I laid out for her, but she started running over to her dresser and digging through it enough times for me to get the hint that she wants to be more involved. I showed her that she can used a step stool to see the clothes hanging in her closet. Right now, there's nothing Phi loves more than a "pretty dress."
I let her make choices, even if the only choices she can really make right now are from mommy's edited-down selection, because I want her to know that I trust her. I want her to know that she can trust herself. I also love it one thousand million times over that she feels comfortable asking for what she wants or needs. I think it's the natural result of allowing her to express preferences throughout the day.
At parties, I literally let her eat whatever she wants, as long as she doesn't drink soda. On Halloween, she asked for grapes. Giving kids choices doesn't mean they'll make bad ones.
Letting her interests lead the way
At Phi's school, the teachers come up with lessons based on what the children show interest in. At home, I have even more flexibility to do this because she's the only one and I can buy stuff based solely on her interests and dedicate extra time to the activities she loves.
Lately, she's been painting almost every day. I have sort of an agreement with myself that if she asks to do something creative, I say yes, even if it's messy or inconvenient. If she's discovered the joy of working in the flow state, I'll encourage it all day every day.
Another way this plays out is in the decisions I make about what to buy her. Sometimes, there's a convenient intersection between the things she's interested in and the stuff I can buy her in order to hopefully grow her into a person who can do the basics, like read. So, her book collection over-indexes on books about dogs.
Our little wanderings are one of my favorite parts of being a parent. When she was a baby, I worked from home and my hours were pretty flexible. It was grreat, but I needed to get out of the house. I would take her out for the longest walks on the bike trail that runs through our town, and we spent many days wandering through art museums, bookstores, and crystal shops. She would snuggle up to sleep against me in the Tula as I enjoyed nature, art, books, and occasional conversations with other adults who enjoy the same.
Somewhere along the way, she became a less convenient wandering buddy. She wrestled her way out of the Tula enough times that I stopped using it. Now, she run away when I wanted to look at something and often choses to stay in one little corner of a museum, store, or library for longer than I would.
The whole point of our adventures has changed. When she was a baby, "our" adventures were really about my own need for entertainment. Ever since she began bursting out of her Tula cocoon, they're about her developing understanding of the world. The joy of watching her discover something new makes the frustation of being out with a toddler worth it, so I keep taking her everywhere and anywhere.
One evening last summer, we were out walking on a trail along the river in a of like a beach, so we stopped there. I expected that it would be a short stop, but Phi loved finding little pebbles and throwing them into the water so much. Our little detour was taking longer and longer. Frankly, I was getting restless and bored. I think my phone was even dead. The situation showed me how difficult it is for me to just slow down and truly enjoy nature, rather than just trying to walk or cycle or snowboard through it as quickly as possible, taking a few Instagrams along the way. When we're out on adventures, Phi is fully present. I'm learning from her.
When I started this blog, I didn't intend to touch on parenting much at all. I've hesitated because I really believe that we all find the right ways for our own families, and I don't want to send the message that I think my way is any bettter or worse than anyone else's.
I've decided to open up about what parenting looks like for me because I think it's important for us, as moms, to share our experiences and be real with each other. Please share your own experiences integrating your values around education into your home life in the comments below or tag me on insta!