Friday, January 15, 2010

Resistance, or When to Push Back, When to Let Go

The title says it all, that is my question for you today and the topic for my meanderings.

As an unschooling mother who respects her children as individuals with the intelligence and human right to make their own decisions, giving them as much self-direction as possible in life is normal.

My Waldorf background and my (sometimes dubious) status as an adult with a few more years of life experience, leads me to steer them in my direction at times.

How to harmoniously reconcile these two on a day-to-day basis and throughout childhood and adolescence? Good question, huh?

I love the freedom homeschooling gives us all to live outside of the restrictions of a "normal" school day or office day. If a child is deeply engrossed in a project, they may keep at it for hours or even weeks on end. No bells will ring, no principals demand that we "keep on task." If we start out on a path that is not working for anyone, we are free to change direction. Hate the first half of that book? Take it back to the library and get another, there will not be a quiz on it later.

On the other hand, I like the idea that we all have all lived through one or more previous existences that made us who we are today. In that line of thinking, each of us chose to come to this particular family and place for a reason. I learn from my kids every day. I learn to laugh at the little stuff, to have patience when they are doing their best to destroy both my home and each other. I daily meditate on what my role is in my family's life and how to improve my way of carrying it out. Bake another loaf of chocolate bread or cut out the sugar? Stay home and work or go sledding instead? I also let the children know that since they have chosen me as a mother, there may be things they are supposed to learn from me as well. One of those things might just be persistence.

It is a hard line to draw. If the toddler wearing no diaper says "no" for a few hours on end to needing a potty break, you can either change the wet pants later or gently lead him to stop playing and do what needs to be done before that point. Likewise, if my eight-year-old breaks down during a math lesson. Do I respect the fact that she has had enough already and wait until tomorrow or do I look deeper and see that what she is really looking for is encouragement and a little more of my time and patience? When my thirteen-year-old, who previously requested my assistance in mapping out her history reading, decides that she hates the Renaissance and is bored silly with everything but Egyptians, do I drop the Renaissance like a hot crepe dripping with burning chocolate sauce on a no-carbs day, or do I find new ways to interest her in the topic? Some days it really is hard to tell the difference. It is equally easy to let it go and let them find their own way as it is to pull rank and insist it be done "now!" Some space in between the two is called for. How do you find that fine balance with your children?

This is where daily prayer/meditation is so important. With five children, all with different temperaments and different needs, it is a wonderful way to attune myself to where each one is on this path and how I might adjust to make it work for this child. I can look inside and discover reasons for my own insistence upon or resistance to an idea. A good source for those wishing to learn more about meditation and motherhood is a program that started up a few months ago, called "Be a Beacon." Click on this link: to learn more about working on life's smaller and larger questions through inner work.

There are many wonderful resources for both sides of the question. One favorite influence that comes to mind is David Albert, homeschooling author of; Homeschooling and the Voyage of Self-Discovery and And the Skylark Sings with Me - Adventures in Homeschooling and Community-Based Education who makes the case for permitting a child to drop an instrument they no longer want to practice/play immediately. He talks about it from the perspective of an adult; when we try something and really don't care for it, we are free to change our minds and pursue another interest. Played floor hockey for a season and it was a bunk? You might quit and join a chess club. He also stresses that learning does not happen in a nice, neat, sequenced sort of way. His famous advice for math; "if they're not getting sixth grade math, give them seventh-grade math!" He is the father of two very talented daughters, both homeschooled and both in college today.

From the other end of the perspective, Rhythms of Learning : What Waldorf Education Offers Children, Parents & Teachers (Vista Series, V. 4)
is an in-depth view of Waldorf Education at each age and stage of the life of a child from kindergarten through twelfth grade. Rudolph Steiner's own words and Roberto Trostli's expansion of the lectures, give a great guide to the whys and hows of bringing certain material to children of a certain age. Steiner's philosophy is that each age can relate to certain times in history because the epochs in history correspond to a time in a child's development.


  1. Hi, from New Zealand, you are a busy Mother, well done, cheers Marie

  2. Hello Fellow Beacon Mama,

    I really enjoyed this post. I have met resistance in three different ways this week. Each way carried the message, "Slow Down Mama, I am not ready yet!"

    It's good to be connected enough to recognize the message. It sounds like a message I will have to be listening for and dancing with for the rest of our homeschooling career.

    Way to be connected!

  3. As a waldorf homeschooling mother of three (16, 13, 9), I can say that I definitely relate! It is a constant challenge, one that makes life interesting and real. I have found that rhythm and meditation are ALWAYS helpful.

    Thank you for your inspiring thoughts. Jennipher

  4. Hi Marie,

    Thank you for the sweet thoughts from New Zealand!

    Now that's a land I would not mind moving to, what a fascinating place.

    Drop by again soon!


  5. Hi NMM, Fellow Beacon Mama,

    Thank you- I neglected to mention that option; "slow down, Mama." So right!

    Thank you, too, for letting me know you enjoyed the post, I love encouraging comments.

    Connection...the key, or at least one of them!

  6. Thank you, Jennifer,

    It's great to feel that we are not alone on this journey...and that our way of considering children with respect and love is not the odd way.

    Glad to hear from you!

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