Nature’s Intent for Parenting and “Educating”

12 June 2011 Categories: Attachment parenting, unschooling

Laurie and her son Brycen, 2006

Nature’s intent is the only parenting advice and “educational curriculum” we truly need. Our parenting challenges, concerns and choices can become so simple if we consider, “What is nature’s intent for a child’s holistic development?”

Nature is our reference manual, our guide to mammalian and human needs. I hear so often parents say curiously common phrases along the lines of, “There is no one right way to parent”, or “School works for my child- My child could never learn on her/his own.” Often those types of statements translate to, “Something in my past is being triggered and I am feeling defensive, so I am unable to consider alternatives.”

Yes, there are MANY human-invented ways to parent and educate, most of them punitive, coercive, harmful and downright traumatizing; echos of an adult’s own childhood pain. However, nature’s intent for children is authentic, congruent and always “right” because the child’s holistic needs, their unique passions, their innate wisdom of how to grow and the expression of their personhood is the priority of nature. Human-invented ways to parent and “educate” often have the goal of adult convenience, placating adult fears, catering to adult biases and beliefs and shaping the child to be or become something other than what or who that miraculous child is. Each child is a pure one-of-a-kind expression of universal energy- a miracle that if loved, nurtured and allowed to grow and develop freely and in joy,  innately unfolds as a beautiful three-dimensional person who meets all of his or her developmental potentials.

In everything that we do concerning our children, we must ask ourselves whose needs are being met. Are we parenting in a certain way to ease our own anxieties? To fulfill our own philosophy or hypothesis- or that of someone else? Are we parenting out of upset emotions, revenge or anger? Are we trying to shape the child’s future by causing suffering now? It can hurt so much as parents to let go, to slice away the baggage and false ideals of our pasts and of the mainstream culture in order to see our children’s true needs and trust our children enough to meet their needs. It is so freeing, so emancipating when we do! When we are able to see purely their needs, then we are tapped into our instinct- nature’s intent for how to parent and “educate” our children!

Nature’s intent for parenting and for children’s learning is a cycle that gently ebbs and flows, like the tides of the ocean: When a child has a need, the child will express that need to the parent in some overt or covert manner. It is up to the parents to decipher that need and keep their own judgments and filters out of the discovery process. If the parent immediately responds lovingly and supportively to a physical, emotional, creative or spiritual need, helps the child meet the need or helps the child make happen what the child is wanting to manifest, the child will feel homeostasis. Homeostasis is a state of holistic joy, calm, trust, safety and bonding. This is how secure attachment is formed and maintained. When children are distressed by our reactions to them, that is not homeostasis, “teaching”, a “lesson”, patience-learning or character-building, it is harm. Although parents need not be perfect, the parent-child attachment cycle must be honored from birth until the completion of adolescence for the child to grow up whole…

Attachment parenting and child-directed learning are not “parenting styles” or “educational philosophies”. Attachment Parenting and child-directed learning (unschooling, life learning, deschooling, relaxed homeschooling, democratic learning, etc.) are simply the words we use to describe the ancient Earth-wisdom that loving, connected, aware parents are rediscovering. (The words we use don’t matter as long as the actions we take are in harmony with nature’s intent!) “Parenting styles” and “educational philosophies” are all of the human-invented ways that have diverged from nature’s intent. If most of the time you are  passionately loving, physically and emotionally nurturing, generally sensitive and compassionate to your child’s needs, a guide and model rather than dictator and if you are a partner to your child’s goals and interests, you are in harmony with nature’s intent. If most of the time your children are connected to you, love to be with you (whether age two, nine, 12 or 17), take joy in play, have passion for something, are empathic, compassionate and are overall thriving holistically, your parent-child relationship is in harmony with nature’s intent.

If most of the times, these are not the ways of being for you and your child, then nature is signaling that something is out of sync its intent. Let’s celebrate that if our children are disconnected and are struggling holistically, re-syncing our parenting and their learning journey to nature is a simple and sometimes quick healing path. Let us celebrate the fact that whenever we resort back to our old fears, anxieties, defenses and beliefs, we can immediately get right back on the track of the parent-child attachment cycle! It is a gentle and quick process and our children will breathe a sigh of relief when we do!


3 Responses to “Nature’s Intent for Parenting and “Educating””

  1. Darcy 14 June 2011 at 2:02 pm (PERMALINK)

    Hi Laurie,

    First I must say I love your blog and the idea that we raise our children with nature’s intent. Based on your definition, I am very much raising my homeschooled son naturally and we fit the positive examples you suggest in this post.

    I agree with how you said attachment parenting, unschooling, relaxed homeschooling, child-directed learning etc… are not parenting styles but are the words we use for the Earth-wisdom that loving parents are rediscovering. That the words we use to describe how we are raising our children don’t matter so much as long as we are raising our children in harmony with nature’s intent.

    Unfortunately, I have found many in the unschooling or more specifically the radical unschooling community to be very exclusionary with how they use terminology, forcing their strict interruption of unschooling onto the rest of us, telling us that we are not true unschoolers if we encourage (guide) our children in the tiniest way, calling it coercion.

    I have seen first hand the children of some radical unschoolers who are left to their own devices day after day, spending all of their time watching TV due to being bored while their parents spend their day on the computer or playing video games themselves. In the interest of offering total freedom, these parents are afraid to have any expectations of their children. I feel this can be a form of neglect, not that we have to teach our children, but I think we do need to offer them opportunities to explore the world. That is the beauty of homeschooling I feel. I think radical unschoolers have stretched the idea of freedom too far and seem to think it means allowing total freedom to children without any expectations or responsibilities whatsoever.

    Even in nature, mammals teach their young what they need to survive. At the very least, I think we humans need to do the same and not leave our children to flounder. As a parent that practices natural learning, I don’t use a curriculum at all but let my son lead the way in his learning while I offer guidance along the way if needed. Rarely if ever do I teach anything and my son at age 14 is in total control of his education.

    How do you feel about radical unschoolers and and their feelings around offering total freedom in every aspect of their lives to their children? If you agree with the idea, do you feel that we should encourage our children to spend some amount of their day in learning activities away from the TV or video games if that is what they choose for themselves? Also, when is it OK for parents to lead without it being called coercion? I ask these questions not because I want to be accepted into the unschooling world but because I think when some define certain types of homeschooling methods too strictly, divisions are created and rather being viewed as a loving choice for children, homeschooling becomes fraught with bitterness and divisiveness.

  2. Tina 17 June 2011 at 4:45 pm (PERMALINK)

    Darcy , I agree with you in some respects but I am unschooling my little girl and we don’t spend all of our time in front of the t.v. In fact we cook which is science and math as well as survival skills and self expression. Of course this is what she is into at the moment aside from sewing and working with polymer clay. I am not saying she doesn’t play video games she does , but she plays games where a great deal of reading is involved and she is a member of a educational website where she can play educational games as well. I know you didn’t mean all unschoolers and I agree children need guidance. I don’t think that was Laurie’s point to simply let them run wild and do as they please. But as you stated let them take the reins as it were by showing us what they want to learn and when they are ready to learn. My little girl knows to respect others , care for others and to do what she can to help when people are in need. She has come a long way since we started unschooling and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else out there.

  3. Laurie A. Couture 18 June 2011 at 12:08 pm (PERMALINK)

    Darcy and Tina,

    Thanks for your responses. Darcy, my son and I are a radical unschooling family. I know what you mean, however, that some radical unschooling families are rigid about what radical unschooling is or isn’t. I do not follow the herd on anything- mainstream or otherwise! True unschooling is about parenting for attachment and connection and allowing our children to live and learn in freedom, while parents join in and support children in pursuing their interests. Parents who neglect children are not unschooling, they are neglecting. True unschooling is not “unparenting”. However, many people assume that when parents are not ordering children around, telling them what to do or not “disciplining” them that the parents are not parenting. It is respectful of the parent-child connection to live alongside our children democratically, with consent and respect of children’s needs, choices, desire and wants. It is disrespectful of children to “discipline” or coerce them and they don’t appreciate it anymore than we would. There is a difference between neglect, however, and guidance and modeling.

    The modeling I do for my son of our Family Principles of love, empathy and compassion for all people and living things forms the foundation and basis of everything we do. He and I discuss this Principle daily. Radical unschooling families should certainly have family principles and safety guidelines but they should not impose rules that stifle children but allow adults dominance.

    I personally do not think that it is a healthy idea for children to regularly watch TV and play video games. We do not watch any TV at all in our home (our analog TV gets use only from occasional movies and home videos) and my son chooses not to play video games at home. My son has seen first hand how video games have literally taken over the lives of some children, split up friendships and stopped children from pursuing passionate interests. My son watches a little TV and plays video games at friends’ homes but he has no interest to do so at home. He realizes how incredibly busy he is with hands-on pursuits- When would there be time for TV and video games? Just so no one thinks I just am out of touch with the “joys” of video gaming, for the record I am the undefeated (unofficial) Tetris Master! I am a huge former video gamer myself and used to play for hours. I own ten vintage video game systems as a collector and stacks of games. I don’t play them but rarely (every few years) anymore. I do play video games when we go to an arcade. Again, there is too much in the real world to do than sit at home in front of a screen (I wish my work didn’t require so much computer time).

    Tina, you are right, I never implied that children should be allowed to act disrespectfully and “run wild’ in the negative sense of how that is used, but to “run wild” creatively in freedom and joy. I personally feel it is important for children to become good stewards of the planet, show compassion to people and the planet and to at some point in life engage in social justice activities. I think unschooling frees people up to do more social justice and planetary preservation work. I feel disappointed when I hear of some homeschooling or unschooling families who don’t model for their children service to others.

    Tina, Be aware that video games, no matter if they have a great deal of reading or not in them have a neurological effect on children’s brains that is different from book reading: Book reading excites the entire brain. Video games (like TV) actually excite the addictive centers of the brain and causes other centers of the brain to “sleep”, making the brain more susceptible to suggestion/advertising. When my son had just turned 12, he researched this fact, and that is when he decided that he would no longer play video games at home.



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