Monday, February 05, 2007

Learning at Home Week in Review

Well, this week passed by without too much notice. We had violin lessons and piano lessons and we practised and Rhiannon and I are now reading Farmer Boy - the third book in the "Little House" series. Andrew didn't go to the garage because he went to a friend's 14th birthday party instead. My highlight of this last week's learning is my own. I have been reading a book that has had a profound influence on my friend. So here is my essay on "The Continuum Concept" by Jean Liedloff.

What was compelling to me about this book was her description of the Yequanna people of South America. It was compelling to read about these people who live so close to their instincts and how they intuitively raise their children to be part of their society and culture so effortlessly - the trust they had in the 'rightness' of their children and in each other. It was affirming to me of how I have trusted my own instincts - explained why that felt right even though others would disagree with how I have handled my children at certain times.

What really made me think was her description of how they teach children to work. They don't really teach them at all but include them from babyhood in the meaningful work of the village. This was brought into even sharper focus and Rhiannon and I are reading "Farmer Boy" about Almanzo Wilder's childhood. At nine years old he is an integral part of his family's farm operation. He knows how to work hard and he is indisputably indispensable. And I pondered this age of 'convenience' and wondered if teenage rebellion - the acts of vandalism, shop lifting, illicit drug use, graffiti - that has come to be an accepted part of teenage culture is really just their anger at their impotence, their uselessness in society. 2 year olds in a Yequanna village are doing more meaningful work than most teenagers. In most families of my children's friends, nothing is accepted of them when it comes to family work. Nothing. And I have spoken to many parents who feel this is how childhood should be - free from responsibility. But this is not our nature. And how much happier my own children are when we work together on our household tasks - when we discuss and decide what needs to be done and labour together. And I see how I need to do this more - and to include Rhiannon in the daily tasks. And as I have been doing this, she LOVES it!

I am grateful to have been raised by a mother who was influenced by the emerging child development research of the 60's and raised me with many of these principles (she took me to the Dr because I never cried...). And to consequently have my own instincts more intact for my children.

My psychological analysis of the book: The theory that Jean Liedloff expounds here is a 'tabula rasa' (blank slate) theory. That means that children start life as 'blank slates' and are a result of their environments. She is also heavily influenced by Freudian psychology. Although she refutes Freud's conclusions, she develops a similar theory in that she believes that the entire rest of life is a result of our earliest experiences. I think it is a bit more complex than that and that there are many factors that influence growing babies and children and that we each bring with us our own soul and will have our own way of reacting to the similar situations.

I enjoyed her description of the Yequanna the most and found many implications there for my own parenting. The message of how babies need to be held and trusted and their cues attended to; how children need to be meaningfully included in our lives; that parents need to have their own meaningful lives; that we need to be connected in community - all these things I found deeply affirming and thought provoking. However, I found her interpretations of her observations to be a bit didactic and I did not agree with all of her conclusions.

So there you have it - my learning for the week!


Mary-Sue said...

Thanks, Andrea. Very insightful. I would agree with everything you wrote, and appreciate your willingness to read a book that I was so passionate about. Can you bring it with you tomorrow night as I want to read it one more time before it's due back at the library.
Thank you!!

Andrea said...

You're welcome. Thanks for inspiring me. I enjoyed reading it!

Heather said...

I am also just re-reading The Continuum Concept - my midwife recommended it to me when I was pregnant years ago. I think you are soooo right about teens ( and all people, really) needing to have meaningful work to do, I believe it makes us feel worthy, important and fulfilled. I think you really have hit on why the "teen" years are considered difficult in our culture. I wonder if you have read Magical Child - it, to me, fits in nicely with some of Liedloff's ideas and makes for very interesting reading.

Andrea said...

Hey Heather! Nice to meet you outside of the village... although still in this virtual world! I'm enjoying reading your blog, too!

Mary-Sue said...

I just have to say that having lived in a a third world country and seeing children starting work at around age 2, and seeing them so full of joy for their contributions, it makes me wonder why we once upon a time decided that children's play cannot garner monetary contribution to the family. Forced child labour is completely different than a child eager to contribute. I think we've gone off the charts in the wrong direction...