Opinion

Radical parenting not so dissimilar to lazy parenting

Photo of Renee James
Renee James
Contributor
  • See All Articles
  • Subscribe to RSS
  • Bio

      Renee James

      Renee James writes social commentary and resolves daily to keep up with her blog: It’s Not Me, It’s You. Her essays have appeared in 101 Damnations: A Humorists’ Tour of Personal Hells and May Contain Nuts: A Very Loose Canon of American Humor.



      Her opinion pieces have appeared in The Baltimore Sun, The Los Angeles Times, The Orlando Sentinel, The Morning Call and other Tribune newspapers, as well as The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Women’s Quarterly and Tango Magazine.

At the suggestion of my astounded sister (also the most logical person on the planet), but against my better judgment, I watched a television program called “Radical Parenting.” If you’re unfamilar with the term, think of it this way: living in opposite world. There. That’s it.

You won’t be surprised to hear I live in the real world and raised my children to live there, too. Here are some examples of the unenlightened choices my husband and I made as traditional parents.

For one, we sent our children to school. Yes, we turned their brilliant little minds over to the corruption that lay in wait at their Catholic elementary school, then at the public middle and high schools in our community. At no point did we consider the concept of “home schooling.” Most home schooling environments follow disciplined lesson plans that largely cover subject matter according to the community’s standards, taught within the confines of home. Super, but it wasn’t for us.

Surprise! It’s not for radical parents, either. Way too prosaic for them and their little prodigies. They believe in “un-schooling.” If you’re thinking, “Wait a minute. Un-schooling can’t mean what I think it means,” you’re wrong. It does. No lessons. No classes. No formal teaching of any kind. Children learn from “the world.” From “life.” From video games, according to one little boy.

Favorite quote: “Unschooling has freed us to do and be whatever we choose. We can craft all day if we feel like it. There’s nothing we have to do; we are just free.” Even if I force myself to ignore the use of the word “craft” as a verb, I’m horrified.

But un-schooling is more than that, too. It’s egalitarian life. No one makes rules for anyone else. Bedtime? Nope. Good nutrition? Nah. Hygiene? Not really. Sleep where you want, when you want. Have popsicles for dinner. Take a bath if you feel like it. Good Lord.

You may feel uncertain at this point. Maybe un-schoolers are onto something and I’m just too conventional and close-minded to understand. Perhaps. Let’s move on, shall we?

We let our children crawl around and laid them in cribs to sleep. Oh, and we put diapers on them, too.

Turns out, we may have damaged their sense of security. Radical “attachment parents” carry, wear, or otherwise affix their baby to their body through a pouch, a sling, a backpack or some other device, everyday, all day for two to three years. They ‘co-sleep’ with them, too. In other words, they stay in direct contact with the child from birth until he or she begins walking and then as much as possible thereafter, including several years of breastfeeding.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Grant-Stewart/13309656 Grant Stewart

    Amen, Renee. Amen!!!

  • hkyriazi

    Renee, you may wish to check out John Taylor Gatto’s “Dumbing Us Down.” As the NY state teacher of the year and a long-time public school teacher in NY city, he knows whereof he speaks. And he wrote in that lovely book that his best learning experiences were just what these “radical” parents shoot for – watching and talking with grown ups doing real work in real life. After a long career in teaching, he realized that the highly regimented, Prussian system we’ve adopted, with yellow buses and bells and hour-long classes, is a poor one. For example, he mentioned that when a child is ready to learn to read, he or she can master it in a matter of weeks, as opposed to being force-fed something he or she isn’t ready for, and taking a year or more (or never).

    I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes: “The only time my education was interrupted was when I was in school.” – George Bernard Shaw

  • KYmom

    Your argument from incredulity shows that you could not be bothered to actually research your subject matter before forming an opinion. It is no surprise that a person falling back on flawed logic and petty sniping does not mind the hypocrisy of calling other people superior and lazy while being themselves, incredibly superior and lazy. Radical unschooling is a method of education as well as a lifestyle that works well for many families. Their choices have nothing to do with you or anyone else being beneath them any more than your choice to have brown hair is an insult to blonds. Before you bemoan what a horror it is for my child to be respected, trusted and shown the joy of learning and cooperating within a considerate family unit, you might want to actually do more than gag up a hairball of knee jerk fear and disgust. You might want to do your research. Ex: Just because a child may have a popsicle for dinner, does not mean they did not help prepare a nutritious homemade meal for dinner and chose to have that instead. You might find out the reading level of those video games or the strategy and team work a child can learn playing them. You might see that teachers often promote inclusive learning in the classroom and “learning by doing“. You might have found how much easier that is to do outside of a classroom than within it. You might have found that progressive public schools in NY are being designed around learning by gaming. You might find that video games are not all kids do when you give them a choice. Some, don’t even like video games and never play them. That is the joy and the edge of student centered and guided learning. It is not always the easiest thing for the parent to do. (It would certainly be easier for me to leave my child at a school 8 hours a day.) But it is often the best thing. You might approach the subject objectively and with earnest intent to learn about it. I’m so sorry that did not occur to you in the first place. I hope you do not dump this blind negativity upon every new idea and family that you come across. That would be tragic for you and any readers who take your words to heart.

  • Michelle A

    You know, Renee, it really is okay to be happy. Rather than taking your diatribe against my parenting choices personally, I have taken a look at your other columns and your blog. And I’m glad that I did. I don’t know if it’s your “real life” personality, or just a writing persona you use because it helps you sell articles, but I’ve discovered that most of your articles follow a similar pattern: You see or hear about something that’s new to you, then you use sarcasm to dismiss it. Which is your right and privilege. But I worry for you–all that negativity is bound to be unhealthy. So I just wanted to remind you–in case you hadn’t heard it in awhile–that LIFE IS GOOD. And it only gets better the more we appreciate all the good things in life. Much peace, Michelle