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Parenting forum - kick-off post  RSS feed

 
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By way of background, this forum came out this post - many thanks to Paul and Burra for setting it up!

My intent was to have a forum where people could reflect on how the principles and practice of permaculture do and don't shape how they raise their children. That's just my goal; others may well want to go in different directions. Paul and Burra set this up in the Cider Press area precisely because discussions of parenting can prove very contentious, but my hope is that it will be more wheat than chaff. We probably all have strong feelings about raising children, but please try to keep things civil, keeping in mind that what works for one family (or one child in a family!) may not work for another. How we raise children is also hugely dependent on culture, which suggests to me that there's not just one right way to do it - and that what is right will depend in part on the context. One book on the subject that I have yet to read but find intriguing is The Anthropology of Childhood: Cherubs, Chattel, Changelings. I'd be curious to know if anyone here has read it and if so what they thought of it.

To kick things off, it seems appropriate to share a few random thoughts of my own as the father of a not-quite-2-year-old. Three related permaculture principles stuck out to me in particular: observe and interact, accept feedback, and creatively use and respond to change. Toddlers change and learn at an incredible pace. By trying to pay mindful attention to my daughter, I've realized that she learns much faster than I initially realized. This means, in part, that I often only have to show her something once before she masters it and is ready to go on - and if I persist with something past the point where she's mastered it, she can get bored and frustrated. And seeing her clear desire to imitate her parents in everything (cooking, cleaning, etc.) really drives home the idea that "play" is mostly practice for being an adult.
 
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I am a father of a ten yr old boy, and we chose to homeschool from jump street, schools are teaching to tests now with little more being taught.

I compare this to monoculture farming, you get what you need this season, at the cost if the soil ( children )

We prefer to teach skills, history, tradeswork, animal husbandry, and music along with the standard school subjects, I think a lot if this can be compared to planting a perennial garden or orchard, the fruit will be harvested for many years, and is better for the soil (children)

I never really thought of it till this thread made me think it over, so it's a little simple but.....
 
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I am a dad and a schoolteacher. I became a substitute teacher largely due to the ideas that Chadwick brought up. I do think that we need to be the teachers of some things. In most schools, my kids knew more about science and nature than their teachers did, including the science teachers! I will only say that in many areas, you can find a school with a principal that has a backbone and will allow real learning to occur. Many of them just don't have any experiences other than testing, I mean teaching (sort of) and so they don't even know that education can be a positive and enjoyable thing. There was even a time many years ago when children were encouraged to read books for pleasure and so become good readers that way. Some were even allowed to grow seeds and plants in the school! I know that may sound very quaint and old-fashioned to many.
John S
PDX OR
 
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Posted this in the original thread, and here it is again.  I see one person already beat me to the punch on one of the items--cool!  (btw I don't have biological children myself and don't intend to, but consider the impact of my choices on the kids in my neighborhood and on their parents.  And I have parents too, so that's my qualification for blabering.)

I guess this thread got moved to the cider press, I'm not sure if I can get into the cider press or not, but it seems that it's worth simply stating some permaculture principles and generally speculating on how they might be applied to create new visions of parenting, regardless of particular philosophies or beliefs.  Questions to ponder.  Then the answers can go in the cider press.  Or if this has unknowingly started a conflagration, maybe it can get moved there by someone who knows how to do that?

-----
1. Multiple elements to serve a single function -- it takes a village to raise a child, parents supported by whole community so they can focus on being parents and children can have maximal sane parents as nurturers and role models

2. multiple functions served by individual elements -- parents as teachers. others in the community as exemplars.  children as workers and as exemplars.  helping other parents instead of having kids yourself or in addition to.  offering to babysit to give parents a chance to recharge as an act of parenting.  reparenting oneself is a way of parenting one's children and any other children in one's life.

3. obtain a yield--what is the goal of raising "better" children?  they are happier, they bring harmony and peace and constructive choice-making to the community, they develop their unique gifts and are satisfied with their lives, not needing to take from others in order to fill the void

4. edge effects--children rub up against other children, parents of many different viewpoints

5. polyculture--similar, many varied experiences contribute to learning.  Extended family and neighborliness.  ...?

6. capturing and soaking flows--...?

7. the problem is the solution--the children are our teachers...

8. STUN--hm...cider press!...Well, but if it's already happened, then what do we do about it?  we could talk about making initiation conscious, and recognizing through an initiation ritual the adolescent impulse to stand on one's own, to rebel against the known and try the unknown, to put one's life at risk, to test the limits, to dare things with boldness or even rashness...the village honoring this with a ritual of homecoming or with an initiation in the wild.  Non-enabling? OK, more cider-press

9. perennial thinking vs. annual thinking--I think most people would agree you aren't trying to raise your kid to maximize quarterly returns at the expense of all their future productivity and happiness.  But maybe some of us have paraded our children to make an impression on the Joneses in a short-sighted way, or have "lived vicariously through our children."  Or paid too much attention to what grade they got in high school, and not enough to the massive student debt they were now choosing to graduate from college with.  Something along those lines, not sure I can think of what else this means. How has "organic" or "conventional/pesticide-fertilizer/fossil-fueled" thinking distorted our ideas of parenting?

10.  designing for permanence--think about the 7th generation!  That's the number of generations that indigenous people seem to focus on, in South Africa, among the Shoshone and Iroquois...at any rate it's a broader, more permanent view than looking at maximizing your child's wellfare by encouraging them to exploit and destroy the planet your grandchildren will live on.  Also, it should be noted that designing living systems for permanence is not the same as building rock monuments for permanence--they are dynamic, ever-growing, ever-increasing in complexity.  what makes sense today that is different from whta made sense in our parents' or grandparents' generation?

11. most of all--observe, observe, observe: I think most people can agree about this one, and all of us can do it more and better.  Listen.  

Also, it's got to be true that we as children make observations ourselves--what we learn from the world around us can be distorted by interpretation or it can be more direct.  If we are eating the food we had a hand in growing ourselves, then we're observing something very directly, and learning very accurately about the impact of our choices.

I was listening to a podcast on Fukuoka today, and how his peach trees failed at first because he did nothing after they'd already been dependent on human pruning for a long time--and yet when he let them start _from seed_ they did fabulously.  Now, human children never start in the wild (with very rare exceptions, I guess)--there's already a lot of human momentum going that influences them.  But humans can also make new choices.  But those choices may be poor choices in a context of starting from a pruned-peach-tree situation vs. starting in a more wide-open, fresh situation...how do we relate to the past thinking and past choices' consequences? how can we be more and more conscious?
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Steven Kovacs wrote:By way of background, this forum came out this post - many thanks to Paul and Burra for setting it up!

My intent was to have a forum where people could reflect on how the principles and practice of permaculture do and don't shape how they raise their children.  That's just my goal; others may well want to go in different directions.  Paul and Burra set this up in the Cider Press area precisely because discussions of parenting can prove very contentious, but my hope is that it will be more wheat than chaff.  We probably all have strong feelings about raising children, but please try to keep things civil, keeping in mind that what works for one family (or one child in a family!) may not work for another.  How we raise children is also hugely dependent on culture, which suggests to me that there's not just one right way to do it - and that what is right will depend in part on the context.  One book on the subject that I have yet to read but find intriguing is The Anthropology of Childhood: Cherubs, Chattel, Changelings.  I'd be curious to know if anyone here has read it and if so what they thought of it.

To kick things off, it seems appropriate to share a few random thoughts of my own as the father of a not-quite-2-year-old.  Three related permaculture principles stuck out to me in particular: observe and interact, accept feedback, and creatively use and respond to change.  Toddlers change and learn at an incredible pace.  By trying to pay mindful attention to my daughter, I've realized that she learns much faster than I initially realized.  This means, in part, that I often only have to show her something once before she masters it and is ready to go on - and if I persist with something past the point where she's mastered it, she can get bored and frustrated.  And seeing her clear desire to imitate her parents in everything (cooking, cleaning, etc.) really drives home the idea that "play" is mostly practice for being an adult.



Cool!  having read the free part of the intro to the book I'm fascinated also.  It's great to extend observation of childhood beyond a Euro-American norm.  At the same time, I think a part of the argument is still leaving out the experiences of people who aren't either "First World" or "Third World," maybe labeled "Fourth World" sometimes, who've largely escaped the main power dynamic, and have other perspectives to offer.  And then there is the fact that anthropologists seem not to observe the vast curriculum of knowledge that indigenous people themselves I've read talk about learning.  Malidoma Some writes about his childhood in indigenous village life and initiation, one the one hand, and schooling and beatings in a Jesuit mission on the other.  The view of children as returned ancestors, as "grandfathers" and "grandmothers" isn't any of the three C's.  Children are viewed as ends in themselves, while their sense of identity includes their unique gifts and abilities in service to the community.  Not chattel, not cherub, and not changelings.  But still a good read as it opens up more questions and challenges assumptions
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Got the book, reading some--I'm puzzled.  There is some stuff in this book that still seems screwy to me, perhaps even racially clouded, or perhaps simply incomplete.  I only know about one tribe, and bits about a few others.  But this tribe, at least, does not fit the descriptions in this book.  So I want to talk about it, even if it is only one example, it's still worth knowing about.

—when someone in my spiritual community here (of European descent) had adopted a baby and later, when the adoptive mother was having health challenges, gave the baby up again, Malidoma was horribly upset.  He could not understand giving up a baby.  This would just never happen in Dagara land.

When he returned after years in captivity among the Jesuits to his home village, his mother recognized him at once and dropped her load of wood off her head.  

By comparison, the way children are treated in America, or my own experience of childhood, was cold.

I cried when I saw the children in the Dagara land, because they were smiling so brighty and so at ease, so full of life and confidence--and because it was clear to me by comparison how confined my life in school and home was, and how accurate what Leonard Cohen said, "We don't like children anyhow."

I'm not just sentimentalizing.  Take a look at the kids in any public or pretty much any private school in America, look at the statistics of children smiling between ages 5 and 12.  And how many are smiling if you go to the village in Dagara land.

Malidoma said one time he thought Americans gave children far too much attention.  But the Dagara I saw all really love their children.  And they see them as returned ancestors.  

They mourn infants for a day, they don't throw their bodies out in the bush as some tribe in the book is said to do.  They mourn children for two days, initiated adults for three.  No one is un-mourned.
 
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