Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Excellent, Excellent Book

For the Sake of Our Children by Leandre Bergeron is by far the most compelling book I've read in my journey as a mother. It has inspired me to change my habits and thinking.

This is the description from the LifeMedia Website:

For the Sake of Our Children by Léandre Bergeron
translated by Pamela Levac
foreword by John Taylor Gatto

A powerful description of a life led respecting and trusting children, from the naturalness of home birth and breastfeeding on demand, through learning by living and working together on a small farm and in a natural food store. The author's passionate ruminations about his strongly-held philosophies of attachment parenting and self-directed education are woven throughout a series of journal entries describing the daily life of a family of three unschooled teens. The result is a wonderfully warm, sometimes funny, always wise potpourri of advice and inspiration about natural parenting and unschooling from a father who writes, "I believe I have broken free from my complicity with other adults. I have chosen to remove myself from this adult world to side with children." This book provides both rationale for and proof of the wisdom of choosing a path that is so little trod upon in our world, the path of freedom, of respect for our children, of trust in them and belief in their ability to regulate and educate themselves.

"You are about to encounter the amazing tale of Léandre Bergeron and his three born-at-home daughters as they educated themselves on the family farm. If you attend sharply while you read, you will discern under its quiet style a profoundly revolutionary narrative which, if imitated widely, would turn the North American education world (or any other) upside down, with incalculable effects...Bergeron’s commitment to full human rights for the young is so unstinting it challenges many child-rearing conventions that most of the rest of us take for granted. In that very surprising commitment resides much of this book’s power. It inspires reflection, causing the reader to ask as he or she might have done on their own account long ago: 'Why are we doing this?' 'What do we hope to gain?' Bergeron’s text compels such introspection." ~ John Taylor Gatto

About the Author: Léandre Bergeron is a well-known author and activist who was born in Manitoba. He studied in France and taught literature at Concordia University in Montreal before moving to the Quebec countryside with his lovely wife Francine to live a life of voluntary simplicity. His many works range from a guide to home birth to the well-known Dictionnaire de la langue québecoise and the best-seller, Petit Manuel d'histoire du Québec, which has recently been updated and re-released. He is a tireless champion for the underdog and has long advocated for educational, political and social reform. Parents from all over Quebec seek his advice about homeschooling their own children.

Here is a paragraph that has stuck with me like a knife in the heart:

Why is there often a break in the relationship with our children? At
birth, we gaze at her in awe and we are centered on our child. We find her
to be beautiful, amazing and everything else, but one day, sooner rather than
later, this initial wonder is extinguished. Our daily routine doesn't
encourage feelings of respect for our child but, instead, becomes the chore of
"raising" her....Our child is no longer the miracle she once was, but an
obligation... (pp. 35-36)

I think this has happened to me with my kids. It has definitely happened in my relationship with Anna, and somewhat less so with Holly and Jasmine. Now that I am fully aware that a shift in my attitude toward Anna has caused a break, an injury, in my relationship with her, my new obligation is to mend it.

I have known for a while that Anna gets far less attention from me than her sisters get. It is hard for me to balance the needs of three little people everyday without sometimes getting overwhelmed, and it is Anna who has suffered the most. I think I expect too much out of her. She is only 5 years old. I can't expect her to be more mature than she is able to be.

So here is my plan to re-engage with her and to mend the break in our relationship.

  1. Be physically engaged. When Anna talks I must make eye contact with her. I must take her hand before she reaches for mine. I must cuddle her and welcome her affection, even when I am busy with other things.
  2. Draw her to me. I must welcome her dependence. I must offer to do things for her and not act annoyed or overwhelmed when she asks me for something.
  3. Stop second-guessing her. I must look for and retrieve the trust that I had in her when she was an infant. As an infant, I trusted her to show me her needs and I would meet them unconditionally. I must return to this practice of trust, respect and confidence in her to know herself.
  4. Stop instructing. She doesn't need every little episode of life to become a big lesson that she must remember and learn from. I must let her observe and ask questions. She will learn better from her own experiences than from the sound of my voice droning in her ear.

I will give a full review of For the Sake of Our Children by Leandre Bergeron after I have read it a few more times. It is certainly worth savouring again and again.

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