How Alison Gopnik informs my Homeschool

Let’s chat about the book, The Gardener and the Carpenter: What the New Science of Child Development Tells Us About the Relationship Between Parents and Children.

How does Alison Gopnik’s book help me understand my relationship between us and our kids?

Here’s how Alison Gopnik informs my homeschool.

Here’s how Alison Gopnik informs my homeschool:

1. Alison writes: “Love doesn’t have goals or benchmarks or blueprints, but it does have a purpose. The purpose is not to change the people we love, but to give them what they need to thrive. Love’s purpose is not to shape our beloved’s destiny, but to help them shape their own. It isn’t to show them the way, but to help them find a path for themselves, even if the path they take isn’t one we would choose ourselves, or even one we would choose for them.”

Having mothered four kids throughout the “parenting” era, I recognize now that my goal was never to parent them.

But all those parenting books!

They were purchased, they were read, they were part of my mothering rite-of-passage.

But when I focused my relationship with each of my kids on an outcome, or see them through the parenting grid, our child are a product, making sure their behaviour reflects my values and their education reflects my efforts, I miss the point of mothering.

I was missing the point of mothering altogether??

Alison Gopnik says, “The purpose is not to change the people we love, but to give them what they need to thrive.”

Who knew!? that THIS was the entire point of mothering.

Part of the reason I couldn’t see it, besides being influenced by my culture, was that I have learned that I can’t do for others what I am not doing for myself.

And I was definitely not doing it for myself.

The strongest homeschools are built on the strongest humans that lead them.
  • Not what we decide a homeschool vision statement is.
  • Certainly not what curriculum or routine we create.
  • Not even what community we’re involved in.

Definitely, not any of these directly.

The base building block is the home.

And the base building block to the home is the adult humans enabling and nurturing that home.

If I could start my homeschool all over again (which obviously I can’t), I would direct myself in these ways:
  • Girl, you need to know who you are before you’re a mom.
  • You need to have a plan to nurture you. You might not have had what you needed as a kid, and you’re not getting all that you need from your human parents, so it’s time to step up and reparent yo’self.
  • Girlfriend, you need to have a sense of separateness and instilled boundaries with a healthy dose of time away from your beautiful kiddos.
  • Taking care of others can only happen in its fullness when you’ve already been taking care of yourself.
  • You need to be honest about your big emotions and triggers and you need to come up with a plan: reading parenting books isn’t enough.
  • Google the word self-differentiation and recognize you can be you and allow others to be others and still be happy together.
  • Learn about self-compassion and read Tara Brach’s Radical Acceptance.
  • Read the book Non-Violent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg & start to put it into practice.
  • Learn about Internal Family Systems by Dick Schwartz and recognize there are NO Bad Parts, just defensive, self-protecting parts.

(Oh, and you don’t need to waste all that money on curriculum. Just go to the library or borrow stuff from other people till your kids ask for stuff to learn. Except for Math-U-See, you needed Steve Demme to teach you to subtract and divide fractions so you’d be confident engaging all that stuff with your kids.)

BUT since I can’t turn back time and mother my kids instead of parent my kids, I can accept and agree that I want to mother now.

Because mothering is a choice toward honouring my child’s (& my) growth, our nurturing, enabling better communication, authentic connection, and individualized nurturing.

Woman having a cuppa tea awaiting the Homeschool Mama Book Club: self-compassion for the homeschool mama

2. “So our job as parents is not to make a particular kind of child. Instead, our job is to provide a protected space of love, safety, and stability in which children of many unpredictable kinds can flourish. Our job is not to shape our children’s minds; it’s to let those minds explore all the possibilities that the world allows. Our job is not to tell children how to play; it’s to give them the toys and pick the toys up again after the kids are done. We can’t make children learn, but we can let them learn.”

I’ve said it before, I don’t like parenting books.

I spoke about this when I was introducing Gordon Neufeld’s book, Hold Onto your Kids as the only parenting book I would suggest.

And the reason? Because it gets to the heart of the parent-child relationship: connection.

The goal: connection.

But many parenting books tell us how to deal with this child behaviour or that issue, and they are all well-meaning of course. The more senior parenting generation is just trying to give the more junior parenting generation a little wisdom in how to deal with all the many and varied challenges we have to engage as mothers or fathers.

But too often, parenting books are prescriptive. Do “this” and you’ll get “that”.

These are humans we’re doing stuff to. They aren’t computer hard drives.

You can’t upload anything any time to a human.

(Not on purpose anyway. We might be indirectly doing it by what is caught, not taught in how we live our lives).

They aren’t Pavlov’s dogs. Children have more internal meaning creation & purpose-fulfilling intention than just responding to behaviour modification intentions by other humans.

Gopnik shares how the parenting concept came to be a “thing” in the 1950s and what that did to shift how we engaged our children.

And it wasn’t useful.

So what’s our goal? Connection.

How do we find connection with our kids?

Be eyeball-to-eyeball with each of our kids regularly (you define regularly).

Which can be challenging to do. EVEN as a homeschool mama. Because we have other kids, other responsibilities, snacks to prepare.

(I would suggest that we can take our kids for granted as homeschool mamas and easily be occupied in our own stuff so that we do not spend enough time with our kids eyeball-to-eyeball).

Observe your kids.

  1. Take note of how they like to learn.
  2. Watch how they relate to their siblings and friends.
  3. Study personality profiles with your kids in mind (even though they will likely change over the course of time).

Ask yourself how connected you are to yourself.

  1. Do you have strong comfortable boundaries?
  2. Who are you outside your mama role?
  3. Do you include self-awareness strategies in your daily routine?
  4. Have you learned toto be kind, forgiving and gracious with yourself. Cue the self-compassion discussion…

Connection is built one moment at a time & one child at a time, as we grow and learn about ourselves, and as we grow and learn about each child.

how Alison Gopnik informs my homeschool

3. “Imagine if we taught baseball the way we teach science. Until they were twelve, children would read about baseball technique and history, and occasionally hear inspirational stories of the great baseball players. They would fill out quizzes about baseball rules. College undergraduates might be allowed, under strict supervision, to reproduce famous historic baseball plays. But only in the second or third year of graduate school, would they, at last, actually get to play a game. If we taught baseball this way, we might expect about the same degree of success in the Little League World Series that we currently see in our children’s science scores.”

And if homeschooling has taught me anything, it is to reconsider what an education is anyway.

Who are we raising up? The child.
  • Not an education system & not a classroom of kids.
  • Certainly, not a school.
  • Though you may have spent a lot, it’s not a fancy curriculum you’re raising up either.
  • Not a homeschool routine.
Nothing except THE child right in front of you.
So how does our specific child learn?
Learning it the way that child makes the most sense.

So how does your child want to learn?

So start with the child in front of you: who is the child, what do they want to learn, and how do they want to learn it?

group of young scouts finding an animal skull

4. Alison Gopnik informs my homeschool by reminding me what I learned through self-directed education theory: “It’s not that children are little scientists — it’s that scientists are big children. Scientists actually are the few people who as adults get to have this protected time when they can just explore, play, figure out what the world is like.”

We have to let curiosity and play reign in our homeschools (& the education system, but I’ll try to tackle something within my domain).

Observe the most innovative, robust organizations or businesses and you will see curiosity and play at work:
  • Stripe is creating a market for removing CO2 from the atmosphere.
  • SolugenTwelve is developing chemicals without the traditional reliance on fossil fuels.
  • BlocPower, Climate Trace, Watershed, and Doconomy are electrifying lower-income housing, using data to help countries, companies, and individuals minimize their carbon footprints.

And that’s just to name a few in the climate change fight.

Innovation starts in the home.

What are you doing to encourage your child to play and imagine and harness curiosity today?

If we want our world to be fueled by innovation and curiosity, we have to allow it in our homeschools too.

photo of a boy reading book

5. “Part of what makes having a child such a morally transformative experience is the fact that my child’s well-being can genuinely be more important to me than my own. It may sound melodramatic to say that I would give my life for my children, but, of course, that’s exactly what every parent does all the time, in ways both large and small. Once I commit myself to a child, I’m literally not the same person I was before. My ego has expanded to include another person even though—especially though—that person is utterly helpless and unable to reciprocate. And even though—especially though—that person’s desires and goals may be very different from mine. That’s at the heart of the paradox of dependence and independence.”

I realize afresh how invaluable it is to learn learn learn about ourselves before we ever enter parenthood.

If we could only render the defensive, self-protective parts BEFORE we became mothers, we, and our kids, would benefit.

But if only we could iron out our relational wrinkles and learn WHY we’re in partnering relationships or why we want a family BEFORE we create a family, everyone would benefit.

If only we could put VOICE to each of our emotions before we entered adulthood.

If only we were supported in a nurturing environment as we were children ourselves.

What profound benefit the world would experience if we could have done so. 

Alas, it ain’t so.

We’re all coming into the mother role without our Mother Teresa perfection (I g, as I am a mother and my name is Teresa).

Which means we MUST, actually MUST, sign up to grow, sign up to do the thing that we might not come naturally, we MUST engage ourselves in the same way we have needed since childhood.

We need to accept that our mothering role changes us. It enlargens us.

Our mothering role expands our understanding of others.

And we sign up for growth, and little by little, we will do the thing that must be done.

Our hearts will be inextricably linked to theirs, devotedly, affectionally theirs.

And we will give and give and give.

And also grow.

Homeschool Mama Self-Care: Nurturing the Nurturer by Teresa Wiedrick, encouragement for the Homeschool Mama

Homeschool Mama Self-Care: Nurturing the Nurturer

“My homeschooling journey has included a growing pile of books that I have read, browsed, or barely got past the first chapter. This book is just delightful and a gem! It’s not only helpful and inspiring but also funny. The author is like that no-nonsense brave friend who is looking out for you and your well-being as a homeschooling mama. We all need that friend and I am taking my time as I work my way through the chapters and enjoying it all. I love the section on overcoming overwhelm, grappling with perfectionism, and minding and working through our emotions. This book is worth its weight in gold. Find a quiet place to read, bring a warm cup of tea, and enjoy!”

–Sonia in S. Jersey

Frequently Asked Questions

You’ll see the zoom link in your email the morning of your Book Club. Make sure your email provider hasn’t thrown it into Junk Mail.

Where can I purchase the book?

You can find all the books from our Book Club in the Capturing the Charmed Life Amazon Book Shop. When you purchase here, you support me!

Does this Book Club cost?

The nominal $5 purchase enables the Zoom group platform. Oh, and time, it costs you time. You’ll have to find a quiet hour and a half away from the kids and responsibilities to spend time on YOU!

How long is the Book Club?

Usually about an hour and a half.

Can I ask questions about the book and its applications to my homeschool?

Absolutely! I’ll share my insights from the book and how they apply to our homeschools, but the best part of this book club? You sharing your thoughts and how it applies to your homeschool. If you have thoughts, insights, or questions, we want to hear them.

Join the Book Club!

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Teresa Wiedrick

I help overwhelmed homeschool mamas shed what’s not working in their homeschool & life, so they can show up authentically, purposefully, and confidently in their homeschool & life.