How to Wait : Supporting Your Child in a Democratic Free School

When it was first suggested that I write about this topic, “How to Support Your Child in a Democratic School,” I immediately thought: “This isn’t something I think about, I’m just trying to make sure my daughter wears relatively clean clothes to school each day and is not bringing home too many ‘craft projects’ at the end of the week.” She’s there most of the day doing her thing and hopefully, staying out of JC.’ But then I began to consider, what has allowed me to reach this point? What has enabled me to become comfortable with the idea of her doing what she thinks is important all day? How did I arrive at this conclusion — that all she needs to do is ‘her thing’ and all I really need to worry about is keeping up with the laundry?

Then I remembered a book I’d read many years ago, “Guerrilla Learning: How to Give Your Kids a Real Education With or Without School” by Grace Llewellyn and Amy Silver. This book contains great advice for parents on how to support their child no matter where they go to school, but I believe parents with children in democratic free schools can especially benefit from their suggestions

1. Pay attention to your child.

Author Deepak Chopra said that a parent’s role is to help kids find out what they’re meant to do. However, this consists of more than just getting to know them and learning what they like. It also means discerning what their needs are, asking them what they think is important to know, and observing the way in which they engage the world around them. Figure out who your child is as a learner, then gently encourage their dreams and projects.

2. Consider what and who.

What kind of life do you want for your child? What kind of life do they want for themselves? Who do they want to become? Revisit these questions periodically because knowing what your child wants to do is important, but it is equally important — perhaps even more so — for them to know who they are at every stage of their lives and how they are uniquely capable of partaking of and contributing to the shared human creative endeavor.

3. Trust the process.

Resist the temptation to impose your expectations for learning on your child. Act as a ‘choice coach’ instead and help them see that every decision will yield both possibilities and consequences, but trust them to choose what, when, and how they wish to learn. Your patience will pay off- if you’re paying attention!

4. Find your own support system.

Being in regular communication with like-minded parents who also embrace a one-size-fits-none model of learning may well be the single best thing you can do to support your child and protect your sanity. For example, if your child is not yet reading, you may be projecting the anxiety you experienced about learning to read onto them. A support group can help you take your fears about democratic schooling less seriously and become more self-aware.

5. Be a well, not a fountain.

Being a well requires a balance between resting on your laurels and springing into action. Avail your resources of time, money, expertise, experience and loving attention, but not to the extent of parental martyrdom. Make conscious choices to support your child, but acknowledge your limits. Be lovingly available to assist them in achieving their goals, but only if and when they request your help or accept your offer to do so. It is essential for a child to know their parents are available, but not infinitely available.

And this is how you wait. Complete the steps above and wait again. Start a load of laundry, do the steps once more, and wait awhile longer. And know that while you wait, your child is becoming responsible and independent, learning to think critically and comprehensively, developing strengths, ‘doing their thing,’ and finding their calling in life.

source : Makarios