Monday, November 9, 2009

Attachment and Homeschooling

I am reading a book right now that, although is not about homeschooling, has prompted me to make some changes in the way that I teach my children. The book is called Hold on to Your Kids : Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate, M.D. The authors theorize that the reason for the numerous problems that parents have with children is that children are becoming more attached to their peers than to their parents, teachers and caregivers. They say that it is the attachment to the parents that commands children's attention and obedience and not in the discipline and imposed consequences. Furthermore, they maintain that since our industrialized society no longer supports children's attachment to adults, parents have to go out of their way to consciously "hold on to their kids." I am pretty cynical about the latest and greatest psychological and sociological theories, but this book just makes so much sense to me.

Grasshopper is a very interactive person, and it can be tiring. Most of her schooling is done together, which is entirely appropriate for a four-year-old. However, since her need to interact is so pronounced, it can be very tiring for me. So I have developed her curriculum with the idea of getting her used to working on her own more and more. Previously, she was doing three worksheets per day--math, spelling and phonics (but not all in one sitting). During those times I would try to hover around doing my work but not actually sit with her. She recently started to tell me she felt like it was too much work. And after starting this book, I have begun to realize that while education is important, my first priority must always be to maintain my children's attachment to me.

Now this doesn't mean that I don't let them have friends or take classes or encourage independent work. What is does mean is that I need to pay as much attention to their emotional needs as their educational needs. In the case of Grasshopper, she needs her gym and library classes, as well her play dates, which we have always done. But of greatest priority is that we as her parents are the people that she goes to when she needs something. She has a great need to interact, and I need to practice not pushing her away, but rather, welcoming her approaches to me, no matter how laborious it may seem at times.

So for now, this means that I put less emphasis on the writing assignments and do more oral and interactive lessons. As we take our holiday break from Thanksgiving to New Year's, I am going to try having her do a little copywork to practice handwriting so that I can eliminate the rest of her writing assignments and do them orally instead. This will be challenging with Cricket running around. But he is a bit more independent than she is, so I am hoping that I can grab those moments when he is playing happily by himself and use them to provide Grasshopper with what she needs.


  1. I agree with you (as do many friends who've also read and learned a lot from it): Gordon Neufeld's insights are invaluable, and his book is a gem in a pretty crowded field. Would love to hear more of your thoughts on the book and its ideas.


  2. Thanks so much for your comment, Sandy. I am still making my way through the book. I will be sure to write more as I get through it.


Latter-day Homeschooling