Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Bringing children up too Idealistically?

Sometimes people in all sincerity and love ask me if maybe I'm bringing my girls up too idealistically.

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"They won't be prepared for the real world!" they say with real and honest concern.

But I wonder, why we don't "recreate" the "real world" around them!

For truly they have so much to teach us about what matters most.

So much of what we worry about is extraneous.

Just look at all the awkwardness surrounding public breastfeeding, the most natural and fundamental gift of motherhood.

Sometimes we think we are giving our kids the best by buying more, building more, doing more. When being together more is what children really value.

The thing is, we have created a set of structures, systems and institutions that have negatively impacted the environment are non sustainable and all at a great human soul cost.

With this in mind I hope.... and I pray, that if we bring our children up with respect for nature, their own souls and others, kindness, gentleness, freedom and compassion, maybe our future world may be also healthier, kinder, gentler, more soul orientated and more environmentally (and mentally) sustainable.

Why don't we build our systems, structures and institutions around
children, family life, spiritual wholeness, beauty, environmental sustainability and human fulfillment.

Maybe the "real world" would do well to take it's cue from children.

Politicians are always telling us that our children's education is a number one priority. But the series of hoops we fling children through from aged 4 onwards is not child focused or child led, it is performance focused and economy led.

The gentle, natural rhythm and creative abundance of a Waldorf school, the open ended, passion driven unschooling approach and the submersion in living books and nature of Charlotte Mason's method all seem so far from conventional classrooms.

Even many modern buildings are built upon the foundations of being primarily quick, cheap and functional. Aesthetics take second place.

Look at the beautiful buildings of the past, built with real craftsmanship, built to inspire. Built to reflect the highest ethics of their particular culture.
Built as gifts to future generations.
Built to last.

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And now we have high rises. Shoe boxes in the sky.
My heart just breaks for kids brought up in high rises without trees, flowers, and green spaces with which they can project their imaginations and refresh their souls.

Studies have shown that hospital patients actually recover more quickly if the view from their window is filled with nature, trees and greenery.
Building around the natural world instead of over it, could transform the lives of many city kids. I lived in quite a run down part of London as a teenager.
Sometimes when I needed to recharge my soul batteries I would go to a certain cemetery which was surrounded by woodland. It was the only really quiet space close enough for me to afford the bus fare. But this little pocket of wilderness, a place the noise of the city could not touch was a haven. Watching foxes scamper, listen to the birds sing, feel sunlight filter through green leaves would always restore me.

I remember when I was at school I would be constantly told off for starting out of the window instead of down at my page in my sterile classroom.
There was a tree, an old creaking oak tree between my class and the fence and I used to project myself out into this tree. I would watch the birds making their nests, sometimes a squirrel would scatter up the branches quick as lightening. The tree was my inspiration, my little piece of freedom "out there". A place where even the birds and the squirrels could run freer than I was able to. But it gave me a little promise.

Human nature needs to breathe, discover love, be enriched by beauty, have time for stillness and quiet. If it is concreted over it dies.

So when I ask myself the question, do I bring my kids up too idealistically?
I'd have to say, that maybe for the way the world is right now, yes I do.

However, hopefully for the world they will help to create in the future, no.

I pray I'm giving them the tools and inspiration with which they might be able to help build a more loving, gentler, kinder world.



  1. absolutely. you are so right on suzy... keep it up. you are raising them just right.

    oh and did you know studies show that kids who are diagnosed with ADD show the best improvement, not if you drug them, but if you...send them outside!

  2. "I pray I'm giving them the tools and inspiration with which they might be able to help build a more loving, gentler, kinder world."

    I have been called a "naive idealist" - as i see those who see the positive possibilities, the beautiful options and amazing new paths to explore - those are the ones who can and will create our next wonderful inovations, our next cathederals, and our next 'good thing'

    keep it up - you're doing a great job :)

  3. "I pray I'm giving them the tools and inspiration with which they might be able to help build a more loving, gentler, kinder world."

    This. Exactly this. xo

  4. This is a wonderful post!!!! Thank you! Cathy

  5. :) This is a wonderful perspective... I've thought often and written about the odd ideas that people have about raising children in an empowered and limitless way, but this idea of "we should learn from the children" is a lovely one.

  6. So much wisdom from you in this post.

    I think I'll join you in that prayer of yours.

  7. Oh wow, another homerun :). I loved this post for every beautiful drop of truth you gave.

    I have this talk with my husband all the time. He asks me the same questions -- "Are we sheltering our children? What about the real world? Will they be prepared for the heartlessness that awaits them when all we give them is joy and comfort?"

    I believe reality is what we make of it. It doesn't mean that my children won't face pain or heartlessness or disappointment the way we live, they already have in their young lives because we are out and about all the time. There is plenty of that for all to experience. My feeling is that if I can hang on to my children for as long as I can, giving them nature, exploration, freedom to learn in their own natural way. And if they receive trust, respect, love, and compassion at the same time, they will be far better equipped to handle the real world than a child at 5 thrown into the public school system.

    Their is a grand assumption out there that believes that we need to "teach" children everything, including how to deal with pain, struggle, challenge, defeat, and disappointment. Yet, I don't know any person out there that says "yeah, my parents and teachers taught me about the real world, boy I'm so glad they did." Most people will say that they learned about the real world by just living in it. And as with everything else, that is exactly how my children will learn.

    Thanks for another beautiful post Suzy!! And I just saw that you linked to my post a few days ago. Thank you so much :).

  8. Hi Suzy, perhaps it's all about bringing up our children to be the people they are meant to be, developing their own unique talents etc. rather than bringing up children to fit any particular sort of world. Maybe we have to trust that our children will find their own place in the world and will have some important mission that will make a difference. Of course we want to teach them all the things we hold dear, like being gentle and honest and caring and appreciating beauty. Just some rambling thoughts!

  9. I'm so glad I found your blog. Your words really resound with me x

  10. This morning I came across these words from Pablo Picasso that I think you'll appreciate ...

    “Each second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that will never be again. And what do we teach our children? We teach them that two and two make four, and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are? We should say to each of them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the years that have passed, there has never been another child like you. Your legs, your arms, your clever fingers, the way you move. You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel. And when you grow up, can you then harm another who is, like you, a marvel? You must work, we must all work, to make the world worthy of its children.”

  11. Oh yes I love that one Laure.

    "We must all work to make the world worthy of it's children.


  12. Suzy I couldn't agree with you more. Isn't it interesting, the things that bring out people's tendency to police others' behaviour? I suppose what you are doing is threatening to some, precisely because it points to the enormous cracks in our society that no-one wants to admit are there.

    I was once told by a well-meaning person that my son needed to get used to violence (on tv and at school) in order to function in the world. What kind of world did she inhabit?!

  13. It sounds as if you are giving your children all of you, your time, attention, love, and that is exactly what they need :)

  14. I, too, simply love this post :)

  15. Ah, Suzy. Thank you. I feel like I just went for a walk outside. I am recalibrated. Affirmed. JOY-FILLED.

    Yes, to everything you wrote here. Who was it who wrote, "Be the change you want to see in the world"? Ah, it was Ghandi. Yes to these words, and yours! BE the change. Live the alternate view, truly embrace another way of seeing. Lead by example. Your children will blossom, and those around them will absorb and learn from their light.

    Thank you for these beautiful, beautiful words, Suzy. (And I connected in other ways too. I lived in Reading, UK, as a child, and I remember wandering the cemetery there, finding peace, too).

    On a side note, I don't know how I missed this post earlier, but now I have you in my sidebar, and won't miss another word. Love this space, Suzy. I am so glad you are here.

  16. Thank you Helena. I love that quote from Gandi too!

  17. How wonderful and inspiring. I often feel as though I'm changing the course of life with my girls, instilling in them a much different sense of what this life is about than what their peers get out there in the 'real world' ;) Part of my purpose on this journey is to say that just because this is how it is, that doesn't mean this is how it has to stay. Kindness rules in my home, and when it rules in the world, it'll be a much happier place. :)

  18. What lovely words and pictures! I think I've found some more words to love!

  19. I just discovered and fell in love with your blog today (we are Waldorf-y Unschool-y creatives)... And after a while some of your pictures seemed familiar. I *think* I recognise a lot of your favourite wild places! We must be fairly local to you. :)

  20. So lovely to meet you Arwen! Our ***wild places*** are in Lincolnshire:)


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