Emma Marie Forde is unschooling mom to two girls, Lily and Rosa. She’s also the founder of the website, rethinkingparenting.co.uk. Before having children, Emma was a clinical psychologist, a career that informed her choice to stay home with her own children and which eventually led her and her husband John to choose unschooling for their family.
In this episode, Emma and I have a great 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.
Quote of the Week
“The mind of a human child working in concert with the minds of the people caring for him is the most flexible and powerful learning device in the known universe.” ~ Alison Gopnik
The Gardener and the Carpenter: What the New Science of Child Development Tells Us About the Relationship Between Parents and Children, by Alison Gopnik
The gardener and the carpenter are great analogies that Alison uses to describe two approaches of parenting. With the carpenter model, parents are working with a goal of producing a particular kind of adult. They are essentially trying to shape their child into a final product that fits the vision they had in mind.
On the other hand, when we garden, we create a protected and nurturing space for plants to flourish. She explains that a good garden is constantly changing as it adapts to the changing circumstances, and a good gardener “works to create fertile soil that can sustain a whole ecosystem of different plants with different strengths and beauties—and with different weaknesses and difficulties too.”
In the book, Alison discusses the evolution of childhood and love, the ways children learn (looking, listening, and play), growing up, technology, and then brings it all together in a chapter about the value of children.
Here’s how she sets us up in the introduction to dive in deep:
“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.”
Another interesting tidbit is her suggestion to move away from the idea of “parenting,” which she feels has pushed so many to embrace the carpenter model because it implies achieving a standard “outcome” once the job of parenting is done, and instead think of our role as being a parent. We’re not parenting, we’re being a parent. She explains that it’s so much more helpful to focus on the relationship.
And that’s something unschooling parents have discovered too!
Links to Things Mentioned in the Show
Other books also by Alison Gopnik: The Philosophical Baby: What Children’s Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love and the Meaning of Life, and The Scientist in the Crib: Minds, Brains, and How Children Learn
Gordon Neufeld’s website, he’s a clinical psychologist and a developmental theorist and researcher that Emma mentioned.
The Childes Database of 6,000 conversations between parents and young children
The podcast Q&A episodes
Alan Thomas is a UK developmental psychologist who’s looked into home education quite substantially
Emma’s website: RethinkingParenting.co.uk
Brene Brown’s book, Rising Strong
Carol Black’s essay, A Thousand Rivers