Many parents start out practicing attachment parenting (AP) without really thinking about where it will lead them and without thinking about what parenting style they will use as babies grow older. When reading up on AP you may notice that the information is mostly based on babies and toddlers. It makes sense since with a new baby comes all kinds of decisions that parents probably haven't thought of before: What kind of crib should we get... or one of those neat hammocks? Wait, we don't need a baby bed at all?! We can co-sleep! But once you've found out about natural weaning and "baby"wearing preschoolers you've pretty much reached the scope of most attachment parenting groups. Not on purpose necessarily, maybe parents of older kids just don't need as much help or maybe it is assumed that at this age kids will go to school.
So what do you do? It is pretty easy to apply the attachment parenting methods that you've worked so hard to perfect to your older kids. Especially if you realize that by becoming old enough to go to school doesn't magically make kids ready to be away from their parents and families. So what can you do if you and your child aren't ready to part ways or you don't think your child is ready for the strict nature of school. It's becoming more and more common for parents to homeschool their children for many different reasons. For many kids it is extremely beneficial to keep living and learning at home with their parents unconditional support just as they have through their babyhood. Starting preschool (as early as 2!) or even kindergarten might not feel natural for AP practicing parents either, they have been shown the importance of family, how to listen to their child's cues, and hold them close. After two or three years of being completely immersed in children's lives its easy to see how it could feel hard to send them away to school. School can easily disrupt family life if parents don't work hard to stay connected.
As my first child reach the age of compulsory schooling I started thinking of alternatives. He seemed so young and full of positive energy to be in a traditional classroom five days a week. I feel that young children with lots of natural energy can be quickly categorized as having learning disabilities or a trouble maker when really they just need time to grow and the freedom to move their bodies. I didn't feel like my son had the kind of discipline school requires. I didn't doubt that he would someday, but just as every baby crawls at a different age, every child and person for that matter, does everything at a different rate! This was eyeopening for me to realize and it was a huge learning moment in my life as a parent. I don't want my kids to fit into a box! I don't want them to be forced into things they aren't ready for! I don't want them to think that they have to do things they don't love when they are adults either.
When trying to find an alternative to public schooling I was drawn to Waldorf education but upon further investigation it seemed just as rigid a doctrine as traditional school, albeit different, and way too expensive for our family. Montessori had similar issues and is mostly geared for younger kids. Also, all the alternative schools had one similar problem. I would have to actually send my son away for half of our waking hours together. And that's not including all the time and energy of getting to and from school. That's pretty huge for someone who has done nothing but focus on how to connect with their child for 4 years! I didn't want to "homeschool" because I didn't want to be the one forcing my son to do things that he didn't want to do, I didn't want him to hate me! I realized that sending him to school *was* forcing him to do something he didn't want to do. Looking back I don't think he would have had that hard of a time at school. I don't think he would have been the kid that cried every morning when I left. I do think it would have just broken a tiny bit of his beautiful spirit and his amazing confidence that I had worked so hard to preserve. Just as I wasn't able to leave my son in his crib crying at at night, I also couldn't leave him at school everyday without the people he loves and needs most. All those tiny pieces of broken spirit can add up.
I didn't even consider homeschooling though until a friend told me about child led learning, also known as unschooling. I realized that it is pretty much attachment parenting for kids (and adults too!), it was just what I was looking for. What I love about attachment parenting is that isn't a method or a set of directions as much as just one simple rule. Let your baby be happy. Help your baby so they are happy. Connecting with your baby will make them happy! And the same theory stays true for every person and child. Instead of following a curriculum we focused on what our son wanted to do, what he was interested in, what made him happy. We woke together, discussed breakfast and then prepared it together. Read books, spent time in nature. Went shopping, used money. Played with friends, played together. Worked in the garden, watched TV if we felt like it. We just lived our life and in the process learned everything and more that kids spend 12 years of their lives in school to learn. Except he was free to do it at his own pace while having fun and being happy. Not surprisingly happy people grow, learn, and prosper pretty darn well! Three kids later we are still perfecting our AP, unschooling, and conscious blend of living with kids and I am amazed at how much easier it is to live this way. We're all happy and my kids are smart, independent, social, just generally awesome people.
More information on unschooling and child-led learning:
-Search "unschooling" on The Natural Child Project for informative articles and tips
-Years of articles dating from 1977 on Growing Without Schooling, an unchooling magazine started by homeschooling innovator John Holt
-Find local support groups and forums to chat online or meet real families on Leaping from the Box
-Unschooling books to buy or download from Amazon