Someone shared Jan Hunt‘s gardener metaphor on an unschooling list a while back and I wanted to share it here for anyone who may not have read it. It’s message is meeting your child’s underlying needs with patience and trust.
“Imagine for a moment that you are visiting a plant nursery. You hear a commotion outside, so you investigate. You find a young assistant struggling with a rose bush. He is trying to force open the petals of a rose, and muttering in frustration. You ask him what he is doing, and he explains, “My boss wants all these roses to bloom this week, so
last week I taped all the early ones, and now I’m opening the late ones.”
You protest that every rose has it’s own schedule of blooming; it is absurd to try to slow down or speed this up; it doesn’t matter when roses bloom; a rose will always bloom at its own best time. You look at the rose again, and see that it is wilting. But when you point this out, he replies, “Oh, too bad, it has genetic dysbloomia. I’ll
have to call an expert.”
“No, no!” you say, “you caused the wilting! All you needed to do was meet the flowers’ needs for water and
sunshine, and leave the rest to nature!” You can’t believe this is happening. Why is his boss so unrealistic and uninformed about roses?
Yet children are no different than roses in their development: they are born with the capacity and desire to learn, they learn at different rates, and they learn in different ways. If we can meet their needs, provide a safe, nurturing environment, and keep from interfering with our doubts, anxieties, and arbitrary timetables, then- like roses- they will all bloom at their own best time.”
I believe that the development of empathy, peaceful problem-solving/signaling of needs, and connecting the dots between Action and Impact on others are just as naturally learned as speaking, and that all can be learned according to the child’s timetable, as long as they are learning from that place of nurturing, emphatic connection. The path of learning is, imo, what it means to be human. Imperfect, but ever growing.