Children Don’t Come With a Mannual
by Tracy Liebmann
A curriculum relies on specific goals and objectives that should be achieved within a certain timeline. When it comes to parenting I find the results of this stilted and mundane. Our children are not products; they are autonomous beings who need to be in connection with their parents. When I threw out the curriculum and simply created a safe place for collaboration, wonderful changes occurred within my family. Having expectations for a child to achieve certain goals and objective by a certain time is just setting them (and us) up for failure. I needed a way to reframe the curriculum that I had started out with and this is the best way I can put it into words.
I started to look at it like a musician entering a jam session. I am one person who has learned how to play my instrument who is in collaboration with the other people in my family all bringing their gifts and talents to our jam session. Together we share ideas on how we want our song to sound and then we just start playing. What flows in that moment is what matters, not the preconceived notions about what we thought the song should sound like. The art of this jam session is that we meet on common ground, which is the wellbeing of the family, then we improvise and see what we can come up with. The tune often sounds nothing like the original preconceived idea…that is the art of living without a curriculum.
I use the word art purposefully, no two families are exactly alike, just like a painting or sculpture. In a family jam session standard activities like meal time, watching TV, personal hygiene or deciding what to do that day, provide the setting for this type of improve. The skills and knowledge we have at our fingertips are not employed according to plan, we are not the boss or even the lead player, and we (parents) let things unfold naturally using our “expertise” only when we are asked. We are like the drummer who supports the other artists and keeps the rhythm going. The magic happens during the interactions, in the space between the participants, no one member can take the credit.
Parenting without a curriculum means looking at life with our family as a philosophy of experiential learning, one that downplays the intellectual tendency to predict and control. Integrating spiritual principles like “leads by following”, “finding perfection in things as they are and not as we think they should be”, these are principles a conscious parent will live by. It is an experience NOT a script or a bundle of dogma! The idea is to live moment by moment, being true to you.