24 September 2010

Blast from the past: On Continuum Parenting

As Jack Grows: March 6, 2007

I have mentioned our use of the Continuum parenting style often here, but in conversations with people about it, I keep getting the impression that some people think that I mean that I "let Jack help" – that is, I make busy work for him nearby while I get on with serious business.

Not at all. We are careful to size jobs to Jack's current abilities, but what he is doing is real participation.

Jack can wash dishes, though we're careful to keep the knives and glasses aside. He can load and unload the dishwasher, he can put the clean laundry into a basket for folding, he can set the table, assist in tidying a room, vacuum the rug, and he can read recipes, get ingredients out, wash and chop vegetables, stir pots, mix batters (until they get too thick) or pots and just generally act as a junior chef when we cook.

That's the point to the continuum.Children need to be contributing members of their families to grow up an abiding sense of their own competence and their place in the world. Busy work that doesn't actually help much doesn't enhance a child's sense of competence – kids are smart; they know when they're being condescended to and it gives them the impression that (we think) they're not very talented.

Jack didn't start out with full-blown chores, of course. Kids are naturally interested in what adults are doing and when he showed an interest, I gave him a subset of what I was doing that he was capable of doing on his own. At first, he took clothes from me and tossed them (more or less) into the dryer or he poured the ingredients I'd measured (more or less) into bowls.
In the beginning he rarely lasted the durations of the project, he did a little and then he ran off to play. That was fine – at that stage, it was more work for him to help since it meant that some of the clothes didn't make it into the dryer and some of the flour inevitabley ended up on the countertops. But as he got older, and his part of the chores got more involved, he also developed the attention span to stick with it.

These days, he actually is a big help.

As Jack Grows January 31 2007

Rod is
a natural at Continuum parenting.

I know I’ve mentioned Jean Liedloff's work before and our interest in the parenting style that it spawned.

For me, it was a natural extension of my instinctive parenting style. Up to a point.

It works beautifully with cooking, with house keeping, and with any number of other active, more or less traditional activities. I was, however, perplexed about how to bring it into other, more cerebral pursuits.

Not Rod.

I am hoping to get my brilliant husband to hold forth here about how he has done it, because I see the results more than the process. I know he has used continuum theory (or what he gathered of continuum theory from my nattering) to help Jack to discover arithmetic, using Cuisenaire Rods, a deck of playing cards, a set of dominoes, and a counting board.

It’s amazing to me! They together at the able, noodling with one or another “toy”, and Jack is discovering arithmetic for himself! Not sure how he does that, but I am impressed. Jack is lucky that Rod is at home with him, doing the teaching. Rod is obviously a"natural".

He has also used it to help Jack to get to the point that he can sit at the other end of the table while Rod does a reading and can (more or less) entertain himself. That’s one I really want to learn!

August 22, 2007

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