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Attachment Parenting

A recent visit from a friend living in Germany sparked a conversation among a small group of fathers who I know from my university years. I posted this response in our group chat. Maybe you'll find it interesting.

Although Thuong and I have thought deeply about our parenting philosophy over the past few years, the truth is that at this stage choosing to keep Henry at home has not been difficult for us. Our context makes it easy: the school choices available to us are clearly not what we want, and we have sufficient resources to be able to both stay at home full-time.

Nevertheless, I think this framing hides what I consider to be the central choice. The question is not ‘What school choices are available to us, and how do we choose to respond?’ Schooling is not the central parental choice.

My first principle is that life is fundamentally self-directed. Of course, at all stages of life, we look to our parents to support a vast array of needs, and the intensity of these needs evolves as we develop. What I see is that at two and a half my son is no less clear about his wants and wonts than I am at 41. There is a difference of degree, but not of category. The great majority of his needs are fulfilled by his mother and I, but he is fully agent, and he defers to us by some combination of absolute trust and necessity.

So what is the central choice of the parent?

Over time, that ratio of trust to necessity is going to change. The real question is: What kind of relationship do I want to have with my child? How will I cultivate a relationship that roots and grows towards absolute trust more than necessity? There are not so many years to shape this before a direction is firmly fixed.

Clearly schooling is not a necessary condition of learning, but is only one possible response to the need for learning and development. It happens to also be a response in which a child has little to no ability to direct the choice, and which places them in a daily context where their agency is sharply restricted. Most importantly, the schooling response is a choice that removes my child from our relationship day after day for the majority of his wakeful hours. Until he is at an age when he is capable (with some support from his parents) to form a clear-eyed view of whether participating in a school system is a preference, I do not see how making this choice on his behalf supports a relationship of absolute trust or best fulfills his varying learning and development needs.

I am not anti-school. I think my view comes from great privilege and this choice is inaccessible to many if not most of people. I see clearly that schooling is a choice and not a necessity, and my job as a parent is to investigate all possible options and responses to my child’s needs in a way that prioritizes his self-directedness. It is a values-based position and I have no way of knowing what it looks like concretely moving forward.


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