We learned early on that our children need fewer choices, not more. We learned that they need us to make the big decisions and most of the small ones too. They don't need to give input on bed times or what to have for dinner. We did make the mistake of thinking that they needed to start making the choices earlier than they did, but we fixed that when we saw that it didn't work.
We have always been fans of early bedtimes for children; even now at 9YO and 10YO they have a 9 p.m. summer bedtime which is surprisingly much earlier than their peers. It is recommended that children at this age sleep 10 hours, and mine do sleep 10 - 11 hours every night. I am part of an attachment parenting community and early bedtimes just aren't popular, but I have seen how well they work for us. Indeed, 9 p.m. is brand new this month; over the years we started at 7 p.m. and very slowly have moved the bedtime as the boys get older. We'll likely hold here at 9 p.m. for several years. (Update in 2014: We still have a 9PM bedtime, year round, and it is still working for us.)
We have always focused on eating healthy, whole foods and on sharing our meals together as a family. We are fortunate enough to be able to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner together nearly everyday. Sharing meals is important to us and we place a priority on making it happen. We rarely have evening activities but when we do we shift the meal time rather than miss eating together.
Early on holistic parenting taught me to talk less and show more. This has been invaluable as I have boys and they just don't seem to connect to their emotions verbally the same way I see girls of their age do, or the way I did as a child. When they were little many power struggles were averted because we didn't let words get in the way. Even now I believe that actions speak louder than words and I strive to be an example for my children and also to show them how I feel.
We love to be outside as a family and make a point of walking nearly everyday. We also find time to hike/walk away from the sidewalk at least once a week. We hang out at parks. We've grown our own food and flowers and we've been to small gardens and farms where food is grown. We experience nature, we don't feel the need to document it on a continual basis. We don't need to because it isn't a one time thing.
We work with our hands. Although knitting still escapes my boys (I do set the example!) they have done loom knitting as well as weaving (both on peg looms and pot holder looms). They've made yards and yards of spool knitted cords. They love embroidery, something that even the youngest child can do with a wooden needle and a piece of burlap. Hand sewing is on the horizon. Making things is something that I do, so naturally it has spilled over to the boys. Indeed, I can admit that the emphasis on handwork and making crafts is one of the things that initially drew me to holistic educational methods.
My boys play! I wish that more children had the opportunity to explore the world of imagination and play. At this very moment my 9YO is dressed-up as a cowboy. When the boys were younger we had a small wooden kitchen, and when they outgrew that we turned another piece of furniture into a makeshift kitchen (even better than the little one that had been purposely built as a kitchen). There are baskets of handwork scattered throughout the house so that anyone can pick up some yarn or do some embroidery. Our deck has an art easel and a big craft table set up for all sorts of projects.
We love to have fun. I can thank Papa for this, as he never lost the playful, fun energy of childhood and he was able to connect with it as the boys moved into toddlerhood. We skate, fly kites, ride bikes, play games, go to beach, and so much more. I can remember being a child and bemoaning the fact that my parents just didn't know how to have fun; how fortunate that I married a man who does and who brings that to our family.
Another gift that Papa has brought to our family is the gift of music. Not that I'm not musical; I played instruments growing up and I enjoy singing. Music is one of Papa's passions and he often starts impromptu singing sessions by bringing out his guitar and strumming some family songs.
A big part of our foundation is the relationship I share with Papa. I think that the stability we bring to the family creates a sense of peace and safety to the boys. We have nearly 21 years of marriage behind us and we've learned to talk things through and work together as partners. We're also best friends. We work together in raising our boys and I never feel as though my role as an at-home mother is a burden because I am never taken for granted and I don't shoulder all of the work alone. Likewise I recognize that leaving our home each day in order to work and provide for us is a gift from Papa; his dedication and hard work make it possible for me to stay home with our boys.
So when we struggle with parts of our home learning I need to take a step back and look at the overall picture and the strong foundation we stand on. So many of the parts of holistic education already exist effortlessly in our home, which means I can focus on the parts that need work.