Wildflower Parenting

28 Comments 09 June 2011

buttercups wildflowers

Lovely Wildflowers

Gwyneth Paltrow is advertising for a Tutor for her children. I read about it in the Times last weekend and so of course I had to Google it and found what might be her ad here (it fits the description in the Times fairly closely). You might be interested to know the requirements for a tutor for two kids, aged 8 and 6:

‘The ideal candidate will have received a classical education, including Latin and Greek, and be familiar with such elements as the history of thought from a philosophical perspective. He or she should also be musically fluent and play at least one instrument well. In addition, language skills are essential and the Tutor should have fluent French and at least one other of Spanish, Italian, Mandarin or Japanese. The Tutor will also need to be fit and healthy, enjoy many sports and pastimes both indoors and out, including painting, art, or art history and drama, as well as sports such as chess, tennis, fencing or a martial art.’

It goes on to say that when the tutor collects the boy from school they might stop by an art gallery on the way home.


Now I almost feel inadequate as a mum, let alone as a tutor. (If only I had stuck with the Mandarin.)

Except I don’t.

I also recently read a really interesting post on Oh Mammy about a similar topic: Why do we worry so much when it comes to how we raise our kids? And I think there’s been a few others in the past few weeks on the similar subject. Of course it got me thinking.

I am surrounded by anxious middle class parents where I live. One woman rings the school every other week because she feels her daughter didn’t get a fair chance at something or was left out of something else or because a B grade was given for art where an A grade should have been because ‘isn’t her art good enough? We have tutors…’

Ugh! Ok, so she’s two standard deviations away from normal, but even the ‘normal’ ones amongst us get a bit anxious when we see the Superkids that do Everything (me included). Are we giving our children enough? Will they have a chance against kids like those when they all hit 18?

And then of course there’s this freshly publicised Tiger Parenting business.

Sometime in the months or years before I had my daughter I read an article about Hothoused Children who are busy every minute of their little lives until they fall asleep at night. The article was based loosely on a meta-study (a collection of lots of studies on the same subject) that showed Hothoused Children were not in fact at any more advantage to ‘Regular Children’ (I don’t remember what the article called them) and that Hothoused Children had the disadvantage of not learning how to entertain themselves during periods of ‘inactivity’.

It convinced me that I did not want to raise my child like that. I don’t think I would have been very good at it anyway.

I chose a school that was known to be good but not intensely so. I signed my daughter up for cello and ballet, an art class for a while. She has moved on to piano. I try to teach her the benefit of good study habits, that it’s important to not let what you think of the teacher interfere with how well you do in that subject, that time to unwind is as important as time in front of the books, that even adults make mistakes so you have to be patient with people older than you as well, the reasons why recycling is good but flawed, that when you drive you should use all the mirrors and watch far ahead of you as well as just ahead, that pets depend on us and so we need to plan around them–even neon tetras and mollies, that ice in a river is not safe to stand on, that climbing trees is fun but only when you pay attention and not while wearing flip flops, and so on…

My style of parenting is more ‘managed wildflower meadow’ than ‘hot-housing’. And there’s not much for a Tiger in this meadow either.

My daughter regularly scores amongst the top 1-5 in her year in most subjects, she received a distinction in cello, she loves playing piano, she is friendly, she can hold a conversation with adults, she says thank you for presents, she enjoys cooking sometimes, she sings while she hoovers, she complains if she thinks she is being asked to do more than her (step)siblings but accepts the answer when it is explained that everyone has their turn to do jobs, she has a talent with animals, she likes to read, she thinks high jump and hurdles are fun but really loves horse riding and rowing, she feels hurt if a friend betrays her, she loves to travel. My daughter is as content to play in her treehouse or draw horses as she is to play on the Wii in her spare time. In other words, she is a fairly happy, pleasant, well-rounded kid.

Wildflower Parenting seems to work ok too.

But one last word on the subject: if I could afford it would I have advertised for a tutor like the one described? No, probably not. If I was very wealthy I would still raise my daughter in a similar way. However, just like with childcare, if this tutor helps G&C be better parents, then that’s just exactly what they should do.


Your Comments

28 Comments so far

  1. Living in the country we have little access to extra curricular activites/classes etc. We also have little choice in schools. I’m OK with that.

    I think time spent in unstructured play is as important as any hot house learning. My kids are both fairly bright – I think kids will achieve regardless of what else you do as long as they are supported and encouraged. I also like them to be have the ability to entertain themselves and not require constant input from adults. Independence is important too.

    • Michelloui says:

      Your kids’ extra curricular activities are things many city kids never get to do–climbing trees, catching insects, growing plants, raising animals, or whatever you do. And you’re right, support and encouragement are very important no matter how they’re raised.

  2. AHLondon says:

    I saw the advert too, but I’m swamped at the moment. Glad someone got to it. There is so much in it. Frankly, while GP can do whatever she likes with her nanny/tutors, I think she is irresponsible advocating for it. Luckily for you, you are a confident mother, but many others aren’t so lucky and feel the pressure to measure up. Erica Jong made this point about Attachment Parenting, another intense parenting method only available to the wealthy that pressures more typical moms. Course Jong advocated for more support for moms whereas I’d scrap the high maintenance standards, as you did with the Wildflowering.

    • Michelloui says:

      Thanks, that’s a rally interesting comment and I hadn’t read Jong’s writing on Attachment Parenting. You make a good point that so much is dependent on finances…

      Off to check out your link.

  3. Lucy says:

    I’m sure that more time spent with their parents is more important than classical thought and learning, especially at their age!

    I want my son to reach his potential, and be confident in himself, but I’ll never pressure him to be someone he’s not. It is a joy to teach and show him things, but equally it’s a joy to spend leisure time together and just ‘be’.

    • Michelloui says:

      Only if their parents are ready for that–what I mean is that if the parents just can’t cope with all the intensity of parenting, and they can afford tutors and/or childcare, then perhaps they’re better parents if they have that kind of help.

      And I suppose you don;t know who your child could be unless you expose them to as many things as possible… But I suppose there is such a think as over exposure!

  4. AHLondon says:

    Yes, one of the too little discussed truths about the Mommy Wars, work/life balance, intensive parenting styles, etc. they are about affluent women. Caitlin Flanagan had a great article about this a few years back. I’ve got that one here:

    This latest GP example is no different. And by advertising her preferences (Someone with that CV is trolling the classifieds? I think not. She’d have better luck seeking contacts from university professors and the like.) she is setting a goal by example which precious few other women can attain.

    • Michelloui says:

      I almost wonder if this advert got ‘discovered’ on purpose–so she could get some extra advertising!

  5. There is a lot of stuff being written in the press over here about Manhattan parents hothousing their kids with extra tuition. I’m more of a wildflower parent, I think. I’ll give them the chance to try lots of activities, and encourage them at the ones they are good at, but when they are young I still think having the chance just to be a child and play with other kids is the most important thing.

    • Michelloui says:

      Sometimes I wonder if it’s just because I don’t have the energy to hothouse (or money for someone else to) but when I see kids just playing, and happy and still doing well with the challenges set them in school and other activities, I think it’s all probably working out ok.

  6. Expat Mum says:

    I think you should parent how best you feel. It doesn’t always come naturally and there’s nothing wrong with reading a how-to manual from time to time, but don’t go against the grain when it comes to your own style.
    Most kids who do a multitude of activities have to start winnowing down as they progress through school. They will usually gravitate towards the ones that interest them most, and it’s a parents job at that point to stand back and let them choose.

    I received the greatest “compliment” ever last week when a teacher wrote on the Queenager’s report “Never change”. Boy did that make me feel proud!

    • Michelloui says:

      That indeed is the very best compliment a child–and a parent, could have. Well done mum (or mom)!

  7. KimberlyJ says:

    Er… Chess is a sport?

  8. Mañana Mama says:

    I love the term ‘wildflower parenting’. Much better than ‘sloppy hippie mama’ which is what I usually go by.

  9. I am a very good tutor, and it made me exhausted just reading the description of what she wants. Reminds me of being in a school where every teacher is expected to be everything to everyone, and do so much that he/she can do nothing as well as he should. I think all those specialties need to be divided between 2-3 different people. Assuming they did find such a person, and even pay them $100,000, I cannot imagine them lasting more than six months in such stressful conditions.

    Lynne Diligent, Dilemmas of an Expat Tutor

    • Michelloui says:

      Thank you for your comment! It is indeed really interesting hearing a professional Tutor’s point of view on this. Thanks for stopping by, I’m off to see your site…

  10. The pressure on the kids being tutored by that kind of person just makes me a bit sad.

  11. KimberlyJ says:

    My daughter pretty much raised herself. I even think she took part in raising me… I was a single mother by the time she was 2 and I was 22. I always worked 60+ hour weeks or had 2 part time jobs…. I often felt I ruined her life and she’ll look back with anger and what if’s. I don’t know about the anger or what if’s part, but she’s a successful college student, is happy with who she has become and excited about what her future has in store. I am so very proud of her and have a great relationship too… if I didn’t have to work, I may have raised her a bit differently, but no matter how awesome the tutor or nanny is, it is not the parent, and parents should raise kids, not tutors or nannys.

    • Michelloui says:

      Well I figure that if the parents really need help they should get it, if they can. Too many parents try to do it all and fail at everything, getting angry and frustrated when they could be more gentle or patient if they had a bit of help. But not everyone has the opportunities or money to have help and so I believe that so long as they child knows they’re loved by the parents that will take them a very long ways. Sounds like your daughter had a big dose of that!

  12. geekymummy says:

    One of things I love about raising kids in San Francisco is the environment. They are around kids much less advantaged than them and amongst people of all races. They have friends with gay and lesbian parents. We have great museums and activities at our fingertips. I’m hoping they just kind of soak up the culture!

    • Michelloui says:

      That sounds really, really lovely. What a lot of great opportunities for your kids (and you, no doubt!).

  13. Oh I know the hot house scene all too well, more like scorching actually. My, shall we say, ahem, laid back approach was seen as virtually alien. I’m all for the wildflower approach, you enjoy. I love your ‘about’ section too !

    • Michelloui says:

      ‘Scorching’! That’s a great extension of the term as kids too often get ‘burned out’ by the process!

      Thanks for stopping by, nice to ‘meet’ you!


  1. Are Gweneth Paltrow’s Herculean Requirements for a Children’s Tutor Reasonable? « Dilemmas of an Expat Tutor - 10/06/2011

    […] to American Resident’s blog, here are Gweneth Paltrow’s Herculean requirements for a tutor for her two children, aged 6 […]

  2. The tutored rich — Joanne Jacobs - 12/06/2011

    […] Resident quotes the ad: “The ideal candidate will have received a classical education, including Latin and Greek, and be […]

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An American writer in the UK for over 20 years. Lives in Essex. A pretend extrovert.

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