Parenting is a tough sport, and none of us are exempt from the criticism of onlookers. All good parents constantly wonder if they are making the best choices for their kids. Often we never have concrete answers to reveal whether specific choices we made were positive or negative to the overall development of our children. But, have you ever considered making an extreme parenting choice that would surely leave you up for ridicule? Would you make a leap against the mainstream, to provide a life to your kids that would be vastly different from the rest of society?
As scary as it sounds, some parents have defied the odds, raising their kids in their own way, oblivious to the scrutiny of the public. Luckily for them, their kids turned out fine. Maybe even better than fine! Read on to learn about some of the most shocking and amazing parents that made risky decisions to better their children’s lives.
17 Unschooled Kids
If you haven’t heard of the Unschooling movement, you might soon catch wind of it. The trend which originally began in the 1970’s is showing a strong presence in today’s modern families. Unschooled kids are children who receive no formal education and no formal homeschooling either. The point of this rebellion against standardized learning is to let kids learn at will. Parents put high levels of confidence in their children, by trusting that they will learn exactly what they need to learn when they are ready to learn it. The concept throws out all grade level spectrums and encourages children to seek out whatever interests them regardless of whether they are 5 or 15. Part of the reason for the recent resurgence, may be due to the confirmation of values in this system, as the public learns just how successful the grown up Unschoolers can be. You might say these families are practicing extreme parenting choices and you might also agree that their ideas are spot on.
16 Horsing Around
Take Laura Ellis for example, now age 29, was unschooled after the 2nd grade. Her parents removed her from the public school she was attending because they felt that her love of math had been turned to hatred by an inflexible teacher. Interviews conducted by her with the founder of Unschooling, Psychologist Dr. Peter Gray revealed high levels of self confidence, assertiveness, and social aptitude. She credits these traits to her childhood of Unschooling.
In addition, she is highly motivated and applied to her interests. She voluntarily took her first job at age 11, working in horse stables. Today she is a professional horse trainer working with captured wild Mustangs to rehabilitate them for adoption. When she applied for college, she was accepted to 4 out of 5 of her desired institutions. She went on to attend college in New Mexico, and was set to graduate this past August with a Master’s in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
15 Off The Grid Kids
Off-the-grid living is becoming less common each year, as humankind largely finds it inconvenient and often impossible to break away from society and technology. But, a few brave parents still make the choice to raise their kids in a somewhat old-fashioned way. When parents chose to live a self sufficient life, their children are raised in a different way than today’s urban dwelling counterparts. They may live a “rougher” life without running water and electricity.
They may also find themselves in isolation, with limited access to formal education and age reflecting peer groups. The daily life and activities may be less about television and smart phones, and more about survival and teamwork. While the parents often admit times of loneliness, they claim that all aspects of this lifestyle present more rewards than disturbances. The results? Offspring with great intuition, self worth, respect for nature, familial ties, and a zest for life learning.
14 Destination: Nowhere
Greg Seaman is one such parent, who has written about the experiences of his children who are now grown. He and his wife made the choice to raise their children off the grid, in a remote location. Their goals were to raise “free range children” in a water- side log cabin with no running water or electricity. They had no access to modern emergency medicine, and only reached medical services after a complicated 2 hour journey. The children attended a small 3 room school with just a few teachers and only 2 or 3 kids in each grade level. Their father, Greg, say that living off the grid was an asset to the education of his children.
Without TV and modern distractions, the kids experienced a childhood with high parental interaction and adult conversation. Conversation and imagination were the pinnacles of entertainment, and the kids had the advantage of learning life skills that aren’t taught in schools. Skills like sawing a board, building a structure, plucking a chicken, growing a garden, and knowledge of edible wild plants. The family moved to a larger community when the two boys reached teenhood, to allow them to branch out and spend more time with others. The immersion in to high school on the mainland was flawless, and the children did not suffer any academic or social hardships related to their previous remote life. Today, the boys are adults in their 30’s.
13 Raw Kids
Nowadays we see all kinds of diets and lifestyles with aims at raising a healthier family. With the rising childhood obesity rates, it’s no surprise that some parents are taking a strong look at the way they eat before passing on bad habits to their kids. Some of what we see is just a trend, a short term solution, or even a media and celebrity influenced decision. But, some parents are quite serious about the stance and choose to strictly limit the consumption choices for their children.
One of these choices is the Raw Diet. Eating “raw” means that the entire diet consists mainly of uncooked nutrients. The food sources often include fresh fruits, vegetable, seeds, nuts, and sprouted grains. Sometimes they also include raw meat and fish as well as raw and unpasteurized milk, cheese, and yogurt. Against cautions from doctors and pediatricians, most Raw Food Parents insist that their children are active and healthy kids, with rarely a sick day in sight.
12 Don’t Forget To Eat Your Veggies
When Dave and Mary Bowland gave birth to their son Levi 10 years ago, they made the decision that they didn’t want him to have the food addictions that they suffered with during their lives before becoming parents. In an effort to curb an appetite for junk food, candy, pastries, and fried foods, they started their son on a nearly exclusive raw diet from the beginning. He has never eaten an animal product or food that has been heated beyond 118 degrees.
The Bowland’s aren’t the only family who live this way. Studies show that nearly 20% of the raw food enthusiasts have children that follow the same diet. Many who follow this lifestyle believe that cooking food destroys the enzymes and vitamins that support a healthy immune system. Supporters of the movement say that they have a stronger immune function, healthy weight loss, and improved skin appearance to name a few. They also reiterate that their children, even babies and toddlers, are perfectly healthy while living free of processed and cooked foods.
11 Vegan Kids
By now, we all know at least one person who is either Vegetarian or Vegan. If not, we have at least heard of one person that is. It is impossible to ignore the growing population of conscious eaters. Today there are an estimated 7.3 Million Vegetarians and 1 Million Vegans living in America. The people who follow these diets either follow a vegetarian based diet, or they choose to follow a nutritional plan that excludes all animal products. Most say that they developed this eating plan after being informed through educational movies about the treatment of animals used for food consumption. While the rates of people living this lifestyle have steadily increased in the past 10 years, not all families are new to the concept. Certainly, some families have been practicing long enough to have raised Vegan kids to adulthood.
10 Beef, It’s NOT What’s For Dinner
Take Shaun Durrance for example, he was raised as a vegan kid in the 80’s and 90’s in America. He was pretty much the only one in his peer group and even back then, his mother made the choice largely based on her compassionate views towards animals. She had become a vegetarian by her own terms in her teens, and had adopted the vegan lifestyle shortly before her pregnancy with Shaun began.
Although Veganism was virtually unheard of in the States at that time, Shaun was raised with a thorough understanding of the principles behind it that are related to be a conscientious consumer. He never felt resentment or ostracized, and quite enjoyed explaining his vision by the time he was 13. He was a typical growing boy in all other aspects, healthy and active in athletics, beach life and even took up an interest in cooking. He never experienced any form of malnutrition, broken bones, or social anxieties related to being a Vegan. Today, Shaun is in his 30’s, is married to a fellow Vegan, and is raising a 2nd generation vegan-by-birth baby girl.
9 Vaccine Free Kids
One big question up for debate in recent news and polls is “To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate”? While this might be cause for a heated conversation between otherwise friendly acquaintances, it wasn’t always such a big deal. In the 80’s and 90’s in America, there wasn’t much concern over the issue, mostly because very few people rejected the concept of mass vaccinations. But, even then, there were a select few that felt a heavy heart over the issue, feeling concerns over the contents and necessity of injecting their children with live and synthetic antidotes to common diseases.
Some of these parents chose to stop vaccinating their children, or never vaccinated them to begin with. In the final decades of the 20th century it wasn’t taboo, although it wasn’t common either. The kids who were unvaccinated rarely experienced any social implications, as back then, the decision was acknowledged by barely a shrug of the shoulders. It was still regarded as solely the parent’s choice.
8 Leave Them Kids Alone!
We recently conducted an interview with a woman who was never vaccinated as a child. Janice Scott Massingill, now age 37, told us about her childhood. Janice grew up in a health conscious suburban home in the Midwest, attending public schools. While she was not vaccinated it was of no consequence to her life, as at the time it was not viewed as an issue not be vaccinated. She had a normal childhood, never experiencing illness beyond what would be expected of any child. She did experience occasional fevers, an earache, and both she and her brother contracted the chicken pox virus.
However, during her early childhood, the chickenpox vaccine was not available, as it was not introduced in the USA until 1995. The choices her parents made in the decades of her birth and childhood were somewhat extreme, as denying vaccines in those years was relatively unheard of. For their family is seems that the choice was a good one, as the kids experienced an active and healthy childhood with no known negative effects of being unvaccinated.
Today, Janice is the mother of 6 children and with the 7th on the way. After conceiving her first child, she became diligent in her vaccine research, and even at that time, the vaccine controversy was not a hot topic. In more recent years, she has had to deal with incidences of bullying and threats, but continues the fights for her personal and parental rights. She and all of her children remain unvaccinated. Janice says that she has learned to become more educated, vocal, and confident in defending and sometimes promoting her choice to keep family unvaccinated.
7 Crunchy Moms
“Crunchy Mom” is a trendy term that appears in today’s Urban Dictionary. It has various explanations around the web and in society, but generally it is a reference to Mothers who may be some or all of the following: pro breastfeeding, anti-vaccine, health and environment conscious, practicing natural living, home schooling their kids, and embracing attachment parenting.
Even though the terminology and lifestyle choices of such mothers and parents are highly publicized and popular at this time, today’s Crunchy Moms are not the first that ever existed. In actuality many parents who practice these methods of parenting may have been inspired to do so by their parents, who carefully tread these waters 30 to 40 years ago or more. Today’s mothers with these values closely resemble many defining features of the “hippies” who defied convention several decades ago. Hippies broke many rules of their time and taught their kids a different way of life than was proposed by main stream society. For many it paid off, when their offspring followed in their footsteps.
6 Hippie Revival
A woman by the name of Kaia Roman is the perfect example. She fully admits that her parents were hippies, and she is grateful for it. She was raised on organic, natural, and vegan foods way before it was cool. She never had much sugar, grew up loving nature, and embraced a love for recycling and reusing, and she didn’t see much TV. Kaia mentions in her online articles that she credits her upbringing for her entrepreneurial spirit. Imagination and creativity are what fuel her causes, and her strongest motivation comes from her father’s philosophy towards envisioning what she wants in life and then drawing it towards herself as if the two are connected by a rubber band. Kai calls herself a modern-day hippie, instilling the same values in her kids that her parents instilled in her. She is currently a Mindfulness teacher to elementary students in California, and will soon be releasing a book she authored about dedicating her daily actions to the pursuit of happiness.
5 Fit Kids
We all understand that health and fitness are crucial parts of our well being. With the overwhelming statics about obesity and health in America, it’s no surprise that there are a few parents out there who are eager to find a different path for their families. In a world being overcome by a stagnant, immobile society, parents who raise their kids to be fit are definitely going against the grain. For these parents embracing a “fitness family” lifestyle, it provides numerous benefits to Mom and Dad, as well as the kids. Sources say that parents who are “gym rats” are more likely to have fun by playing, running, and jumping right alongside their kids. They are also far more likely to spend copious amount of time outdoors. In addition, through physical accomplishments, parents and children learn patience, discipline, and focus together which solidifies familial ties and bonds. For their children, achieving physical and fitness goals supports the “fighter mentality” characterized by confidence and endurance. These traits often follow in other aspects of life, resulting in kids who have the skill to identify, strive for, and reach their own goals.
4 Aim A Little Higher
Sarah and Cass Clachar have spent 15 years engraining fitness into the daily life of their family. Sarah is a professional health writer and her husband, Cass has experience in personal training, lifeguarding, and swim instruction as well as youth counseling. They say that fitness is an integral part of their family. The result? Two athletic kids that now give their parents a run for their money. Their babies aren’t so little anymore. After many years of pacing themselves for their tots, suddenly the kids are setting the pace for the parents. The family delves in all sorts of athletic activities like biking, hiking, running, skiing, snowboarding, rock climbing, and swimming. Mom and Dad even joke that the children are now their personal trainers. The family touts that being health and fitness focused helps them keep going even the toughest times. Fitness ideals are a focal point of their lives that provide the pinnacle of their strength; aiding them to handle whatever life throws at them.
3 Third Culture Kids
Third culture kids are individuals who were raised in a country different from the homeland of both of their parents, or in a country that differs from the one that issued their passports. Parents might take their kids abroad for a variety of reasons, but despite the factors, it’s no doubt an adventure beyond the ordinary for these families. The kids are often exposed to new languages, food, customs, and cultures. Regardless of whether or not the family becomes permanent expats or maintain a mobile lifestyle, the methods of learning and emersion are greatly influenced by a mix of the native culture of their parents as well as the country they reside in. Especially when families move abroad during the formative early development years of childhood, the kids are highly influenced by all three cultures when developing their sense of identity. While moving to a foreign might present reasonable hardships, most expat families agree that raising global citizens is the best choice they could have made for their children.
2 The World Is Your Oyster
The now deceased Norma McCraig is a wonderful example of a child who grew up in such a manner, living and experiencing childhood abroad as she was toted alongside her parents while they followed their international jobs. Norma was born in New Jersey and grew up in the Phillipines, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), and South India. After graduating from college, she worked and became passionate about the Meridian International Center. The Center became the basis for her life’s work, it is an institution established on the concepts of international collaboration and cultural understanding.
The organization oversees the U.S. State Department’s professional exchange program. Norma McCraig was the first person to use the term “global nomad” in 1984, it used interchangeable with the term “third culture kid”. She was also the founder of Global Nomads International and is known as the elder of expat culture and the visionary behind support for expat families and children. Norma once said that among the benefits of growing up as a global nomad are the developments of global vision, intercultural communication, linguistic ability, mediation, diplomacy, and the ability to manage diversity. It is obvious that Norma’s parents made the right choice for their daughter when they chose to raise her abroad in the 1940’s and 50’s.
1 Don’t Be Afraid To Blaze Your Own Trail
What we learn from this inspiring bunch of parents is to be the best parents we can be. It’s okay to go against the grain for the sake of our families. Listen to your instincts, your intuitions, and your convictions whatever they may be. Pave your path and brave the elements to give your kids the best childhood that you see fit. It may not always be easy to blaze a trail, but if these families have any influence on it, it will be worth it. Parenting doesn’t come with a guidebook and shouldn’t be valued by ticking off the boxes of things that other parents are doing. Raising kids has nothing to do with social trends and has everything to do being a family unit. Whatever your family style is, embrace it fully and passionately. Trust that it will pay off for your kids, just as did for all of these.