Interview: ii Host Maria Górska-Piszek on Raising Competent, Independent, and Self-Driven Kids

Interview: ii Host Maria Górska-Piszek on Raising Competent, Independent, and Self-Driven Kids

Photo cred: Unsplash

Interview by Christin Balan.

Maria Górska-Piszek, Interintellect producer and host, shares some of her experiences as a new mother as well as questions she hopes to explore in her upcoming ii salon, “Raising Competent, Independent, and Self-Driven Kids.”

“Every solution introduces its own problems, so it’s all a game of balance and trade-offs.”

If you have kids or are thinking about having kids, chances are you have mixed feelings about raising them in 2022. The world is changing faster than ever before, and this requires parents to constantly reevaluate and reinvent what it means to shepherd children into adulthood. Observant parents will learn from the past and present—examining their own childhood and sharing ideas with other nurturers—but anticipating the demands on children and parents in the future is starting to feel impossible. So how can we raise children that are just as dynamic as our future?

In an interview with Maria Górska-Piszek on her upcoming ii salon, “Raising Competent, Independent, and Self-Driven Kids,” she shares some of her views on raising children in the twenty-first century. We touch on the state of education, learning from failure, and ask questions like: What’s the right balance between encouraging kids to follow their interests and nudging them to try things they’ve never done before?

On Education and Learning

Sitting outside the family RV against a beautiful backdrop of leafy trees and blue skies, Maria shares some of the challenges she faced with her own childhood education. “I never learned to learn by myself,” Maria explains, speaking of her difficult transition into college studies. She describes the sudden transition from supervised learning in grade-school to total independence in college as a big shock. “I didn’t know how to learn when my parents weren’t watching behind my back.” In her younger years, Maria says that her parents pushed her to be a “prodigy child,” and that a lot of the motivation felt external rather than internal. Ultimately, with her time spread thin over different activities throughout her youth, she says, “I never learned what I actually enjoyed doing because it was all planned for me.”

As Maria continued to open up about how these experiences in her education lead to difficulties with finding work that felt self-directed and truly meaningful, I felt myself sympathizing with what I experienced in my own upbringing and early adulthood. Like many middle-class suburban millennials in America, I experienced something very similarly in my parent-directed whirlwind of ballet lessons, soccer practice, piano lessons, flute lessons, and miscellaneous volunteer hours. Because of the constant “doing,” many of us came to lose our innate connection with the “I like.”

So now as her little eighteen-month-old continues to learn and grow towards her pre-school years, Maria is considering alternative methods of educating her daughter. “I would prefer my daughter learn to figure out what she wants to do on her own,” she states.

We touch on the wide range of educational methods out there today, from traditional public school, to homeschooling, to unschooling, to more intensely child-directed options like Sudbury schools. Ultimately, it sounds like Maria wants to consider options that give her daughter a strong sense of self-direction and independence but also have enough guidance to expose her to the many different opportunities life has to offer.  

On Challenges and Failure

Maria also aspires to help her daughter cultivate a healthier relationship with life’s many challenges and failures. “I was shielded from failure a lot,” Maria shares of her own childhood. “I was terrified of failure for most of my life.”

Maria describes how she is already encouraging her young daughter to exercise confidence and independence, and how she is constantly seeking balance between providing help and encouraging her daughter to learn from her own mistakes.

We also talked about the fears of failing as parents. I confessed my own emotional journey going down the mommy-blog rabbit holes, sharing with Maria that the unending conflicting pieces of advice made me worry that I would never make the right decisions as a (future) parent. But it turns out Maria adopts the opposite frame. She states that her experiences in mom-blog spelunking served as the “perfect vaccine” for many of her parenting fears. “Because no matter what I do,” she explains, “there will be someone upset by my decision.” Maria finds freedom in this frame because, instead of agonizing over what does or doesn’t work for people who  have different parenting and life goals, she and her partner can focus on what works best for their own family.

This being said, parenting isn’t entirely without fear for Maria. She shares how “…having a kid made me realize how little say they have in how their life is going to look. I am the one who is making all of the decisions. It feels like a huge responsibility.” Maria’s upcoming ii salon feels like the perfect medium to discuss these responsibilities, to share her own experiences as a new parent with the larger ii community, and to look for different perspectives on the challenges that every parent faces.  

On Her Upcoming ii Salon

When asked what she is hoping to share in her upcoming ii salon, Maria says, “I have more questions than answers!”

In hopes of exploring these questions more deeply, Maria has invited a diverse group of people to her to join in her salon, ranging from educators, to Montessori school teachers, to home-schooler parents, to educational start-up representatives. “My goal is to bring all of these people together and have them share their perspectives and experiences.”

Maria closes in sharing her desire for August 15th to bring open-minded discussion, examining parenting from all angles, with no set expectations for where the salon conversation might venture. “It’s the magic of the moment and the magic of the people you bring together.”

A huge thank you to Maria for hosting this very important salon! I am very much looking forward to attending and absorbing as much wisdom as possible from the educators, parents, and my fellow pre-parents.

Hope to see you there!

P.S. Check out the Kinderintellect salon series (free to community members!) to meet Maria’s daughter along with other little ones and their parents for a perfect blend of cute and conversation.