How reading Anne of Green Gables helped me chill out as a parent

How reading Anne of Green Gables helped me chill out as a parent
Written by Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool and blogger at Steady Mom

“There, there, Marilla, you can have your own way,” said Matthew reassuringly. “Only be as good and kind to her as you can without spoiling her. I kind of think she’s one of the sort you can do anything with if you only get her to love you.”

As a 12-year-old I spent hours under the influence of a red-headed orphan. We had plenty of exciting adventures together, and she taught me plenty of lessons. Basically she changed me. And perhaps Anne (with an “e,” of course) planted seeds in my life that later grew into a pretty full harvest–seeds of adoption, of love for books, of writing, and of being an unapologetic starry-eyed dreamer.

I owe a lot to her.

I read the entire Anne of Green Gables series a few times as a teen and young adult. I also read pretty much anything else I could get my hands on by L.M. Montgomery. Her writing spoke to me.

Years later as a newly married woman, I found my life profoundly impacted when I read all five volumes of L.M. Montgomery’s journals. (If you are a serious Anne fan, you must read these!)

Once again, this author’s words altered my life. This time it wasn’t quite so starry-eyed, however. These were grown-up entries of joy mixed with deep sorrow, happiness side-by-side with heartbreak. I wasn’t sure I could ever look at Anne in the same light again.

But it turned out Anne had a few more lessons up her (puffed) sleeves for me.

Photo by Sullivan Movies

“Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive–it’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we knew all about everything, would it? There’d be no scope for imagination then, would there?”

I once read that when you read a book, especially a classic that has impacted others for generations, you should go to it with a question–a specific question in mind relating to your life.

As I read Anne of Green Gables, this time as a parent of three, I asked myself: What can I learn about parenting from this book? And the surprising answer is something I’ve tried to implement ever since:

Loosen up and let maturity do its work.

Photo by Sullivan Movies

As a tween and early teen, Anne is constantly getting into mischief of some sort: making up lies (“stories”), dying her hair green, falling off the ridgepole of a roof, accidentally getting her best friend drunk.

To name a few. Have any constantly mischievous children of your own?

Anne has a fierce temper as well, which shows itself in full fury when she breaks her slate over Gilbert’s head after he teases her about her red hair. Though he apologizes, Anne also has a tendency to hold a grudge:

“Gilbert took from his desk a little pink candy heart with a gold motto on it, “You are sweet,” and slipped it under the curve of Anne’s arm. Whereupon Anne arose, took the pink heart gingerly between the tips of her fingers, dropped it on the floor, ground it to powder beneath her heel, and resumed her position without deigning to bestow a glance on Gilbert.”

Tense and stern Marilla, who (with her brother Matthew) adopts Anne, gradually softens in spite of Anne’s behavior. In the incident with the broken slate, she allows Anne to stay home from school (i.e. homeschool!) until she decides she wants to go back:

“Marilla took Mrs. Rachel’s advice and not another word was said to Anne about going back to school. She learned her lessons at home, did her chores and played with Diana in the chilly purple autumn twilights…”

In spite of Anne’s mischief and misbehavior, there was genius inside: imagination, creativity, intelligence, character. It just needed a little more time to find its way to expression.

At the right season, it blossomed into brilliance.

Photo by Tourism PEI

Considering Anne’s maturing process brought to mind another quote I read recently in Unschooling Rules: 55 Ways to Unlearn What We Know About School and Rediscover Education:

“The truth here is that maturation is magic. Irrational teenagers do become rational. Calmness and focus return. All of childhood is filled with times of equilibrium and disequilibrium.

Children’s bodies do each have their own clock. Each clock just may not match the expectations of the structures around the children.”
~ Chapter 40, Maturing solves a lot of problems

Has homeschooling made you a little too tense–a little too stern? What would it mean if you allowed maturity to do its work?

Maybe if we trusted the process, we could relax a little bit more, laugh a little in the midst of the mischief, and allow ourselves to enjoy the journey.

“… a little “appreciation” sometimes does quite as much good as all the conscientious “bringing up” in the world.”

Do you need to loosen up? Do you have a story to share about watching maturity do its work? Any other Anne fans out there?

This post originally published on August 13, 2012.

About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She serves as editor of Simple Homeschool, and blogs about mindful parenting at Steady Mom. Jamie is also the author of two books: Steady Days and Mindset for Moms.


  1. I loved reading about Anne parenting in the later “Anne” books, Anne of Ingleside, Rainbow Valley and Rilla of Ingleside . They reminded me to embrace the wonder and imagination of childhood, to laugh things off a little more, to not take everything so seriously. And to listen more to my kids. Even the littles things. If I give them all my attention, that is something they will always remember. Thanks for writing this! It’s made me want to go back and read them again! :)

  2. I absolutely loved this book and series as a child (still do) and am so happy that my 9 year old daughter loves them too. We’ve decided this summer to have no summer camps or planned activities. We will wander and play in the mud. We will remember the wonders of being a kid, together. Thank you for this.

    We plan to homeschool starting in 2015. Your blog is helping me feel more confident and excited about it. Our lives will be changing in the next year and I am so grateful to have so much great advice right here for us!
    Chris K.’s latest post: My Mother’s Day Wish | I Want to Be Alone

  3. I needed this today!!! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I have been struggling with the idea of maturity-based learning as opposed to age/grade based learning. All it took was Anne Shirley/Blythe to straighten me out! This feels like confirmation that I am on the right track. God Bless.

  4. I’ve always been drawn to characters like Anne Shirley and Jo March, young ladies who had their own spark and streak of independent thinking. For a long time I assumed it was because I related to them. This was, in part, true. I later discovered I think it was also because God was going to gift me with my own little sparkling, independent thinker! He was trying to prepare me. LOL!
    My husband and I have often remarked that we’re raising an Anne. It can be real challenge, but once you embrace their uniqueness… It’s fascinating to have a front row seat!
    Sallie Borrink’s latest post: Why I Don’t Micromanage My Picky Eater

  5. Thank you! Really enjoyed this post.

  6. I just loved this. Breath of fresh air. Thanks! :-)
    Anne’s latest post: What I’ve been reading (Quick Lit – April 2015)

  7. This was my most favorite of all my childhood reads. In fact, Anne Shirley was one of my many imaginary friends as a child. I haven’t read it with my children yet but I am thinking it might be next in line. My eldest son is the male version of Anne and I think it might be perfect! :)
    Cait @ My Little Poppies’s latest post: The Books that Fill Our Shelves {weekend wrap up}

  8. I have been a fan of Anne of Green Gables as long as I can remember and reading this was most perfectly timed! I have been homeschooling my daughter for the past two years (6th & 7th grade) and it just so happens that we affectionately refer to her as our “Anne” because of the similarities:). The responsibility of homeschooling combined with my daughters mischief & temper has definitely made me too serious. Thank you so much for this inspiring post!!

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