Empower Sustainability

Insourcing, Embracing Natural Self-Reliance

insourcing bubble graph
Written by Kerry McDonald

There are so many entry-points to a more natural, self-reliant lifestyle, don’t you think?

Some of us began our foray into natural, sustainable living by becoming increasingly disenchanted with an overly-industrialized, consumerist culture that devalues the homemade and the handmade. Others of us discovered the power and possibility of natural living through the natural birth experience and the trust and self-reliance inherent in that process. Many of us discovered natural family living through homeschooling and the discovery of our children’s own innate drive to learn and synthesize. Still oth- ers of us, myself included, stumbled upon natural family living through attachment parenting: following our wise instincts and our child’s lead.

It has been interesting for me to see over my near-decade of motherhood the evolution and expansion of my naturalist, self-reliant lifestyle: my gradual reclamation of control over my family’s well-being away from “experts” and toward myself and my home.

In the beginning, I bowed to my obstetrician, pediatrician, and the ubiquitous forces of mainstream culture convincing me that babies should be born in hospitals, newborns should nurse only every two to three hours, children need to quickly learn to fall asleep alone, and they need many medical interventions to keep them safe and healthy. That lasted eight weeks until I realized that none of that made sense for my baby girl and my instincts were telling me otherwise.

Still, I straddled the conventional and natural worlds for a few years, increasingly questioning, wondering, researching, learning.

After my third baby’s natural homebirth, it all became abundantly clear: I hadn’t truly realized the power of my natural instincts, of my extraordinary ability to produce wonders within my own home–without expert interventions or synthetic goods. At the time of my daughter’s homebirth, I had been practicing attachment parenting and had committed to homeschooling and natural learning, but I discovered just how much I continued to rely on externally-produced goods and services, rather than “insourcing” these things.

Insourcing–producing within our homes–brings with it an extraordinary sense of satisfaction, self-reliance, and personal responsibility that has been steadily eroded in our culture as we increasingly rely on factories to produce our food and home-goods, experts to deliver, teach, and heal our children, and mainstream cultural messages to guide our thinking and doing.

We can change the course of our consumerist, mechanized, outsourced lives by recognizing our stunning ability to produce and accomplish within our homes, within our families, naturally and sustainably.

About the author

Kerry McDonald

Kerry McDonald has been deeply involved in education policy and practice for two decades. She has a B.A. in Economics from Bowdoin College and an M.Ed. from Harvard University, where she studied education administration, planning, and social policy. Kerry lives and learns together with her husband and four, never-been-schooled children in Cambridge, Massachusetts. You can email Kerry at kmcdonald@post.harvard.edu, and visit her blog at Whole Family Learning.