Because It Was the Right Thing to DoBy Wendy Priesnitz
I was recently asked if I thought our family’s school-free experience had been a success. When prompted to elaborate on what they meant by success, the person eventually stumbled onto the crux of their interest: Did our now-adult daughters turn out the way we’d hoped? Here’s my response.
In our family, the foundations of life learning and parenting (which were interwoven) were respect and trust. And we didn’t raise our daughters with respect and trust because we had an idea about how we wanted them to turn out. In fact, I think having that sort of agenda would be counterproductive to trust and respect. We did it because treating them like we would any other human being was the right thing to do.
There are hundreds of articles on the Life Learning Magazine website that deal with the specifics of what trusting and respecting children and young people looks like. But, in our family, it included the understanding that our children weren’t products to be molded to our specifications, as well as the avoidance of coercion, manipulation, shaming, and adult privilege. On the positive side, it translated into, among other things, protecting and nurturing their innate love of and motivation for learning, supporting their right to explore and understand who they were, and providing them with the freedom and opportunities to make their own decisions and choose who they hung out with. We didn’t trust and respect them because we had expectations about the choices they would make – then or as adults – but because it was the right thing to do.
Aside from our belief that treating children respectfully is just basic human decency, we hoped, like most parents, that our daughters would grow up healthy, happy, and knowledgeable about the things that are important to them. However, there is no one body of knowledge or set of experiences and life instructions that suits everyone and that won’t go obsolete in our rapidly changing world. But if children live life on their own terms, rather than trying to meet someone else’s expectations, they can be successful by their own definition. Therefore, we gave our daughters the proverbial roots and wings. We provided them with a school-free, unconditionally loving, nurturing environment of respect and trust. We were confident that would enable them to deal successfully with whatever they would encounter in life. It was the right thing to have done.
Wendy Priesnitz is the founder and editor of Life Learning Magazine. She is the mother of two adult daughters who learned without school, has been an advocate of self-directed education for over 45 years, and is the author of 13 books and contributor to many others.