Life Learning - Canadian Home-Based Learning Resources


A Short History of The Homeschool Movement in Canada

Beyond School by Wendy Priesnitz

Challenging Assumptions in Education

Why Not to Meddle in Our Children's Learning

By Wendy Priesnitz

Competition. Globalization. Information technology. In an effort to prepare their children for life in the next century, many over-achieving parents over control their children's lives and learning. Paradoxically, they end up robbing their children of the opportunity to take the initiative, to take responsibility for their mistakes and credit for their achievements – the very traits and skills that allow people to function successfully in rapidly changing circumstances.

What will best prepare children for a largely unknown future is time to muddle...opportunities to explore, to investigate their questions and ideas. Learning is, after all, a process of figuring things out, making connections, getting ideas and testing them, taking risks, making mistakes, and trying again.

This takes time and space (both physical and psychological), and that’s why a growing number of families are choosing home-based education. But even the parents of these kids need to learn how not to meddle in their children’s learning!

Not meddling means changing our understanding of the role of teacher. The non-meddling parent of home-educated children will not prepare curriculum, set up a classroom, feed children facts or test how well they've been digested. The non-meddling parent will be a facilitator and an observer who entrusts control of the learning process to the learner.

However, meddling isn’t ignoring. It involves respecting and trusting children; talking with them; providing opportunities for interaction with people and things; sharing and modeling learning; supporting the risk- and mistake-making processes; enriching the environment with books, pens, paper and other creative materials; celebrating good ideas and satisfying accomplishments.

It also means providing the time for children to investigate their own ideas, and being a flexible and patient observer of a process that is not particularly sequential or organized.

Not meddling is not easy, for many reasons. It might be misinterpreted by the educational establishment or nosy neighbours as “doing nothing.” And it may be difficult for families to feel confident with this approach, given the unequal balance of power between parent and education system…and the fact that most of us spent our school lives with meddling adults.

Nevertheless, educational researchers are beginning to agree with me that the passive learning that’s fostered by the meddling mode of education does not give children the self-respect, self-knowledge, flexibility, research skills, and creativity they will need to survive and prosper in the 21st Century.

Wendy Priesnitz is the editor of this website and has been a Canadian home-based education advocate since the 1970s. She is also the editor of Life Learning Magazine, and author of School Free - The Homeschooling Handbook, Challenging Assumptions in Education, and Beyond School: Living As If School Doesn't Exist, as well as the editor of an anthology of articles from Life Learning Magazine called Life Learning: Lessons from the Educational Frontier. Learn more about her books here.

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School Free: The Homeschooling Handbook by Wendy Priesnitz 

Life Learning: Lessons from the Educational Frontier 

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