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 is choosing home-based education. But even the parents of unschooled 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.

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