The thrill & skill of independence

One of the things people say to me when they find out we unschool is, “I could never spend that much time with my kids.”  Another thing they say is, “What do you do with them all day?”

Both of these statements imply that because my kids are not in a school building and kept separate from me for 7-8 hours a day, that I must spend my every waking moment finding ways to engage, entertain and of course teach them.   I’ve been told it must be “exhausting” and “a lot of work”.

Here’s something you need to know.   It is neither.

Of course when children are younger – infants & toddlers especially – they require more hands on attention.   That’s a given and that is true whether a child is unschooled, homeschooled or schooled.  But then something amazing happens.  Children grow older!  They become capable of doing things on their own!

Unschooled kids, in my experience, learn the skill of spending time on their own a bit sooner than do their schooled & traditionally homeschooled peers.   You know, sometimes in life you have to fill your own time.   Everyone else might be busy with their own projects or work, and there will be an hour or two (and maybe more as you get older) where you will need to entertain yourself.

This is not a bad thing.

In fact, my kids love their time on their own.  They love having the apartment to themselves now and then.   And even better, they love going out on their own.   Independence is a confidence building thrill.   Of course at 8, Ben still doesn’t go far by himself.  Perhaps to and from our local playground or home on his own when we are a only a few blocks away and he wants to go ahead of us.  But at 12 Maya’s reach is expanding.  She can do local errands, shop with her friends, travel the subway and go to and from classes without me by her side.

Don’t get me wrong, I still spend a lot of time with my kids, and wouldn’t have it any other way.   But I’m also excited to watch them stretch their wings as they grow; to learn the skill and experience the thrill of being independent, both in thought and action.

My job, as my kids grow older, is still to guide, facilitate, mentor, suggest and lead.   That, I suspect, will never stop, but will only change in its’ implementation.   Always available but not always present, is how I believe I’ve heard it said.

What can be better than watching your kids grow in confidence and independence?

I won’t deny there are parental nerves that kick in the first time your kid walks out the door on their own.

Overcoming them is worth it.


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