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Homeschooled children lack independence

Newsletter · Sep 21, 2021


A little while ago I shared a snippet from one of the school exemptions I submitted this year (a legal requirement when home educating in New Zealand). I’ve now got all three of those packaged into downloads for anyone who might find them useful, covering ages 6, 11 and 13.

They have a less-structured, unschooling vibe to them, and they give a fairly balanced take on our approach to education for our children.

If you ever need to submit anything formal where you live, these will be a handy starting point. And if you don’t have that requirement, they’re probably still a worthwhile read sometime. I always find it helpful to hear more about other people’s approach to living a life without school.

These documents come with one really important caveat, though. They’re for my children. And one of the most powerful aspects of home education is that you get to choose an approach that suits yours.

The whole premise of my podcast (the second episode of that is live) is ‘helping you and your children live the life you want to, not just the one you’re told you should’.

So, please don’t ever let me tell you how to do any of this. Take the bits that resonate with your family, and throw away anything that doesn’t.

Here’s the one for my 13 year old.

My 11 year old.

Annnnnd my 6 year old.

Ok, let’s get into a reaaaally interesting question I was sent this week:

Your Questions & Answers

I’ve been told homeschooled children don’t learn to be as independent of their parents – does this even matter? If it does a bit, are there ways to help with this when homeschooling? Thank you!

I sat staring at this for a while when I first read it, because there are a stack of layers. My first reaction was one of those allergic sort of ones –

“You’ve been ‘told’ – sounds like yet another case of someone who has heard a thing about homeschooling, despite never having experienced it themselves, and has decided to educate you on the pitfalls of the path you’ve chosen for your children. Gah, I hate that.”

But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that…in our family at least…it’s kinda true. We spend a lot of time together, and we’re very connected in ways that others might call dependence. Our 6 – almost 7 – year old climbs into bed with us to fall asleep almost every night. Our 11 year old likes us to stay parked nearby when we drop him at places like drama class or sports practice. Our 14 year old calls us ‘mummy and daddy’, not ‘mum and dad’.

You can call that dependence, with a negative tone. Or you can call that connection. You can say these children need to grow up a bit, or you can see their dependence as a healthy part of a child’s development. As laying a stronger foundation for later. As something they’re part of building and preparing for, not something that’s forced on them before they’re ready.

The great irony in the idea that children need to become independent and resilient is that when we force those things too soon they don’t. They harden themselves, yes. They find ways to protect themselves, yes. But that is not true independence. It’s self-defence, self-preservation.

Back to the question, and I think the real issue is not that homeschooled children aren’t learning to be independent of their parents. It’s that we’re confusing that whole idea with hardness and detachment.

So does it matter to me that my children are still dependent within our family unit, and likely will be for some time yet? Nope.

What would matter to me is if they weren’t.

Thanks, always, for reading.

Issy Butson, aka Stark Raving Dad. Author of The Grandparent's Guide to Home Schooling

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