Should a Child Be Given the Freedom to Choose?

If children are given the freedom to do whatever they want, will they choose to do nothing at all?… Imogen, would you like to discuss this question with me, in this week’s podcast?”

My nearly 20-year-old daughter said, “Okay!”, so I grabbed my notebook and we began brainstorming points we could talk about. Soon we had a list of additional questions:

Is anyone actually capable of ‘doing nothing at all’?
When mothers shout, “Go and do something!” to their kids, could they actually mean “go and do something I think is valuable”?
If a child does seem to be doing not much of anything, is it okay?
Should children be made to do things they don’t like doing?
Will children follow the easier pathway rather than the more difficult one, if given the choice?
And could it actually be essential for parents to let children choose?

Sophie heard us discussing this topic and added a few comments of her own.

“Would you like to join us for the podcast?” I asked my 13-year-old daughter. She did want to be involved. So the three of us disappeared into my bedroom where my computer and microphone were all set up, to record what we hoped would be a very interesting conversation.

Did our podcast turn out to be interesting? Maybe you’d like to listen to find out!


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  1. Reply

    Unschooling works so well for a family with passions, doesn't it? I imagine how wonderful it would be if we could ditch the superfluous stuff and let the passions soar. Though, it has just occurred to me that the required curriculum is very basic. It wouldn't take much to tick off the outcomes but, for some reason, I always think we should do it all to a really high standard. Maybe, that's where I'm going wrong?

    Great podcast, Sue 🙂

    1. Reply


      I think you are right about the requirements being fairly basic. Usually our girls' curiosity takes them well beyond what is essential, and sometimes, there isn't even an outcome for what they are learning. Primary school students aren't supposed to be doing Shakespeare or even learning much about other countries, for example. A really high standard? Perhaps you could use the level of your children's interest in the subject as a guide to how deep you delve. If it's something that really does not grab their interest, perhaps it's okay to offer them the basics and then move on. More time for those soaring passions!

      Thanks for listening, and so quickly too!

  2. Reply

    My 8 year old granddaughter continually amazes me by things she chooses to learn. Right now she's into studying birds, like hawks, and she's learning to sew, and she shows me her Math problems with great enthusiasm!

    1. Reply


      Young children are interested in EVERYTHING!!! It's a pity most children eventually lose that sense of wonder and curiosity and then think of learning as a chore. Your granddaughter sounds delightful. I bet you are enjoying watching her develop and learn. I wonder if she is giving you a second education as she shares her discoveries. I wish I could pop over and hear about hawks!

  3. Reply

    Great podcast Sue! I decided to have a listen while I did a bit of knitting. ; )

    The timing of your talk has come at a time when I find myself asking the same question. On occasion, I do waiver in confidence with our unschooling. Especially now that we have a teen daughter who is "high school" age and decisions now seem to weigh more heavily with regard to the future. Your podcast has really helped to put my mind at ease though. You all spoke with such confidence and made me feel reassured.

    My girls have discovered passions they may not have otherwise had their day been loaded with directives from me or their father. Thankfully, we appreciate the value of their interests and do our best to encourage them. But from time to time I do get a sneaky voice creep up and ask if what we are doing is enough. Do you have the same voice in hour head? If so, how do you keep it at bay?

    1. Reply


      I was thinking about you the other day and wondering how you were. I actually tried clicking onto your name to see if it led anywhere I could leave a message. It's a private profile of course!

      I am glad we all sounded confident while we were chatting! It is interesting having a podcast conversation with my children. What will they say? Will their ideas match mine? Do they really agree with my philosophy of education and parenting? I find it fascinating listening to them, and relieved they do in fact see things in a similar way to me!

      Oh yes, time is needed for passions to be developed. I didn't have much of this when I was growing up as I mentioned in the podcast. I'm glad our children are in a different situation.

      Are our kids 'doing enough'? is a tricky question. Enough to satisfy an educational authority? Enough to allow them to do the career of their choice? Enough to satisfy their own needs and develop into the people they are meant to be? Enough to impress others? Enough so our children keep up with other kids? There's lots of reasons we think about this question. Yes, that sneaky voice can make us feel uncomfortable sometimes! Thinking about these reasons helped me to relax and not worry. I realised what I was most stressed about was fulfilling outside expectations which weren't that important. When I let go of this, I was much happier. I wonder if this makes sense and will be of any help for you!

    2. Reply

      I forgot to say thank you for listening! I'm glad you got some knitting done while you listened to my podcast.

    • Anna Vaschina
    • March 23, 2017

    That’s beautiful…’live up to your trust’.


    1. Reply


      It’s been a while since I last listened to this podcast so I don’t know if the words ‘live up to your trust’ are a quote from this episode. I do know, however, that being trusted is a wonderful feeling. I feel an urge to live up to it. Now I want to go back and find out exactly what my daughters said in this episode! Thank you so much for listening to my podcast and then leaving this comment!

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