Should Kids Finish Everything They Start?

My Unschooling Book Series (14)

It’s the end of a busy day. And I’m tired. I haven’t yet written today’s unschooling book post. To be honest, I don’t want to think about unschooling right at this moment. What I really want to do is pour myself a glass of wine, and relax while reading a library book. I’d like to begin Val McDermid’s novel, Northanger Abbey.

A few weeks ago, I discovered that this crime writer is rewriting Jane Austen’s novels. I haven’t read any of these books. I haven’t even read any of McDermid’s crime stories. Actually, I didn’t even know this author existed until I came across her name while I was reading an article about Jane Austen’s novels.

I know hardly anything about McDermid’s Northanger Abbey. All I know is that it’s a modern retelling of Austen’s novel of the same name. The heroine, Cat Morland, is a homeschooled minister’s daughter. Homeschooled? How could I create a credible 17-year-old with that degree of naivete in 2014? Obviously, Cat isn’t an unschooler.

I have no idea if the book is worth reading, but I shall soon find out. If it’s no good, I’ll throw it back into my bag and return it to the library next time I’m in town. I don’t believe I have to finish everything I start.

I don’t believe kids have to finish everything they start either. Some people might disagree with my opinion. Perhaps they think that persevering to the end is character building. But it’s not. It’s a waste of time. It’s much better to trust our children’s judgement and allow them to move on to something better.

This reminds me of a conversation I once had with my girls.

“When will you have time to read all those library books?” I asked, looking at their huge stack.

“We probably won’t read them all,” said Imogen. “We never do. Some books aren’t worth reading. After a few pages, we can tell if a book is going to be okay or not. We toss aside the ones that aren’t right, to take back to the library.”

Yes, some books aren’t right. They shouldn’t be read. I’m glad my children don’t finish everything they start.

Image: Gemma-Rose finished what she started. Last weekend, she enjoyed running in her first 5 K race!

So have you read Northanger Abbey, either version? Do you like rewritten books? And do you always finish what you start?

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  1. Reply

    Books: I always insist of reading either two first chapter or as long as page 20 if the chapters are very short. Some books are slow starters and grow on you after a long winded beginning. The reading rules hung in our hall says among other things (cited after memory):
    – “Read when you like!”
    – “Read how you like!”
    – “Read where you like!” (added in handwriting “But not in the bathroom” as we have only one for 6 persons)
    – “Laugh, cry learn and live as you read!”
    – “Read only the good books – you decide if a book is good or bad!”
    We mostly follow these rules.
    But on the other hand most everything has boring or irritating parts. You got to decide if the goal is worth plodding through this patch of boredom for or not. And sometimes a gentle or not so gentle nudge from someone else is needed. A wet muzzle to make you run on a dreary day, an interested question to make you overcome a dead spot …
    I’m a quick reader and curious too, and if I don’t finish a book, I find it totally obnoxious, not just boring. But I need a kick to do my PE most days. People are different and need help in different ways. That is what most teachers do not get, and – I hope – most home- or unschooloers actually do.

    1. Reply


      I like your reading rules. It sounds like reading is one of your family’s biggest passions.

      Yes, some books do indeed have boring parts. I remember reading ‘War and Peace’. I didn’t enjoy the large chunks of historical detail at all, but I pushed on because the storyline was interesting. I wanted to find out how it ended. Also, I wanted to say I’d read this book! Charlotte experienced the same thing with Les Miserables.

      There are some books I haven’t been able to get into despite other people telling me they are good and I should persevere. For example, years ago, I was encouraged to read ‘Dune’. I tried many times to get past the first few chapters but I didn’t succeed. I just couldn’t do it!

    • Nancy Saffield
    • November 17, 2017

    I agree with you Sue. I want my children to have the liberty to start something and then if it is not of interest than to be able to stop and change courses. I give myself permission, why not them? Nancy

    1. Reply


      “I give myself permission, why not them?” Oh yes, I agree entirely!

  2. Reply

    I do this all the time but I give myself a hard time about it. Maybe it is clean plate syndrome. I have struggled as a goal oriented person with my kids doing this too. Especially if a lot of money has been forked out.
    One of my sons is very impetuous and has great passions which wane quickly. Recently we have been talking about getting an electric guitar, a bearded dragon and a polaroid camera. All of which have waned, and now the guitar has waxed again. So who knows?!

    1. Reply


      Money complicates things, doesn’t it? Maybe we feel we should have a say because it’s our money we’ve invested in the activity. It feels like an expensive experience if our kids drop out. Then again, I’d hate my child to have to suffer through an activity just to keep me happy. They wouldn’t get much out of it if their heart isn’t in it.

      Perhaps we could buy secondhand or even rent some things until our kids are sure they want to persevere with an activity. Our local music shop has instruments to hire. I wonder if you could hire an electric guitar. I understand completely about guitars because we have a hardly used acoustic guitar sitting in the cupboard. My son was sure he wanted to learn to play it but soon lost interest!

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