Monday, 14 May 2012

Benign Neglect

Recently, a good friend of mine wrote a blog post on Benign Neglect in Positive Parenting.
This is something I feel fits completely with my philosophy on parenting but have to some extent struggled to implement. Though perhaps I am being a bit hard on myself there. My children do spend a lot of time doing nothing much (nothing much to the adult eye that is) - exploring our garden and playing outside, making up games, choosing and directing their own activities and experiences, and also helping me with the running of the house - washing, unloading the dishwasher, stripping the beds, polishing, etc if they choose (which they do).

What i have noticed is that some days, and certain times each day, it flows less smoothly. I can't get on with my own projects at all or make phone calls easily. I have gone through the whole "what am I doing wrong?" before my common sense kicked in and i realised that my children are veryv young still so I can't really set these kind of expectations, and also I have a 5.5 yr old articulate girlie girl and a 2.5 yr old boyish boy who speaks in telegraphese. At this stage they aren't ideal playmates.

Having said that they do find lots of common ground and play together a great deal. To be clear, I don't expect them to completely manage their own time, and I am talking here of 'benign neglect', not actual neglect. I know very clearly what my roles and responsibilities are when it comes to my children and have a grand plan or overview of what I expect their lives and education to look like over their childhood, broadly speaking. But I do think it is important to avoid micro managing our children and I find great delight in knowing that my children have a real childhood.

I am a great believer in play... and not the kind of structured, teacher led play that exists in schools (I can say this as a trained teacher) or even the kind of mummy-directed "let's play farms" type of play that we tend to do at home (I can say that as a mummy who does sometimes do such things) but real true free play. Sure, there is nothing wrong with suggesting ideas to your children sometimes (I do), or starting games. Its fun! But I feel allowing plenty of time for children to explore their world and learn at their own pace, through their own play is so important.

This is one of many reasons we chose to home educate, and one of many reasons I feel drawn to Waldorf or Steiner philosophy, particularly for the early years. Though we are eclectic in approach, and Unschoolers at heart, I really like the emphasis on development of the whole person over early (and unecessary) academics.

Anyway, I wanted to share a couple of links I found today. This Interesting article on free range kids and helicopter parenting and also this post on the Camp Creek Blog entitled Empty Hours.

I am hoping to write more about my approach to learning and home education here as it is something I feel passionately about and it is also my career a present. I am a wife, mother, home educator, home maker and creative spirit. I would love to share more about our life here.


  1. Loved Steve Biddulphs article on this very thing in the last Juno. It's so true that adults interfere too much in play and structure children's time and learning way too much. Long live wild play! X

  2. My days sound so like yours! Glad there are others out there who follow the same path.

  3. I think there is nothing nicer than the random little games children create for themselves! we are big on benign neglect in this house and I'm very fortunate that my 2 will play really happily together (basically Nate copies whatever Charlie is doing lol). I still seem to have the issue with making calls etc though - I have come to the conclusion my kids are happy to not have my full attention... so long as nothing else has that full attention either! So chatting to them while I sort the washing is fine, but me concentrating on chatting to someone on the phone isn't. I'm sure as they grow it will get easier though! We are slightly different in that charlie craves the academic as well as the play (though she doesnt see them as seperate at all - just as it should be I think!). She just uses the academics to enhancce her play (she will make a sign for her puppet shows or will write to me asking for a dancing dog and spend day after day pretending to be a dog trainer). It's why I love home ed - so much free time to truly play uninterupted!

  4. Thanks everyone for your comments. :)

  5. hi, thank you so much for the mention of my post. :)

    my site has moved to — just wanted to let you know!