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Life learning changes our view of success

Life Learning Changes Our View of Success
By Wendy Priesnitz

Have you noticed that once you have realized that school is not necessary for an education, the way you look at the world changes? How you use space in your home, how you view learning as an adult, how you view Nature, the relative importance of various subjects (or, indeed, if the concept of subjects is even valid)...these things all look different through the lens of self-directed learning.

One of the other things that I think looks different from the perspective of life learners is success. I recently heard from someone who was questioning my articles about parents putting too much pressure on their kids to perform well academically and to be prepared for “success” in the adult world. What, he asked, is wrong with helping our children to achieve their potential? Nothing, I responded, unless our attitude is one of fear that they won’t, rather than trust that they will. Kids, you see, are hardwired to succeed with whatever task they have chosen – providing the choice is theirs.

Besides, emphasizing performance for one’s children often sidelines goals relating to family, love, community, having children, finding one's calling, being happy. Instead, it fosters anxiety and self-absorption. Do success-oriented parents really motivate their children or are they setting them up for failure? If success is defined by the parent and not the child, are the goals even relevant? Will these kids ever be able to meet – or be interested in meeting – the standards set by their parents? And if not, will they feel that they’ve failed rather than succeeded? And if they do meet those extrinsic goals, will they feel they’ve done their best or will they be locked into a never-ending pursuit of more and better? Will they turn into people who feel they are accepted only for what they have achieved, rather than for who they are?

Sure, we should want our children to do their best – to achieve their potential. And they will, if they are given the support, respect, and trust that they deserve. If we keep out of their way and let their own innate motivation (and our assistance when requested) guide them to heights we can’t even imagine, they will be truly successful.

Wendy Priesnitz is the editor of Life Learning Magazine. She is also the mother of two successful adult daughters who learned without school, has been an advocate of self-directed education for over 45 years, and is the author of 13 books.

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