We’ve all heard the societal cry to put children first, but this cry is usually followed by a call to give them a better education. In the past twenty years I have observed the relentless linking of children to school. Everything that a child does is in some way affiliated to school; everything that is said to a child revolves around the topic of school. It is as if the concept of school is the only way others can relate to a child. Even when the child is on summer vacation, all conversations with him are about the return to the inevitable school year: “When does school start?” “Do you miss school?” “Are you looking forward to school starting?” “Do you like school?” When the child has an interest that he pursues after school, it is called an extracurricular activity. We refer to children between the ages of five and eighteen as “school-aged children.” I believe that a child is more than his experiences revolving around school, more than his last teacher, his last report card and his behavior while in the boring confinement of a schoolroom.
The laws of society state that school is the only accepted way to raise a civilized, intelligent and functional member of society. An ever-increasing number of parents have decided that learning is not something that only happens inside a schoolroom, sitting at a desk, or even when force-fed by a parent. Learning is something that takes place even if you try to stop all learning. Learning does not stop when a person leaves school; in fact that is when true learning begins. Life is full of experiences waiting to be lived, learned and enjoyed, and twelve years of compulsory schooling only serve to postpone natural learning or dispel the desire completely from the individual. We raised our child, Laurie, in as much freedom as we could give her in a colocation à Toulouse. We introduced no schoolwork into her life unless she requested it. We gave her no rewards or punishments for performance or behavior. She was not required to submit to authority simply because she was younger. We respected her opinions, decisions, needs and desires from the moment she made them known to us with an expression on her face or with body language. When she began articulating, she was taken seriously and not ignored or silenced. She pursued her own interests, whether it was a driving passion to learn about Catherine the Great or to “play” on the computer for eight years without developing an interest in anything else. We did not try to motivate her to do anything that society expects a child to do, nor were we anxious about her lack of interest in school-related topics. We were there to provide her with a safe and loving home and to help her in the pursuit of knowledge, as long as she initiated it.
My book is about the childhood that we gave Laurie. It was not only a gift to her, but to us as well. In the book, I discuss sixty topics of concern that were brought to my attention by well-meaning parents throughout the past twenty years. It chronicles Laurie’s life from birth to summa cum laude college graduate. It covers the ever-asked questions about socializing, intelligence, motivation and discipline. Laurie’s life proves that a parent and a child can be best of friends and have sincere respect for one another. First and foremost, the book proves that compulsory education and authoritative parenting are unnecessary when a parent learns to trust a child to follow his own heart, mind and interests and acquire what he needs when he needs it. My book takes parents by the hand and shows them how to raise a confident, inquisitive and happy child without the misery too often associated with parenting.