What do Children Need More: Structure or Freedom?

“You’ve been out all day”, my well-meaning neighbor said. “I guess the kids have to get to work now.” “They were done before we left”, I replied. “They homeschool from 8am until noon.” “Well you need to give them something to do this afternoon she replied.” “They need structure. Structure is good for kids.” “Actually, I said, they get structure in the morning, I like to keep our afternoons as unstructured as possible.” I replied. My son would have never become as good as he is at computer programming if he did not have time to explore, and My daughter would not have become such an avid reader”. “Oh”, she replied, and changed the subject.

I love my neighbor, I really do. She is very sweet and treats me as if I am one of her kids. That is why I let her get away with saying ridiculous things like that to me. Besides my conversations with her are good blog-fodder. So, what do children need more? Structure or Freedom?


Kristen Crow wrote:

Setting limits for your son or daughter provides structure, which ultimately makes your child feel safe. Despite what they say with a sniffle and a whine, children crave structure and routine. When there’s chaos in their world, it’s hard to claim any sense of control. And that’s stressful, which creates more chaos.

Fran Hopkins wrote:

My son and I have been trying an “eclectic” approach to homeschooling, but it hasn’t been working particularly well for either of us

So she was enrolling him in a high school independent study program as they both came to the conclusion that

we both need something with more structure.

Therefore, we see here that structure is a good thing, and I do believe it is necessary… especially for babies and children with special needs. As a child grows and matures, I believe they earn the privilege of freedom.


Valerie Nelson quotes Dr. Kimmel in saying:

Dr. Kimmell pointed out that Grace based families are homes where children are given the A. Freedom to be different B. Freedom to be vulnerable C. Freedom to be candid D. Freedom to make mistakes.

Teresa McEntire Wrote:

Good judgment is the ability to make good choices or decisions. A valuable skill that many children do not learn. Parents can help teach their child good judgment by letting them make choices at a young age and then continuing this practice. Allowing your child more freedom in decision making as they mature. Talk about the consequences of certain decisions and share your opinion. Then let your child decide. Even if their choice isn’t what you would want they need to learn to accept the consequences of their decisions


Freedom is also important as too much structure can hold a child back from reaching, or even discovering their own passions, so as a child gets older, I feel that there should be less structure, and more freedom. This should be done gradually and imperceptivity. It is important to maintain a delicate balance between the two.


Nicki Bradley Wrote:

Some children really prefer structure and routine but deschooling will provide you both with some creative tools to make learning, even with structure, a more personalized and tailored experience.

In homeschooling or even deschooling (which Nicki Bradley describes as taking time to break away from habits of school and finding your own way) the balance between structure and freedom is terribly important. I personally have experimented in this area. When I sit back, watch, and see what my kids will do on their own, I find that one child only does math, and the other only reads. While this works for many, and eventually, as unschoolers have shown, the child’s interests will eventually have them explore practically everything; I find that more structure will cause less short-term educational holes. When I have applied too much structure however, my children cease to want to learn anything at all. Everything is forced and painful.

This is why I stood my ground and let my neighbor know that what she saw as a lack of structure in my kid’s homeschooling program was actually quite planned, on my part.