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Isadora Duncan on Why Kids Need Unsupervised Time

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Read Time: 3 minutes

You might not know her name, but her influence is clear in today’s dance scene, from hip hop to Dancing with the Stars. Isadora Duncan is known as the mother of modern dance, and she credits her daring creativity to what some might call a free-range childhood in the 19th century. Yes, times have changed, but she recognized the connection between childhood freedom and the development of creativity in her own life and time. A little inspiration from the autobiography of Isadora Duncan, sent to us by movement therapist Barbara Chutroo!

I have to be thankful that when we were young my mother was poor. She could not afford servants or governesses for her children and it is to this fact that I owe the spontaneous life which I had to express as a child and never lost. 

My mother…was away from home all day and for many hours in the evening. When I would escape from the prison of school, I was free. I could wander alone by the sea and follow my own fantasies.  How I pity the children I see constantly attended by nurses and governesses, constantly protected and taken care of…What chance of life have they?  My mother was too busy to think of any dangers which might befall her children and, therefore, my two brothers and I were free to follow our own vagabond impulses, which sometimes led us into adventures which, had my mother known of them, would have driven her wild with anxiety. 

Fortunately, she was blissfully unconscious. I say fortunately for me, for it is certainly to this wild untrammeled life of my childhood that I owe the inspiration of the dance I created which was but the expression of freedom.

I can never remember suffering from our poverty at home where we took it as a matter of course.

When I was about six years. old, my mother came home one day and found that I had collected half a dozen babies of the neighborhood — all of them too young to walk — and had them sitting before me on the floor while I was teaching them to wave their arms…. I informed her that it was my school of the dance

Later on, little girls of the neighborhood came and their parents paid me a small sum to teach them. When I was ten years old, the classes were so large that I informed my mother that it was useless for me to go to school any more, as it was only a waste of time when I could be making money which I considered far more important.

Isadora Duncan 1

Okay — different times. But maybe you want your kid to start doing more on their own? Take the Let Grow Pledge of Independence and we’ll send you 10 simple ideas, one a week!

And if you’re looking for a wonderful graphic novel version of Isadora’s life, we must recommend Sabrina Jones’ “Isadora Duncan: A Graphic Biography.”

Isadora Book Cover


  1. DDale Phenicie says:

    Seeing the way kids are sheltered today inspired me to write a book about how we were allowed, and expected, to be out and about to interact with our community back when I grew up. Explore our lessons learned in “Be Home by Dark” available at Amazon prime members can read it for free.

  2. DDale Phenicie says:

    We kids of the 40s and 50s had great freedom, and were expected, to be out and about learning and gaining life skills. Seeing the way kids are sheltered today I wrote a book about how and what we learned from our independent interactions with our community not available to them to

  3. CCary says:

    “escape from the prison of school”

    Love it. So true.

  4. RRandy Rolfe says:

    Loved this piece. I knew of Duncan but didn’t know she attributed her creativity to her freedom in childhood. I was a product of lots of schooling through two advanced degrees, but decided to homeschool our children so that they would not have to spend 10 years unlearning all the things you don’t know you are learning at school, like my husband and I did. They were able to pursue their interests and learn all the skills they needed along the way and we had lots more time with them to know them, inspire them, and help and encourage them. I have written 3 books on parenting, among others, and included a piece on why we homeschooled. Thank you for your great posts and leadership in supporting parents to believe in their kids and let them grow.