A Permaculture Approach to thinking about Natural Learning
Home education advocate and school reformer the late John Holt said 'learning is as natural as breathing'.
He urged us to trust our natural learning abilities and those of our children.
As consciously-aware parents you have already decided to take personal responsibility for decisions and actions regarding the in-utero life of your unborn child, the birthing process, what he or she experiences in those first few months and early years of life.
You make deliberate planned decisions based on thoughtful and careful reflection of what you observe and information you seek and receive.
Your focus is firmly on the health, well being and happiness of your child.
But this isn't done in an isolated individualistic mindset - you acknowledge that you are a part of a supportive community that is part of a wonderful human ecosystem that needs to live in balance with all other living things on our abundant planet.
The health, well being and happiness of your child depend on your choices and you choose, as far as possible, to live in harmony with nature.
This is natural learning in action. It is us being responsive to nature - to the nature within us - and recognising that nature evolves and changes - that it is essentially a learning process.
When something isn't working, when things get tough or don't go our way, we call it conflict. Permaculture celebrates conflict as the edge effect - where individual elements jostle for space to survive and thrive. Everything wants to grow and this process can't happen without change. At this edge all sorts of things happen, some unplanned, some unwanted, some unexpected. It is an area of amazing activity and abundance and excitement - life is finding a way - and it is happening now, in this moment. Often new solutions are forged, or innovation happens, especially if we are open to change and value the processes involved. Thinking permaculturally helped me to challenge and expand my view of conflict as a positive and constructive force. It is too easy for us to dwell on the negative aspects of such forces and use them as excuses to stay within our comfort zones.
Learning can't happen without some kind of conflict. We are usually reluctant to let go of old beliefs and knowledge and demand proof and evidence. Even then we check over the facts and test them before we adopt them. This reluctance is evidence of the edge effect.
It isn't easy learning new skills. It often involves risk. The risk of failure looms large. Mistakes are a large part of what we call experience: those of us with more experience are those of us who have made more mistakes and recognised and used them as learning experiences.
Everything I have learned, especially about learning, is because I have chosen to consciously parent my children. When something wasn't working I questioned why, rather than continue to try to force something that was clearly showing resistance to do what I wanted or thought I needed. But it wasn't until I learned about the edge effect that I began to understand the purpose of that resistance and why it needs to be celebrated. Once I began celebrating conflict life as a parent got a lot easier!
Permaculture teaches us to work with the energy flows, to use them to our advantage to build abundance into our experiences and lives. Seen in this light resistance is a gift: it tells us that there is a bounty to be gained by harnessing the energy at work. Our resistance to change can be harnessed to drive that change. But to do that we need to know something about the elements we are working with, which is where aware and conscious parenting comes in.
By observing our children closely, by getting to know them as people, work to understand and have empathy for their intrinsic characteristics and developing personality, we can learn to recognise and identify their needs.
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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active support of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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