Children's Interests and Passions
by Beverley Paine, April 2015
Heading down the unschooling path we carry a lot of baggage. One piece of unhelpful luggage that we often take too long to let go of is our need for our children to have 'interests' or do 'activities' that we can identify as 'educational'. Unschooling is an attitude, a way of thinking about life and learning, rather than something we or our children do. We make assumptions that because our children aren't doing anything we identify as an interest or remotely 'educational' act ivity they aren't learning.
Learning happens on many levels. This learning on many levels happens at the same time. We're complex. Learning is complex. We may be sitting pushing matchbox cars around the carpet making doodling noises with our mouths while reflecting about a social interaction we had with a friend yesterday, feeling the hunger pangs growing in our bodies, at the same time becoming aware of the smell of toast and listening to our siblings laughing in the other room. What are we learning? Is it obvious to us, to an observer? Only if we share that we've decided that next time we're out and about and feel pressured to give away the small treasure we've just found we won't, we'll say no. A lot of what we learn in life is private. And that's okay.
As unschooling parents we worry if our children don't have interests or passions. I encourage parents to observe their children and value what their children are doing and sharing. I found that when I was most worried about this aspect of unschooling it was because I wasn't valuing what my children were actually doing - I didn't see it as 'educational' and was, without thinking, dismissing it. I had a list of interests in my head I thought were appropriate and suitable and wasn't tuning into what was actually interesting my children. When I started to see the minutae of life as interesting - as my children did - and the boring and mundane and silly repetitive things as interesting - I began to finally see the learning packed into all those moments. Well, some of it. Most of it is hidden, private.
What I wouldn't give to have the freedom (from my silly made up constraints) to watch Playschool all day. Watching my 3 year old granddaughter pay so much attention, following all the details, moving her little body, singing along and mouthing the words... I sit there entranced too, and want to sculpt and paste and paint and play. Why can't we? Because for some reason the dishes need to be done (hey, let's use paper plates next week eh?) And the dust on the floor? There is a dustpan full but I bet if I left it another few days there wouldn't be two dustpans full (I've actually done and measured this!) This week I have watched How to Train Your Dragon 4 times. Each time the little people sat still, entranced (except Delle had to jump up and dance to the love song in the middle). What are they learning? Something really important because they were paying attention. If you see your children paying attention observe and reflect because yup, they're probably learning something really important.
Unschoolers often find it difficult to translate unschooling life into edu-speak to fill out the paperwork and satisfy the requirements for yearly registration as home educators. I find that everyday life has enough 'educational' moments embedded within that can be cross referenced to the state/national curriculum. Sometimes it takes a while staring at a particular outcome to work out where and how my children already demonstra tes it - getting my head around the jargon definitely got easier the more I persevered with this. Rather than looking at what our children are doing and then trying to fit that within the authorities parameters, look at those statements and outcomes and translate them into what is already happening. And yes, consider the mundane stuff, the everyday bits of life we take for granted.
I'm 56 and feel that only in the last year or so am I truly starting to let go of that fear that I didn't do enough to help my children learn what they need to learn but it comes back strongly now and then. I've been working on it for decades... I am blessed to have the opportunity to allow my children to be my mentors (stubborn little things that they were) and blessed to have the wisdom (from who knows where) to pay attention to the lessons they were doing their best to impart to me! And they are still guiding and helping me learn these lessons and now I have four awesome grandchildren (and one still in incubation) to continue to challenge me to continue to grow and let go of that fear and bathe in the trust of unconditional love and acceptance. Doesn't matter where we're at, we're all imperfect and that's brilliant and awesome - if we were perfect we'd have nothing to learn and life would be ever so dull!
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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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