Natural Learning - Learning Centred on Human Survival within a Social Context (Culture)
© Beverley Paine
It's great to see so many people interested in learning naturally. Many of us have a general idea of what natural learning is in a homeschooling environment... mine is a little different from most.
I'm much more family/parent oriented than most in my definition and believe that natural learning is a natural extension of simply living. Because we live in social groups - primarily that of the family - all learning is social in nature, and children's learning is strongly centred on the family experience. As the child grows his or her social circle also grows and learning becomes centred on family within community, and then community within world.
I've never ascribed to the view that natural learning is child-centred learning, although I firmly believe that the child is central to his or her learning process. I prefer to think of learning as a social activity - children desire above all else to belong within a social group. This is an instinctive, survival need. It's our role as parents and care-givers (friends, siblings, relatives, even strangers) to provide a suitable social and personally meaningful context for the learner. We provide the scaffold on which the learners - our children - make sense of the learning opportunities they to themselves. Our role is mentor, guide, facilitator, researcher, guardian... We're teachers - but not in a school sense: parents are natural teachers, thus natural learning occurs at home! It isn't something we contrive or create consciously, it's something that simply happens.
Unschooling is educating a child outside of a classroom parameter, in a way different from school, and thus encompasses the idea of natural learning. As an unschooler I deliberately placed learning opportunities my children would not have if they'd followed their own interests. Many of these opportunities were not related to any direct need or interest of their own, or related to what I now consider to be their individual natural development. As their parents we made judgements about what was important to learn. Often we were influenced by what other people thought. I now believe a natural learning curriculum grows primarily from basic human survival needs that are nestled within a social context (culture).
To sum up, natural learning for us is centred on human survival within a social context (culture). It isn't child centred. It isn't curriculum centred. It's family centred, because family is at the heart of human society. Families don't survive in isolation, therefore natural learning is community based learning.
Beverley Paine is a mother of three young adults and a prolific writer of homeschooling articles. More articles and essays can be found in her books, available from the Always Learning Books online bookstore.
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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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Beverley Paine, The Educating Parent
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