Natural Learning, Simplicity and Survival
© Beverley Paine
What did you do today? Can you name the learning that occurred? Why not pick one incident and describe , in as much detail as you can, what happened, why it happened and what was learned - both intentionally and unintentionally.
I haven't met a child who wasn't hung up on control. The way I see it the need to control our environment and our reactions must be fundamental to survival. Human beings go to amazing extremes to control the environment, both social, spacial and temporal. Most of our behaviour is controlling in one way or another. Confidence and self-esteem seem to depend upon our ability to effectively control our path through each moment in life.
As well as driving our need to learn, this innate need to control also seems to be the one thing that can stop learning in it's tracks. The need to respond or act perfectly - to get it right first time - can act as a huge brake to even beginning the learning journey. I saw this happening all the time when my children were young, especially if they had an audience. Perfection is a hard task master and one that frustrates us as parents. We naturally want our children to do well, and encourage them gently, but often they won't even begin to 'have a go'. Their lack of confidence or their tardiness to 'do their best' worries us. We know they could better - more often than not we've seen them do better - and despair that they aren't progressing or performing as well as we think they could.
As a homeschooling mum I did my best - which wasn't never enough to satisfy my personal craving for perfection within - to stay focussed on our survival needs and not become obsessive about the many unnecessary distractions that grabbed our attention and usually diminished our sense of joy at being alive. My instincts told me that natural and simple living, and thus learning, was grounded by a focus on survival. I continually asked myself, "What do we need to survive?" I examined in detail the difference between our 'wants' and our 'needs' and chose to put our needs first. To do this I considered the needs of the living organism first: clean air, food, water; adequate shelter, safety and protection; social well-being. Anything beyond satisfying basic survival needs was a welcome luxury. I set educational priorities based on this premise. What I discovered was that by meeting my family's survival needs in a simple and basic way we were able to offer a natural and comprehensive education in a simple and satisfying way.
Ask yourself this question often: "What does a child really need to know and be able to do on the way to becoming an adult?" I found reminding myself to focus on what we consider to be the most important survival tasks each day very reassuring as a homeschooling parent. Most of my worries grew from the unnecessary complexity of life, the many and varied distractions that I dragged into our lives thinking that they were essential to growth and development, when in fact they were luxuries. We don't have time to do everything in life, so doesn't it make sense to concentrate on the skills and knowledge that we really do need?
When I look at how I go about surviving each day I'm appalled at the way simple survival tasks are masked by unnecessary complexity and distractions. It's as if, in order to justify my existence to those around me, I need to create busy-ness. I've become addicted to complexity! And when I consider how much my addiction costs the natural environment of our planet, or how it binds my time so that I can't play and laugh with my family and friends as much as I'd like, or help those less fortunate than myself, I cringe. It's time to develop a natural learning lifestyle that truly focuses on the basics, a simple sensible and meaningful life that is built on need rather than want and is created in the present for the present. Such a lifestyle is amazingly exciting and satisfying!
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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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