What is Natural Learning?
by Beverley Paine, Nov 1999
What a question! This comes up frequently and is very difficult to pin down. Everyone seems to have a different definition, and some people seem to confuse it with good old fashioned permissive parenting and 'un-Godliness' - totally ignorant and perhaps biased approach!
I am a tad radical in my interpretation, because we have decided that here at home we don't practice 'education' per se any more. I think education, the way it is defined and practised in the world could be better called 'interference' in the learning process. Or another word I have seen used is coercion, the pushing onto others a set of educational values, knowledge and skills preferred by a dominant group or individual.
I've watched my children learn over nineteen years. We've practised 'school at home', using carefully planned learning programs, as illustrated in my book Getting Started with Home Schooling; Practical Considerations. It is simply loaded with examples of our home learning life over a dozen years. Whilst homeschooling I studied early childhood education by distance education at university, and the children and I did a stint in the classroom for a couple of years, with me there all the time, next to the kids, watching school education at work and participating in the process.
Throughout all this my children were learning, quietly, naturally, in spite of all the 'interference' we chucked at them in the name of education! The problem with 'education' is that it often gets in the way of something far more important - when I 'educate' my children I push my own agenda onto them, usually fed by my own paranoia generated by my own generation or my parents... definitely not my children's generation.
So natural learning for me is based firmly on observation of my children - what their needs are, nestled within the needs of our family and the needs of the society and community we live in. We respond to those needs and to the various elements and interactions and interdependencies between them that arise as a result. Because ours is a learning journey built from the centre out, from a family focus as well as the child's, it is different from a regime of learning imposed from outside the family, that is, the application of a curriculum determined by a bunch of strangers!
Natural learning is not much different from simply living. It isn't an educational style or approach at all. It is recognising that life is full of learning and once you recognise this you can capitalise on any aspect of life as a learning opportunity rather than filling life up with other people's ideas of what learning is or should be. It is truly a personal 'education'. And over the years I have noticed how wonderfully it serves not only the individual, but also the family and the community. It takes a leap faith, a great step of trust in your children's innate ability to continue learning in each moment of each day, to launch into learning naturally and to abandon inefficient learning models of education - but it is well worth the effort!
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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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