Avoid the Smorgasbord Approach to Education!
© Beverley Paine
On the Learning Naturally online support group the question was asked: "Will my daughter miss out on knowing that she loves it too if we unschool?" The mother was worried that if she did not expose her daughter to a wide range of experiences, including contents and methodology found in traditional school curriculum, she would be doing her daughter a disservice.
It's an issue that all homeschoolers do battle with mentally. We want our children to learn what they need to know, but how do we know what they need to know?
I'm hooked on learning! But only those things that really interest me, those things I feel I am alive to learn. I have learned to trust that humans are natural life long learners and that if we get out of the way of the process it works brilliantly. There are ways we can enhance the process, but we need to tread carefully and be mindful of our motives, or we can inadvertantly make it harder - but that's another topic, for another article one day!
Kahil Gibran wrote eloquently about children being like arrows 'sent forth' - this poem has saved me on many occasions from worrying too much. We needn't worry if we strive to give our children a wide ranging liberal education with exposure to lots of interesting every day activities that are meaningful to our lives (in whatever way we make meaning - my children were exposed to my intense interest in the media, writing and publishing. In the same way I am now exposed to all things auto...!)
If it's your thing to study (formal academic learning) for example, you will naturally, without even trying, expose your daughter to this. She'll accept it as your thing. She'll take a passing interest and if it's her thing too she'll grab it with both hands and take it wherever she wants to go with it. She may not seem interested for years, but then surprise you in her late teens or early twenties...
Sometimes children will not engage if they feel there is an agenda - if they feel that they are supposed to do this or that, or if someone else does it so much better than they could. It's hard to get the balance right - it's easier to accept their judgement on what they can and can't do, or want to do.
There are some things our children want but don't really want. April always wanted a pony. We knew she wasn't the pony type of child. We offered her a motorbike because that we can fix ourselves - we couldn't afford vet bills. April read a lot of books, and a a too many books for girls romanticise the whole pony/horse thing... A horse is a huge responsibility and we made a judgement and decided that a pony wasn't going to happen for her. That's not to say she couldn't have made it happen herself - if she'd been determined we would have fully supported her, even at the age of eight. She wasn't persistent with her requests, didn't take an interest in horses much at all and we took our cue from her actions rather than her rare pleas for a horse.
I don't think natural learning is pandering to all of our children's passing interests, or exposing the children to anything and everything, particularly if this is based on the fear that if they don't get to try something they might miss out on 'the window of opportunity' and regret it forever...
Having a go, or introducing something different - 'strewing' it's been called - is one way we can check to see if our children are ready or interested. If they aren't we drop it, or introduce it in another form, if we're really keen on them having a go. Unschooled kids definitely seem to know their own minds and are usually bold enough to tell us parents to drop something if we're being pushy or not making sense. They are also generous enough to indulge us every now and then if we aren't too pushy.
What helps here is being an enthusiastic learner more than a provider of experiences. I learned along with my children. We learned new skills together. They always seemed to enjoy being with us when we were doing something intrinsically interesting.
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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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