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Are Teachers Necessary?

© Beverley Paine

Permeating our culture is the idea that in order to learn one must be taught. Is this necessarily true? I don't believe so. There are many clearly recognisable instances where learning by an individual has not been precipitated by the deliberate teaching of a skill or body of knowledge.

Doing the dishes today I listened to Thomas playing the piano. Many home educated children learn to play musical instruments. Most take lessons from more expert others. Not Thomas, or his brother and sister. The relationship they have with the piano is defined differently. They are not learning to play the piano as much as playing to learn the piano.

The teacher, if it can be called such, is a series of piano tutoring books. The children began at book one and progressed from there, selecting at will any piece of music that appealed to them, or could be played with the meagre skills they had accomplished so far. Another teacher the children use, probably more important than the carefully sequenced music books, is improvisation. This is real play, learning by doing.

Another teacher, and by far the most important, is their ability to listen carefully and pick out the notes and tones. This one works not only when the children are at the piano, but whenever they listen to music and song, or even ambient noise.

Thus they learn, without a human teacher in sight. In all but the use of the books these children are self guided. I know that when the time comes that they need challenging beyond the dry and static human etchings on paper, they will ask for help in finding a musician, to take their knowledge and skill that little bit further.

So it seems to me that there is never a need for a 'teacher' until that stage is reached. Until there is a conscious recognition for one and the accompanying drive or self motivation to find one.

Because of the nature of my children as self teachers I take from them the cue for intervention and involvement in their natural educational processes. This works superbly. I'm learning to let go of my need to control so closely their their education and learning processes. Challenging this accepted idea of the need for a human teacher to learn effectively has become a way of life for me.

I often find myself turning to an expert for help, advice, tutoring, long before I 'have a go' and 'play' with the task or learning at hand. I have forgotten to learn in the way nature intended, mostly because I was too well 'taught'. I blindly follow the perception widely held in our culture that to learn one must be taught. And so I reach out for teachers for my children; sports coaches, music teachers, spiritual advisers, art teachers; - people, places and materials. More often than not these teachers have an agenda of their own, completely unrelated to what my children need or want to learn in the immediate moment, and I watch as the children naturally compromise their ideas and lives to accommodate the teacher.

I know this is just part of social learning, and is also necessary, but I don't think it's something we need constant exposure too. It would be nice, though, to have the confidence within myself to delve into imaginative and playful learning without that need to seek a more knowledgable, expert teacher! And I try hard to encourage the retention of this natural ability I see exhibited in my children, and regret seeing it whittled away every year by the prevailing mentality of a culture too well taught in school.

By giving myself and my children time to learn in another way and documenting their progress I hope to encourage others to challenge the misconceptions about learning so prevalent in society.

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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.

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 supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since 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. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine

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