To Teach or Not to Teach!
As parents and home educators we use the word teach to describe a range of activities all the time. From an unschooling point of view we tend to avoid using it at all because most people think we're talking about what teachers in schools do... What we as unschoolers tend to do is help children meet their needs in this moment with whatever resources we can pull together to help serve that purpose.
Children are born learning. They simply get on with it. They don't need to learn to love learning or attach any emotion to the act of learning: emotions get attached as appropriate and to serve the purpose of learning in the moment. Why tell children learning must be experienced in this or that way? Why set up the expectation that it will be this or that? Fun, hard, tedious, exciting, etc? Just let them get on with what they naturally do, and help them if they ask or if help is obviously needed (and then only if the child is happy to accept the help).
There are things we want our children to know and be able to do and some people wonder how that is going to happen without teaching them... I tackled these things by creating an environment conducive to learning those things.
I'd visited a Montessori classroom when my eldest was five and liked how the children could access toys and activities that had been carefully thought through and constructed (and placed) to introduce and develop different skills and concepts.
Our house was littered with posters and labels with both pictures and words. It may have looked a little bit like a classroom but the way I saw it, my children were like a tourist in a foreign country: the pictures told my child what was in the cupboard, the word linked language to the item, and the purpose was to help my children become independent. Posters and lists of things that needed to be done were tacked to the wall, reminding us all. We made sure we picked a large format calendar each year - the calendar was an integral part of our home education recording regime.
Shelves with labelled trays and boxes containing books, puzzles, games, toys, art, craft and science materials lined the walls. We had a natural history table, with labelled items collected from play in the garden and from our walks. There was room for rock and stamp and other collections.
An important aspect of creating the environment was involving the children in our activities as well as getting involved in theirs. Working out ways to keep life moving smoothly - eradicating anything that caused stress - took time. I learned to work with the children's personalities and individual learning styles, rather than continue to assume they learn the same way I did, or the way I was taught at school.
My children moved through this carefully constructed environment without thinking that they were learning anything educational. My youngest son, in his late teens, pondered how he had learned to calculate mathematically, not able to remember being taught those skills. We both have a sense that his childhood was one of playing, doing the chores, helping mum and dad build the house and garden but mostly playing.
In the early years of home educating I saw myself as teacher and thought I needed to teach, worried, as many home educators are, that without being taught there are things that can't be learned. Thankfully my eldest gradually resisted my attempts at teaching and instead of doing what others advised - add more coercion and emotionally manipulate her to learn - I backed off, let her take the lead and show me a more efficient way.
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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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