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10 Steps to Make Your Kids Smarter - an Unschooling Perspective

by Beverley Paine

On the Unschool Australia group we were asked: "What are your thoughts on these...

Summary: 10 Steps to Make Your Kids Smarter.

  1. Music Lessons
  2. The Dumb Jock Is A Myth
  3. Don't Read To Your Kids, Read With Them
  4. Sleep Deprivation Makes Kids Stupid
  5. IQ Isn't Worth Much Without Self-Discipline
  6. Learning Is An Active Process
  7. Treats Can Be a Good Thing - At The Right Time
  8. Happy Kids = Successful Kids
  9. Peer Group Matters
  10. Believe In Them

from How To Make Your Kids Smarter: 10 Steps Backed By Science "

First thought. Smarter? What does that actually mean? Is it relevant? Is it a goal I want to work towards where my children are concerned?

Yeah, of course I want my children to think critically, to use their intelligence, to solve problems, to be creative, etc. Who wouldn't? But smarter?

As an unschooler I'd be tempted to stop right there and not read the rest of the article.

Smarter is an old school word. Doesn't belong in my unschool vocab!

As such it's a comparative (competitive) word. Definitely doesn't belong in my vocabulary!

And 'make'? That's definitely not in the spirit of unschooling! Why would I want to 'make' my child anything? It's up to my child to grow and learn and develop and be the person he or she wants and needs to be, will be, etc. I can only provide a loving and nurturing environment - in the fullest sense of that word - for that child. That's my job as parent.

Here's my thoughts on the 10 headlines that followed:

1. Music Lessons

Immersion and see what happens. If the child is musically inclined he or she will pick up an instrument or use voice to make music. Otherwise appreciation and immersion will work okay to meet his or her needs.

2. The Dumb Jock Is A Myth

Arrrggggghhhhh! We deal with so much prejudice in life. Steer clear of stereotypes - not doing that definitely reduces the ability to think intelligently.

3. Don't Read To Your Kids, Read With Them

Read with them, to them, on your own, aloud to no one in particular. Just read. That works too.

4. Sleep Deprivation Makes Kids Stupid

Crikey! Enough with the insulting language already! Anything that adds stress to our bodies and life is going to make it harder for us to operate optimally. And I don't mean optimally to your standard or mine, just optimally for the learner, against his or her standard.

5. IQ Isn't Worth Much Without Self-Discipline

What's IQ? Isn't that an arbitrary measurement people use to judge each other? Or judge themselves? Self-discipline I get. Kids learn that naturally, especially if they have permission to work out their own limits, boundaries, what works for them, what doesn't, who they are, what they need - and don't have standards pushed on them for reasons and motivations they don't or can't understand.

6. Learning Is An Active Process

I guess some of us don't know that yet. Children, even tiny tots, instinctively know it and don't need to be told or reminded. What we adults need to do is get out of their way and stop stopping them from learning, thinking we know how it is done and how they learn best. They already do. We teach them how to distrust their learning process - that's what we need to stop doing.

7. Treats Can Be a Good Thing - At The Right Time 

Given that we all use treats, sure... but it's wise to question our motives for offering treats. Treats for fun makes sense. Treats for Johnny as a reward because Johnny was successfully manipulated to do something to please someone sucks. Silly and counter-productive. And what's this 'right time' concept? Focus on meeting the need - that's all that's necessary. Treats aren't, not really.

8. Happy Kids = Successful Kids 

a) I'm not obsessing about happiness any more. There are other things in life that matter more.

b) I'm not obsessing about successful any more. There are other things in life I value more.

9. Peer Group Matters

We are social animals. We want to belong. We're driven to belong by our natural instincts. Understanding and knowing the self is central to a happy social life. Children get to know themselves first - it's our job to help them do that before bombarding them with zillions of strangers to contend with. It's okay to be a protective parent, gently introducing our children to people we know will protect them and keep them safe. That's how we humans evolved. 

10. Believe In Them

It would be a rare and odd parent that didn't believe in his or children. The question here for me would be am I inadvertently projecting my desires onto my child? Am I willing to everyday of their lives let them go? Not want to control and manipulate every second and action to make sure they're going to turn out okay? Trust... Trust seems more important to me than belief. 


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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 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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