Welcome to The Educating Parent Beverley Paine's archive of articles about homeschooling and unschooling written over a period of 30 plus years

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Frequently Asked Questions

© Beverley Paine, December 2008

Feeling Comfortable with Natural Learning

"I have noticed that my children are very confident doing lots of practical things, but writing and maths tends to lag. That's probably more the reason for my fears I guess... (I'd love to find some activity that they like that would cover writing and maths." Janna

Ahh, that is what I wanted for years too! Then I started to think about it. What is the point of education? Most people say it is to get a child ready for adult life, especially working adult life. So far, so good.

Okay, how many adults do you know that use reading, writing and arithmetic (beyond year 7 level!) every day, either at work or at home.

If you are a teacher, or worked as a teacher, okay, this doesn't apply to you. Maybe you work in an office, number or word crunching. Okay, you use numbers and words, maybe even spelling and grammar every day.

But is that the kind of job we want our children to aspire to? Is that what school education wants for our children? Is that why music and art are in the curriculum? Geography and history. Nuh uh.

Most people barely read anything beyond the paper work they have to. This means filling out forms, reading forms, reading the paper maybe. Some of us escape into fiction but most of us prefer the idiot box or a computer/video game.

We want our children to learn to read and write and calculate because it is SO important, but how many adults do they know who read, write and calculate all day every day?

I'm a writer and I write every day. I read for information (that's pleasure to me so I don't need to read fiction for pleasure). I calculate when I have a need to calculate, like most mothers do. Robin calculates when he needs to - usually when he's building something. Most of what we use - reading, writing and maths skills - are those we learned at primary school.

I suspect we would have learned them anyway, even if we hadn't gone to school, because we needed to. Most people learn these things - even kids in countries that don't have schools - if they are needed in order to get by each day. You learn what you need to. Sometimes it isn't a happy process. (that's another topic I get on my soapbox about - why does learning have to be fun all the time????)

As natural learners we can chill out about kids not doing maths and writing because doing maths and writing isn't done for itself - it is done - in the real world - as part of a real activity.

Why invent some activity to get the kids reading, writing and calculating, just to show they can read, write and calculate. Doesn't make sense.

As our children keep themselves busy it is our job to 'see' the maths, reading and writing skills that they are developing. Not to create activities that show them happening, or test their progress or whatever. We need to reassure ourselves by observing our children closely. And by identifying their needs so we can anticipate what materials they'll need next to keep the activities rolling along.

Knowing all this didn't stop me from worrying though.

I never stopped feeling those fears that we weren't doing enough to
educate our children - even after they had finished homeschooling and
were making their own way in the world! I think it is the plight of
parents all over the world to continue to worry... :-)

My offspring, however, feel quite differently about it. My sons often remark that they don't know why they know so much, especially in comparison to their peers. But more than that, they can do so much - their skills and abilities often astound much older adults who are used to young people who have been through school. The guys enthusiasm and 'give it a go' attitude seems much appreciated too.

One thing I have found with unschooled youngsters is that they can't generally be bribed or coaxed into doing things that they don't want to do. Motivation is a key factor in what they do and when they do it. But doing it well doesn't seem to be much of an issue at all!

It can take a long time to feel comfortable about natural learning, even when we feel passionately about it. It is going SO against the grain... but truly worth the effort!

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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

The information on this website is of a general nature only and is not intended as personal or professional advice. This site merges and incorporates 'Homeschool Australia' and 'Unschool Australia'.

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