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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Natural Learning, Simplicity and Survival

© Beverley Paine

What did you do today? Can you name the learning that occurred? Why not pick one incident and describe , in as much detail as you can, what happened, why it happened and what was learned - both intentionally and unintentionally.

Learning excites me. I am learning all the time. Those that know me witness the buzz of joy I experience at learning. I especially enjoy not knowing before each moment what I'm going to learn in the next. That is what makes learning so exciting.

Most of the time though I have a fair idea. As a self-confessed control freak I like to plan and organise my life. I like to deliberately imbue each moment with 'lessons' to learn. They aren't the kind of lessons we experienced in school and learning for the sake of learning isn't a game I like to play. The kind of learning I line up for myself every day is grounded in contextual meaning: I learn because I need to. Along the way I learn far more than I could have ever planned or anticipated and in this way life is always full of surprise.

I haven't met a child who wasn't hung up on control. The way I see it the need to control our environment and our reactions must be fundamental to survival. Human beings go to amazing extremes to control the environment, both social, spacial and temporal. Most of our behaviour is controlling in one way or another. Confidence and self-esteem seem to depend upon our ability to effectively control our path through each moment in life.

As well as driving our need to learn, this innate need to control also seems to be the one thing that can stop learning in it's tracks. The need to respond or act perfectly - to get it right first time - can act as a huge brake to even beginning the learning journey. I saw this happening all the time when my children were young, especially if they had an audience. Perfection is a hard task master and one that frustrates us as parents. We naturally want our children to do well, and encourage them gently, but often they won't even begin to 'have a go'. Their lack of confidence or their tardiness to 'do their best' worries us. We know they could better - more often than not we've seen them do better - and despair that they aren't progressing or performing as well as we think they could.

As a homeschooling mum I did my best - which wasn't never enough to satisfy my personal craving for perfection within - to stay focussed on our survival needs and not become obsessive about the many unnecessary distractions that grabbed our attention and usually diminished our sense of joy at being alive. My instincts told me that natural and simple living, and thus learning, was grounded by a focus on survival. I continually asked myself, "What do we need to survive?" I examined in detail the difference between our 'wants' and our 'needs' and chose to put our needs first. To do this I considered the needs of the living organism first: clean air, food, water; adequate shelter, safety and protection; social well-being. Anything beyond satisfying basic survival needs was a welcome luxury. I set educational priorities based on this premise. What I discovered was that by meeting my family's survival needs in a simple and basic way we were able to offer a natural and comprehensive education in a simple and satisfying way.

Think about it: what actually happens when we scale back our homeschooling curricula and learning programs to the absolute daily essentials based on what human beings need to survive? Like me, you'll find it useful to make a list of what we really need to survive, and then analyse how you meet those needs in your everyday life. I like to find what I call the 'bottom line' and build up from there. Our 'shelter' is much more than we actually need to stay warm and dry, sheltered from the searing midday sun. As a result a lot more energy is required to maintain it. I kept asking myself, how can I simplify my life? When my children built cubby houses, trying to emulate the fabulous structure we live in, they hesitated because the complexity with which we surround ourselves is beyond their skill levels. It was important for me to talk about and show that human endeavour begins with basic survival and grows from there. Perfection isn't really necessary. Getting it right, making it look what others think it should look like, isn't as important as making it work the way you need it to work, no matter what the 'it' is in life. We went camping in a tent and lived without the luxuries we took for granted. We built simple shelters in the garden and on the beach. We made cubbies under the dining room table. What do we need right now became our mantra.

Ask yourself this question often: "What does a child really need to know and be able to do on the way to becoming an adult?" I found reminding myself to focus on what we consider to be the most important survival tasks each day very reassuring as a homeschooling parent. Most of my worries grew from the unnecessary complexity of life, the many and varied distractions that I dragged into our lives thinking that they were essential to growth and development, when in fact they were luxuries. We don't have time to do everything in life, so doesn't it make sense to concentrate on the skills and knowledge that we really do need?

When I look at how I go about surviving each day I'm appalled at the way simple survival tasks are masked by unnecessary complexity and distractions. It's as if, in order to justify my existence to those around me, I need to create busy-ness. I've become addicted to complexity! And when I consider how much my addiction costs the natural environment of our planet, or how it binds my time so that I can't play and laugh with my family and friends as much as I'd like, or help those less fortunate than myself, I cringe. It's time to develop a natural learning lifestyle that truly focuses on the basics, a simple sensible and meaningful life that is built on need rather than want and is created in the present for the present. Such a lifestyle is amazingly exciting and satisfying!

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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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I've been reading your stuff for maybe 8 years or more now.
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Welcome to the World of Home Education
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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'.

The Educating Parent acknowledges the Traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Owners, the Custodians of Australia, and pay our respects to Elders past and present and extend that respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people viewing this website.

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