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"Let Me Learn One Thing at a Time, Mum!"

by Beverley Paine, Sep 24, 2013

Are you paying attention, or is your mind racing onto the next thing?

The other day I was explaining my understanding of how electricity gets from our photovoltaic panels to the appliance using water as an analogy. It's an analogy I've been working on for some time as I struggle to understand a concept I find difficult because electricity isn't something I can see or touch. I concluded by saying that I wish my high school physics teacher been allowed to teach me at my pace in a way that met my particular learning needs, rather than as soon as a topic was covered move on to the next thing, giving me no time to consolidate what I had learned.

I'd no sooner said this than, in his excitement that I had finally 'got it', Robin took the opportunity to add information about electricity he thought would be helpful.

I patiently pointed out that he was doing exactly what my physics teacher had done: moved on to the next thing, failing to acknowledge where I was at, or giving me time to fully assimilate my insight about the nature of electricity. I was looking for affirmation I was on the right track so that I could continue to explore the analogy and help build a better understanding of our how alternative power system works.

I often have dual conversations about two different subjects at once and it confuses Robin. It is hard for me not to talk about learning at the same time I am learning about other things as I am passionate about learning. He'd rather not reflect on the process of learning, so it was natural for him to respond to the bit about electricity as I shared my insight, dismissing my comment about learning at school as irrelevant. It wasn't irrelevant to me though.

It's easy to get caught up in what is important to us as home educating parents and not focus on what our children are actually learning. Listening attentively is a skill and it requires us to be mindful of our need to communicate our thoughts and hold them in check while we process what is being said or done by others. Listening attentively is an essential element of effective communication. We know we've been heard and understood when others respond appropriately, reflecting back our comments and insights in context with some element of their own understanding or experience. This is how conversations are built. All too often though people talk at each other, not with each other. Perhaps this is one of those unintentional unwelcome habits derived from the way we were schooled: the receipt of a passive education where the teacher teaches and the student listens (hopefully learning). Or from being told over and again when young: "Children must be seen and not heard". Or perhaps it is simply an expression of ego-centric behaviour, "It's all about me, what I think."

It is easy to fall into that way of thinking as a home educating parent and to forget that we're engaging in a conversation with our children about the nature of their learning, not what we think they need to know, when and how. We can't ignore our needs in that respect but it isn't as important as we think it is: what is important is that we continually nurture our children's understanding of how they learn, what excites them and makes them curious to want to know more, and build and hone skills and abilities that will help them to achieve their objectives and goals or meet their needs. It isn't about us teaching them, it's about sharing learning experiences with them.

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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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