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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Stop Talking Mum!

FAQ by Beverley Paine, Aut 2012

"Any tips on responding to a 6 year old girl whose frequent refrain is, "I already know that" or "I'm not listening/stop talking"? Obviously less talk, more choice, but there are times when I need her to listen!" Renee

Only talk to her when you definitely need her to listen and cut back chatter about other things to a minimum.

As home educators, especially in the first year or two, we tend to turn everything into a lesson. If our children have been to school they'll soon get sick of this - school is a lot quieter and not as busy!

We don't need to turn everything into a lesson, not for our children, we simply need to 'see' the lesson that is already embedded in everything. Children get it. They simply live and learn and they really don't need understand the need we adults have to make a fuss about either. 

As parents we learn to pick our battles. Same with home education. Pick the times you really need your child to listen as the times you definitely need to talk to her. What will happen is that you will gradually start to converse with your daughter - you with her and she with you. Conversation is very different to teaching, lecturing, talking 'at' people, etc. We learn so much from conversations but the minute someone starts talking at us our minds drift, we feel annoyed, we shut down, stop listening. Your daughter is telling you this. She doesn't want you to talk at her, she wants to have conversations.

My children rarely responded to their father's 'lessons'. He took more than a dozen years to deschool himself. It wasn't fair because it meant I got the lion's share of homeschooling - they simply didn't want to work with him!

Children know the difference between parent and teacher. They know when they want and need to be taught something educational and when they want and need to be taught something about life. They respond according to their need. If we mix things up and be teacher more than parent they'll soon let us know. I'm sure the same thing happens to teachers at school if they try to 'be' parents. Our children are smarter than that!

We're all natural learners - it underpins all education and learning regardless of the approach or method you chose. It's only when you try to teach or are being taught something that is out of kilter with your needs that things go astray. Doesn't matter if you are learning it via books or conversation or hands-on activities; in a sequence or spontaneously; as part of a constructed plan or simply responding to current stimuli. Meet the need and you'll do fine. Everyone will be happy. Identifying the need can be tricky some days as children don't always announce their needs - most often they aren't even aware of them. But we can help them help us by asking them. I find I still need to ask "what do you mean" because often what someone says or does isn't what they really want or need and if I answer or help without clarification they get cranky or we both get confused when my response doesn't meet expectations.

We don't need to jump into unschooling to be responsive to our children's needs. All we need to do is recognise that we're already exceptional at identifying and meeting their developmental needs: we've been doing that since their births! Education is simply another developmental need, no more important than any of the others. We've done well so far. There is no need to make education complicated or difficult. Because it really isn't. As with anything else, you start off small and simple, at the centre and work your way from there. The centre is your child, your child's needs, your needs, the needs of your family and community and society, in that order. The resources (tools) you chose to work with will reflect with and be responsive to these needs.

For me, being a home educator is allowing my child to learn in the way that suits their needs while I observe, take note, make notes, record and evaluate, plan and find resources to match and meet those developing needs. My role as a teacher is simply that and adds to my role as a parent.

Shanti wrote:

I remember doing the same thing myself when I first started our home ed journey, enthusing non-stop over every little thing to the point where my children were rolling eyes and stopping themselves from showing their excitement or interest in something in order to avoid my need to make a big lesson about it all.

Also, it's worth pointing out that as a 6 year old, especially if she is the only child or the youngest in the family, it must be frustrating and a bit of a downer to always feel as if everyone other than her has all the answers and knowledge. 

My advice, for what it's worth, would be to listen to the cues from your daughter - we always need to trust our kids to know what they need! She is saying please back off and let me 'know ' things of my own.  We tend to regard them like sponges that are soaking things up or jars that need filling up... but they are capable of finding their own interests and answers, even at six.

Give her the ownership for her own learning.  If you were to spend the next few months not structuring or organising her lessons, or seeking to explain everything she wonders about, but let her make her own discoveries and find out her own 'facts', what would it hurt in the long run? 

My son has made statements of fact based on his own research and careful considerations that were just plain wrong... but at age six or seven what did it matter?  Nine out of ten kids of that age think the sun 'goes down' in the evening and 'rises' in the morning - even to the point of saying it is going off to bed... a clear misconception, but so what?  As my son grew, and considered further and had more experience of life, his previous 'facts' were reviewed, and readjusted as required.  So he learnt critical thinking at a very young age, quite naturally!

As educators, it's natural to share our knowledge, and we love to help others - it feels good to solve a problem for someone! Maybe your daughter also is a born educator, and wants the opportunity to share her own knowledge too. People are so much better off if we let them find ways of solving things for themselves. Of course, you will need her attention many times a day, but as Beverley says, pick those moments that are most important and, at other times, let her have her own 'space' for reflection and consideration - important at any child's stage of development.

If I really want my children to suddenly find me fascinating, I only have to do any of the following:

  • pick up the phone and talk or text;
  • sit at the computer and begin to type;
  • run a bath for myself;
  • start reading a grown-up book;
  • make a lovely, hot tea;
  • start a conversation with a friend;
  • make food;
  • head out to the garden announcing that I need five minutes of peace! Guaranteed to get more 'helpers' than if I ask for a hand in the garden!

It may sound cynical, but it does work! 

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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

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