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How are they gonna learn anything when they are stuck at school all day?

© Emma Lewis, October 2007
First published in The Mother

In 'A Budding Flower' TM #18 Shazzie writes "I also haven't got a clue how I'd teach Evie anything scientific, historical, geographical or mathematical because I don't know any of that". She echoes the sentiment of many parents, and I'd like to respond to it - thanking you, Shazzie, for raising this point.

Just as we have been trained to believe that we can no longer birth and nurture our children without state, 'expert' intervention, we also seem to no longer believe we can provide them with the basics they need for life.

The Job Description for 'home education' isn't a teaching, science or maths degree. It is simply the gifts we bring to our child at birth - love and commitment, and trust.

Trust your child. Trust them to uncover what they need to discover.

Trust yourself to provide the fertile ground - a basic, safe, secure, loving environment - in which learning can flourish.

Trust that the answers you don't know are within your grasp.

And embrace the journey of discovery home educating will take you on.

As with birthing, we need to let go of time restrictions, preconceived perceptions, conveyor-belt mentality, boxes and boundaries. We need to look within ourselves, listen to our hearts and our child/ren and find our (only expert) answers there. As with birthing, the responsibility is ultimately ours, whatever choices we make (or seem not to make).

We need to remember that we can only provide the fertile ground and nurturing for our 'seeds'. It is not our place to control the time and speed with which they grow. That belongs to the universe/God/dess. Just as we do. Just as our child/ren do.

We nurture our child/ren and hold the space for them to learn and grow and blossom for their first 3...4...5...6...7 years (depending on personal choices and country's guidelines) - why is it we somehow lose the belief in our ability to do so beyond those years?

If we can create a simple garden (or even, for tiny-space dwellers, help a flower grow in a pot); if we can prepare basic, wholesome food; if we can wander around castle ruins if only in our mind; if we can spin a globe and learn the names of places beyond our experience; if we can talk (or sign) to our child/ren; if we can still stop to smell the flowers or watch the insects scuttle by....then we are teaching them (rather, helping them to learn) not only the maths, science, geography and history they need, but putting it into the context of real life, and showing them that they are part of the 'whole'.

If we are prepared to include our child/ren fully in life and embrace truly living, we provide them with the greatest education of all, topped with copious quantities of love!

I write this as much for myself, as I am very, very aware of the flip-side Shazzie also high-lights. That is, it does "take a village to raise a child"...

My family [me, hubby and eight children] have recently 'jumped the ditch' from New Zealand to Australia. In New Zealand, after mainly 'home educating', we inadvertently stumbled across a very special, small (mainstream) school with mixed age classes, amazing teachers, a diverse group of parents who shared a real sense of community, and a very big heart. We loved it dearly - and it was really difficult to leave.

Now we are back to learning at home (although our 16 year old is at college). We are in a very different situation to previously. Before, when we learned 'at home' we were either travelling - an instant encyclopaedia - or living rurally, with beach, bush, and garden as a backdrop.

Now we have chosen a city (Melbourne) experience. One of the teachers at the local school here (which we looked at and discovered was way off the mark for us) expressed the usual concerns about 1) Socialization. This always drives me nuts, as there is nothing even vaguely sociable about putting 20 plus children roughly the same age together in a room for 20 plus hours a week! And 2) how our children would get educational opportunities if not at school: - The city has an overwhelming amount of exciting, varied, vibrant happenings, exhibitions and events. We could spend a week in the museum alone and still need to return for more! There's an Immigration Museum, where we're headed this weekend for a Bollywood exhibition (our four girls were learning classical Indian & Bollywood dance while in New Zealand), a Science Museum (which includes Maths-in-action), art galleries (one of which is currently displaying some of Picasso's original works), gardens...There are infinite resources in libraries, museums and via the internet (should we choose to use it) and we have access to a Tribal Beats Festival, and festival of Sri Lankan music and dance, and the Jewish museum is currently running an interactive exhibition of Maurice Sendak's work...to say nothing of the creek and trees and birds in the garden (and maybe even a platypus if we're very lucky). All this is free or minimal charge (we're on a tight budget). And this teacher wonders where we might find learning opportunities!!! I'm beginning to wonder where he finds his???!!

Currently, the village we are blessed with is scattered around the world, and as magical as it is, we could use some everyday, now-time, in-the-flesh sharing and support. So, one reason we are choosing to be in the city - apart from new adventures and experiences - is that we figured we might connect with more people trying to birth, parent, eat, live, learn consciously so that we can nurture ourselves socially too, and try to create our own little village.

SOME HELPFUL HINTS (I also need to keep reminding myself)

1) As in the title: - "How they gonna learn anything when they stuck in school all day"?

2) You'll realize you know a lot, lot more than you think you know - and you'll soon learn what you don't!

3) One day at a time: - counting to ten today is fine - rocket science is 15 years away!

4) Keep working on creating your village.

5) "A bad day at home is still better than a good day at school" - plus contains more love.

6) It takes sunshine AND RAIN to grow that beautiful flower!

I wish us all joyful learning and rich growing. May we all see the beauty and lessons everyone we meet brings to us, and also find our own villages amidst the bustle (city) or quiet (country). May our faith in ourselves be strong enough, our trust unwavering and confidence fed through many happy (and challenging) hours of learning at home - and out in the world!

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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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