Learning is not something we are “taught” to do. It is innate, an instinctive desire to discover new things and understand how the world works.It is what makes childhood so infinite and innocent. Children learn naturally from every day situations. For example, a child who watches an adult count money or measure ingredients will also learn to do so. He may be puzzled by what the adult is doing and want to participate, and he will begin to observe, ask questions and calculate in his head- and in the process will learn the basics of maths.
A child may not learn to read for a long time, preferring to be read to, enjoying her parents voice and remembering the words used in a story; even though she cannot read them yet. When she decides she wants to be able to read something herself, or to write something, she will actively try to recognise words and decipher letters on paper, road signs and cereal packets. I love this article about how one little girl taught herself to read and write.
You do not need a degree in education to teach your children.A lot of what teacher training is today is merely classroom management, lesson plans and how to control 30 distracted children. Mankind has been learning for thousands of years, long before schools were invented. People learn by experiencing, copying and doing.
YOU know your child’s strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes, fears, achievements. YOU discipline your child, feed him, clothe him and lie awake at night worrying and dreaming for him. Why give the most important and enjoyable part, his learning, away to somebody else? Why hand her education over to a complete stranger who has 29 other kids to deal with?
A homeschooling/unschooling parent’s job is not necessarily to re-create a school environment within the home, complete with blackboard and timetable. To enable a child to learn, a parent must facilitate that learning, creating an environment that welcomes curiosity, in which questions are asked, books are read, and all interests are able to be explored and discussed. An environment which allows you to sit up with your child until 11pm and discuss WW2, or the human body, or why the sky is blue, if that is what he or she is interested in at that moment. Parents can pass on the knowldege they have, at the same time and can research with the child the knowledge they do not possess, creating a bond and mutual respect. This quote by Hope Nilges in the article “What Do Unschoolers Do All Day? Nine Ways To Facilitate Your Child’s Learning” in Life Learning Magazine explains the simplicity of learning beautifully: “Children learn to talk because others talk to and around them. They learn to walk because there are things around them to grasp and hold on to. We don’t talk to our children or put out coffee tables specifically so they will learn these things but we’ve still played a role in facilitating their learning. Life learners can extend this natural facilitation into the rest of their lives in a variety of ways.”
Children possess a desire to learn- it is only in a traditional school environment that they have to be forced to do so. John Holt believed that children look to please and fit in with the people around them. I agree. When my sister was two, she would fuss around my feet as I was preparing a meal, pulling at my clothes and crying to be lifted up. Of course, she wanted to know what was going on up there on the far away counter top. One day, instead of trying to distract her with something else, I stood her on a chair at the worktop and handed her a pile of mushrooms and a butter knife. She was thrilled to be involved, and I could tell she felt content because she was being respected and trusted with a “grown up” job. She was proud at being able to help me. And no, she did not cut herself or ruin the meal. She is now four and helps me with all the cooking, including standing at the hot stove. I never try to take over what she is doing or correct her in any way, because who cares if there is a bit of a mess in the kitchen? Children are capable of more than adults give them credit for.
Schools skim over the surface of history, science and georgraphy. By learning at home, a child can delve deeper into the subject matter, following other leads that take him into entirely different areas. He may be studying a certain period of history when his interest is sparked by a certain person that lived at that time. He may want to read more about that person, about what he or she did and how he or she lived, which could lead to studying what people wore or ate in that era, and then maybe an attempt at making similar clothes or cooking smilar foods. There is no limit to this kind of discovery, except in schools.
Each child learns differently, yet schools have no choice but to jam square pegs into round holes, because they simply don’t have the time to cater to the individual needs of each child. A child must learn as fast or as slow as the others, or not at all. When learning at home, a child is able to learn at his own pace, be that faster or slower than the children who go to school. He is neither left behind nor made to sit and do “busy work” while waiting for the others to catch up. You will be able to answer (or atleast try!) her hundreds of wonderfully pertinent questions and wonder where on earth she gets them from!
Many parents worry that if they take their children out of school and leave them to learn by themselves, they will sleep all day or waste time playing video games. Sometimes this happens, because children need a period of “deschooling” to come to terms with the fact that they are free. They may want to spend time doing all the things they weren’t able to do while in school all day, before they recover their curiosity and explore other things. You child may draw or bake for an entire year before doing any “real work”. But he will still learn a lot (and become incredibly good at drawing and baking in the process!) I doubt I would have been so comitted to my homeschool course had I not had the time to relax and deschool first.
This post is becoming ridiculously long, but what I mean by it is, the world is a classroom, literally. It is full of people ready to share their experiences, tell stories and pass on knowledge. It is full of places bursting with information such as libraries, museums and the internet, venues to visit like the beach, the zoo, the theatre or the firestation, and activities to be involved in like sports, church, an unimaginable selection of “after school” clubs and even classes at the local community college.
Learning is everywhere. It does not need to be confined to the four walls of a school, led by a stranger.