Guest post: life learning with our children

Kristin from Joyous Learning writes on home learning with her son for the Natural Parenting blog carnival. You can see more of Kristin’s work, and meet lots of other Natural Learners at the Australian Natural Learners’ forums.

Welcome to the September Carnival of Natural Parenting: We’re all home schoolers

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how their children learn at home as a natural part of their day. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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I am the mother of a six year old unschooled child. I am frequently asked to justify how and why I came to the decision that school was not the best choice for my son.

Contrary to the “prevention is better than cure” theory, over time I’ve come to believe that things are generally fine on their own, and intervention is only required to prevent or correct a problem. In light of this belief, I look at my child, who is growing and learning, gaining skills, and practising the art of relationships at home, and wonder why a change would be necessary just because he has turned five. When you think about it, we have always been natural learners! My son learned to crawl, walk, point, and talk without a curriculum. Babies and children are programmed to want to learn. They seek out opportunities to acquire and practice new skills. I don’t feel that there is an arbitrary point at which informal learning becomes inadequate. If school is preparation for life, is there any risk in skipping school and just cutting straight to the life bit?

Our lives are richly blessed with resources and opportunities. We participate in our local community, and with homeschooling and unschooling families around the country, through the Joyous Learning forum. Everything that we need, from learning opportunities, to networking, to social activities, already exists in our community. Tapping into this community provides a rich resource for informal learning.

Learning at home and in the community is something which brings our lives together, rather than unnaturally separating parts of our lives. Work and play are one and the same for small children, and participating in adult work is often far more interesting than “pretend” activities for my son. I have observed that, given the choice, my son would rather be with me, building something with a real hammer, than playing with a toy hammer. He can gain and master his hammering skills, I have an opportunity to interact with him in a positive way, we can work together as a team, and he’s actually pretty helpful in a lot of ways! My work and his play are one and the same. Life is learning, learning is life.

Being at home together also gives us both the opportunity to pursue our own interests. The focus is on each of us as individual people, rather than my world revolving around him. I would like him to have an appreciation that there is more to me than just being his mum, and that I am a person too. I hope that his witnessing my pursuits gives him some appreciation of how adults continue to grow and learn throughout their lifespan, once again demonstrating the overlap between work and play. This also gives him the opportunity to learn from other adults around him, as he has more access to adults than schooled children do. The idea of having adults in his life who become his friends and mentors in time is very appealing to me, as I do not profess to be the font of all knowledge.

It is virtually impossible to stop children from learning. It’s hard-wired into their DNA to be curious, inquisitive, natural learners. The main thing I need to remember is to keep out of his way and let him do it.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated September 14 with all the carnival links.)

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24 Responses to Guest post: life learning with our children

  1. I really love your post and the point you make. Children really do want to learn, and it doesn’t have to be drilled into them — in fact, too much trying to make them learn seems to have the opposite effect!

    I’ve noticed the same thing with real tools vs. toy tools, too. My son’s the same way, where he’d rather have the real, working model. In fact, we’re seriously paring down our toy collection because of that!

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  4. Kristin says:

    Thanks Lauren :) I think it’s a pretty common theme in a lot of home learning households.

  5. Mamapoekie says:

    What a beautiful attitude to your child’s learning attitude. I love the remark about pretend play, gives me something to think about.
    My daughter has just hit the school-age mark too, but for us that’s way earlier (2,5y) as that’s when belgian kids become schooled. I wrote about it a while back
    http://www.authenticparenting.info/2010/05/magical-treshold-of-school-age.html

    I think we are lucky that we have discovered unschooling before our child started the schooling system

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  8. It always makes me sad when I hear/read parents arguing against the idea that children are naturally driven to learn. They just don’t understand that schools/adults can kill that love of learning if they stifle children’s natural rhythms and interests! Think of what society would be like if children’s natural inquistiveness were nurtured instead of stifled by structure!

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  11. Love the comment about using real tools and helping with real work versus toy versions — I try to do this but know I could incorporate it into our day more! I also really agree with how important it is for kids see their parents following interests, learning and being creative — not always related to parenting or revolving around the child. Great ideas & thoughts — thanks!

  12. Jennifer says:

    I love seeing the drive to learn in action. I hadn’t thought about that “arbitrary point” before, and can see how it is a ridiculous idea that children all of a sudden stop wanting to learn unless we make them.

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  15. Summer says:

    “It is virtually impossible to stop children from learning. It’s hard-wired into their DNA to be curious, inquisitive, natural learners.”

    That right there! Children are so eager to learn, to absorb everything they can. We should just let them. :)

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  17. Kristin says:

    Thankyou for your feedback, everyone!

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  22. I must say, my little girl is only 11 months, but she too prefers the real thing. I gave her an old mobile phone and she wasn’t interested, brought out my old laptop, not interested, gave her a broken remote control, no thank you! She wants the one that works. Of course we don’t fill her life with electronics, but even with toys – she would rather play with a pair of shoes and fit things inside it than play with a toy designed for that purpose.

    Great post. I really enjoyed reading it!

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