Friday, 30 September 2016

Unschooling/Delight Directed Learning or NATURAL LEARNING

This means different things to different families, but basically these families do not used a pre-packaged curriculum, and they steer away from workbooks/textbooks, timetables, schedules, forced learning etc. This definitely works for some families, but is hard for those who have not experienced the success of it first hand to actually believe.  And this is the lifestyle that receives most criticism.

Our family have chosen what we call a “Natural Learning” lifestyle (this is no surprise to you if you've been following my blog or my Adventures In Natural Learning books!!) 

For us, natural learning means mainly unschooling/delight directed learning. Much learning is informal, but if one of our children want a workbook to go through from time to time then that’s fine with us - if it is natural for a child, then it works.

We provide many resources to be picked up and put down as appropriate. We “strew the path” (to quote Sandra Dodd) with interesting things and experiences and the children learn from these if they are ready/interested. 

This photograph (which is in the Adventures In Natural Learning:  Handbook)  taken a few years ago shows one of our older sons with his best friend on the top of a mountain where they both love to be!

A neuro-typical child learns to walk when they are ready, talk when they are ready and read when they are ready. If we build a relationship of love and respect with our children it is rewarding to see their love of learning grow deeper all the time.

Something that “traditionally educated” people may find odd is that many home educating families do not put various subjects into into separate “containers” (maths and geography can be easily found in history for example), and the learning is often very “deep” for a child due to the high level of interest in various topics. Also learning does not only take place between 9am and 3pm – 5 days a week with holidays off. The learning is exciting and constant: the games, reading, figuring out – it goes on all the time, and most home educated children delight in the increase of knowledge. 

 This aligns with how learning takes place naturally in an unobstructed life.

In its early days the Adventures In Natural Learning: Seasonal Journal was just a book full of sketchy notes taken from other educational systems and curricula, game books and other resources, interspersed with our own ideas.  I worked on it for several years, and then at the beginning of 2016 I started to get it into some sort of neat order.   I'm  so pleased it has been published now, for my own benefit and for the families who have bought it and are enjoying it!

I would hate for the Seasonal Journal to become a chore for a child to pick up and work on.  If a parent senses that it has become stale or boring, then perhaps THEY can keep the journal going in a skeleton form so there is still something there in the book for the child to look back on in the next year. 

When a child isn't interested in a topic, but I feel that they could be interested I will often start a project myself.  When they see me enjoying it they might become involved, but if not then there’s no pressure. Because of the lack of pressure they often pick up far more information than if they were forced to join in. I learned very early on that each child has their own way of being able to learn and retain information. Some need to bounce or move constantly when thinking or listening, others need to fiddle with things, others ask questions constantly, some are silent, some require NO DISTRACTIONS!!

Some families use what they call a “bus stop” system where they learn something together - with children of different stages, as is common in most families - and those who lose interest can “get off the bus” and go and do something else whilst the older ones (or those who are still interested) stay with the topic, delving further, or making an activity based on the topic.

It helps for the parent to keep in mind what the children show an interest in, and find more resources and present them to the child in a casual way.  Just recently one of our children became interested in knights and castles. I had a couple of fiction books suitable which were read and enjoyed, and then the learning went quite naturally for him into swords, knives and other weapons. We looked at the armour knights wore, watched a BBC documentary series about building a castle, he drew pictures, coloured pictures, played with the Playmobil re-creating parts of the story “Page Boy of Camelot”. We never “left” the subject, it is just dormant for a while and will come back up quite naturally when he’s ready to go further.

There is a very real danger of "killing" a subject by taking it further than the child is interested.  Keep the lines of communication open and watch where their interest is going.

High goals and low expectations often create a very healthy learning environment where the children thrive and enjoy life and learning. We have never given the children formal tests, it isn’t necessary. We’ve seen many times over that when home educated children who have been untested as children come across necessary tests (drivers licensing, entry exams for certain courses etc) in the adult world they do very well. I’ve recently seen a quote saying “Thinking that you can make children more intelligent by giving them tests is like thinking that you can make them grow taller by measuring them.” 

I hope you've enjoyed this wee chat about natural learning.  Of course, I could go on for hours, but I shall stop now.  


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