Saturday, 26 November 2016
Playing games is an AMAZING way to learn.
If you've been following my blog, or my Facebook Page (Adventures In Natural Learning) you'll know that I want everyone to realise the benefits of play for children (and adults!).
At the front of my Adventures In Natural Learning: Handbook I've said:
'I haven't listed each skill covered by the various activities - that is totally unnecessary in a natural learning environment, and can so often limit spontaneous and joyful learning. Separating skills and forecasting goals and objects is an institutional way of thinking.'
I'll come back to this in a minute.
Just recently, due to some online and some real-life discussions, I've been thinking a lot about the "de-schooling" period that many children need/require/crave when they are taken out of school, and into a home education environment.
It's true that parents also need a "de-schooling" period. And, it's patently obvious, when looking at society in general, that many adults who went to school EVEN WHEN THEY REALISED THEN/REALISE NOW THE SYSTEM IS FLAWED still hold to those same methods of "education" as being the right way to educate a child.
This can be a huge problem when a parent wants to home educate, but they are still ... can I say 'brainwashed' ... into thinking that the national curriculum, and the methods used by regular schooling are the best, the right and the only way to educate.
Many parents,who start out home educating using regular school as their model (even when they say 'We're going to do it our way, our own timetable, have a blast, a fun life, our rules ...) well, even with good intentions many parents have found, over time even as their education methods have relaxed and their lives become more education-rich in a natural way - they still have a nagging thought that they're not doing 'enough'.
This can come from three main sources. One is comparing themselves to other families. DON'T. Just Don't Do That. Ok?
The second is not quite comparing, but seeing all the cool 'educational resources' that their friends 'like' on Facebook, or special offers that mysteriously enter their FB feed from curriculum companies ... and the feeling that perhaps they're letting their children down by not providing these wonderful resources. Or the feeling that actually - yes - they are making things harder for themselves by having such a haphazard way of educating their children, and surely it would be less chaotic, more streamlined and successful if there were some sort of method or path mapped out by an educational professional who obviously knew what they were doing.
The third nagging-doubt-maker comes from a parent remembering days and days of handwriting, filling in worksheets, reading text books, covering multitudes of maths concepts, report cards at the end of term, copying from the blackboard (I was at school prior to the whiteboard era!), having to give reports in front of the class, busywork, pretend tests for the up-and-coming tests, 'what I did in the holidays' ... Well, that is what education looks like. Isn't it?
These doubts may not be at the front of their mind when the sun shines, the washing is up to date, all beds made with clean sheets, vacuuming all done, the children are playing co-operatively, days are free and easy, everyone is smiling and laughing and happy, the children are playing imaginative games full of enquiry, freely theorizing and naturally separating fallacies, fact, and opinion, being kind to one another, dazzling your visitors with home-grown general knowledge, wonderful manners and sparkling conversation skills, the fridge is full of healthy food, there is baking in the tins, and there is a general feeling of bliss.
Then there are the other days ... and the doubts creep in.
"We're not doing enough."
"Ok, I read all about play being good for children, but at what age does that stop?"
"Sure - they can learn stuff when they play, but it's really limited."
And now I return, finally, to my original thoughts.
The way most of us have been educated is just one way.
It might not have been the right way for you. It might not the be the right way for your children.
And if you want another way - you can PLAY. At any age!!
It's true, I haven't listed each skill a child can learn playing various games in my book. But just as an example look at the game below:
I could list skills such as: following instructions; listening; standing still; being aware of someone else's space; IMPULSE CONTROL (not shouting out the answer); learning to not be disappointed when YOU know the answer but the person chosen doesn't know; staying quiet; remaining standing; waiting for your turn; thinking of the answer and holding onto that thought (hard for some children); being graceful toward a sibling; respectfully disagreeing if you feel you are right; not being braggy or arrogant if you keep getting the answers right; accepting when the game is finished; and then there is the actual answering of the questions.
If a parent thinks it would be too challenging thinking of questions for this game then quickly write some ideas on the book. Things like:
RELATIONSHIPS (Who is nana's son's wife's daughter?)
TIME (What two days make up the weekend/what is the fourth month of the year/what time is 14 hundred hours?)
GEOGRAPHICAL (Name one country on the border of Germany/name one of the major oceans/what is one of the longest rivers in the world?)
etc etc etc
If a parent doesn't have the confidence to think of questions on-the-spot then maybe print out a list of general knowledge questions similar to this and put it in the Handbook. (NB like all new things, it's a learning curve for a parent, and may take a bit of getting used to but it's worth it. Quite a few children LOVE being asked questions in a non-threatening, non-embarasing environment. Also, NB if you print out questions be sure to look through them first, it is rare that I find a list of GOOD questions - I can often see areas where the children would disagree with the "right" answer, or questions on subjects that we have no interest in right now!).
I was recently on holiday (first holiday in 10 years!!!!) with my Mum and three of my children. The bach we stayed in had a big selection of games and books. The children found a "general knowledge" type game which they played with my mum. She called out (relevant) questions from the cards: "Hands on buzzers - which is the highest mountain in the world?" One of the children would "buzz" she would announce them (as per "University Challenge" or other TV quiz show). We didn't keep score, nobody cared if they were wrong, it was just fun, built relationships and passed the time (and yes, if you want to label it as such - it was educational).
If you don't have my Handbook - then just find a list of a few games somewhere, print them out, put them on the fridge so you ACTUALLY PLAY THEM - and get on with some real learning!!