Naturally Learning

 

Are our children learning? Naturally, they are.
How are they learning? Naturally, of course!

I dug out this piece I wrote in 2003.

A Brief Glimpse into Our Life and
How Our Children Are Learning Naturally

There are certain learning tools we want to teach our children that will enable them to learn anything they want/need to know. We teach these tools somewhat informally by the kind of lifestyle we lead. For example, one of the tools is curiosity. We don’t have a ten-step action plan for teaching it, but rather model interest in our environment, ask questions aloud, wonder about things…our children can’t help but start doing the same.
Our focus is on these tools rather than on teaching “subjects”.

In spite of books that tell you so, I do not believe there is a certain body of knowledge that five-year-olds should know, and another for six-year-olds and so on. There are, however, certain ideas, which govern science, history, music, geography, art, communication, mathematics…I think the key, as parents, is being aware of the ideas so that we are capable of leading our children. We don’t need little tick charts for all those things, but being aware of them will help us help our children interact with the ideas or try new things. We need to educate ourselves.

Learning doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and certainly may not happen if opportunities are not presented (you only need to think of Romanian orphanages to realise children don’t automatically learn to walk and talk if left on their own). Little ones need lots of encouragement, someone telling them they’ve done a great job or helping them to get up and try again – they learn in the context of relationships.
So, from a parent’s point of view, it is a matter of “know some stuff” and share it with your child. Because it is not all linear, many things can be tackled at a variety of ages. It doesn’t much matter whether you encounter Alexander Bell at age six or twelve. The same goes for Brahms, Bulgaria and Botticelli. We “open doors” to these things for our children by providing a rich environment for our children to interact with (and plenty of time at home to do just that). Showing pictures by Rembrandt and discussing them or trying to copy them might spark an interest for one of them to pursue. Going on a nature walk might do the same for another child. Yet another might be inspired when Mama reads a book about a country far away or someone who lived long ago.
We have not experienced any resistance at all to these mother-directed parts of our day – in fact, there are frequently requests for another page or “Just one more chapter…please??”
And I have developed my relationship with my children more, because I have been involved in the process.
Each day after chores and some “door opening”, our children are free to pursue their own interests. This is time for them to become immersed in something of their own choosing…getting to know something deeply, instead of just having superficial knowledge about lots of things.
When they are little, children seem fascinated with everything, but we are assured that as they grow up, their interests will become more focussed. We are just starting to see that happening – in her free time, Jgirl, who is eight, is likely to be found creating something, whether it is out of cardboard or material or dough or sticks and stones from the garden. Jboy, a year younger, will be collecting and identifying insects, birds or shells, or trying to start a fire with a magnifying glass.
(Jgirl constructed a “real” hide and Jboy sat in it with binoculars, watching birds. Jboy rescued the dying butterfly with holes in its wings and Jgirl made it a house. Jboy collected cicada shells and Jgirl displayed them in a shadow box).
That doesn’t mean they don’t do other things – Jboy has been seen sewing doll’s clothes and Jgirl will go fishing or ride a bike. But they have personal preferences.

Can I encourage you to open some doors with your children and see where they lead?
Know your children.

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