Saturday, June 30, 2012

Noticing Natural Learning Instead of Recreating School At Home

People of all ages, but especially children, naturally want to go and find out and explore and try and do.  If not required to complete workbooks or practice skills that they don't enjoy, they will still continue to learn and will enjoy learning because the things they do are coming from themselves rather than being imposed.  They will enjoy what they are choosing to do (writing or reading or watching or drawing or figuring out or calculating or playing) because it is something that they are interested in and it is meaningful to them.

Some children may enjoy working with workbooks, but there are so many ways of learning and some children do not thrive or end up disliking certain subjects or learning in general because of recreating school at home.  Others do what is asked because they want to please the parent or because they know they have to.  

If you want to try this (summer might be a good time as there is less pressure to do school), watch and notice what your child is doing and see the natural learning that is taking place.  Help when they want help, bring things of interest to your child, have fun and play and explore and visit places together.  But don't force him/her to do anything s/he doesn't want to do.  This post by Pam Sorooshian gives more clarity on the active role of parents in helping their children with regard to learning:  Maybe take a photo (casually and only if your child doesn't mind photos) or jot down what learning you see or what you notice him/her doing - even a couple words can remind you if you are pressed for time - (but only for you to see so s/he doesn't feel self-conscious) and notice over time if s/he becomes interested in new things or seems more confident or relaxed.  When able to pursue your own skills when and how you see fit, it is freeing and you realize you don't have to fit into anyone else's box or follow another's timetable and that in itself can make for a happier person and better relationships.  It also helps you to get to know yourself better such as what makes you tick, what your passions are, and what you do and don't like which is a great life skill that many don't find out about until much later in life if they ever allow themselves to.  A person who is trusted to learn at their own pace may feel more self-confident because their parents trust them to learn and live according to their individual interests and who they are and believe in them to learn in their own way and time without feeling like they can only learn when they are being told what to do.

Learning outside of doing workbooks might look different.  

If you are noticing that your child is not enjoying doing workbooks or seeming to be turned off to any certain subject or skill that you are assigning, it might be good to ease up for a long while and watch and notice if learning is happening in a different way.  Let's use hand-writing as an example.  If your child seemed to sigh when you said it was time to practice hand-writing, rather than say let's bust through this lesson and get it over with (which would further turn her off and give her reason to think it was some unpleasant yet necessary task to get through), don't require her to do it.  Instead  begin to notice what she does write.  Does she makes lists of her own or add to the grocery list?  Write letters or notes?  Stories?  Poems?  Diary or journal entries?  Type on the computer?  Keep a birthday wish list or a to do list?  Make cards for others?  Label things?  Does she have any interest in trying out other kinds of writing like calligraphy?  Hieroglyphics?  Creating secret codes of her own?  Likely we model writing much of the time and our children will likely want to write down things too when they see a purpose for it.  

To go a step further, what if s/he was unable to write with her hands.  Could s/he still survive in our world?  Is it truly necessary to practice hand-writing?  Could s/he type on the computer?  Use a typewriter?  Text?  Could s/he communicate with words to explain things well enough for others to understand or follow instructions or help if s/he needed help?  Some computer programs can turn your voice into writing.  Some cell phones or other electronic devices allow messages and notes to be left by voice.   Hand-writing often is in my opinion helpful to fill out forms and such.  However, many forms are completed online now.  And although people may be glad to help others complete a form if they needed help, hand-writing will progress over time as it seems necessary or meaningful and is used.  

Some kids love writing their names or practicing letters over and over. Others find it drudgery, especially if they are made to do it.  Some kids love hearing the same favorite book or watching the same show over and over.  Trust they are getting something meaningful to themselves out of it, even if you don't understand exactly what it is.  They may practice or re-watch or re-read until they are done for their own reasons.  Having the freedom to delve into subjects and things of interest as much or as little as one likes makes for enjoyable and meaningful learning.  Having the freedom to think and process and relax when one sees fit is important too.  

If given the time and space to practice things if and when and how they want to, they will learn over time and feel good about it and themselves.  A side benefit is that they see you on their side helping them learn and do what is of interest to them and that will strengthen your relationship, which is to me, the most important thing in life and my life with my family. Doing school will eventually end, but your relationship and trust and partnerships will last a lifetime.


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