Sunday, April 25, 2010

Life Learning

Life Learning is personalised, non-coercive, active, interest-led learning from life

Life Learning Magazine

This tagline, from Life Learning Magazine, really resonates with me. I've been thinking a lot about how learning happens, and how over and over again, I find that joy-driven and interest-led learning sticks with my kids infinitely more than any "lesson" I or others try to give. As I move more and more towards this kind of learning, I can see how at times, in my first year of homeschooling, I've unintentionally blocked my kids from learning with joy and self-motivation.

When we've sat down to "do" maths in workbooks, for example, the kids have barely made their way through a page. They have groaned, put their heads on the desks, and said, "How much more do we have to do?" But when we decide not to use the workbook, they say, "Can we play a maths game on the computer?" or my kids create a toy shop with made up money or create a board game involving dice and counting.

When I've given them a list of comprehension questions or a book report to write, about a book they have just read and loved, they have complained, resisted, sometimes even cried about not knowing how to answer a question. But at any given time in the day, I can ask, "So how are you liking that book?" and I'll get so much information, about the characters, the story, what they like and don't like about the book, that we might talk for an hour. In that conversation I can ask all the questions I might have put onto paper. But talking about the book is so much better, because it is a natural extension of our shared love for words. We are in it together.

Sometimes the workbooks and planned curriculum have taken us away from stated passions, like science. There have been times in the past where we've hardly touched it, because I've thought, "I have to get organised to do this. I have to get materials. It's got to be part of a larger 'plan.'" But when I started looking through a science package on Biology I'd recently downloaded, to see if there were any fun labs we might like to do, the kids wanted to see what I was reading. That led to us right then doing two of the labs from the package, lying on the trampoline outside looking at living and non-living things in our back yard. That led to us buying art journals from the local shops and my son "working" into the night. He drew a title page, stuck in copies of the information from the labs, wrote a page summary of what he'd learned and drew some great cartoons about "life processes." He said, "I love this, Mum. I can't wait to do more."

When I've given the kids the freedom to build their days their own way, they invent, draw, imagine, read, create, play. They invent machines and marble runs, draw detailed pictures of animals they've read about, imagine themselves inside elaborate worlds with distinct characters, dive into fiction and pore over information books, create collages, cartoons and board games, play science, maths, and literacy games on the computer.

As I begin to understand what life learning is, for us, the more it feels like the path we need to take, and that in fact, we've already begun taking.

Finally, I don't think embracing life learning prevents me from being part of my kids' learning experience. I don't think it prevents me from making suggestions, or putting things in front of my kids that they might not have known about otherwise. I don't give my kids unlimited time on the computer, so they don't spend the hours I do, looking for books, science and maths websites, geography and history websites, educational games, and other cool stuff. So when I find something they might like, I tell them about it.

Or perhaps I'll notice that one (or both) kids are really interested in animals, plants and how life happens, and I'll research and find a way for them to have access to the information, even if the kids haven't specifically asked to study "Biology." When we did the Biology labs, for me it was still life learning, because a) the kids had expressed the desire to do science, b) in that moment, they wanted to participate, and c) they participated with joy and with no coercion or sense of expectation from me.

What a revelation it is, to find I love homeschooling more the less I lead, the more we are a team, and the more I let my children show me the way!

1 comment:

  1. I agree with what you are saying. I think we are slowing moving into this way of learning but I find it very hard to let go of the books. No doubt the longer I homeschool the more it will mesh into life learning.I think it is me that need to unschool. Thanks for sharing what is working for you and your family.


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