So here in Oz, 'unschooling' or 'life learning' are often referred to as
There are ways the terms are a bit different (because each carry their own histories, philosophies, websites, magazines, support groups and so on and so forth!). But I think of them as similar (maybe even the same) because at the core of each one is
Learning comes naturally to a child after all; it's part of who they are. Intrepid Explorers. Endless Questioners. Whole-Wide-World-Travellers. Figurer-Outerers.
Kids are naturally inquisitive. They naturally want to find things out. They want to seek and discover and claim for themselves, in their own way, naturally.
And when a child learns what they want to learn—when they are allowed to explore their own paths and interests—the learning goes deep. The learning sticks. Naturally.
Now, what a child wants to learn mightn't be what a grown-up thinks is important, or worthwhile or even make sense. And it's often not part of the planned sequence of educational events that you've mapped out carefully in the night hours to please the Education Officials when you register for homeschool!
But it's valid. And worthy. And helps a child become the person they naturally want to be.
I've also found that my kids are happier when they learn what they want to learn.
Joy. Before, during Discovery, and after. I can't think of a better result than that!
Now, this is going somewhere (No, I'm not done! You know me; I do like to go on and on).
I also, actually, think there's a place in child-directed learning, natural learning,
for grown-up input.
In the form of research, when a child expresses an interest in something
(looking up websites they might like, finding books at the library that relate, finding classes that they might like to take, asking friends for ideas, spending hours thinking and brain-storming!).
In the form of putting information and opportunities in front of a child
(that they might not have been aware of, or been in a position to find/organise).
In the form of suggestion
(such as trying new things, extending discovery to ideas they mightn't have thought of, and learning new skills. It can be as simple as, "Hey, I've got an idea. Do you want to…?").
Natural learning, when it flows for us,
feels right for all of us,
grown-ups and kids alike.
The other day, after a wonderful sewing workshop (instigated by my girl, who had asked and hoped hard for sewing lessons),
I said (and felt free and happy to say):
"Hey, I was thinking it might be fun to write a report about our first workshop."
Really? my kids' faces said. A report? I may as well have suggested eating three limes one after another. :)
But I continued, undaunted!
"I thought I'd show you how to plan one, so that it's super easy to write afterwards. It can actually be really easy to write, if you make a plan. And I thought you might like to add photos, if you wanted. I took heaps of photos. You want to see the photos I took?"
Yeah, they wanted to see the photos! Who wouldn't? So we looked through them, and I said, "I think it'd be fun to write something, then type it up and paste the photos in here. What do you think? I think it'd look cool."
My girl said, "I'd want to draw my pictures."
"Well that sounds good too. I reckon this could be great. You want to try it?"
Hmmm. Well. If you're going to suggest it with such a big eager smile, Mum, then we s'pose we'll give it a go!
So we mind-mapped first. Cool circles with information inside. And each time we added something to the circles, I said, "See? This is great. Here are all the things we did. Wow. Hey, we learned a lot."
I said these things genuinely (and anyone who has met me knows I get into things, the smallest things, get excited like a kid, even about report writing. I'm kind of crazy that way :) ).
Then we took the information in the circles and on a new piece of paper, made a Plan. The kids leaned over my shoulders, they listened, closely.
I talked about introductions and how each paragraph would cover a new topic (which wasn't so new for my son, but was new for my girl). I talked about how essays often have a bit of a formula. You know: Introduction, Topics, Conclusion. That sort of thing. Then I told them a funny thing an instructor had said about essays in my Master's program: "In essays, you Say what you're going to say, Say it, then Say you've said it." (Yep, it's a bit like that!)
But then I said, "Once you've written out your plan though, you've made a template. Then you can totally make your report your own. Give it your own voice, and your own style. Add whatever else you like."
And my son said:
"Mum! That's exactly what my drum teacher said yesterday!"
And my husband, who was putting on his shoes nearby, said:
"Yeah, that's how jazz works. You have the form, then you make it your own."
We all stopped then, and smiled at each other. How seamless art is. Music and writing so alike. The making so much the Same.
I LOVED this moment.
This is when the learning I suggested, became the learning
my children owned.
This is when they took their mind-maps and plans to their tables,
bent their sweet heads over the paper,
and wrote reports that were distinctly theirs.
This is when they learned a skill
I thought was a good skill to learn,
but did it with joy and willingness.
This is when they, actually, believe-it-or-not! had fun.
I typed out my boy's report, and he played with the fonts and the layout, checked spelling and paragraphs. He inserted photos (which he formatted himself), printed out the report, then did detailed, hand-drawn illustrations. It was a beautiful report.
My girl hand-wrote her whole report, neatly. She illustrated everything (no photos for her). She didn't have titles like her brother—it was all one fluid piece. She wrote three pages. Again. Beautiful.
And two days later, when the reports were completely Finished,
the kids stood on each side of Dad, showing him. They were so pleased with themselves. Pleased as punch, pleased as peaches.
I got to teach my kids something, AND I taught it to kids who were open, eager, and ready to try something new.
It felt exactly how our homeschool should be.
It felt, all-the-way-through,