What We Learned About Learning
While Home Educating
|“If children are engaged with and observing the world, they’re learning about it.”|
We also learned that one of the most valuable opportunities parents have to facilitate their children’s educational development is through conversation. Within conversation is the opportunity to pose and answer questions, get children thinking, discuss hypotheses (e.g. I wonder what would happen if...) make observations, wonder why, etc. And the beauty of this is that conversation can take place anywhere, at any time, whatever you’re doing. It makes learning instantly accessible and extendable.
That raises another valuable point that became clear to us: Learning doesn’t necessarily have to be written down to be effective. All the time you’re conversing, you are extending the children’s ability to use language, develop their social skills, their observational skills, their mental agility and reasoning, and broadening their view of the world. What is education for if not for broadening your view of the world and increasing understanding? If children are engaged with and observing the world, they’re learning about it.
We took a very experiential approach to the children’s learning day to day. That is, they were practically involved in a variety of experiences and activities that extended their knowledge and skills. It might be playing or creating something, home-based jobs or care, exploring, investigating and experimenting, or practicing academic skills – although we rarely did that for the sake of it; it was more as a natural extension of other activities. Activities were very much led by their interests, although we offered guidance and encouragement if motivation was waning. We met others, and got out and about regularly – perhaps on a library trip, doing the shopping, or a group visit to a museum, gallery, or field trip. We got plenty of exercise, sometimes on a meet with others for swimming or wall climbing or skating, or just for a walk or cycle.
It was an intended part of their education (and our parenting) that they understood that their lifestyle had an important impact on their health and well-being, mental and physical, that they grew in confidence and self-esteem and that they learned about themselves and how they could extend themselves into the wider world. They decided to use Further Education College and University to help them do so and are now both working.
We also wanted them to learn that education is an inspirational, uplifting and enjoyable opportunity for them to grow, enhance their lives, to become independent and make their own choices, and know they didn’t always have to do the same as others. What they did need to do was think for themselves!
|“Learning doesn’t necessarily have to be written down to be effective.”|
I would say they’ve both been successful in that. Their ongoing learning has extended into their lives by the way they lead their lives, as we hoped it would.
When we first started back in 1999, it was before the Internet had become the tool for information and networking it is now and I felt that it would have been immensely helpful to have a book for guidance. So I set about writing one as our home learning matured, hence my book Learning Without School.
The second book A Funny Kind of Education came about because I thought there’d be more chance of people reading about education through a story format. I wanted to raise awareness of other approaches to learning, to dispel many of the myths surrounding home education, and spread educational ideas around.
When you first step away from the mainstream and start a life learning approach, you’re very anxious and concerned about where it will all end, how you’re going to cope and what will become of you all. In those early days, it was unimaginable that someday I’d be writing from a house that is empty of little bodies – no interruptions, when once I would have appreciated a bit of the peace and space I now have on a daily basis.
Suddenly it doesn’t seem quite so attractive! But it will happen for you too. So enjoy your children while they’re around for there will come the day when they will have become so well educated they’ll also be ready to fly, just like ours have!
Ross Mountney is a parent, writer, definitely an ex-teacher, and home educator. She lives on the east coast of England in a cottage that’s been alarmingly empty as her two children have grown and flown! She continues to support other home educating families and a life learning way of living. You can read excerpts from her books at http://rossmountney.wordpress.com.