Thursday, August 30, 2012

Homeschool parents are learning partners

 Beverley Paine

When home educators begin to worry that children aren't 'doing anything' it helps if they start to translate what they are actually doing into educational terminology. For example, playing on the ipad is quite a complex task. What exactly is the child doing? What is the content? Is it new or going over old stuff he already knows (consolidation)? Is he learning new skills in the game, if so, what skills? Are they problem solving skills, strategy skills, do they require quick thinking, calculating, etc? Talk to the child about what is going on in the game, how it is enhancing his understanding of his abilities, etc.

We are the adults in the room. We have lived many years longer than them. We've picked up and honed skills they've yet to encounter. It's up to us to take the lead and mentor our children.

Give up the notion that learning is a passive task - that the child just sits there and does stuff out of books or whatever. Home education isn't giving children work which we call learning work to do. It's living and learning and playing and being with them. It's exploring and investigating and experimenting with them. It's leading them, mentoring them, tutoring them.

We don't set up tasks for our children, we work with them.

Home education works because of the time we give to our children, the time we make for our children. Not because of the way we do it. They respond to our attention. They grow and learn from our attention. They need attention from adults who are older, wiser, more skilled and knowledgeable than them. They don't want to be entertained or trained or supervised.

Sure, children can play by themselves all day doing something they love doing, or that interests them intensely. But only a few children can sustain that level of interest for days on end. They want to learn and grow - they are driven by an inner need to learn and grow and challenge themselves. But they can't do it without our help, support and encouragement.

When they were babies and toddlers we willingly and instinctively gave them this help, encouragement and support. We demonstrated how to do things and reassured them that they'd eventually master those skills, abilities and knowledge over time. We were there for them because we knew that this is the way children learn and grow.

School has corrupted the way we think about learning. It's stopped us thinking analytically and sensibly about it. Children and parents make great learning partners. Homes and gardens and local communities are great learning environments. Home education works. And I've used that word because learning is work. And helping our children learn is our work.