One comment I’ve heard often from people unsure if they would be able to homeschool is ‘my kids wouldn’t listen to me’ or ‘they would never want to do any work’. Some homeschoolers find the same, that their kids seem to resist any type of teaching or anything that they might think is ‘learning’. I’ve heard people wonder if this means they are not good at homeschooling and they are failing their kids, and what they should be doing to get them to do their work. Some people put it down to bad experiences with learning or teaching in the past, and this definitely might be the case. But, reflecting on what I’ve learnt from my children so far, I’ve come to realise that a certain amount of resistance to learning (or rather, being taught) is normal. Let me explain…
My kids love to learn! There is no doubt about that. They are learning from the minute they wake up in the morning, to when they close their eyes at night. And sometimes I swear they even learn new things in their sleep. They have never been to school/preschool/kindy/childcare and so I’m certain they’ve never had any unpleasant experiences with being taught. People tell me sometimes that my children are ‘easy’ and ‘suit homeschooling’ because of how obviously they love learning and they conclude that this means they are easy to ‘teach’. But in actual fact if I sat them down and told them that I needed to teach them something, they would not be all that cooperative. Unless it was something that they were very interested in, there would be fidgeting, complaints of boredom, very little concentration, endless questions about why we have to do this and when can we stop, and they would probably end up just getting up and doing something else. Now if you saw only that of my children you might think that they didn’t want to learn anything and were incredibly hard to teach!
What I’ve figured out so far on this journey is that what they are resisting is direct teaching, not learning. Kids want to learn! They don’t see learning as a bad thing. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. My children love learning so much and it is so personal to them, that they want to take ownership over it and keep it all to themselves. They want control over their minds and what they learn. And isn’t that understandable? So how do kids learn everything they need to if they don’t want you to teach it to them?
Well, I’m not a teacher, but luckily I find what my kids need is not so much a teacher but a facilitator. Letting them have control over what they learn doesn’t mean I just leave them to it and do my own thing. If I don’t expose them to any new experiences then they won’t have a chance to know what’s out in the world! So instead of ‘teaching’ I provide an environment to stimulate and inspire them.
Full of materials to encourage independent learning, creativity, problem solving, and questioning.
When your world is full of inspiring materials, resources, and experiences coupled with plenty of time for free play and being outside, then learning happens easily.
When they come to me with questions I might encourage them to find the answers themselves. Or answer their questions without going into extra detail and trying to pack in as many educational facts as I can. Kids know when you’re doing this and I can be met with an eye roll when I try! They don’t want the answers to questions they haven’t asked yet. They want the opportunity to work things out for themselves. And isn’t this a good thing? I don’t know about you but I’m not aiming for children who want all the answers given to them. I’m aiming for inquisitive, self-motivated, confident learners.
No, I don’t think showing resistance to direct teaching is a bad thing. I think it’s the sign of a healthy independent mind. Someone who is confident in their own ability to learn. Someone who loves directing their own learning and is not prepared to hand that job over to anyone else. And that’s ok by me.