There was a time when I was overwhelmed by the thought of having to ‘educate’ my children, as if it was something I had to do to them instead of something I had the pleasure to watch unfold. The same questions that I now hear from others who are unfamiliar with how children learn without school ran through my head…
‘How will I know what to teach them?’
‘How do I know what they need to know?’
‘What if I don’t know the answers?’
‘How do I know the best way to teach x?’
Normal questions when you view learning as something done to children. But as I soon came to find out, these were not things I had to worry myself with at all. Instead, we carried on life as normal, discovering the world together. And while those worries remained in the back of my mind for a while I just figured I’d deal with them when they became a problem.
But they never did, and they never will.
Because what you discover when you watch children who are free to learn on their own terms, at their own pace, is that they don’t need someone who has all the answers. They don’t need someone telling them what to do. They need someone who will wonder about the world with them, who will listen to their questions, and who will help them discover the answers themselves.
What qualifications do you need for that? Nothing but a desire to be involved.
Children don’t need us to be the gatekeepers of all knowledge. They don’t need us to teach them what we think they should know. They don’t need to be filled up with a list of facts they’re not curious about.
They need us to observe and pay attention to what naturally interests them. When they ask a question, we don’t have to have an answer ready. It’s totally ok to have no idea. In fact, it’s even better! Then you can share the joy of discovering together. Anyone is capable of helping their children learn anything, they just have to want to. It’s really much simpler than it might seem.
So how do you do it? You put the power back in their hands, and encourage self-directed learning. We are not so much responsible for giving our kids an education, as we are for supporting them as they educate themselves.
“Observe and listen to children because when they ask “why?” they are not simply asking for the answer from you. They are requesting the courage to find a collection of possible answers.” – Carlina Rinaldi
When they come to you with a question or a request for help, don’t jump in with the answer straight away. There is so much opportunity missed for independent discovery! Instead, show them that you see them as capable learners, able to find the answers themselves. Convey that you value their opinions and thoughts. Discover together, letting them lead the way…
“Mum, what are stars made of?”
“That’s so interesting! I wonder what stars are made of?”
“I think they’re made of rock!”
“Maybe they’re made of rock? How could we find out?”
“Oh, my space book!”
“We could look in there.”
“They’re made out of gas?”
“And they change? I didn’t know stars had life cycles. Maybe everything in the world has a life cycle? And everything out of the world!”
“Lots of things change don’t they?”
“Yeah, I’m going to make the life cycle!”
“There’s different types of stars. I’m making the big type first”
“It can turn into a black hole or a neutron star? I wonder which one is more likely?”
“I wonder? What do you think?”
“I don’t know. What is a black hole anyway?”
“Let’s read about that too!”
“Why are their legs all stretched like that in the picture? What does it say here?”
“I finished! Doesn’t it look cool? I want to make more! Can we find out more about stars?”
“Sure, what else would you like to know?”
It really is that simple. Learning isn’t about answers, it’s about questions! Fabulous questions that help you make sense of the world, like ‘what makes the waves in the ocean?’ or ‘why do we blink?’ or ‘how come Nanny’s skin is all droopy?’ (Seriously! Yikes!).
When you realise this, things are a whole lot simpler! It’s our job to support learning, not enforce it. And that’s a much more enjoyable place to be.
So, how do you support self-directed learning?
Be curious! Be passionate! Be open! Be willing to listen to many questions! Instead of providing answers, ask open-ended questions that encourage deeper thinking and discovery. Here are some of my favourites if you’re stuck…
Most importantly, enjoy the experience of seeing the world through a child’s eyes once more. It’s priceless.
The girls are using Spielgaben pieces to create the solar system and life cycle of a star. Spielgaben offers a 10% discount to blog readers if you mention Happiness is Here. Spielgaben also offers a LayBy Payment Plan. You can pay 3 x monthly payments with orders shipped as soon as final payment is made. All you need to do to claim the discount is send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org mention
ing Happiness Is Here blog.