My Kids Are Not The Exception
I often get the impression that people think we chose not to send our kids to school because they are extra smart. Or maybe that homeschooling is easier for us because we have children that are suited to it. Or sometimes they just can’t imagine how it would work. How they would get their kids to do their ‘work’.
The truth is, they’re just normal kids. Normal kids who direct their own learning, are passionate about learning, are self-motivated to learn everything they need to know. Kids who spend their days immersed in maths or reading or writing or science and PLAY, without ever being forced to do it. That’s how natural learning works.
It is hard to imagine. I didn’t really understand how it would work until I started living it. I went to school myself and so that was my view of what education was. Kids go to school where they learn a list of subjects. The teacher decides what they learn and how, then they are tested on it and deemed to have learned the material (or not). For me, there was not much space for creativity in there. For pursuing what interests you just for the love of it. For atypical interests that weren’t included in the curriculum.
When I wasn’t at school I think I was spending most of my time doing not much at all! And it’s no wonder, I had a lot to learn at school. It was perfectly normal to just want to relax when I was home. And so you see how the life of a child who goes to school is much different than one who doesn’t. It may appear that if given the choice they would choose to spend their time doing not much at all instead of initiating their own learning. So it becomes hard to imagine a child that would choose to spend the majority of their time engaged in learning of their own motivation. But, it is a whole different lifestyle, a whole different perspective.
Just as it has been from when they were born, they absorb everything in the world around them and they learn. With little input from us other than a supportive environment they learned to sit, crawl, walk and talk. Usually when a child gets to 5 years old they are off to school, whereas in our case we continue on the same path we have always been on. Nothing changes suddenly when they turn 5, unless you want it to. They continue to learn in the same way.
My kids are just normal kids, the only difference is they’re living a life without school. With the freedom to decide what they learn about, and when they learn it, they are alive with curiosity. There is never any pressure, there is never any forcing. There is a lot of trust.
And so with a day wide open, with a world full of interesting things, of course they are motivated to learn. They don’t seem to need the down time that I craved, because their life is only lived to their agenda. They are constantly doing things that they want to do, and they are enjoying it. Although they do end up learning the things that their schooled peers are learning, they’re going about it in a different way. It doesn’t ever feel like ‘work’, so they don’t feel that they need a break from it. Here, there is no distinction between weekdays and weekends, terms and holidays. Nor is it divided up into subjects with set times for practicing each. Learning and education is happening all the time. Truly, learning is life.
It is hard to imagine. It is hard to see how it could possibly work for your family because it is so different. Most people, like me, have no experience of education outside of schooling. It is hard to see past that sometimes and imagine learning happening in any other way. Homeschooling, and in particular natural learning, is a whole lifestyle and perspective shift. It’s not about super kids or super parents. It’s just normal families, living and learning together.
Yes! “My kids would never do that.” “I couldn’t handle them all day, we need a break.” “I set a timer to force my kids to read that long.” Or my most un-favorite, “my kids aren’t interested in learning about that.” Well I never thought my kid would care about Marie Antionette at age five, but it just happens. They hear about something, they’re curious, and all the sudden you realized they’ve learned a little math, history, etc. in a day. I love it, but it can be hard to explain how it works! So I say just try it. I am glad we don’t have to “de-program” our kids from formal schooling. I think, as you said, just continuing past five without a special change makes it easier, at least for us.
Exactly how it happens!!
I love how you have described your days. I am still learning to let go and trust as we are newer to this lifestyle. I find us all happier and more engaged when we go about our day and pursue our own interests.
It definitely takes some practice doesn’t it!
Lovely! I am just embarking on my homeschool journey, though it’s not ‘official’ until he’s 5 in the state where I currently live but we are **gasp** not doing preschool so I feel like it’s already begun. So glad I found your blog! I love to see examples of how homeschool works.
So glad to have you here Sarah! 🙂
I enjoyed reading your post very much. It so reminded me of things we see with our children. Our 6 and 8 year old are homeschooled. Today I came home from school, I teach English at a high school, and found my son had begun a story. I opened it and began reading. As a matter of fact, as I write this, he is at the table figuring out his story. We’ve not told him to do this but he’s done it on his own initiative. He knows I write little stories here and there so this is a good way for me to ask him about characters, plot, endings, what makes a good story, etc. The reading, writing, and spelling skills he is using is all my wife’s hard work. Hard is an understatement right. My daughter is currently five pages away from reading her second chapter book. She chose the book, we simply bought them. Drawing, paintings, cardboard cut out cars, swords, and people are all over the house. Moreover, we had our very first garden this year. A few weeks ago, we harvested everything and they helped. My son loved uprooting all the corn stalks and throwing them over to our neighbors cow. There’s always so much to do. A neighbor gave us a bunch of apricots – instant project. We made jam! It was yummy and they had fun. Glad I found your blog.
What beautiful examples of learning!!
Kids all learn in their own way and at their own pace. You can’t fit them into an educational “box.” Good for you listening to your children and guiding them towards learning for themselves!
Agree! Thanks Kim 🙂
What a beautiful post. It’s wonderful that you listen and guide your children’s learning, following their lead. I strive to do this for my preschooler. My lingering question is, as they grow older, how do you account for the many adults today who have said, “a teacher sparked my passion for poetry,” or “I didn’t think I’d enjoy chemistry, but I had a fabulous teacher and later studied it in college.” I’ve had such gifted teachers in my days, with wonderfully creative lessons, and I feel un-schooling and even child-directed learning misses the mark when I consider this. What are your thoughts?
Hi Jesse! I guess we look to life and the world around us for the inspiration instead! We try to provide as many experiences as possible and see what sparks an interest. Also, teachers are not confined to schools. There are so many interesting people in the community. You can find an ‘expert’ to talk to in whatever you’re interested in if need be.
Thank you for your question 🙂
Hi Jesse, it’s hard to see into the future, and your question is one all of us have when we start homeschooling/in schooling our families. My oldest is 11, he has never been to school. There are so many opportunities for a “spark” ones you don’t even expect to happen and before you know it your child is passionate about something! Just them talking with friends/other kids about thier interest, going to the library, watching documentaries, listening to music (my son listened to a kids CD I got from the library about science songs and fell in love with the Periotic Table song, that sparked a 2 year obsession! He read books, created a board game, talked obsessively about it, related it to elements he plays with on Minecraft etc…) playing outside, classes oh the classes your kids can take! Libraries, colleges, community centers, rec centers, YMCA, local businesses, art studios, media centers, farms etc.. Then YOU can put together groups of kids that share the same interest and explore together! There is also DIY.org for an endless supply of “Spark”. Embrace it all!
I so want to believe that all this is true – philosophically I would love to unschool my two sons (currently 3 and 3 months and 16 months) and I know in principle it should work for all children and, by extension, for all families. But… if I’m totally honest, I’m already overwhelmed by spending 24 hours a day with my boys as I’ve been blessed with not having to return to work since my eldest was born. I adore my children, they’re smart and wonderful human beings, we try to parent peacefully and they are generally ‘well behaved’. However, I really need time alone to function well, I’m definitely an introvert, and my eldest son can’t bear to be apart from me. We’ve actually tried daycare twice since he turned 2.5 because we thought he’d love it, but he’s not stayed more than a few weeks each time and says he enjoys what they do at school but ‘I just miss you too much, Mummy’. The second time he started going was more successful, but then grandparents came to stay and he just didn’t want to be away from home anymore. He started talking in full sentences at 18 months and has barely stopped for breath since. It’s an endless stream of consciousness that I simultaneously love because he is so insightful sometimes and dread because I just can’t string two thoughts together without interruption! Ift drives me crazy to never be allowed to just sit and watch him play. He has never been remotely independent – as a baby he would lie under the baby gym, look at it and then shriek until I either picked him up or did the batting of toys for him! He hates to play alone and is not a born experimenter (I know they say all children are, but he really isn’t – my second son is far more neurotypical and keeps doing all the things I expected his brother to do, and reassuring me that I wasn’t just expecting too much with the eldest one). So, all this just leads me to long for the time when he will start preschool so that I can have a few mornings of quiet and time with the youngest, and eventually a few mornings all to myself to do crafts or work from home, but then I feel sad that I can’t give him the freedom of unschooling that I totally believe in. I’m just not convinced that he will ever (at least as a young child) follow his own interests without me ‘teaching’ him and I just couldn’t do that full time for the next 5 (or more?) years. To add to the challenge, we are an expat family – we move regularly and live many thousands of miles from family. The regular moves make homeschooling ideal, but the lack of family support mean it’s all on me (and their Dad) 24/7 and I’m not sure I can do that. Has anyone got any advice, words of wisdom or voices of experience? I can imagine unschooling my youngest but not the oldest, does anyone else have kids that are difficult to do this with/clash with your personality?
Oh Jillian, it can be full on can’t it! For me, it does seem easier though than the whole school rush. Having to be up and out the door at a certain time, lunch packed, homework done. Both have their own challenges I suppose!
I’m not sure how to help but here are a few things to read at least!.
This post by An Everyday Story: http://www.aneverydaystory.com/2014/07/26/how-to-homeschool/
This previous post of mine: https://happinessishereblog.com/2014/09/raising-independent-kids-and-self-directed-learners/
And this fabulous book has really great advice at just how to get them involved and learning independently: http://amzn.to/1s1W8h2
I totally feel your ‘pain’! But will say that it does get easier as they get older. My 2 girls are now 3 and 5 and things are so different to when they were 3 and 1. I found that time, the hardest time of my life! I couldn’t wait for them to go to pre school and nursery and felt I was counting down the days for them to start school! (I too, have been told and kinda knew, that my eldest is not neuro typical.) But what a difference 2 years makes. I am about to start our homeschooling journey and am so excited about it! It is because my eldest needs the time and space to learn at her own pace that we are doing it. So my advice would be, give it time. I honestly used to feel the same as you and now can’t wait to be at home with my girls!
I also have an extremely needy/clingy 4-year-old. She is getting more independent as she gets older, and also as her younger brother grows older (20 months) he’s able to be a better companion to her and occasionally ease some of the load off me. I’m also starting to say “no” a little more, as in, “No, I can’t play with you right now. I need to wash the dishes.” I always have a real reason, so it’s not arbitrary, and I try to offer alternatives, like moving her activity into the kitchen so she can be near me. My biggest issue right now is that I think she could be more independent if she had free access to everything (art supplies, scissors, etc.) but it’s not currently safe to do that with her little brother on the loose.
Hi Sara, my daughter Roxy sounds similar, she wouldn’t even go with her father till she was almost two, I had to take her to the toilet and shower with me or she would scream, I became quite anxious and couldn’t visit friends because she would cry for me so much, she would stay with my mother but no one else, I am happy to say she did grow out of it maybe by about 3 and a half she became a little better and by 5 she would stay with close friends, she is still cautious with who she will stay with and will only go with people she knows well but luckily we have a close homeschooling community and she is comfortable with most of the mums now, she is very bright and curious and as a seven year old she is lovely to be around.I have friends in the area and we do kid swaps, so I will take thier kids for a day and we will usually do some type of fun activity and then they will take my kids for the day, we also have co-ops where you have weeks on teaching and weeks off and on your weeks off you don’t need to be there, we have a day where we have art and science clubs on the one day and we car pool and two mums take all of the kids then the next week we swap so you can work time off into your homeschool life in many ways if you need too. I think it’s important to remember children grow and change, just see how your little cutie is going closer to school and kindy age you don’t need to decide now and you can change your mind any time.
I meant Jillian, not Sara sorry!
I’m an introvert, unschooling three kids, 3.5, 6.5, and just turned 8. It gets better, believe me. Parent the way it was done in the 70’s and before, where kids are what we now call free range. This teaches independence and self-motivation. As they get a little older, this translates to time for yourself, even when the kids are awake. We have 40 acres, and all 3 kids and the dog will often be out and about on their own adventures. The feeling of having children velcroed to you will pass. I used to tell mine that Mommy needed to use her own brain for a few minutes, but I haven’t had to say that in awhile!
I have this intense feeling that I should be homeschooling. One of the things that’s holding me back from homeschooling IS that I’m not sure if my boys would find something they’d want to explore further.
Mr nearly 3 would. Mr 5 I’ve had home for 5 weeks with a broken arm and all he’s done is play with lego mini figures. I’ve been waiting for him to be inspired by something but he’s a kid that lives in his imagination.
Mr 8 has been at school for 4 years now + montessori preschool. We’d find topics, but I’m not sure how in depth I’d be able to get him to explore before he lost interest. He really struggles to entertain himself without a screen too when he’s home from school.
What do you think?
Also, I’ve been wanting to ask you if you need to provide a curriculum outline to have your homeschooling application approved? Here in the NT I’d have to submit a curriculum (how does that work with natural learning?) and have a home visit.
Thanks for reading and I’d greatly appreciate your feedback. S
Oh, listen to that feeling, you won’t regret it! 🙂
And this book will really help with the ‘how’ to do it. I love it: http://amzn.to/1s1W8h2
I haven’t done my homeschool registration yet since my oldest is not yet 6, but I have heard that you can do it in a natural learning style. I’ll definitely post about it when we’re up to that!
I have loved reading a selection of your posts about home schooling, Sara. It’s certainly a way of life that I know I am not capable of living, but I admire it so much. Mind you, we are not the kind of family who sends the kids to school and brush our hands free of the ‘education’ side of things. I think education is a way of life and the things we do at home reflect that. Like you, I hope my kids are always the curious, self-motivated learners that they are today. x
Thank you Maxabella! And also for taking the time to comment. I love seeing who’s reading 🙂
I home school and have been homeschooling now for two years.I wish I could say, that my kids were directed towards learning. One of my son’s is, he loves facts , he loves to learn. My other son, hads no such way about him. He is a kid that needs a map.He hates t read, he hates to write, he hates to sit still, he hates nature. He hates anything not sports or computer. He will spend the entire day, going between computer and ipad and t,v. and the wii.
But, this same kid, in the school setting thrives.He does whatever is asked of him and loves the competition and winning, meaning, the great big A, the honor role. That is just him. Without any trophies or anyone to compete against, he does not see any point. I will admit tat I relate more to my self directed learner.
I don’t know what to do with the otherone. though I try .
They’re all so different aren’t they xx
Thank you for this post, and for your blog, which sheds much needed light on how organic learning truly is, especially for children. We are unschooling our four boys, and it is a wonder to see how they learn, and when. I will say that in our household it looks less like painting with water colors and more like building forts and catapults, but that is one of the reasons unschooling is wonderful. Sitting for hours (or sometimes minutes) is a challenge for my boys, and my assumption is, most children. It is a beautiful hing to see them learn while moving!
Thank you!! 🙂
I think it is a bit narrow-minded to say that kids learn x, y, or z (sitting up, for example) with minimal input from you. Anyone with a special needs child would disagree. The truth is that you DO have kids who are more suited to homeschooling – neurotypical kids. Your constant use of the words “natural” and “normal” to describe them implies that.
Obviously I’m talking about my own neurotypical kids and how they learn. Personally though I can’t imagine a situation where I’d decide that adult imposed learning was preferable. I believe in respect, trust, and freedom for children. Many people unschool with neurodivergent children and find it much more suitable than mainstream schooling.
Although articles like this do worry me because I made the decision to send my kids to our tiny (literally 20 pupils) village school because it’s great – the head is really gentle and it’s very focused on them as individuals, Montessori principles etc. It’s like a big family. My plan is to homeschool them from 9 when they leave there with the basics under their belt. I realise I’ll have to do some readjustment with them but I hope they won’t be ruined by tge system despite the unusual school by then!!
I’m wondering when are your children going to learn to work through adversity.
I don’t schedule in adversity and purposely make things hard for them. It is part of life. They live life, instead of being locked away in school.