How can kids learn without school?

So many lovely home educators’ blogs on the web these days. Visit my Home Education Blogs page to check them out.

Not only do they have lots of brilliant ideas on them and activities to try yourself, they also paint such a good illustration of home education in all its varying forms.

When we started home educating our two it was before the Web was part of our daily lives. Can’t imagine that now. The only way of finding information or others was to join an organisation that supported home educating parents, like Education Otherwise, and ring a few strangers from their member list.

Now, the networks on the web do all this for us and it’s brilliant. Activities and resources can be shared. Anxieties can be aired. And there are lots of new and diverse ideas about education.

I agree – some of these on first glance might seem completely overwhelming if you’re new to home education! Even undisciplined or ridiculous; the one that springs to mind being the idea that children can learn without schooling.

That’s quite a thought, especially since we’ve been schooled to believe the opposite. But even when I first worked in the classroom I began to doubt. I could see that just being there, having to churn out standardised prescribed exercises of no relevance to them, having to endure an academic rather than practical/physical/varied approach to their learning, having to put up with crowds and noise and busyness, was all wrong for some. More than wrong, it was harmful.

But it seems obvious now I’ve thought about it: that no one style of learning could suit every single child. Just as no one style of clothing, one type of food, or one pair of glasses could do for all. We are ALL different. And there are as many different ways to approach your child’s learning as there are ways to wear an outfit. It depends on what suits an individual.

For example; children don’t only learn to read and write by studying a book or practising academic tasks like in school. They learn to read by a variety of experiences with print (reading signs, packets and labels, online games, texts, comics and magazines), any sort of written material will do. Anything that’s relevant to their daily lives shows them the value of understanding print and will motivate them to learn to decipher it, not just sitting still using reading schemes. Talking and reading stories to kids is one of the best ways of promoting reading – but schools have little time to use that approach.

And, other than just writing, all sorts of art and craft activities will develop the skills they need to write, like cutting and sticking, manipulating modelling materials, building with constructional toys, drawing, painting and colouring. Don’t stop when they’re getting older. The more they manipulate materials the better their writing will be. And writing doesn’t only mean pencil and paper – use imagination! Again, something that schools don’t have the time or inclination for. Yet a variety of creative approaches increases skills more than just sitting practising. They also develop the mind.

That’s another thing to understand; physical activity aids learning because it stimulates the brain as much as mental activity. Something schools are neglecting as much as art. But if you can approach a subject physically it’s often learnt better. Rather than study a text book on the water cycle for example, go outside and run about when it’s raining and talk about it. They’ll not forget! But they’ll often switch off to a lesson when they’re stuck in a desk, told to sit still, don’t have the chance to ask questions (the best opportunity to engage and extend the learner’s experience) and then have to tick boxes in a workbook.

I understand that it might be hard to take these ideas on board when we have all been conditioned to associate learning with a school type day. But learning happens in so many different ways and if you can open your mind to possibilities and use imagination, you will be able to really take advantage of your opportunity to provide a living and transferable education and one that can be easily applied to qualification when the time comes.

Trust me – I’ve watched it happen!


6 thoughts on “How can kids learn without school?

  1. Pingback: No One Size Fits All « At Home Woman

  2. What a brilliant inspiring post. Thank you Ross. We are just beginning our HE journey and are excited, happy, eager and a little apprehensive too. I’m just starting ‘A funny kind of education’ it only arrived today and already can’t put it down. You are right this is the best future for our children. A tailor made personalised education.

  3. I truly agree and found out long ago that when it comes to teaching my son anything if he can’t see the point of it, he shuts off – when he wants to know how to do something for a reason – he finds out for himself. Yesterday was a good point in hand. We were editing a Christmas film we have been making and (when I say we were editing it – I mean he was doing all the work, I simply said what I wanted on the film) he was doing all these fancy things with film clip his fingers going back and forth – up and down and it is all what he has taught himself through hours of perseverance because the desire was there. The irony of it is that I now want to know how to do all that – so sometimes in HE, the parent ends up getting the education and the child is the one giving it! I hope this gives a glimpse of how wonderful HE can be to all those taking their first steps.

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