Does education have to be timed?

It felt delicious in September when all the other children went back to school and ours didn’t.

Always things to learn about

Always things to learn about

Although I felt a little sad for them shut inside on gorgeous days when the weather always seemed to take a turn for the better and we could make the most of it!

But that’s the school style education for you; timed and divided into fixed compartments as if that was the only way to learn.

It isn’t. It’s only necessary for schooling hundreds of children in the same things at the same time with as few members of staff as possible.

And it takes a while to rethink the idea of education only happening like that, to understand that children learn just as effectively when it isn’t timed or controlled by restrictive boundaries.

You might think that if we don’t time it; if we don’t ‘start learning’ at 9 and go on till 3 like a timed school day, we wouldn’t learn as much as kids do in school. However, thinking about that school day, there’s an enormous amount of wasted time when the child is not engaged. If they’re not engaged they won’t be learning.

Learning through an approach that’s integrated and engaged in real life, it actually happens that the children learn more. Life teaches us; improves our skills and upgrades our knowledge and understanding all the time as we live it and go about our daily activities.

For example, throughout the day, whatever the children are doing, there is opportunity to talk, observe, question, hypothesise, maybe research as a result, converse – a very effective way of learning with instant feedback and development of understanding. It could start with something as simple as going to the loo.

“How does the wee get in there?” my youngest once yelled through the toilet door. There followed a short explanation and then ongoing discussions at relevant times on the body, its functions, organs, the food and fluids it needs, the digestive system, with research online, pictures and games to follow up.

In other words, a continuous biology lesson pertinent to life which continued whenever it arose.

Another example; whilst boiling the kettle I posed the question ‘how would we manage without electricity?’ which sparked off more conversation, investigation into and experimentation with electricity, attempts to do without it, talking to grandma who had!

A maths example; there’s 8 of us for supper, we have 2 pizzas, how much do we get each? Doing the weekly shop involves budgeting, investigating nutritional content, countries of origin, social skills….the list is endless.

Engaging the children provokes learning and all subjects that are timed in a school setting can be covered in a natural relevant way. This approach builds understanding which is the basis for more formal academics at a later date perhaps. It doesn’t have to be timed, or age related, only relevant to the moment and the interest of the child. And the amazing self organising brain can piece this seeming unrelated patchwork of learning together seamlessly as it develops.

Home education also gives unlimited opportunity to play. Hours that would be wasted with boredom or disengagement in a school setting can be filled with play. Playing builds many essential skills, both mental and physical. It develops maturity, initiative, extends creative and innovative practises and their independence – all attributes needed for employment!

When I started home educating following an earlier career in the classroom I was stuck in timed educational thinking. But we only need that sort of timed control for institutional education, it is in no way essential for learning. And I soon realised that to contain the children’s education within unnecessary time limits was to restrict the potential for learning that is accessible at any moment.

Time control has nothing really to do with learning. It’s useful as a tool when we need it, perhaps to reach particular goals or to function round family schedules. But it is just that – a tool you are in charge of. It doesn’t have to be in charge of you. Or your child’s learning life!

So if it’s nice outside go out in it, you’ll never know what you’ll find to learn about.

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2 thoughts on “Does education have to be timed?

  1. Thanks Ross. Very helpful. We’re very much at the early stages and sort of still balancing between a little bit of ordered education and rapidly heading towards less ‘formal’ education. Todays lessons involved some tidying, old maths test papers, trying out a stand-up desk for our kinaesthetic learner (all before 9:30am!) and then 10 pin bowling with their friends before they all head back to school this week. 🙂

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