Creating an environment in which kids can learn

Have you heard the saying; ‘you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink’?

Simple when you think about the concept behind it, and absolutely true. Whatever you think something or someone else needs you cannot control outcomes!

And whenever I think about schooling and learning and education this saying comes straight to mind.

I used to think about it a lot when I actually worked in schools, before home education came into my life all those years ago. For it is absolutely true that you can lead a kid to school but you cannot make them learn. I saw the evidence!

And I thought about it loads when we were home educating because it is the same when educating out of school: You cannot force a child to learn (as I posted about last year here).

You cannot force a child to learn just facilitate the right environment for their innate desire to learn to flourish

What you can do is facilitate the right environment for them to do so. But that environment is less about the physical and more about the emotional one. That’s one of the big failings in many school environments, the emotional climate is too strained for some children to thrive well. And that matters, I think.

The physical environment is important obviously. Children need shelter, to be fed, and be warm and relatively comfortable. Some need quiet, others need hubbub, some company, some isolation, we’re all different. And various accessories naturally facilitate and support the learning process; access to internet, materials and equipment, books, paper etc.

But the emotional environment is as equally important as any of this, goes hand in hand with achievement and success. And it’s us who provide that by creating the right emotional space in which a child can thrive.

We do this simply by the way we are. By the way we behave, the way we support and encourage the children, by our own positive attitude to learning – for learning anything – and the value we place on personal development which is what education is, of course.

In this emotional space we provide the children are never undermined, patronised or bullied. They are respected and listened to and included in discussions and decisions about what happens to them. They feel safe and loved. They can express their views about their own learning – and feel that this learning is theirs, is for them, and is not something imposed upon them by others, which they have a duty to endure. If they feel that, their learning will not last life-long.

We should never betray them.

This all happens through the way we and others relate to them. It comes through our conversations; one of the best ways to show they’re respected is by the way we listen to them, as well as asking that they listen to others.

Conversations are such a valuable part of the learning process, as valuable as writing and studying, however since there’s not usually anything tangible to show after a conversation, parents often underrate them. But children glean so much from being able to converse, ask questions, delve deeper, be curious in an environment where they are not put down. Conversations also develop language, social and emotional skills, understanding and mental agility, and promote maturity. You may not have got anything down during a day learning at home, but through conversation and engaging with your child they will have learnt much more than you think!

You may not be able to tick sheets now, but you will see the proof when they are older and seem to know so much that you don’t remember teaching them

That’s the point – you didn’t! You lead them towards education and allowed them to drink of it for themselves. That’s the best you can do!

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