Using opportunities for meaningful learning

We’re house hunting at the moment. This is an enormous learning curve – not curve actually, a mountain that we are climbing! A new experience for us, having inherited the house we’re in so didn’t search for it.

It puts me in mind of when we did the transition to this house, following a bereavement of course, and what a huge, if shocking, life learning opportunity it all was at the time for the kids. And indeed a good illustration of what home education can fundamentally be; an education steeped in the rich opportunities life throws at us that are such valuable learning experiences, far more educative than sitting in a school doing meaningless academics like frontal adverbials or improper fractions.

Using opportunities for real life learning

Our story; ‘A Funny Kind of Education’, is an illustration of how this life learning happens and how we used even this experience of loss of a loved one, also uppermost in the news recently with the death of Prince Phillip, as a basis for developing understanding and meaning, giving learning a purpose. (If you scroll down the ‘My Books’ page you’ll find more on the book)

Life learning, that is using life experiences to develop various skills, gave the children a real reason for learning about the things they did; the historical, scientific, environmental, creative and mathematical concepts associated with everything; even death is scientific. And concepts like these run through everything we do if you just notice and explore them. Endless academic practise is not necessary for all learning, isn’t the only approach, and certainly doesn’t motivate children to learn as it has no visible purpose for them.

Even skills which have been made seemingly complex by the school style, objective led, test burdened approach, like reading for example, can be woven organically through the things kids naturally come into contact with.

For, if you think about it, why would kids not want to learn to read when they see us doing it, see us texting, messaging, using written communication through various keyboards. (Recent post on reading here)

In fact a home schooling friend said to me once that she believed her son, who hated any kind of formal English exercises, had learnt to read and spell through Gaming, by communicating with other gamers via messaging them, and the desire to be able to read the things he encountered on the computer. He’s successfully doing a degree in higher maths now so it obviously worked and I know for a fact that the family did very little formal academics at the time. Their learning was based around life experiences and building the skills they needed from what they encountered along the way.

Years ago, in Teacher-Training colleges, it used to be called ‘project based’ learning. You choose a topic to study with the kids and incorporated the basic skills they were required to accomplish at the time within those fun projects.

This approach has mostly disappeared now within the intense drilling for testing that occurs throughout the basic subjects, other projects like the arts or environment, just treated as add-ons. And the real purpose of basic life skills buried under the silly useless analysis and naming of various academic structures, like the parts of a sentence, just so they can be ticked off.

Who cares what the parts of sentence are called? Knowing that doesn’t make you a good communicator. And it’s communication which makes you human – life skills make you human, whether that’s understanding  what’s appropriate to say, how to be, or even bereavement. The current Royal loss presents a huge opportunity for understanding the life cycle, the politics, beliefs and traditions, the history associated with it, etc. etc.

Whatever happens to you at the time is an opportunity to learn, whether that’s knowing how to care, grieve, and empathise with others, read and decipher your messages, or use your technology well enough to move house!

All life presents opportunities for real learning, learning for the purpose of living a life, not learning just for ticks.

2 thoughts on “Using opportunities for meaningful learning

  1. Absolutely. I followed the life is learning approach with my youngest son, We didn’t do any formal maths until he was 14 and then he went straight onto gcse maths that he did with his Dad. After 2 years of 1 hour a week of formal study, he got a 6 in his GCSE (old B!). Before that he sold stuff on ebay – lots of weighing and working out posting costs etc, we played endless games – he was phenomenal at monopoly, cooked and generally used numbers in life. I was terrified of maths at school and didn’t want to pass that on! I didn’t teach him to read or spell but read to him lots, but he taught himself and chose to start reading books at 10 and then didn’t stop for a few years. From reading he learned all the sentence structure, punctuation etc and then wrote an amazing short story, with all the correct grammar, spelling, sentence structure, when he was 11. I was amazed at what he had worked out for himself. He ended up getting a 6 or (B )in English Gcse. English was the hard one for him, but again by using it in life and not making at big thing of it , he got the skills he needed.

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