What does learning mean in our household?
What does learning mean in our household?
Learning Doesn’t Have To Happen In A Classroom
As we approach our next ‘school’ year I wanted to take a minute to consider what learning looks like for us, as a home educating family. I am aware that all home educating families take different approaches and rightly so given that all children are unique and learn in different ways. I can only share my own thoughts and experiences. I am also aware that from an outside perspective our day may just look like chaos – and admittedly sometimes it is chaos! But for the most part, learning in our home is just part of our everyday life. It is not something which happens at a specific time, but all the time.
Learning Is Playing
At 7 and 9, Harry and Teddy still enjoy a lot of imaginative and physical play. Play is an essential part of any young child’s development and continues to be a crucial part of their day. I have no doubt they are learning through their play as they solve problems, develop their language and communication skills, concentrate and engage in their own creative games.
I do not believe we should ‘stop playing’ as we grow although the way we play may look different. When Teddy was little his play was to continually take all the pots and pans out the kitchen cupboard. This no longer appeals to a physically active 9-year-old boy, the games have just changed.
As I am writing this the boys are playing a game of ‘horse’ in the garden. They have placed 6 markers in a horseshoe shape around the basketball net and attempt to the throw the ball into the hoop. They need to successfully throw the ball from each of the six markers, each representing a letter in the word ‘HORSES’. They have played this game all summer long, taught it to their friends and continue to practice the physical skills involved. They share their tactics, discuss the fairness in the distance of the markers and constantly adapt the game to challenge themselves.
Learning Is A Lifelong Journey
I think it is important to remember that learning is not restricted to our adolescent years but is a lifelong journey. There may be times in our life when we learn more or less, but we never stop learning. We continue to find out more about ourselves and the world around us. We adapt to new situations and learn from our mistakes.
Even now, I do not know the answer to everything and I do not pretend to. When the boys ask a question to which I do not know the answer, we try to find out together. Sometimes in a book, sometimes asking other people and sometimes we look it up on the internet. The true is skill is knowing how to learn, how to research information and how to apply this.
Learning Is Social
Learning can be social in a number of ways. Not only do we learn from the people around us in the community, from our family and peers, but we can also learn collaboratively alongside others.
Yesterday, Teddy and Harry developed a new version of tag with their friends – there seem to be a few variations in their repertoire now! This new addition is called ‘lunge tig’ whereby once you have been tagged you must lean against something in a lunge position where you remain until someone has run under your arm in which case you are free to rejoin the game.
This is one of those moments of chaos which I referred to earlier, but on closer inspection, the children are developing a number of skills. They had to communicate and share their ideas, discuss rules and as the game progressed, developed strategies and team-work. The youngest player was 6 and the oldest was 14, but no child was left out.
Learning Is Experiential
This concept embraces the idea that we will inevitably learn about the world around us through our interactions and experiences. Experiences that can range from reading and experimenting to playing and discussing. This approach follows the idea that children will experience a process, reflect on it and then apply it themselves.
Participating in hands-on activities presents opportunities for children to engage in experiential learning as they physically interact with different materials, discover different working methods and experience different concepts. Children can reflect I their experiences through discussion or writing.
Types Of Learning
There is no wrong or right way to learn but we are all different and learn in different ways. I have always been a kinaesthetic learner and find I understand something when I have done it myself. Hence the reason I am so passionate about providing hands-on activities!
Some children learn a lot through visual demonstrations like documentaries and others respond to auditory resources like audio-books. This is not to say that only one type of learning method should be presented to children, only to highlight that we all respond differently to different resources and the way we receive information.
Structured Vs Unstructured
Structured learning refers to a planned and organised activity. Often this is led by a teacher or instructor with a clear final objective. This type of learning experience can be useful when learning a new skill and gaining new knowledge.
Unstructured learning encourages children to follow their own interests. There are no set rules or planned goals and children make their own decisions. This can be supported by adults creating an open environment and possibly providing suitable resources.
We try to balance structured and unstructured learning in our home. In the morning we follow a more structured routine. I will spend time with the boys and guide them through specific activities in which they may need my support. This may be maths, literacy or a hands-on science experiment. Structured learning does not restrict us to worksheets at a table, but refers to activities in which the boys may need support in understanding different concepts. Our afternoons leave plenty of time for the boys to follow their own interests wither alone, with me or with their friends.
No matter how learning looks for you, whether in your home or in a classroom, here are some wise words from a Chinese proverb to consider.
Tell me and I forget,
Teach me and I remember,
Involve me and I learn.
I hope your next year is a fantastic one and you enjoy the journey in discovering which approach to learning works best for you and the children you are working with. Remember that it’s a journey with many ups and downs and no wrong answers, only opportunities to learn from.