One thing I’ve spent my last decade doing, unintentionally, is studying learning.
When you’re trying to encourage learning, whether it be numerical literacy or scientific discovery, you quickly learn that everyone is learning differently, that each child doesn’t have the same interests, and that each child wasn’t placed on this earth for the same purposes, so why educate them identically?
I’ve had six human subjects: four kids, my husband, and myself. Some of us prefer to just read the book. Some would rather have things explained. Some would rather watch the YouTube video. Some would rather build the math problem. Some take ten minutes perusing instructions. Some want to read it in English, French, Spanish, and Chinese (I discovered that when we built the first child’s crib. Me: not so much.
As an off-grid British Columbian homeschooler, with no one overseeing grades, transcripts, content, or curriculum, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking what the right things are for my children to learn.
I don’t assume there is one right way to educate a child. I don’t assume there is one right complement of activities or curriculum that is ideal. I know there will be gaps, as there were gaps in my conventional education. (Also, there are always gaps, unless you’re God or Google.)
I’ve learned to consider:
Who is the child?
This is an unending exploration: who is the child? When I finally have them ‘pegged’…”you are an ENFJ auditory learner, who prefers to do things with a cat in the room and a latte in your mug, but you hate history; instead, you enjoy reading out loud and acting out your studies”…then a week later, that ENFY auditory learner who hates history declares she wants to step up her history learning by taking an on-line class. Peg them, I can not.
What are their interests?
They might play with Legos indefinitely, or they might flip from Legos to chess to cribbage exploration then back to preparing a teddy bear picnic in the backyard –and I ponder, isn’t he too old for that? Now they enjoy history reading, next they want to take a psychology class, then they decide they prefer ancient languages.
Whatever their interests, every single one can be used in math studies, science exploration, writing or history study.
What are me and my husband’s interests?
What can we offer them from our interests or our training? This is why they were born into our families, so we can share ourselves, our interests and aptitudes, with them. You won’t overhear a discussion with me and the kids about how many seats in parliament need to be won for our favoured party to get a minority government, or watch free online broadway offerings, or play math logic games. But you will hear me ask the kids to listen to Mendelsohn or watch YouTube videos on Vincent Van Gogh or play a Professor Noggins Fine Art game or read poetry while eating scones and drinking tea.
What do their internal compasses dictate? And how might that reveal their purpose in this life?
Each of them rolls their eyes when I share this anecdote. But I’ve shared it repeatedly, because there’s some truth in it. If you discover you love making miniature stone animals and selling them at the local market, then do it. Find a way to supplement your income or create an income. Definitely do the thing you love.
We all have unique things to create in this life. That creation might come in the form of crocheting knit hats as a side hustle, it might be in managing an organization, or creating a home from a house. It might be landscape development, helping people manage their interpersonal issues, or calculating numbers for tax forms. It’s all creative.
We aren’t told in advance what our children will create. So we watch how they play, how they engage, how they interact, and help them move forward toward what they are meant to do.
Realize school gets in the way of an education.Mark Twain
I’m halfway through writing my second book, the Homeschool Family & Self-Directed Learning.