Let’s do some educational myth busting. Mainstream thought around child education sounds like this:
- Children need to be forced, prodded and made to learn.
- Children will not learn on their own most of the time.
- They must have an adult over them instructing them at all times.
What if children can truly be trusted to take on the full responsibility for their education? That’s at the heart of child self-directed education. Children are able to and can take full responsibility for their education. Given the right rich resources and environment, children around the world are thriving and reveling in complete self-directed learning liberty. What's so great about this is that it's actually quite fun, fulfilling and even prepares kids for the future they want! Can unschoolers use some guidance and facilitation in this journey? If they choose it and want it, right? That’s at the heart of unschooling - the child is self directed and is "at choice". Adults become resources for the self-directed learner.
Recently, I’ve been doing unschool facilitation for a small group of 3 families focusing all of our learning attention just studying dogs. The online program is called Unschool Explorations: Dogs. Young people the world over love to study the top domestic animals, dogs and cats. Imagine your child focusing all of their time and attention on JUST the areas they are most excited to learn about.
Unfortunately, parents are so stressed about their children getting the basics that they don’t realize all of the basics can be learned and beyond by simply giving children the liberty to focus all of their time on just their interests. I asked the children to come up with a list of things they wanted to learn about dogs.
The list included:
- Veterinary work
- Spaying and neutering
- Dog anatomy
- Herbs for dogs
- What’s toxic for dogs
- Dog ears
- German Shepperd’s
- How dog’s ears stand up
One of the 8 year old girls, Tabitha (I’m changing their names to protect the children's privacy) and her younger sister, Emma, wanted to study veterinary work including spaying and neutering. Tabitha wanted to specifically learn about herbs and what’s toxic for dogs. The one young man in our group, 8-year old Rodney, wanted to learn dog anatomy and about dog ears. Gemma was interested in studying German Shepherds and how dogs ears stand up.
It’s been fascinating watching as the children have blossomed into taking responsibility for their learning, initiating personal study and projects. Tabitha printed out these fascinating blog posts from the point of view of various dog anatomical parts.
Here’s an adorable story. Two sisters, Gemma and Amy play practice doing surgeries on their stuffed animals and real pet cats. As a facilitator, I asked them, "What are some things you can do now to prepare to be a vet?"
Gemma said, “You can practice on your stuffed animals.”
I asked, What do you do and how do you practice being a vet on your stuffed animals? They said that one of the cats had something stuck in its fur. The girls pretended to be surgeons and cut what was stuck out of its hair. The girls even picked up the same orange cat to show me where they had cut out the lump of stuck fur behind it’s right ear. This is an example of play imitating adults. Children use play to mimic adult behavior thus learning skills they will need later in life. The sisters are also learning cooperation, team work and how to best work with animals, whether they become vets or not.
Once the students each told me what they wanted to learn about dogs, I researched the best resources on the Internet about their chosen topics. When we got together for the live classes, I shared the different resources I’d found with them. During the live class, the kids each decide which resources they want to read aloud or watch (if it's a video) in the class and have discussion about. Additionally, the students share any personal projects, books or other resources they have centered around any of the topics at any time during the class.
I find it fascinating that when students get excited by a topic, they’ll suddenly remember that they have some personal piece of artwork, photos, or other things in their house supporting our learning. I’ll ask them if they would like to run and get it. They just about always say yes or already tell me that they’re going to get it. While they go fetch their item to show us, we continue discussions as a group.
All-in-all, the students enjoy much needed and wanted freedom as we explore the topics that interest them most. Rather than wasting time on boring curriculum and teaching to a test, we zero in on and focus with great intensity on each child’s personal interests. It’s the best most creative and rich way to learn.
Are you looking for an alternative to dry boring factory-like curriculum? Is your child bucking you every step of the way this homeschool year learning things they have no interest in, or just not their way?
I offer you my free unit study planner. Unit studies are a great gateway to unschooling. They allow you to focus on your child's top learning interests and organize their interests all the while covering other subjects for your state reporting.
Go ahead now and grab your free unit study planner below.
You'll also be given a special invitation to join NatureGlo's eScience child self-directed online MathArt and science courses, if they're something you and your child are interested in.
Gloria aka NatureGlo