Thursday, 4 September 2014

My role is to facilitate, not to teach

Day 4 of home education:  yesterday I wrote how well our loose 'timetable' of activities before lunch was working for us and how much we're managing to cover 1:1. Some might call this approach a semi-structured method of learning at home. Today I would say the opposite has been true where learning is concerned. We still covered maths and reading, but on reflection it's very obvious to me that the MOST learning today hasn't been our maths and English, it happened unplanned and unexpectedly, very much in an unschooling way. 

For example, first thing this morning the kids decided to get their new Lego building kits out (a present from daddy). Both of them watched me and helped where they could, in following the instructions to put it together. Using concentration, fine motor skills, team work, seeing the big picture to name a few skills in the process. Perhaps more importantly for my under 5s, they spent a lovely time playing together with their newly built vehicles, Eden helping Asher fix his, Asher being patient with Eden and asking to take turns. I was very proud of them both. Nurturing the sibling bond is so important and a huge advantage to home education. 

Another example of unplanned learning today was a trip to the park. I had our guide dog puppy with me, so spent much of the time on the playing field right next to the enclosed play park while the kids played. With me not around, I observed the kids playing so well together, helping each other out, laughing and having fun together, enjoying each other's company, forgiving each other, thinking of each other's needs (turn taking) without my being present. If I had been there, both would've wanted my attention and wouldn't have played so nicely, or would've turned to me to intervene rather than work out their differences between them in the amicable way that they did - they're only 4 and 2 and yet they managed it perfectly well on their own! 

But my biggest pride today in their learning comes from our geomag play this afternoon. We have learning shelves where I store all the special learning toys, things I only bring out every so often, as I know they have high play value and don't want them to become part of the furniture and taken for granted. The kids have free access to these shelves, so if they do ever want to get anything out we always do, but the rest of the time they're stored away. 

Today was one of those days where Asher went to the shelves and picked our geomag set to play with. Now he is only 2.5, and we haven't had our geomag set out in ages, in fact I don't think he's ever had a long, proper play with them as they're full of small parts and a swallowing risk for babies and toddlers putting things in their mouth (he doesn't do this anymore and is more reliable). Today however, Asher absolutely loved playing with them! If you don't know what geomag are, they're a magnetic construction set consisting of magnetic balls and bars. Both kids stayed so focused on these this afternoon for so long, building away and making some awesome creations all on their own. I'm super proud of their creativity! Asher made an amazing flower, and Eden some beautiful jewellery. Their interest was a strong motivator for how much they learnt through this activity. With parent-led activities (or teacher led lessons at school) yes the children will learn, but to me it's clear how much more depth there is in their learning, when children are given the freedom to choose what and how to learn, when their motivation comes from within. This freedom and flexibility for each individual child's learning is why I love home education. 

I don't think I'm at the stage yet where I could completely put myself in the unschooling camp of home education I don't think I'm brave enough despite seeing all the advantages. I'm not sure I'll ever be brave enough! But in the years to come I can see us as a family using a mix of unschooling and Charlotte Mason methods in our home education. One thing's for sure, as the parent, I'm not trying to be a teacher, my role is facilitator for the kids' education, it is them that need to lead the way. 

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