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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Learning happens

So many things have led me to choose an unschooling approach for my children's education. Most of them boil down to these simple ideas:
  • We are constantly learning.
  • We learn best through direct experience.
If you accept these ideas, it can seem preposterous for us to blindly assume that most meaningful and necessary learning must take place within a classroom, and through the use of lectures and texts.

Not that they don't have their virtues, mind you. I'm personally a big fan of both. I intend to write a little essay on that one of these days, in fact. (Yeah, I love essays too.) But I recognize that they aren't for everyone, and that by and large, they are not the most effective methods.

I often remember a conversation I had with a mother of an autistic child who was frustrated with the school district's approach to her son's education. The instructors were stressing just how important it was that he be taught in certain ways, so that he *could* learn. She, bless her heart, laughed in their faces and said, "All of my children are learning every day of their lives!"

Yes, they are. We accept and celebrate that when they are babies. You don't lecture your infant on proper rolling-over technique or give your baby a text on the many uses of stacking toys or show your toddler diagrams explaining the most efficient way to navigate stairs. You don't have to lecture your preschoolers on natural history; you just answer as many "why"s as you can. (Often as quickly as you can!) So why, once they are of "school age", do we lose our faith in their desire (and capacity!) to learn, and assume that learning has to be forced on them in an institutional setting by trained professionals?

Well, actually I am starting to learn why, and there have been enough books written on it that I won't bother tackling it here.

All of this is just mind-rambling. What I really wanted to blog tonight was the fact that my 3-year-old did his first experiments with pulleys today. It was not part of a curriculum and it was not prompted by me; it was just him and the kid next door trying to figure out how to get the toy lawnmower up into the playhouse fort. And it was just as awesome for me to watch as were his first steps.

Learning happens. Let's not forget to celebrate it!

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