20 May 2012

Learning Naturally

Last week my children were out walking with their dad in the early afternoon and were approached by one of the local policemen.  Apparently he had had complaints from locals (including the mayor) that our children were seen out walking at all times of the day and apparently neglected.  Obviously this angered me incredibly for several reasons and my first instinct was to write a letter to the public responding angrily.  If my children were walking alone I could understand concern but as they walk twice daily with a parent I do not see the need for such complaints.
Once I had calmed down I thought it more productive to write an educational piece on home education rather than something more scathing and this is what I wrote.  Now to see if it gets published :)

Learning Naturally
Today as I sit and write this my two children are sitting out on the deck together.  Miss 8 is combing Mr 10’s hair as he reads a book on the ocean; they are discussing different ocean creatures.  This impromptu research was instigated by a science program Mr 10 had watched the other day on parrot fish.  Ten minutes later and Mr 10 is laying on the couch still reading his book while Miss 8 has moved to the art table and started making a box diorama that will include different animals and hopefully contribute towards a ‘pet badge’ for girl guides.
This is natural organic learning at its best!  I also like that it is Sunday and that I have not once asked them to do any of this.
We are fortunate enough to live in a small piece of Tasmania’s paradise, Bridport.  Our family situation is somewhat unconventional.  Although my children’s dad and I are divorced we do live separately on the same property.  We also share the care and education of our children.
We chose to home educate from very early.  Both children have attended regular school for a short time and it just didn’t work for them.  Mr 10 has high functioning autism and found it extremely stressful and once he left Miss 8 decided to join him as she felt she was missing out on too much fun.  I personally like that there are no restrictions in what and when my children learn now they are at home.
Twice a day they go walking with their dad.  They can often be seen trekking the beach or the river walk with back packs on.  On these walks they talk about the treasures they find, sometimes sing the times table or as is the case lately find verbs/nouns and adjectives as they go along.  And of course they are getting their daily quota of exercise!  I am sure many locals have seen them in their travels J
We don’t sit at a desk with books, unless of course that is what they choose to do themselves. Our approach to learning is pretty much eclectic and child led for them to enjoy and benefit from.  Thus I ensure all their learning and art materials are at their reach and within view with everything labelled and easy to find, this is a Montessori approach to education.  We also keep a large bowl for collecting interesting objects they find and might want to discuss research or draw and this is displayed on a nature/season table, a typical Waldorf Steiner tradition.
They both keep a journal and are free to draw, write or cut and paste in it.  I generally don’t enforce anything but do like to encourage them to fill something in this at least once a week.  I usually blog or do something in my journal and this prompts them to do theirs at the same time.  Just as seeing me doing a crossword will usually prompt them to find puzzle books or Sudoku and follow suit.
Both children are very adept with the computer and love games or just ‘googling’ information.  They learn from even the most basic games such as bubble shooting, although Mr 10 loves English and math based games and Miss 8 has a soft spot for a world explorer game at the moment. 
When it comes to screen time I don’t find I need to be over vigilant.  I do monitor what they watch or play but tend to let them self monitor how much time they spend doing so.  This may sound scary to some parents but after a couple of weeks of nonstop viewing it gets boring and they tend to pull back quite a bit.  Our television is on for maybe less than an hour a day (usually while they eat lunch) and the Wii gets used for sport games or the occasional Mario adventure only a couple of times a week at the most. 
The computer tends to get the most use but even that has evened out to only a couple of times a week.  This approach is a principle of radical unschooling and for some families is extended to every facet of a child’s life.
It is amazing what educational principles are covered in everyday life.   Just a short example of what we have covered, sometimes daily:
Math- cooking, board games, drawing, Lego, workbooks if desired                        
English/grammar- reading, research, journaling, discussions, role play with dolls, puzzle books etc
German- iphone app games, general discussion and research on words
Japanese- martial arts, manga cartoons, Pokémon
Geography- postcard swaps, Flat Stanley project, computer games, games, books
History- reading, television documentaries, games
Art- constant creating in our house covering all mediums of art and craft
One of the most common concerns of non home educators is that the social needs of our children are being met.  Our children attend taekwondo, guides, kids club, German group and home ed group weekly.  They have regular play dates with other children, visit the library once or twice a week and attend public events at various theatres, museums and galleries.  They are not short of social contact at all.   In fact some weeks are just plain exhausting!
Education doesn’t start at 9am and finish at 3pm weekdays for us.  It is all day and every day and not limited to a desk in a room.  The world is a classroom and everyone in it contributes to education.   
As most people know you must have your child registered at an approved education facility in Australia by the time they reach five (in Tasmania).  This includes registering for home education through T.H.E.A.C (Tasmania Home Education Advisory Council), an education guideline and annual monitoring visit.  It is completely legal to home educate and children continue on to university with ease and success just as well as those educated in institutional surroundings.


Beckstar said...

Nice one, Kel x

tankgirl said...

You have taken advantage of a potentially negative situation and turned it into a positive opportunity to educate. Well done!

Free Range Mum said...

I really enjoyed reading about the way you live your lives, especially the way that you've been able to continue their home ed lifestyle even though you and your partner have divorced. What a beautiful example of working together for the good of the children. How blessed they are! And for what it's worth, the nature walks sound fantastic!

carmen said...

Here's to opening up the eyes of many to other possibilities. I look forward to hearing about how it all pans out from here. xxx

Sazz said...

Agreeing with tankgirl on turning it around. I'm still shaking my head that locals felt the need to report something as wonderful as children taking a walk during the day with their parents. Honestly, what is the world coming to?!

Coming here from Unschool Monday :)

Helena said...

This is a really great picture of your family's life, Kelli, and it's so clear how much learning is happening naturally in your home (and out of it too! Those walks sound magical). Yes, to turning a negative into a positive! This is beautiful :)

Shae said...

Love that you turned the negative attention around :)

Kim H said...

What a privelege it is to homeschool, Kelli. Don't you think? Walking twice a day! Fantastic! How annoying to have that policeman comment and to have the public so 'concerned'. Ugh! I wish the public would get more concerned about real kids in need instead of homeschoolers. Agh! Don't let it get to you, Kelli. Keep doing the fantastic job that you're doing:)

Lauren said...

I was floored when I read this happened to you, Kelli... But then, it's Tassie, eh? I love that you wrote this in response and I hope you managed to get some positive attention for it. xx