Education Overhaul Step 2: Define “Learning”
Did you know that “Education” and “Learning” are oftentimes polar opposites? Crazy, I know.
Education may be the process of teaching material, but education does not equal learning. Think of the old cliché, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.” You can educate all day long, but that doesn’t mean anything is learned.
We see this when we force kids to memorize and recite, standardize all lessons, and test, test, test in our school systems. Are the school systems the enemy? NO – it simply means that, although the schools try hard to provide the tools to education, it takes more than simply memorization and passing tests to prove that any real learning has happened. In any school setting (or lack thereof); public, private, homeschool, unschool, etc – education may expose children to new concepts…and learning may (or may not) happen. So how can we foster a love for learning and not just “educating”?
Our children can teach us a lot. Let’s see what Ellie, a six-year-old unschooler, would say about learning:
- watching TV
- playing with animals
- playing outside
- not listening to your mother
Why is learning important?
- to keep people alive
- to be smart
- no more ideas, crazyface!
I can definitely say she HAS learned by all the bulletpoints above. She’s learned about nature and animals, phonics, reading and math, the weather, actions and consequences, and so much more just from the things she listed above. I love that the first thing she said about the importance of learning was to keep people alive. So true! 🙂
And yes, we (gasp) watch TV. But let me clarify. We don’t even have basic cable. My kids don’t really have any concept of commercials, other than what pops up in youtube videos. We watch educational documentaries and shows on Netflix, and all the kids know that when we watch something, it’s to learn about something we don’t have access to right in our own house. They have learned about science and psychology (they love Brain Games and Bill Nye), emotions (Daniel Tiger is so helpful), cultures all over the world (Human Planet and Cooked are incredible), and so, so much more. We have traveled all across the world and through imagination to made-up places and learned and watched together. And if we don’t know something, we Google it and oftentimes watch a YouTube video to learn more.
When I asked her about learning, she didn’t really know what to say about it – learning is like breathing to her. She doesn’t identify what a learning opportunity is. She just knows that every day she plays hard and every day she gets a little smarter. I love that. Today is her down day – no nannies, tutors, homeschool events, etc. Today is the day I just let her play. This morning she made a store out of a cardboard box. She and her sisters made items to sell (skulls, skeletons and rock statues) and signs telling people what was in her store, including the hours it was open and closed (Silly Sisters Store, open from 3am-2pm).
She’s watched youtube videos on snakes and her sister made a pop-up jungle out of paper, hiding cheetahs and rabbits behind the grass while we problem-solved about how to get it to stand up (she figured out how to fold them so they stood up). She played in the sandbox and made up three new songs. Now she’s sitting next to me drawing scribbles with little pictures in them for me to play “hide and seek.”
Clara is busy working on illustrations for a children’s book her nanny wrote, and also just finished Chapter 10 in her own book. Ellie has moved on to taking pictures throughout the house of all the little things she sees in the house that Daddy would love (it’s his birthday today). Juliet apparently thinks the top of the toilet seat is the best place to read books, and she’s in there flipping through an Oprah magazine and singing to herself.
So yep, today was not an education day at all. There is always this struggle for approval, where I feel the need to justify what they do as “educational” and what they all have learned from it. Why is it that I feel that need to justify? Why can’t they just “play”? Can’t the “educational” justification be that they are exploring, having fun, being creative and therefore using their brains?
It was definitely a learning day. Every day is a learning day. Remember that true learning comes when someone is engaged in the process and truly interested in it. If you can follow your child’s passions and push them a little further than what they already know, you’ll be amazed at what they can really learn.
How have you incorporated learning into play?
Where all is your child learning – is there a school teacher who has made a huge impact, or a friend/family member?
What are they doing that is fostering that love of learning in your child?
This is the third post in the unschooling series. Read them all here: