Don’t Stress Education; Let Them Play (Episode 139)
Let me speak to you parents who are overwhelmed with having children 24/7 right now, much less trying to figure out schooling. Let me tell you what is most important to do THIS WEEK with your family.
The world is our school, and everyone is our teacher.
This Listener Question
I originally had this as a podcast topic for later on in the year, having no idea our world would be rocked like it has been in the past few weeks. And now, as the educational world has been tossed upside down and thrown behind a computer screen, it’s left many people overwhelmed, confused, and scrambling.
This listener question, while sent in a while ago, is so relevant to today:
Hi Ashley! I am 25 and a mother of 2 little boys.. We have been wanting to go full time RV for a while but are waiting until our boys are a tad bit older. I'm not exaggerating when I say that every podcast I soak up so much information that I’ve been longing to hear. It feels like a part of me is able to break through some invisible barriers that I’ve been in for a very long time! You and your husband have really helped me be more confident and positive in my day to day life with my kiddos.
One important question that I have has to do with my own mindset. I have this insecurity that I am not imaginative enough to unschool my kids. It feels like these past few years of "adulting" and being stressed out has nearly erased my childhood imagination and mostly my MOTIVATION to be creative. I don't know how to get it back. My goal is to unschool my kids and help them keep their passion for creativity for the rest of their lives. Is there anything you might recommend for me to try and unlock the imagination and motivation I feel like I’ve lost?
Thank you so much for the light you are spreading in the world! ~Carrie
You've Got This
Yes, you’ve got this. There may be a lot of pressure about getting your child to a certain level. However…who is giving this pressure? It’s funny, I keep going back to this acronym for so many things right now.
Boy, I’ve used this in reference to how my children interact with one another. With how I respond to people. With what news I’m soaking in right now amidst a pandemic that has turned our world upside down. And, when it comes to educating my children.
Go through this in your mind when you are questioning – “my kids are going to fall behind in school” – is that true? Is that helping anything to think that?
How about “we have to get started on trigonometry!” Is that really true? Is it helpful right now, at this moment, when our world is in various stages of lockdown? Is it absolutely necessary?
Don't Steal Time From Your Children
A listener shared this article with me, and it’s a great one one the importance of outdoor free play. From the website 1000 Hours Outside, Let’s Stop Stealing Time From Children lays out exactly how critical every element of school is. In it, it says,
The thing is compulsory education is relatively new. Just over 100 years ago the only compulsory education law was that all children had to complete elementary school. Things have changed dramatically in just ten decades. We've gone from five years of compulsory education to thirteen and we now mandate such subjects as "Algebra 2 and Trigonometry" in order to graduate.
Do we really know beyond a shadow of a doubt that these are the things all children need to succeed in life, especially given the incredible trade-off in time? The things we call “best practice” are at best a guess. I know that for certain because best practices, as they pertain to childhood development, change all the time. The curriculums and sequences change often with the winds of political change.
Surprisingly, sometimes people buck the system and they still turn out furthering the point that 13 years in a classroom may not be necessary for lifelong success. Kids have not always needed to pass trigonometry to successfully transition into adulthood, but they have always needed time. Time to learn who they are. Time to explore their surroundings. Time to figure out how to enjoy their own company and how to structure their free time. Time to think, and to dream, and to dawdle, and to wonder. Kids need time. And as the school day, homework, and adult-directed activities take over much of childhood, we are left with lost children.
John Taylor Gatto was a public school teacher in New York for nearly 30 years and a world renowned speaker for another 20 years afterwards giving over 1500 speeches in 9 countries. He was named the New York State Teacher of the Year twice and has written some prolific literature. Gatto was a huge advocate that at the right age and stage, and in the right environment, children could learn phenomenal amounts in short periods of time. After spending thousands of hours with children over the course of three decades and after untold amounts of research, Gatto concluded that, "It only takes about 50 contact hours to transmit basic literacy and math skills well enough that kids can be self-teachers from then on." 50 hours. Let that sink in. That's just over one week of school. Today, children spend between 12 and 15 THOUSAND seat hours within the four walls of a classroom.
From the website 1000 Hours Outside, Let’s Stop Stealing Time From Children
Step one: Let go of the “shoulds” – pick apart all the pre-conceived constructs of what “school” should be.
The first step in exploring what you want to do in the future is to reset what you have done in the past. You need to let go of the "shoulds" and explore the possibilities and what works for your family, right here, right now.
The concept of “deschooling” is to let go of any preconceived notions and agendas, and really look at the here and now and what is really needed. For me, at the heart of deschooling is getting to the core of connection and relationships.
It’s letting go of the agenda and getting to know your child.
It’s following their interests and seeing where their curiosity leads you.
Before you bring school to your child, let them teach you a thing or two about how they think.
In the Lifelong Learner profile, we address styles of learning, looking at these key areas:
Cognitive Thinking Style
How incredible to gain these insights into how your child learns before you even dive into the actual application! If you knew how they were naturally bent, and could motivate them based on their personality and learning style, aren’t you way more likely to see success?
Is learning about checking off accomplishments and memorization, or is learning about truly retaining and growing from what you learn?
If your goal is to have your child soak it in, you need to prioritize how they are internally motivated so they are eager to learn it.
Follow their own natural curiosity.
The Blank Slate
Step two: come with a blank slate and only one thing on the agenda – getting to know your child and how they tick!
We already talked about the insights in the Lifelong Learner Personality Snapshot. Beyond looking at learning styles, it’s simply uncovering how your child ticks. Are they in charge like a lion, playful like an otter, loyal like a golden retriever, or analytical like a beaver, assessing all the details?
Get to know your child. Play 21 questions and see what new things you can discover about them.
Follow Their Lead
The best way to unlock your own motivation and imagination is to follow your kids' lead! Let them lead you for a while - follow their interests, their curiosity, and their imagination and see what it opens up.
Sometimes we put so much stress on ourselves to create the agenda, when if we just let it unfold with our children, we're better able to discover their own natural curiosities and understand their own internal motivations to learn and explore. It's not about the 'right' way as much as what works for your family!
I'm keeping things simple today - just go here.
And, this article is perfect for right now as well: Homeschooling is NOT the same as Crisis Schooling
Finally, here are two links with more ideas on what you really CAN focus on this week:
Your Weekly Challenge:
Your challenge this week. Interview your child. Get to know them. Ask them what they are curious about. Make a curiosity board together. Ask them about their favorite things to do, what makes them happy, and what they do when they are upset/frustrated/mad. If you want an additional boost, check out the Namaste Personality Snapshots for the whole family.
Make this your week of blossoming the relationships in your home. Our kids are feeding off of our energy in our homes, and when the stress of what is going on in the world is mounted on top of the agenda to play “school at home” with your children, it can create more conflict and tension that what is necessary.
You don’t have to set the stone for the next year of education this week. We’re in a red-light-green-light process in the world right now, as we learn more about this pandemic and how to get through it. So give yourselves some grace as a family. The legacy of love and support during this time will go much further than whether or not your child has their multiplication tables memorized!
We’re all navigating all kinds of emotions. This is a time when all emotions can be heightened. Before you speak, go through that acronym, THINK. Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it inspiring? Is it necessary? Is it kind?
Show love and grace, and remember, the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us.