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Posts Tagged ‘life learning’

Front Crawl

The kids and I spent the whole afternoon at our local swimming pool. I absolutely love the place. It was built as a “relief project” during the Depression, and it has the words Bath House above the front doors. The change rooms are simply large one-room areas with lockers on the walls, and the showers are just nozzles sticking out of the wall in another large room.

One whole wall of the pool area is floor-to-ceiling windows, and even on cloudy days, the water is bathed in light. On sunny days, it’s like a trip to the Carribean.

We hadn’t been for our once-weekly swim in almost a month, because of Jay’s ear infection, so today’s visit was a real treat. We brought one of the kids’ friends, and the three of them took great pleasure in our little escape from winter. One of the nice parts of homeschooling is being able to use public facilities during school hours. When we go to the pool, Christine the lifeguard sections off 3 or4 lanes for the 1 or 2 lap swimmers, and the splashy, noisy, exuberant kids get to play as wildly as they like in the rest of the space. I do my laps and they slide, use flippers, jostle, push, do handstands, dive for rings, and make up endless marine-based games. Sometimes we meet another homeschool family there, and then the pool has 8 kids to contend with, but the lap-swimming regulars, mostly older grannies, never seem to mind.

Jay insisted on “swimming lessons”, which consist of me standing a distance away and watching her do front crawl. The lifeguard, with nothing better to do, walked along the edge, and gave helpful pointers. We were intending on signing up for real swimming lessons this fall, but didn’t, but that’s okay, because Jay has it in her head that she wants to learn how to swim properly, and once she decides on doing something, it happens. She’s practiced every time we’ve come to the pool, and, according to the lifeguard, has gone from guppy to crocodile, or was that starfish to salamander? Improving, at any rate. In fact, she can now swim one whole length of the pool in front crawl, which qualifies her to swim without a lifejacket in the deep end.

Which got me to thinking. Her learning to swim resulted from her exposure to swimming pools, her observations of her older siblings enjoying the water, and her desire to join them. She wanted to learn front crawl because she wanted to swim in the deep end with the big kids. It was entirely self-motivated, and she learned it because she saw a good reason for it. I didn’t once have to encourage, cajole, or reward. In fact, I had nothing to do with it at all, except that I was the one that provided the opportunity.

Hmmm. I started writing a post on what a lovely afternoon we had, and I ended up seeing Jay’s swimming as a metaphor for the way I’m starting to think of as the ideal way to learn. I guess I have been doing a lot of thinking on the subject lately….

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Life Learning

This homeschool year has been an exciting one for me because it feels like I have made a paradigm shift that has been a long time coming.

After countless illuminating experiences with my own children, after sifting through and internalizing book after book on child development, cognitive psychology, and learning styles, and after reading first hand accounts of adult unschoolers life experiences, and ruminating over the impassioned words of several leading child development experts, my maddeningly slow-to-accept-new-ideas brain is cottoning to the whole concept of “life-learning”.

Trouble is, I don’t think that I can provide the ideal sort of environment for a life learning approach. As Wendy Preisnitz said in the latest issue of Life Learning magazine, “Life learning is about kids doing their own real work, motivated by their own real interests and goals, and being around adults who are also doing their own real work.” She went on to say that ” Unfortunately, there are very few places where children can experience the adult world. Many children – and even many homeschooled ones – don’t have nearly enough opportunities to be with adults who are doing their own thing in the real world, and not….just hanging around entertaining or instructing or being nice to children.”

I agree. Having the children at home, where they are free to explore their own interests and learn in their own way is a step in the right direction, but it is still an artificial situation in which they are at a remove from the real world. They are not being given the opportunity to witness much of what adults do on a daily basis, and they can’t contribute their own skills in any meaningful way. I get the sense that the kids would like nothing better than to do “real work”, and I feel frustrated that they have nowhere to do this. I am glad that they, at the very least, get to observe the workings of the “real” world during “school hours”, by watching the dishwasher repair guy do his thing, and by taking knitting lessons from a local shop owner, but I wish that they could contribute and work too.

As Wendy said, “The working world of adults is not very accessible to children because we fear they will get hurt, get in the way of, or slow down production, or abuse or break the equipment. So we make childhood a rehearsal for personhood, replacing real experiences with pseudo experiences. Many of those pseudo experiences take place in schools, but they can also be part of the home-based learning environment.”

I would like my kids to be a part of the real world outside of this house on a daily basis, particularly as they approach their teen years. All I can do is to keep my eyes and ears open for opportunites…..volunteer positions, community projects, maybe even apprentice work. Outside of school, outside of book learning, outside of situations contrived to teach them something, and into situations in which they are actively working.

It is at times like this that I wish we either lived on a farm, or had a family business, because they would naturally see adults working, and naturally find a way to contribute. I hope that some real world life learning experiences open up as each kid follows their own interests, but I’m guessing that I may have to help them actively search them out.

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