How children learn without school

But how do they learn without school or sit down lessons? Through LIVING.  It is literally impossible not to learn when you are allowed to participate in life, follow your interests and explore the world in as much detail and as often as you like.

Today, this little guy provided us with just one of the examples of how learning takes place without school or sit down lessons.  Isn’t he/she adorable?  We were so lucky to see this gorgeous chic up close in a low hanging gum tree branch. 😊

So here’s a simplified rundown, think of a time when you discovered something you had intense curiosity in or passion for. Chances are, you pursued it as much as you liked, in a way that most suit you, when it most suited you AND YOU LOVED DOING IT. You know that feeling you get when you don’t want to stop exploring, investigating or doing that thing?  SO GOOD RIGHT! Your brain is like a sponge soaking up all the info, techniques, ideas etc. You’re practicing the new skill as much as possible until you nail it or your gathering all of the information and writing it in your journal or on your computer. It’s the best feeling!

Now imagine that you can continue doing that without interruption, or having to move on to something less interesting (for the most part 😉 ) And imagine, having your own support person/ coach/ mentor, one on one (or potentially one on 3 like at my house 😝, but in the moment it’s often 1:1), fully present and available to you to help facilitate your investigation, so that you can find all of the answers to all of your questions together, using all different resources.  THEN imagine, that this person, loves you unconditionally, respects you and values your questions, opinion and each exploration you choose to investigate in depth without restraint…………would learning take place? YOU BETCHYA!

Can you imagine (or remember) how much you would learn fuelled by passion and curiosity AND with your own personal coach/ teacher?  Well, this is one of the major learning pathways my children experience as unschoolers.

Now back to my example. This is a brief overview……because it went on all day……..of how things unfolded with the bird.

It all started with a grown man riding a tiny bright pink bike with a basket on the front. 🤣 That’s right, it started with me pointing out (as I almost rolled on the floor laughing) my husband riding our daughters bike over to our location in the playground we were visiting on Monday afternoon.  It was quickly replaced by my shrieking wails as I yelled at my husband to break up a bird fight nearby.

Violet, a little alarmed, asked me what was happening to the bird as they quickly disbanded on the arrival of my husband peddling up the path.  I mentioned they were probably fighting over a crumb on the ground or something like that, but they had all flown away so they must have been ok.  I asked if she wanted to check it out, she said no she didn’t and she continued to play in the sand with her brother.

When the time came to leave, we were walking past the scene of the crime and I happened to glance at the tree and there it was!  A very low hanging birds nest. It was so low, head height actually, that I could clearly see 2 little chics cheeping away inside and the mumma (or daddy, I’m not well practiced at sexing birds) hovering on a close but not too close branch, waiting for me to pass by. I called everyone over for a peek.  That’s when it began………..the questions……..they come fast and thick like the timed round in a trivia game show…….and I LOVE it.

Both children started firing, How many are there? Where are the mummy and daddy? Why aren’t the mummy and daddy with them? Is that why the birds were fighting? It’s around then that my son road off, his main concern was where was the mummy and daddy and once I pointed the parent out and he felt sure it wasn’t abandoning the little fuzz balls he was off to practice his new passion and skill- riding his bike with no training wheels.

After a short discussion about why the birds may have been fighting over the chics (biology lesson), Violet went to continue riding her bike and enjoying the flying fox…….as did I……because who doesn’t enjoy a flying fox and the playground was empty it was a MASSIVE opportunity for me to flail around awkwardly while Steve held the baby and there was nobody to see me.

Anyway, when we got in the car, on glancing in the review mirror, I saw this!

Seems it was all about the birds this day.  Funnily enough, the universe often dishes things up this way.  Obviously, some learning to be done about birds!  I said, “look at the parakeets!” Violet said “I thought they were lorikeets mum” Me (maybeeeee sticking out my tongue) “Oh really let’s google it”……….turns out she was right. Apparently, Lorikeets are more medium sized birds, have a brush tongue and prefer a diet of nectar and pollen, while parakeets are often smaller (think budgie) and prefer a diet of seeds.  They also generally lack the colourful plumage of the lorikeets……anywho….biology! The questions ceased for the moment……..

Until later that afternoon when Vi decided to do some drawing in her journal (art). What kind of bird was that in the nest mum? hmmmmm, another one I can’t answer off the top of my head…….”Let’s google it mum!” After a couple of searches for images, we found it. The noisy miner. 😉 She wanted to write its name on her picture so we did that together sounding out the words and her writing each letter.  Then she asked me to write ‘this is a’ in front of it (literacy).

The rest of our afternoon was spent watching a documentary on birds on youtube.  (National Geographic WILD BIRDS | THE OUTBACK OF AUSTRALIA) Often, when watching documentaries, or any show for that matter, Violet has MANY questions. Most of the time, we write them on a piece of paper and see if they are answered during the program and if not, we find the answers after the documentary finishes, but other times, she has a particularly burning question that she really wants to be answered immediately and we pause the show and google it or look up a book if we have one that is suitable.

Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.

John Holt

The questions are too numerous to list, but you get the idea.  All day, every day, our children are free to take a trip down any rabbit hole they desire!  And I am right there to support and journey with them. Together we search for answers, uncover magnificent facts, make hypotheses, record our findings, experiment, experience, and dive into our world and relationships as much as any of us care too. And it’s incredible how deep children go when they have never been taught otherwise, never been interrupted or made to feel as though there is something more important to learn.

Doing things this way, our children are constantly exposed to literacy and numeracy skills (more on these things in another post) as well as the sciences, geography, and history, just to name a few and their retention rate is, well, lets just say, my 6 year old certainly remembers more than I do about anything she is pursuing. All without us forcing them to ‘learn’ anything. Learning happens freely, easily and it’s so much FUN.

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