Your children are capable of figuring out what they want or need to know.
Children start off in life as insatiably curious creatures. Their learning comes naturally, from experiencing normal, everyday life. They figure out which knowledge and skills they need to acquire by discovering what the gaps are between where they are now and where they want to be.
Incidentally, that’s the same process we use as adults. Yet, our educational system derails that process. All of a sudden, at five years old, we’ve determined that authority figures must step in and direct the process for the next 13 years – after which, young adults will be spit back out into a world where they must relearn how to do what originally came so naturally.
Your children will choose to learn what they want or need to know at exactly the right time for them.
Infants, toddlers, and preschoolers are amazingly capable of picking up what they want or need to learn exactly when they are ready to use it…and not a second earlier. Adults too are capable of discerning what is important or desirable to know and willing to invest the time and energy into doing so. I’ll put forth that, left to their own devices and not pressured by anyone else’s agenda, children between 5-18 are also capable of the same thing.
Having children learning the same things at the same time, to the same degree, with the same resources is simply a matter of convenience for teachers and administrators, and other than convenience, there’s no good reason in the world why that must happen.
Your children’s interests and opinions are valid and deserve respect.
Few other circumstances demonstrate such a pervasive disrespect for the thoughts and feelings of children as is displayed in an authority-driven education. As adults, we wouldn’t tolerate such a blatant dismissal of our thoughts and feelings. Nor we would suffer having our time and energy wasted on as many meaningless tasks as we assign to children in that authority-driven education.
And yet, for some reason, the adult powers-that-be have determined that they know best what children need to know and by when they must know it, and therefore it is acceptable to force that agenda on children.
Your children will choose to do difficult things and things they don’t enjoy if those things are necessary means to an end that is meaningful to them.
Children will not do difficult things and things that they don’t enjoy (if they have a choice) in order to accomplish a task that is meaningless to them. Neither will we, as adults!
However, put a goal that is truly meaningful to any of us in front of us and line the path with difficult or unpleasant obstacles, and if that goal is genuinely personally meaningful, we will tackle those difficult and unpleasant tasks. If we’re not willing to do that, it’s because we’ve weighed the pros and cons and determined that the end goal isn’t significant enough. And that’s okay! Not everything we can do is worth doing.
Your children don’t deserve to have their time wasted any more than you would like yours being wasted.
Let’s re-read that last one: Not everything we can do is worth doing. Not everything that we assign to children to do is worth doing. I’ll put forth that most of the schoolwork we assign to children to do is, in fact, not worth doing. A lot of it is busy work. And when something isn’t worth doing, but we insist that someone else do it anyway, aren’t we wasting their time?
No one likes having their time wasted. No one likes having what they want to do or learn crowded out by what someone else wants them to do or learn.
Your children don’t deserve to have someone else insist that they learn something they see no reason to learn, any more than you do.
Just as no one likes having their time wasted, no one likes having what they want to do or learn crowded out by what someone else wants them to do or learn without their consent. Children aren’t any different.
Recognizing a need or a desire to learn something is a powerful motivator. Once the reason to learn something is in place, the process of learning it becomes smoother and easier. There won’t be any fighting. You won’t need to nag or bribe. The learning rewards itself. Finally, you can be sure that when your children have a personal need or desire to learn something, they will actually learn it. To actually learn something means more than regurgitating information onto an assignment or a test. It means internalizing it, claiming it as one’s own, and using it.
I’m a married, homeschooling mama of three who is passionate about self-directed learning.
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