We started informally homeschooling our son, Vito, this September. It’s nothing structured, nor do I have lesson plans or anything written in a schedule. We basically play, explore, ask questions, converse, and repeat the process. Every time I observe my son learning something new these days (or gaining new insight from a previous experience), I am amazed and grateful that he is a curious, always-inquisitive little boy.
These past few months, my son has been enamored with animals. Today’s “lesson” involved making animal words using play dough. We made out words like “lion”, “cow”, “tiger” and more using red, green, purple and brown play dough. If I were to document today’s experience, I would say we focused on developing his fine motor skills, vocabulary and spelling, as well as a handful of other concepts, such as colors, matching, left-to-right order, etc. Pretty neat, huh?
(Tomorrow, it’s likely to run the same way, but perhaps I need to get out my encyclopedia so that I don’t run out of animal names to spell out. I don’t mind; I’m just glad as long as he’s engaged, excited and eager.)
I like to think I’m a lot like a preschooler in the way I process my learning, or even look at “school”. I have always been the kind of person who believes that learning should happen naturally, organically. I have always learned best when an idea is not forced upon me. I have to fall in love with an idea, a thought, or a piece of knowledge, before I find myself looking deeper into it. It was like this for me with writing: I never felt pressured to do any sort of writing, and so I naturally took to it. I eventually interned at a small publishing company, where I learned reportage writing and editorial skills; I became an English tutor, and even conducted workshops on creative writing.
“Life learning is about trusting kids to learn what they need to know and about helping them to learn and grow in their own ways. It is about respecting the everyday experiences that enable children to understand and interact with the world and their culture.” ~ Wendy Priesnitz
This organic, natural process of interest-based, even “child-led” learning is not a new concept to me, but it is a stark contrast to the culture of education here in the Philippines. Here, your alma mater is considered indicative of the kind of person you will be post-graduation; test scores, honors and educational accolades play a big role here in our so-called “diploma mill” society.
Naturally, the subculture of the “big school” took some getting used to when my family and I first moved back to the Philippines. Growing up away from our native land, my brothers and I attended progressive, international schools where many other expatriate children were enrolled. Here, the learning environment wasn’t as “grade-oriented”; rather, it emphasized global awareness, an empathy for the planet, and a respect for the privilege of education. I remember enjoying my school days, and never had a sour memory regarding homework or exams. (Of course, there were some teachers who left me less than inspired, but just a handful.) Sports and the arts were given equal importance as academics. Best of all, we were given ample space to explore our interests, no matter what they were.
In this place, education wasn’t a matter of simply completing a curriculum. It was a matter of being completely in love with the ability to learn as freely as possible.
So, tomorrow’s lessons in our homeschool (or, as I like to say, our “life school”) will probably be the same as yesterday’s thematically. Maybe we’ll have a repeat of play dough spelling, or go to bookstore to buy more animal books. His favorite books these days are the Little Golden Book versions of “The Animal Orchestra” and “The Jolly Barnyard”. We’ll likely read them all over again tomorrow, as Vito is still at a stage where he needs repeated confirmation for his tasks. He gets more inquisitive by the day, but I’m learning to accept it (just as I’m learning to accept that it takes around three rounds of a book for him to feel like I’ve done a good job!) I’ve got to keep at it, because these early days are setting the foundation for his future learning path.
“Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school. It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education. ” – Albert Einstein
I hope to be an extension of this kind of learning for my child. I want him to learn beyond books, to continue to be curious, even if I know it will drive me crazy at times! Because in the end, school is what we make it. And I hope that I will never allow a flawed concept of learning crush my child’s ability to learn, to question, to posit solutions, and to marvel at the big world before him.
How has your concept of learning changed since you had your kids?
Photo credit to the author.