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How to get my DESCHOOLING kid to LEARN!

A pretty common question from new homeschooling parents is, ‘when will my kids start doing stuff?’

What they really mean is, ‘when will my child start doing what I want them to, things that LOOK like learning and things that are measurable to me?’

Truly, I remember when my oldest child first came out of school, after only a year there, and we were both a little lost. I felt like I was supposed to be ‘teaching’ or at least facilitating learning in an obvious way; she had spent the previous year in a structured learning environment and was already accustomed to producing SOMETHING.

We had some battles that year. The first one was focussed around a large piece of cardboard onto which I decided she should display a project. Even as a new homeschool mum I knew the value of project based learning. She did not. I can’t remember who decided she should research something to do with a war medal - or which medal it was. Purple Heart anyone? But I’m almost certain it was not my 6 year old. What was I really thinking?

Well, what I had been thinking was that learning had to be demonstrated. If you can’t see it, is it even happening? The school system tells us ‘no’.

Learning must be measured and evaluated - and how can one do that if we can’t SEE it. In project form. Or as part of a test or word list. Or some homework. Or maybe a worksheet.

But before it’s written onto paper, where does the learning COME FROM?

If a tree falls in the woods and no one sees it, did it really fall?

In my experience, of several years now, and across four different learning styles (not to mention mine and their dad’s), I can say that YES. Learning happens EVEN when we, as the parents, can’t see it. Sometimes especially then.

Not to minimise a child’s learning by ‘listifying’ it, here are just a small sample of the things kids learn, my kids have learnt, when it might appear that nothing at all is going on:

  • How to process the end of a friendship - essentially grief and all that goes along with that. What a gift to be able to do that in an unhurried way, without others trying to label or interfere!

  • What it feels like when one flips their sleep schedule and adopts nocturnal habits for a time - this has been an ongoing and fascinating ‘experiment’ in our family and the kids really do approach it in the spirit of ‘I wonder what will happen if….’

  • Months and months (and months) of playing one or two online games in particular, that has culminated in two of my children reading. With one of my kids in particular, there was almost no outward sign that he was indeed building the foundations of a competent reader

  • Measuring and managing time in a way that makes sense to them and with respect to everyday activities that show the passage of time and encourage executive function and mastery - for example choosing to wear a watch, set alarms, working out what time it gets dark, wondering where the day has gone….

  • Respecting boundaries and learning where to set their own - this is the missing link in an autonomous life, an important skill for all humans to learn AND actually far more meaningful when a child is in charge of their own limits and can feel, in real time, what it means for them when others set them too

I could go on - but essentially all of these things fall into the category of ‘kids working stuff out for themselves’ and that is often really REALLY hard for parents to lean into. It’s the opposite of what we’ve been told.

Kids can’t possibly work things out for themselves, by their own experimentation, with their own FEELING. They have to be told.

And I won’t deny that it can feel hard. And not just because it pushes all our buttons, ALL of our wounds, but that it can actually be inconvenient.

How can we get out to do a scheduled activity when half our family is experimenting with sleep? How can we be on time if our eight year old hasn’t quite yet worked out that she needs an hour to put makeup on and should have gotten started earlier?! Real life examples by the way.

What about nutrition? Is it possible for kids to learn how their bodies feel when they eat certain foods and to ultimately learn to work WITH their bodies?

Sleep. Is it possible for kids to learn, through experience, how sleep impacts them and what it feels like when they don’t get enough? Or what about what it might be like for a teenager going through a growth spurt who doesn’t have to get up early if they don’t feel like it.

No two families are the same and each child too, will have a different experience with these things - but that’s the ultimate point of education and learning outside of school. That each individual gets to craft their own EXPERIENCE.

Possibly one of the biggest pieces of the puzzle to fall into place for parents going through their own deschooling and deprogramming, is the realisation that there is no time limit and so measuring against conventional school based standards is moot. It can be hard to let go of the arbitrary timeframes, which are ultimately limitations, but embracing lifelong learning as such, is truly one of the most liberating components of breaking free of the scaffolding of the industrialised education system. Follow me on Facebook by clicking the icon below AND I'd love to see you in my brand new Deschooling 101 Live Workshop on the 20th Feb. Follow the 'Deschooling Workshop' link on my homepage!

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Mar 13, 2023

How I wish I had listened to my heart more when I was a new Mum. Thank you - loving your writing 🙏💗🌻


Feb 09, 2023

Love this Sarah, thanks for sharing <3

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