Learning, Together

As we all become more house-bound, I’m finding myself re-visiting some of the things I learned when we first started home educating 4 years ago.

Although we’ve already been learning at home for some time, we too are currently transitioning into a ‘new normal’: usually we’d be out at social meets or museum trips most days, so this is a period of adjustment and finding creative alternatives.

These are the things I learned when we first made the transition from school to home education, which I’m finding helpful again now…

Learning how to physically share space

When your routine becomes radically different, it can take some adjustment. Allowing plenty of space for transition always helps me to navigate those periods. Reminding myself that it’s ok to hang out in the void between the old way of living and the new one that’s arriving, but not quite here yet.

In such times it’s tempting to grasp onto things that give us a sense of control. Instead, I’ve found it helpful to fully make room for that transition: to accept that we will be getting used to being with each other in a different way, and that it may not feel at all ‘settled’ at first. It’s part of the process. By embracing that, I’m doing ‘enough’.

When I’m having a wobbly moment, feeling there’s nothing I can grab hold of, I re-visit the wise words of Danaan Perry in this classic piece about transitions.

Learning how my child likes to learn

I had to take quite a bit of time over this initially, but it was well worth my patience in the long run. Some children like to learn from books and worksheets, others like to make their own projects, and some prefer to learn from video resources, hands-on games, or role play (sometimes called Process Drama in schools, and not just for little kids).

There are so many different ways to explore a subject and tailor it to your child, all equally valid. For a while now we’ve had a weekly theme, taking a current interest as a starting point and seeing where that takes us. Staying open-minded about what that might look like helps me to make sure I don’t shut something down as it begins to emerge.

As the conditions we’re living in change, I’m trying to stay aware that the way my son likes to learn might also change.

Learning how to learn together

When I discovered that learning is something I can do with my child, instead to him, it opened up a whole new level of ease and enjoyment. I can start learning about something that I find interesting (in my case all the history I never got the chance to study at school), and then share it with my son. When he’s trying to learn something new, I can be in the process alongside him, discovering together.

We can explore the world together, albeit virtually at the moment instead of our usual trips to museums and galleries. I can model that it’s ok not to know the answers, whether we’re learning how to grow plants by trial and error, or identifying a bird that I feel I ‘should’ know the name of, but I don’t – yet.

Learning how to slow down

One thing I’m grateful to have discovered is that when I make enough space, learning happens.

It can seem at times like nothing is ‘happening’, and with compassionate awareness I’ve realised that I have a habit of grasping for a product of some kind, as proof of progress.

But if I can avoid telling myself unhelpful stories about it and stay with the process of learning (rather than fixate on the product), often some wonderfully deep learning emerges for my son.

A resource I find helpful for reflecting on the conditions I’m providing is Peter Gray’s 6 Optimising Conditions (written about self-directed learning, so it may not be relevant to all learners).

We never stop learning, whether we are 5 or 50, and perhaps that’s even more apparent right now as we adjust to such sudden and far-reaching changes.

If you’re looking for online learning ideas, I shared a few here.

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