Friday, December 10, 2010

Natural Child Part 2

I have to say I loved the comments I received when I wrote my first post concerning the Natural Child. You can read that post here.

parenting Jan Hunt the author of The Natural Child Parenting from the Heart is a psychologist and the director of the The Natural Child. As I have stated many times I agree with a lot of what she has to say, while some things I must admit I do not agree with. She places a lot of emphasis on unschooling. I can see where there are great advantages to unschooling, yet I feel there needs to be more of a balance between unschooling and parental guidance in the education.

One of the comments that was left was by Leah from Almost Homeschoolers, she said, “It would be nice to be able to jump ahead in time, and make sure all the freedom, and self guided direction, leads to a good place. 
Being on the second time through, you have more faith and courage in where your going.” First let me say Leah, I don’t know that the second time around has given me more faith and courage, since things have changed so much with technology now right at our finger tips, and also there is more of an understanding of homeschooling. Parenting the second time around has enlightened me with a little bit more empowerment over how I raise Selena compared to my children, and it has opened my eyes to see more of what the researched through these past years have proven and disproven.

I don’t think Leah even realized her comment was leading right into the topic I wanted to write on next. TRUST! FAITH and COURAGE!

Jan Hunt points out in her book concerning homeschooling or education as a whole that we need to learn to trust that our children know when they are ready to learn something new. Does this mean we trust our child….or does it mean we learn to trust ourselves to recognize when our child is ready to learn a new concept? I tend to lean towards a combination of both, this is not only with younger children but children of any age.

Our schools tend to group children of the same age together and state that they are all ready to learn these subjects, this material, and all have these abilities. Yet, they also express that not every child is the same in their development. However they do not address this fact each child in the class are still presented with the same material and expected to learn it, or to catch up when he/she is ready. This is where we have an advantage of being homeschoolers. We are able to teach our child what they are ready to learn with no pressure that they are a particular age and should learn this.

Another point I believe Jan Hunt makes is children need time to think, ponder, question, and absorb what they are learning. I know in a classroom of 30 some kids there is not the time for teachers to allow kids to do this. Natalie at Mouse Grows Mouse Learns, discussed in a post here, how her daughter needs time to ponder and think things through. I think if we all sit back and look at our children, we will find that yes, they do need this time. They need time to explore what they are learning, rather it be through thinking about it, pondering over the information, or using it hands on. This truly can be accomplished when we as parents learn to trust them and ourselves to identify these times, and to realize when they seem detached from learning a new concept, that they are not being lazy but instead absorbing the materials they just learned.

When Leah did a guest post for me in August, you can read it here. She mentioned how she keeps track of what they are learning, “Finally, for keeping track of the general subjects we're covering at any given time, I keep a loose list on the refrigerator. Sometimes it gets specific with daily assignments for each child, but usually it's just a general guideline of the subjects being taught in public school each year, so I can see if we're missing anything big. And, if I notice any child completely lacking in something like spelling, or number recognition, I'll make note of it on my list too, so I know the sorts of games, and lessons to steer them toward.” I loved this statement, as while we want to trust our children to know what they are ready to learn, we also need to trust ourselves to steer their learning to make sure that things do not get missed.

Well, then how do we find this balance? How do we allow our child to be self motivated or a self learner, while making sure that we stay in charge of what they are learning. We must first do our homework, we must realize there are so many resources at our fingertips now. We can’t be afraid to get creative. Create a relationship with our children where we can come along side them through this process of learning. Show them that we too are learners, we don’t know everything though we like to make them think we do. Set the example, show them how we research things, how we read to learn, that we are not afraid to ask the tough questions. As my dad always use to tell us kids, “There are no dumb questions except the ones you don’t ask.” I love that saying as there is so much truth in it. We must trust ourselves that we can learn who our child is, communicate with our child, and learn to appreciate our child not always having to change him or her.

As I read Jan Hunts reference to education, she really makes some great points many which we can not argue with such as “Children are not afraid to admit ignorance and to make mistakes.” The only time we see a child afraid to admit ignorance and mistakes is when they are under pressure. This pressure usually comes in the form of being told, “You should know this, we’ve covered this, Were you not paying attention?” How many can relate to these remarks, school children tend to hear these remarks with in the classroom situation. Yet as homeschoolers, we are free to step back and present the material again, maybe from in a different manner, thus taking the stress off our child. We tend to find the trust in our children that they do know how to learn new concepts in their own way, or their learning style, and we also trust ourselves to present the material in a manner that they will understand. This is not always easy, and many times we find ourselves changing the way we are teaching the material, or just dropping it for a while then coming back to it at a later time.

I feel that today homeschooling has changed so much from when I first homeschooled my children. When my older children were being homeschooled we didn’t have the technology of today, a computer, sure computers were around, but not found in every home like they are today. The Internet in those days was nothing like it is today, if you were even lucky to have a computer, or even have Internet access. I feel lucky with Selena in that when she asks a question, or real life presents us with a situation we are able to come to the computer and immediately research, find the answers, and much more information then we thought.

I am the first to admit when I first began to think of homeschooling my thoughts went to curriculum, which one am I going to use. Text books, I have to have the best ones. Environment, I have to have the best environment for learning in my home. As I have thought about what Jan Hunt has pointed out, again while I do not fully agree with her totally, I realize that while we will use some curriculum and some text books, I do not need to go out and spend hundreds of dollars on them. I am learning to trust myself to know my abilities in what I am able to teach, without a lot of expensive books. Are we going to be unschoolers? No, I don’t ever see us as being unschoolers, almost unschoolers, yes, that would be more of the direction I see us moving in. I am still learning from Selena, her learning curve, and while I have ideas what our school will look like, I realize to make this a natural learning event, I also have to be willing to change as we go along. Again I have to trust both Selena and myself to make this happen.

If you would like to read a little bit about what Jan Hunt has to say regarding education you can find it here. I am sure there will be points she makes that you will relate to, and agree with while at the same point just like myself there will be points that just do not set quite right. I always like to say no one method fits every child.

I would like to say though from my reading blogs there is one person who stands out for using so much of the natural learning method, rather she really is able to see that in herself or not. Leah at, Almost Homeschoolers has combined the interests of her children, the creativity needed to stay within these interests to provide a very natural learning environment for her children. If only my homeschool could look like hers, sometimes I feel it would be perfect, yet I have to remind myself that my homeschool needs to look like Selena’s world, with her interests, and her learning style, not like Leah’s. Yet, Leah does set a great example of the natural learner, in my opinion anyway.

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  1. If I could manage what Leah does with her children (um, I have half as many, she totally impresses me), my husband might agree to homeschooling!

    I think you are doing a great job homeschooling Selena. I love the way you pay such close attention to every aspect of her personality and how it affects her learning. Someday, she will truly appreciate all that you are doing for her now.

    This is a great post. My children go to public school and we are very fortunate to have really good schools in our town. I have been pretty happy with their education so far, but there are certainly things I do not like. I try to do the best I can to supplement what they learn in school.

  2. Thank you so much for the thoughtful look at my book. For those who would like to learn more about my views on unschooling, all of those articles are in the Learning section of our Natural Child Project site ( The article "How do Unschooling Parents Know their Children are Learning?" considers what unschooling parents do. It's essential to recognize that an unschooling parent takes just as active a role in their child's education as any other parent, just in a different way.

    My always-unschooled son Jason and I have co-edited The Unschooling Unmanual, with essays and stories from eight writers. I hope you can take a look!

    Jan Hunt, M.Sc.
    Director, The Natural Child Project

  3. Wow! I think I'll have to have my children read this post - so they'll know why Mommy's head just got three sizes bigger :) Thanks for all the praise, but really I have more thanks to you, and all our blogger buddies, for the constant stream of encouragement, ideas, and resources.

  4. I have to agree. Leah is a model unschooler. I wish to do what she does but I doubt my own abilities. I need to go back to some of the resources I purchased to go beyond what I already know. The longer I homeschool, the more I realize how little I know. Life was easier when I was limited to teach the school curriculum.

  5. This is a very interesting post, and I agree that Leah is an awesome role model for unschooling. However, Leah does have "an unfair advantage" of six kids - it's almost like a mini-school of its own. I am torn between not liking the fact that Anna has to follow the curriculum of her classroom in preschool and liking it at the same time. To be honest - we don't have unlimited choices in life. We are often faced with the need to do things that we don't find engaging or interesting. My fear is that "natural kids" might grow up to be "hothoused" kids and to be disappointed when the world doesn't follow their desires.

  6. okay, I've just started to comment several times apparently and then not.

    Oh, and hten I nearly didn't finish my comment.

    Interstingly enough I had a similar discussion with my sister-in-law on teh topic of mistakes and such, ironic considering I'm being lazy and not correcting my typing errors, about how kids are more likely to try something and not be afraid of failure or their project not being good enough because they haven't learned to do that yet. Wonderfully put topic.

  7. I love this post! Leah if your reading this THANK YOU for the post you did linking to Science Sunday about your Christmas tree it has inspired me in many ways. For once I realized science dosen't always come in a complete kit. I just want to add I don't believe homeschooling or unschooling is the only way to promote a natural learner, the key is modeling natural learning behavior. I love how my children who do attend school are avid critical thinkers. If you tell them that Saturn have rings made out of ice. They will accept this fact until they have had time to ponder, and then they will ask me "How do I know this about Saturn"? The natural learning starts amd we continue this process with everything. I promote natural learning with the children that attend my daycare. This is why we could be learning about planet Earth one day and Dinosaurs the next. I am willing to change gears because if they see a relationship between these two things then lets make the connections. Children do learn better this way, we adults just need to be flexible. I really believe this is something that can be gifted to any child no matter their schooling arrangement if the parent is promoting this type of learning with their child. Thanks again for another great post.