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Why Homeschoolers Need to Learn to Translate Everyday Activities into Educational Jargon

© Beverley Paine

Learning to translate every day life activities into educational jargon was a turning point for me in understanding the nature of learning naturally. Before then I thought it was my role to provide a huge smorgasbord of activities and knowledge in the hope that my children would find something to excite or interest them. This led to 'burn out' and I felt like I was continually in danger of falling into the trap of edutainment - needing to make learning fun in order to capture their enthusiasm and keep attention high. I felt like an overworked teacher, but with only three children instead of thirty!

Burn out was actually good - it taught me that when I didn't do anything at all, because I was emotionally and intellectually drained, the children still learned an amazing amount, especially the things I considered core values and skills, the stuff around the house, like chores, taking care of each other, looking after pets, etc. I realised that when they initiated activities I didn't need to be involved much at all, except in a peripheral way, hovering in the background, mainly gathering and supplying resources. I spent a lot of time sorting LEGO bricks to enable them to quickly build fantastic models and layouts!

I discovered children are like sponges. When kept wet they don't seem to mop up much at all, but leave them alone and when a puddle happens they soak up so much. I realised that my job was to stop interfering and intervening so much and got rid of the hot-house, smorgasbord approach to education. Let them get on with the business of learning. Our house is an amazingly interesting place, largely because Robin and I are reasonably interesting people with consumate passions of our own. This is what the children needed - a background buzz of productive activityin an atmosphere that celebrated learning.

There are many things we wanted our children to learn. I think it is within the scope of the 'Natural Learning' approach to bring resources and activities in our children's life that they would otherwise not come across or think of by themselves. I'm sure that children would never clean their teeth if we did not insist! It's the same with teaching children how to do simple sums on paper, in order for them to be able to do more complicated sums, should the need ever arrive. First the children watch us clean our teeth meticulously every night, or listen as we calculate simple sums aloud whenever we have the need. Then we invite them to have a go, an an appropriate age for the development (eg being able to get that brush into their mouths with their chubby arms, or gradually introducing simple questions such as "how many people want juice? One, two, three. Can you get three cups please." And so on as the child grows.

It's easy to come up with examples for tots because most of us are really attuned to what and how they are learning at this age! The trick is to begin to think like this again for our older children.


To help get your head around how to record what your child is learning, try to focus on recording what is already happening and in your notes reword those things under 'subject' headings. Think broadly - eg think biology or geology or astronomy instead of science; think listening, speaking, comprehending, etc instead of English, etc. And don't just jot down the content of the activity (washed the dishes for me), think about the specific skills being honed and displayed (courtesy, care handling glass, attention to detail, persistence). You'll soon wow yourself and your family with your lists showing how your child is learning, not just what.

What I did when home educating my children was read through the curriculum framework, which helped (and still helps) to get my head around the way teachers think about education and how it happens - because the people reading our application and review reports are teachers, and although it isn't necessary to include a lot of detail it helps them 'get' that our methods actually work.

What I would do is look at what I'm recording - which could be a captioned photo of my child doing an activity, or a photo of a work page, something he's written or drawn, etc - and see if any of the objectives or outcomes mentioned in the curriculum around my child's year level describe in any way what I have selected. The year level doesn't have to be the exact year level your child would be if they were in school - it can be up or down - all children at different rates, and across different subject areas too.

For example you might see that your child has met one of the objectives for literacy development from the year 1 national curriculum framework - and you could write a caption to go with a collection of photos of her short notes (date each one) that says "creates short texts that show her emerging use of appropriate structure, sentence level grammar, choosing words carefully, improvement in spelling, using grammar more appropriately, and showing evidence of re-reading and correcting errors when noticed to help improve meaning".


Doing this isn't necessary for recording for the annual review for home education registration purposes but I found it extremely helpful in guiding me to see how much child is naturally learning naturally covers the curriculum.

And it is very reassuring for others - family members who have doubts about your decision to home educate - reading your review too.

S ee Beverley's other articles on jargon:

She also has a Practical Homeschooling Series booklet on the subject, called Translating Everyday Language into Educational Jargon.

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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine

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