How to Use the Learning Naturally Diary - an explanation
by Beverley Paine
Korina asks: "I bought your Learning Naturally Homeschooling Diary and am a little confused on how best to use it. I understand (I think) the child initiated activities but on the structured educational activities I'm stuck, as if they are structured activities how is that natural learning? So I'm confused what to put there. Also my children have been playing Minecraft all morning so I would of thought that would go on the child initiated page but there is not allocated space for technology on that page, only on the structured activities page."
There is a sample page filled out from my own records here: http://alwayslearningbooks.com.au/diarysamplepage.pdf . Scroll down the page past the Weekly Homeschool Diary sample to find it.
Structured activities' are those that we, the parents, initiate for our children.
There is a lot of confusion about the notion of structure in unschooling - it's considered somewhat of a 'dirty' word! Which is sad because structure is definitely a natural part of daily life.
We naturally structure our lives and those of our children and it's okay to do so. We'd be lost without this structure. All of us make choices about where we live, the type of house we live in, how we set up the house, the area in which the house resides, what facilities are nearby, our immediate environment and that which is easily accessible. These choices determine the type and nature of the activities available to our children.
Within the house our choices - furniture, belongings, spaces, outlook. etc - have a considerable bearing on what we do and how we do it every day.
And then we layer onto this underlying physical structure that shapes our actions how we use our time. This also guides and directs our children's actions and choices. We may think we are letting our children do whatever they want all day but it is restricted by our choices and how we have set up the environment in which we all live and learn and the options we've created or made available.
With an unschooling approach to education everything we do and think and say is evidence of learning happening. That's what I mean by natural learning. We're learning even if we're not conscious of what we're learning. Tuning in - observing and reflecting, making space and time in our busy lives to *notice* and then recognise the learning happening in our own and our children's lives - helps us make the shift from thinking about education from something that happens to us for distinct purposes to something that happens anyway, all the time, and is amazingly comprehensive with a complex underlying structure that makes sense.
As parents we structure our children's lives both naturally and deliberately. And that's okay because that's our role as parents and they depend on us to keep them safe and healthy: they appreciate the parameters we set, especially if we value and respect them as people. Children naturally trust that we'll do an excellent job of providing safe and loving structures that meet their developmental and educational needs. From that platform they will feel confident to grow and embrace challenges. Often without realising it as parents we place plenty of those challenges in our children's paths: getting shoes with shoelaces is one I remember vividly as a child! Life and growth is full of learning opportunities and challenges and little of it looks like 'education'!
In the Learning Naturally Diary, 'child initiated activities' are those that the child does without our direct intervention. However, I acknowledge that the child's choices are necessarily restricted by the environment I have provided for my child and the way in which our family uses time. Family life is shaped and structured by the choices we (the parents) have made. Our children may start playing a game before breakfast and then be reminded by us to eat (without food in timely manner the game may be disrupted by irritable behaviour - if this conversation is had then we've covered a 'topic' under 'health' under 'structured educational activities'; if a discussion about the merits of what is eaten that too comes under 'health'). When we intervene in a direct way in our children's lives and direct them to do something we are structuring their time and activity to suit our needs (and often indirectly theirs).
We might ask them to play Scrabble with us - that wouldn't go on the left hand page but under 'structured educational activities'. It would go under 'English'. If the game was Monopoly, we might place it under Maths, or Society (depending on the nature of the banter as we play). If we ask them to help us pull weeds in the garden, that would go under Science, or Environment. If take the children to the beach to swim, that would go under Physical Education, but if we beachcomb instead that would go under Environmental, or if we are marvelling at the erosion caused by last night's storm it would go under Science. However, if we lived by the beach and the children decided to do these things on their own, then I'd list them under 'child initiated activities', probably under 'physical, outdoor, sport' or 'hobbies'...
As a self-initiated game, Minecraft could go under 'role playing', or 'construction games' or 'hobbies'. It all depends on what the child is most getting out of the game in terms of learning and enjoyment. For me, a DIY builder, I'd list it under 'construction games' (like LEGO); or if Minecraft consumed my every waking hour I'd list under 'hobbies'; or if I was focused more on connecting with them while I played and talked about the people in the game, then I'd list it under 'role playing'.
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