Friday, April 8, 2011

A Week of Natural Learning.

What does Natural Learning look like? How is it different for young people than a week spent at school? The biggest difference is that there are no divisions between time spent learning and time spent having fun, no jumping for joy at the end of the school day on a Friday with dreams of uninterrupted fun all weekend. No dread on Sunday night as homework for the week ahead is rushed through and completed. Instead, life unfolds and learning unfolds. I am sure you have heard of the quote "live, laugh, love". All things we willingly pursue in life which enhance our being in this world. Well, as a Natural Learner, you would insert the word "learn" into that quote as well, and go after learning with the same enthusiasm as loving or living. It would simply be a part of you, an extension of yourself. Not something a teacher would give to you, but something you would give to yourself. "Live, laugh, love, learn".

In my post yesterday, I talked of how my son pursued his recent interest in physics by talking to a retired physics professor who told him about an online video class in physics at MIT. I then went on to talk of how my son is learning by leaps and bounds in his pursuit of knowledge in a Natural Learning environment. Maybe talking like that left you with the impression that my son is socially isolated from his peers and that he spends his days alone. That isn't the case at all so let me write a bit about how my son spends his week so that you can come to see how Natural Learning works and if it is something you would like to offer a young person in your life.

My son starts every Tuesday through Thursday morning rising at 7am then coming downstairs to spend time having a breakfast of pancakes or eggs, playing with the dog, watching the Today show, showering and talking to me until 9am during which time we leave the house for his educational center. Ryan then spends the next 5-7 hours being exposed to a myriad of activities in a free and experiential way with a close knit group of 2o of his peers. Just this week alone, this group of young people began preparations for a garden, did fund raising and planning for an end of the year trip they will be taking, gave presentations to one another on research projects of their choosing, and other such activities. Tuesdays are filled with math and science topics, Thursdays with language arts related activities and Wednesdays are free choice days where the young people choose between three offerings every 6 weeks.

Friday through Monday Ryan finds himself still up early each morning and is free to use his time to further explore things he has been exposed to while at his educational center or to pursue interests he discovers on his own. Ryan likes to use this time to read books of his choosing, do research on the internet, tackle algebra, do video game design, go rock climbing, take hikes, play with the dog, help out at his educational center as they prepare for a weekend event or talk to me etc...He is also just as likely to plan time with friends to go into the city by train, attend a local event, hang out at someone's house, or have them over here. Time spent at church with his peers and also community events at his educational center rounds out his week.

Because Ryan is learning in a natural way, he finds the pursuit of knowledge fun and thus is constantly going after what interests him. There never is a line between work and play, it all just blends. There never is any downtime either and I find Ryan constantly wanting for more. Asking me if we can do math one day or help him with a research paper the next. He is hungry for it all and seems to have a thirst that I can't seem to quench no matter how many resources I throw at him. It is exciting to see and I constantly wonder where all of this will someday take him. A far cry from a year ago when he was ensconced in a public school classroom hating how learning was being forced upon him. The freedom to choose is allowing for him to burst forth rather than be held back in his learning. Making the quote "live, laugh, love, learn" his own.



Darcy -- your idea of learning the natural way has many benefits for the student. Rather than by rote the student would be the researcher and the teacher would be the guiding light or so it seems to me. -- barbara

Grampy said...

Enjoyed reading your thoughts on education. During trips back to PA this past year I noticed these nick nack thinks with those words. Live, Laugh, Love on a lot of folks houses. I think Learn would be a wonderful addition. This as you call natural learning is how it should be I think.

Darcy said...

Hi Barbara,

Natural Learning can be done any way...whatever feels natural and most comfortable to the student, the important part being that the student leads the way in their learning rather than the teacher. In the situation with my son, I tend to see him as the guiding light as well as the researcher and I tend to be the support person. Someone who figures out the logistics of how to make it all happen. Maybe for younger children, the parent may have to provide some of the guiding light, but clearly by the time a young person is a teen and have been learning in a free way, they see the light.

Darcy said...

Hi Grampy,

I didn't realize people were putting the Live, Laugh, Love slogan on their homes. Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting.