Wednesday, October 14

Organic Learning - the toddler years in action

Or free-range learning, natural learning, autonomous learning, child-led learning... unschooling in many ways....

I decided on home-education (homeschooling in USA), when I was pregnant with the Wildflower. A few times afterwards I wondered about when the academic or more serious learning, or perhaps, the more obvious child-adult learning would begin. I just mean, the learning that I become aware of as a home-education or organic learning occurence. Hard for me to explain.

I hadn't expected it now. But yesterday I realised that this is what we're doing now together.

So the child-led, or general unschooling, approach is to allow the child to show or indicate or express an interest, and then provide for them an environment to help them explore that interest.

When parents ask panickly (its a word); but what do we do? This is it.
Wait for the child's interest, or anticipate an interest,
be active in their lives,
be ready to provide resources,
let go of expectations.

Anyway, so far I've purchased books, toys, and now DVDs, by what I consider worthwhile - educational, encourage creativity, eco-friendly, fun, etc.

As she's getting older, and really, it starts quite young, she has obvious favourites. At almost 18 months, I can now spot Interests. Although I realise I did this about 6 months ago with lions....

She is going through a frog interest right now. I think it was sparked by a Daintree Forest (Australia) photography book I have, which I gave to her to flick through.

The interest might end tomorrow, it might continue for months. But she's shown an interest, now it's up to me provide. If I don't provide it's not the end of the world, but it is a lost opportunity. Her mind right now is geared towards frogs, why not feed that?

So I had planned to crochet a frog but we spotted a soft toy mama-&-baby frog set in a store and bought it for her. I might still create another one anyway. She adores it, more so than any other soft toy (excluding her beloved Mish Mish mouse of course).

I was fascinated with just how much she enjoys it. It could be simply because she likes the look of it. But I can't help believe that it must be because it has meaning for her. It is a frog, something she's fascinated with right now.

If I hadn't been aware, I might have bought her a dog or teddy thinking it was a nice gift, and she would have hugged it and then tossed it aside. But the frog made a connection.

She knows fogs say ribbit ribbit, and that they hop.

I've ordered a frog book

and I play the frog segment of Planet Earth for her.
She also requests we draw frogs for her, which we do to the best of our ability, ahem
The older she gets the wider and richer the resources we can tap into.

And all this occurs amongst a million other things going on in the day. It's not like we're frog obsessed to the exclusion of other things!

To ensure this 'learning' remains child-led and organic, I  release any expectations of what things related to frogs she 'should' try out, as well as how long her interest lasts. If I purchase 10 books and DVDs on frogs only to have her lose interest, then so be it.


  1. We're all about dinosaurs in this house. Ever since you mentioned Planet Earth, I've been dying to purchase the set for our little man as I'm sure he'll fall in love with it! Love the photo of the Wildflower with her new Froggy sweet. As far as unschooling goes, we'll be sending our guy to "regular school" but you my dear have lit a fire within me. I have become more aware of the little guy's interests, more keen to provide him with outlets to channel his creativity and more present in his organic learning. I've left the laundry and the dishes and put off the grocery shopping on an increasing number of occassions just to be with him, observe, guide and delight in his being. So thanks!

  2. I may have mentioned this before but I only know of one friend who homeschooled her two daughters. You should see these girls today. All grown up, crazy smart and just all-around wonderful young ladies. I applaud you and all of your followers who choose to homeschool. Bravo!

  3. That's very, very groovy Jenn.

    And what IS it about dinosaurs?! lol
    You could get PE via Amazon. ?

    I've no idea where we'll be with HE in a few years or in 10. It might not suit me/her later. But for now, we're giving it a go.

  4. I have actually found that I am a more patient and interested mother and homelearning facilitator when I release expectations. When I start my day with (gasp!) NO lesson plan, and intend to follow my children's interest, we end up having fun exploring different topics and practicing skills. Smoother days, smilier faces, and lots of learning. I love unschooling (a.k.a. whole life learning)

  5. Ah the Frog symbolism.

    The Giraffe seems to attract our little Emily's curiosity. The no expectation philosophy is right on,I find that I learn just as much if not MORE when the child-led takes the stage.

  6. That book looks lovely. Rye is still fascinated with letters and numbers - we can't walk past a grate without looking at the letters and numbers or a road sign lol. Interspersed with all that is of course his adoration for all things wheeled...and he's recently become interested in playig throw and catch.. not so great at the catching element - but wow, he can throw!

  7. Sounds like you're right on track. I have been homeschooling/unschooling for 19 years. I used to worry when the children (I have three) were younger, wondering if they would be missing out on something or if I was doing it "right". Believe me when I tell you, they miss nothing. Each child has a completely different learning style. I have found it's best to let go and let them show you the way. I have had to incorporate some "lessons" as they've gotten older to insure they are prepared to take college entrance exams for their career choices. My eldest is in college now. Enjoy this time. It's the best!

  8. Wonderful :-) And frogs ... I gotta love anyone who loves frogs. They sing down the rain, you know.

    When she is older you can start strewing her path, but the bliss of starting with an unschooling plan early is that you will train yourself to be very aware of her pattern of interests, her learning style etc, and you can strew appropriately.

  9. I love this...As you know, I've chosen to put my kids in school, at least for now, but this is exactly how I think and what I've tried to do...I love reading it verbalized like this...and this seems to be a lot what Montessori is like too, as much as is possible within an institutional setting anyway, in the sense of the child choosing what they want to take off the shelves and work with, and not stressing if they stop it or stay with it for months...I remember worrying at one point when my eldest did nothing but sort little wooden reptiles at pre-school for weeks, and the teacher just said, "she'll move on when she's ready, don't worry, and in the meantime, do you have any books on reptiles?" Her interest in reptiles, especially snakes, has never abated and she has ended up learning an astonishing amount about their habitats, traits, etc. (when looking through a book recently she informed me that the milk snake we were looking at was not poisonous because the red stripes touched the black stripes, and only the ones where the yellow stripes touched the black stripes were poisonous!!) I admit, snakes are not my favorite, but I am so glad she followed that interest and it's wonderful where it has led her mind...

  10. I'm a teacher and I belive whole-heartedly in home schooling when done right and it sounds like that's exactly what you're doing!

  11. It's simple isn't it. Follow their natural interests and extend. I love it for our own creativity and fun as being mothers too. And the co-construction of knowledge and discovering new things. Such a wondrous thing this life long learning with our children.

  12. That's the most amazing thing about this whole unschooling/organic learning adventure....

    Sebastian taught himself numbers and counting by riding in elevators and looking at peoples' gates, he did the alphabet with some animal cards, and takes things apart so he can put them back together...and all while he wasn't really *talking*...he WILL NOT be taught whereas his sister enjoys more structure and guidance so if he shows a spark of interest, then we run with it...sometimes it *takes*, sometimes it doesn't and yes, letting go of any and all expectations as been both the most challenging and rewarding concept of all....

    Savannah tends to dabble in little bits of everything -- although now she's decided she's *into* horses, but Sebastian tends to narrow his focus and really absorb one or two things at a time...

    I think it's brilliant to watch the different passions and styles emerge...organically....brilliant, just brilliant...

    PS. We also love frogs.

  13. Even though I've been paying attention to Michael's interests since he was only a few months old, it was when I started introducing animals to him, that I realized we had started 'homeschooling.' He's already had three favorite animals, loves books and learning sign language, and now he's into climbing, which I actually facilitate, though it's dangerous, so it's a tough one to deal with. But what if he ends up being a rock climber? How am I to know? I like being able to introduce new things to him, and let him choose if he wants to learn it right now. It is so organic, and so fun to watch him get excited about stuff he wants to learn.

  14. Oh gosh I'm so behind in blog reading. :(

    I enjoyed reading this. But I had to chine in. I recently came to the conclusion that the term child-led kinda sucks. lol

    Not to say child-led isn't good or that we should follow our child's lead. But that it gives an outsider the impression that we sit back or are hands-off. Does that make sense?

    In our home, we follow Zeb's lead. But we're also highly involved, finding new things he might enjoy (like the Young Eagles program), introducing him to new concepts, asking and answering questions, trying new things together. But because we (are sometimes still learning to) live consensually it just looks different. His opinions and interests are valued. I don't offer him something because I think he should learn it or do it. I care about his experience and he cares about ours. Sometimes he goes along with what we're doing because he knows we will enjoy it, even if it wasn't his first choice, and we do the same.

    It's consensual living. I guess "life learning" would fit us well. I like the term "organic learning" although I don't know that's it lends itself to an easy to understand meaning.

    I feel like unschooling doesn't sum it up well either, although I use it for ease of explanation.

    Maybe I need to stop trying to label it and just let it BE! lol



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