What is Natural Learning?
© Beverley Paine
Natural learning is very similar to unschooling. Natural learning builds upon a belief that learning unfolds naturally from within the individual and grows to include social settings, such as family, close friends, community and society in general. Natural learning follows closely the patterns of activity already existing in daily life, building a rich and comprehensive educational experience. Children become intimately involved in all aspects of family life, often including family working life. They are not closeted away from the world of adults, but are welcomed, in ‘apprenticeship’ roles, and valued greatly for their contributions. Where skills and knowledge are needed, within these rich social contexts, resources are always found.
On the Learning Naturally mailing list support group I asked the question:
“What does learning naturally look like at your place?”
For me natural learning is giving myself permission to learn; to recognise and honour that no matter what I’m a learner, can’t stop myself learning, and that each and every moment of every day I am learning something and it’s up to me to work out what (if I want to!).
Often I find that I’m learning several things all at the same time, and on different levels of understanding, as well as in different parts of my being.
I can consciously learn: that is direct my brain and body to learn something that I want or need to learn. Most of the time the whole learning process goes on without me being ‘in control’. That’s why I like to spend a lot of time reflecting, to work out what I’ve learned.
Often I find that I seem to be learning the same thing over again. I’m a slow learner! Sometimes I am learning the same thing over, but in a different way, so it’s actually a little bit new, or from a different perspective, or to a deeper level of understanding. I love it when the ‘aha’ moment happens in my head.
I’ve found that by examining closely how I learn I grew in understanding about how others learn, especially my children.
What I don’t think natural learning is … is a style of homeschooling. Or a homeschooling method or approach.
I believe that school kids and uni kids are anyone studying from a book or a teacher is learning naturally.
One of the list members posted that learning naturally is allowing oneself to live totally in the moment…
It’s very much a child-like state, isn’t it? I don’t think we have to worry too much about our children not learning naturally. What I learned from reading John Holt et al is that our job is to get out of their way, to stop interfering in their natural learning process.
I think a lot of people interpreted this as to mean “let the child do and learn whatever he wants”. I don’t think it’s that at all. Children don’t learn in a vacuum. They live within social units and their first lessons in life are about how to secure what they need from their parents in order to survive and thrive… Those first few months of life go so much easier when we, the parents, cue into the needs of the child rather than try to force them into fitting into our way of life.
The dance between new born and parent is a wonderful one to observe. I love the way this aspect of parenting is honoured among many new parents – and wish I knew 20 years ago what I know now!
It doesn’t seem to matter at what age/stage we recognise the need to join this dance, honouring the needs of the child nestled within the social units of family nestled within social units of community and culture…
What babies desperately seem to need is time… Time for us to take a breath, calm down, put away the imperative to fix, soothe, solve NOW and take the time to see the situation from a different perspective, empathise with others, pause and let a different section of our brain evolve the solution…
Children need us to pause too… We’re in so much of a hurry for them to grow up, get it right, do the right thing, be successful, achieve, do the best they can, make us proud, make themselves proud, finish what they are doing…
Living in the moment is taking the time to notice time passing…
“What we need to do, and all we need to do, is bring as much of the world as we can into their lives; give them as much help and guidance as they ask for; listen respectfully when they feel like talking; and then get out of the way. We can trust them to do the rest.” – Lisa Wood
Natural learning … allowing the process of learning to occur, unhindered by interference, in a social context where the learner is not isolated from the world of meaningful action. Natural learning … is simply following common sense.