letting them work it out


Putting a tent on top of the poles, instead of slipping the poles into their sleeves.


Does the scientific method really need to be taught?  Do we really need to tell children the outcome of everything they want to do before they do it?  IS that to protect them from failure?  I think they're okay with failure, actually.  Until we interfere & suggest they shouldn't be.  They just keep at it until they have a result.  No, not the result they want.  A result that's interesting.  And then?  They keep at it some more, until they've used up the learning opportunity.


I have to create a new category here, "natural vs. normal."  Certainly I don't know what's really natural & what's really normal, but I'm just going to assert a few things anyways, & probably I'm going to shift as I go along.


I don't think it's natural to take over children's learning. Or to control it.  But it's normal.  It's easy.  There's so much agreement for it.  I'm not saying that they don't need teachers, or guides, or mentors.  They do, need great ones.  I also think it's great to give very specific instructions some times, & to invest in nice materials sometimes, & to let them create a finished piece that they can feel really good about.  

But those projects don't usually have as much real learning, real accomplishment & real character-building autonomy packed in.  They just don't.  Sometimes a child will be guided in a certain direction, say, a tent is placed out while someone's cleaning the garage.  And it turns out they enjoy tent making.  Then they will push it along & find they enjoy camping & will find a naturalist program with an inspired teacher & go full out under that individual's wing.  I consider that natural.  Same goes for real, true community elders passing on a life's worth of intangibles.  Natural.


I consider it normal to mold ourselves around our children's needs & then to control the outcome of everything they start.  I consider it normal to over-discipline & to warn children about how things will turn out.  I consider it normal to keep kids away from the real tools & the real outside dirt & cold & animals, while keeping them inside, giving them toys versions of tools, supplies & animals, with grown-up designed exercises.  I consider it normal to stress ourselves out & put our own hobbies, dreams & well-being on hold for the kids.  But I think this is a recent phenomena.  Part of me knows that I shouldn't be telling them the consequences of every experiment.  I should be washing the dishes, doing the laundry, caring for the community in the way that feels healthy & right for me & engaging on my own work.  Isn't this how it's been since the beginning of time, & still in many sustainable cultures?  


It seems to me that the great teachers, the ones everyone agrees are great, like John Taylor Gatto, are the ones who are passionately doing their own work, discovering things they already know again & again, as if for the first time.  They are modeling learning, right vocation & discovery for the children, while intently holding that same possibility for the children.  (Please don't misunderstand me, here.  I don't consider myself their teacher.  I consider myself their mother, learning alongside them.  I too yearn for great teachers.)


I think they would agree that here again, the children are learning on their own, making their own conclusions & lighting their own bulbs.  A world where everyone else's bulbs are going off would be a little duller than one where I had my own light bulb, above my own head, going off every time I noticed something.  


But it's so natural for them to set off their own light bulbs.  They do it all the time, they push & push until they are outside.  Until they are using real tools & they are making real efforts that create real results that they're real proud of.


This is a great example.  And, for the record, I personally take over & control their initiatives a little bit everyday.  Like I said, that's normal.  So I'm presenting an extraordinary example here, packed with learning, one that I'd like to take credit for.  But the reality is, They were making me laugh & I was too busy taking pictures to interfere.  


As a result, I feel accomplished, too!  These are not homeschooler girls, either.  They are neighborhood girls in the local public school.  This stuff applies to all kids.



pushing the poles into the ground - working together



asserting leadership & trying out each other's ideas



working together to do things that take a community



including all ages at their level





"aye! why is it leaning over like that?"  free: "oh, thank you guys for making a tunnel just my size!"



start over.  what do we do with these poles?