Copyright 2000 by Teri Ann Berg Olsen
Children begin learning naturally from the day they are born. Babies and young children are naturally self-motivated and eager to learn. They are inquisitive and curious about everything, intensely interested in exploring the world around them. No formal instruction is needed. Parents can simply delight in being with their child and participating in his or her discoveries. Unfortunately, most people can't wait to send their kids off to school - and preschool - as soon as possible.
However, early formal schooling (before age 8) is controversial and may even be detrimental. According to Dr. Raymond Moore, an early child development expert: "There's not one replicated study in the United States today that suggests that little children should be in school at 5 or 6. Not even one! There's not one replicated study today in the United States that even suggests that a normal child should be in kindergarten. The home is the best garden for the child, the average home, and the time has come when we should be strengthening the home instead of taking children out earlier." (Recommended Resource: Better Late Than Early, by Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore.)
Just think of all the things that you learned how to do - including major milestones like walking and talking - before you ever went to school! In fact, it has been said that children learn more in their first five years than they do during the rest of their lives. This is because preschoolers do not separate learning from life. Anyone who observes young children will see that they are constantly learning.
John Holt, an educational reformer who coined the term "unschooling," believed that children do not need to be coerced into learning. He noticed that they do so naturally if given freedom to follow their own interests and provided with a rich assortment of resources. According to Holt, children's innate curiosity prompts them to learn what they need to know when they need to know it. John Holt described the unschooling approach to education in his book Teach Your Own.
Unschooling is basically a lifelong continuation of the more casual style of preschool education, in which children simply live and learn as they go, where school and life are completely integrated. The learning process is child-led, giving them complete freedom to choose what they will study, when, and for how long. Unschooling allows you to nurture your child's love for learning and foster the boundless curiosity that comes so naturally.
There are many things that you can do to create an atmosphere of learning in your home and within your family. Half of it is just developing an awareness of the learning opportunities that present themselves. Every day is another opportunity to instill a love for learning that will last a lifetime. Just go with the flow. By starting out early and proceeding slowly and gradually, eventually you will find that you have covered everything that they need to know. The most important thing is to spend lots of time with them and give them lots of love, and the learning will come.
Did You Know…? Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Frank Lloyd Wright, Albert Einstein, and other creative geniuses were mostly self-educated. Since they were not bound by convention, these individuals were able to make great discoveries simply by thinking "outside the box."
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