Homeschooling Through The Natural Learning Approach

by | Jan 29, 2022 | Blog | 0 comments

The Natural Learning Approach or natural learning is well explained in its name. When I started homeschooling, my past experience was teaching in the classroom to elementary, middle, and high school students. While in my mind, my hope for homeschooling was to learn through a slower-paced environment where learning was child-led, I had no idea what that looked like.

I started off the year, prepping like I would for the classroom. I wrote out the daily schedule, separated subjects, and prepped lessons accordingly. I was feeling well prepared until we actually started school and I quickly realized the structure wasn’t working for us. While this type of structure is just right for other families, it wasn’t for ours, so began the journey of finding a rhythm that made sense for us.

What is Natural Learning?

Natural learning is the belief that all children learn on their own unique timeline when given the support and space to do so. Like infants and babies, children learn so much through absorbing what they see, hear, smell and sense around them. They acquire new skills and abilities as they become interested in them. When children are ready and motivated, their learning potential is limitless.

What does Natural Learning Look Like?

Due to the nature of natural learning, there’s no one way it should or could look. With that said, there are some principles or pillars that you might see across the board of natural learning.

Observe

Observation is huge. In order to best support your child on their own timeline, it is imperative to observe them. Observation of their interests, their strengths, their struggles, and the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ they do things are so important to understand them. Understanding our children as unique individuals is foremost important, but careful observation helps to understand where they are at and where they are going. 

Teach

Once you have observed your child and you have identified their interests, teach to it. Teaching should be flexible and should encompass their questions, and wonder. Wonder is such a powerful thing that children are filled with and cultivating curiosity and awe is so important for lifelong learning. 

Encourage  

Encouragement is the key to guiding your child in learning. Natural learning emphasizes child-led learning, but the environment and tone are up to you to set. Choosing an encouraging spirit is key. Forcing learning is counterproductive, but encouragement leads to discovery and learning is authentic and long-lasting.

Connect 

Connection is always the goal in learning and parenting. It’s easy sometimes to feel that connection is secondary to learning but if connection is the primary goal, natural learning will flourish. Without connection, it is nearly impossible to learn if we don’t feel it connects to our interests or needs. Think about the phrase that kids are notorious for saying “When are we ever going to use this in life?” It’s not that they don’t want to learn, but if they don’t understand the purpose of learning it, it becomes a pointless task. This is true for kids and adults alike. 

Trust 

I have a huge amount of trust in my kids, but I have never had it tested quite like when I started following a more natural approach to learning. I don’t know if my educational background made it more difficult, but truly trusting that my kids will learn what they need to learn each day without stress and forcing was difficult to accept in the beginning. If you grew up in the school system, as I did, the structure was familiar and safe, and letting go of that felt scary. All that said, if you give your kids a supportive, rich environment to learn, trust that they will thrive. 

 

How Do We Implement Natural Learning Into Homeschooling?

Natural learning outdoors

As I mentioned above, natural learning will look different for every person. Our environments are different, our children are different and their interests and what drives them are each uniquely different. We are only a few years into embracing natural learning and we are still experimenting together each day to make learning personal, including myself. If you are stumped for ideas of how to make it work, here are a few things we do.

Mix and match learning tools

We pick and choose what materials will best assist in learning that day. Some days it’s a math workbook to explain a complex math topic. Some days it’s playing a card game to support mental math and strategy, and some days it’s songs for memorization.

Talk about everything

We discuss what’s happening in the world, in our community, in our bodies, and in our family which always leads to lots of questions and in turn, learning. 

Get the kids involved

The kids are involved in every aspect of our home, including cooking, folding, sweeping, dishwashing, and meal prep. Part of appreciating the environment they live in, is participating in making it run. There are so many skills that are learned in caring for your home and belongings. 

Prioritize time outside every day

Learning through nature and free play outdoors is a huge part of their daily environment. We shoot for mid-day to when the sun goes down to be outside. This time is unstructured and the kids ride bikes, scooters, play basketball, football, and other outdoor sports. A huge amount of time outside is with neighbors creating games, talking, or group games. 

Take daily walks

I need them just as much as the kids. We normally go through other neighborhoods, to a park, or to the store to pick up small items. Observation of the season, spotting animals or insects, and discussing homes are always part of the walk.

Prioritize travel

Travel is one of our favorite ways to learn in a new environment about different cultures, ways of life, people groups, and landscapes. Travel doesn’t have to always be far, but anything outside the routine of life feels like it supercharges learning. Travel isn’t cheap so we try to go light on purchasing toys and games throughout the year, in order to make room for the experiences of travel.

Bring kids with us wherever we go

When we have to run errands, visit people, wash the car, go to the post office, whatever it is, we try to take the kids along. Of course, there are times when we do these things alone, but there is so much to learn in experiencing daily life responsibilities.

Provide access to lots of books

Stories are a powerful teaching tool. My motto is that we can never have too many books. The kids love reading aloud, independent reading, and even just looking at the pictures to learn about everything and anything that they are currently interested in. Anything we don’t own, we look for deals on or check out from the library. 

Cook and bake together

We love good food and there’s no better way to get it than to make it yourself! Cooking incorporates so many skills such as following directions, learning measurements, and understanding how ingredients interact with and affect each other.

Plant a yearly food garden

It’s not a big garden, but it’s a place for the kids to understand how food grows, how water and sun affect plants, and caring for our earth. There have been so many great lessons learned from this tiny garden, and I am learning alongside them.

While that list is not exhaustive, it’s just a few ways that we implement natural learning. There’s nothing off the table, so I hope some of these gave you a few ideas of how to embrace natural learning in your home.

Conclusion

Natural learning is all around us. Kids are always learning. I still have to be careful of the way that I frame learning math or reading, because it isn’t a single separated subject as it’s so often taught. The more I embrace natural learning, the more I see the endless opportunities for learning in everything that we do. 

For related reading on holistic education, check out this article.

 

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