Monday, June 24, 2013

It's Okay Not to Push Kids to Learn

Why do children have to 'learn' to do things they don't want to do (or really have to do) so young? We worry that we're not setting an example of consistent behaviour, or that skipping school (or lessons, or not finishing activities, etc) will mean they won't ever be able to commit to anything in the future, or that we're encouraging laziness... It really is too easy to judge our children's behaviour and extrapolate the consequences far into the future, giving them prominence it probably doesn't deserve.

Why can't adults accept and front up to the fact that they too balk at doing many things they have to and indeed completely avoid doing lots of things that are in their best interests. We play games with ourselves, telling ourselves stories about why it's okay for us to avoid doing this 'must do' or 'should do' or things we sprout as important - this kind of hypocrisy is way more potent as setting an example or pattern of behaviour in our kids than skipping a few days of school each week. Yet, unlike our children's behaviour, we push it to the back of our minds, do our best to ignore or forget the inconsistencies or possible consequences. 

For example, I tell my kids that this or that food is not good for us and then buy it is and eat it, avoiding buying the quality food my body needs and making time to create tasty meals. I tell them that regular exercise is essential and then don't do it. I tell them that pollution is bad and then in a suburb surrounded by busy roads and transport corridors, convincing myself I 'can't' move. I tell them that global warming is a reality then on hot days instead of finding a cool tree to sit under I turn the air conditioning on and watch Happy Feet on the box. I tell them it's wrong to exploit poor people in developing countries who earn a $1 a day and then buy cheap clothes from Big W instead of taking care of the longer lasting quality clothes I should have bought in the first place or buying from the local Op Shop.

We spend a lot of time worrying about our children not learning to conform to what society accepts as normal and okay. When my kids were young I also spent a lot of time questioning what society accepts as normal and okay. I still do. It's important to be critical and to work towards becoming the person I want to be: authentic, consistent, committed, responsible, caring, considerate and so on. But I know I have the rest of my life to complete this journey. Why do we insist that children have to reach it before the age of eight, thirteen or twenty-one?

It's a tough moment in life (or a series of never-ending tough moments) when we realise that there are many things in life we have to do because for some reason we need to do them but we don't want to do them right now, or tomorrow or anytime soon! It helps if those reasons make sense and are explained to us in a sympathetic tone and manner, mindful of where we are at in our development.   

We're really lucky living in this country to be blessed with the opportunity of so much choice. As parents we have the ability to chose what we place emphasis on: what I love about home education is that it offers a great deal more time for families to be together and work out what is important for them, as individuals within a family nestled and operating within the local and wider community in ways that are responsive to and work to meet now and future needs. It's amazingly adaptable and flexible and isn't exclusive of other forms of education. Home education gives us the gift of time to nurture children and ourselves. We're not in a hurry, we don't have to make children do things because it is the 'done' or 'normal' thing.

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