Our soon-to-be seven-year-old twin daughters do not go to school because they are children. So, what about their learning environment? How/Where/When do they learn? Well, they learn from each experience/interaction, all the time, all around them. Unschooling doesn’t mean that their learning is compromised in any manner.
I am not talking about any abstract concept when I say that the learning environment for children is everywhere. Parents are much better at imparting learning than what they are made to believe. More so, we grossly under-estimate a child’s innate capability to grasp and soak up learning by believing that learning can happen only in a certain environment.
Learning Environment For My Daughters
Plants. Nature-walk. House-hold chores. Vegetable shopping. Playing with mud. Yes, with seeds, too. Cooking. Positive screen time. Krishna Fruit Juice Centre. Number Recognition Activity. Stone Collection. Of course, in-house numerous art and craft sessions. Visits to parks and lakes. Trips and events with Dirty Feet. Language Games. Indian Wedding. Rangoli Making. Anganwadi Visit.
Anything and everything. Anywhere and everywhere. Anytime and every time. Activities done multiple times and also, one-off.
If one believes that the children are better served with hands-on experiential learning, what would be the logical extension? Omnipresent learning environment with parental involvement. We have seen ample evidence that the twins learn at each experience, every interaction. I might forget the reference in future, but they don’t. I might forget what I taught them, but they won’t.
Reading books to daughters is an integral part of the learning environment but by no means the only part. It is just one among many. We don’t leave our tasks to give the girls a monologue. Rather, the children get interwoven with the job-on-hand and their learning becomes a part of the narrative, at their pace. And, nothing digital, please.
For us, the learning environment has been diverse physical locations and contexts. We give a free hand to the curiosity, the urge to explore, the inquisitiveness of our daughters and that’s about it. They ask questions, we try answering. We raise queries, they try guessing. Together, we make assumptions, put it into action, see the output faltering and that’s the learning, for them and also us.
Rocket science and medical science would not be amenable to the above. But, it works for logical reasoning and common sense, numerical capability and literacy, real-life application and critical thinking. For passing on life skills to children, the omnipresent learning environment is a sure-shot winner.
The Power Of Unstructured Time
We are made to believe that a packed schedule is a must for a child’s learning. The child has to be up to something, have to be engaged and taught for her/him to learn. For us, adults, learning has to be tangible, assessed and proven that the child has learned. We assume that learning requires a structured environment, certified instructors, certain pedagogy and more of the same.
Well, somehow, the children did not get the message. Not until they become well-meaning but misdirected adults themselves, like us. The children are blank slates and they pick up from whatever, wherever, whenever they question, do, see and are told in that order. The structured time believes in exactly the reverse order, with major, if not all, stress on instructions to be followed to the rote.
Unstructured time exposes the children to different ways of using their minds and bodies. They are not told, not expected to memorize and reproduce what is. Rather, they try and figure out what isn’t, what can’t, what won’t followed by what might and if they are lucky enough, they also learn what is. And, this remains with them for the rest of their lives.
The adults yearn for the unstructured time of their childhood. However, when it comes to their children, they are all shackled up in structured time in the name of learning. We need to give our children and ourselves a break for the unstructured time – for this is when the memories are made and lifelong learning happen.
The Barriers And The Belief
There are, of course, many barriers to the belief of the learning environment for children is everywhere. However, when the child will show in action/put in words what they have seen and perceived in any of their interactions, it will reinforce that you are on the right path. Each experience with the child has a value beyond anything that a classroom can ever teach. And, the child surely learns.
I am not an educator. I have no empirical data/study to back up my belief. My wife’s and my hands-on experiences with our twin daughters show that they are learning – intended/unintended/not even thought in our wildest dreams with each interaction and we move on to the next experience.
What are your thoughts on the learning environment for children?
PS: I am a stay-at-home father to six-year-old twin daughters, neither an educationist nor an expert, just growing up together with my children. The above thoughts are an expression of parenting is having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better.