THE NATURALLY LEARNING PHILOSOPHY
Empowering learners and home educators in a relaxed, professional environment.
Quite a lot of what I thought I believed about education has been challenged since becoming a home educator. I have seen natural learning take place while curriculum outcomes fly before my eyes, "This is gold!" I would say to anyone who would lend me their kids for the day so that I could enhance my own children's home education experience.
A picture tells a thousand words so please, grab a cuppa and spend some time in the Gallery. Over the past few years I've kept a record of the learning taking place. This is how I have developed my philosophy and turned it into a business.
The home education path has been greatly complimented by my newly emerging competence with permaculture. Permaculture and my favourite book "The Art of Frugal Hedonism" have inspired me to engage in making and creating at home. While I'm making and creating, the children around me are learning. They see the planning, gathering, skill building, research and results of a DIY lifestyle.
After 20+ years doing my best to make it real in classrooms around Australia and Asia, I can't help but see the learning in the everyday. The learning is happening all the time. The magic happens when a significant other is there to engage in focused teaching as the natural engagement, wonder and curiosity is present.
Take the time to stop and have the conversation about 'Heroes Journey' in movies, talk out loud about your thinking, planning, wondering and ask your children about theirs. There are fascinating insights when children's voices are really heard.
At Naturally Learning, in a relaxed learning environment with expert teaching strategies. After 13 years experience in a private international school, where in-class support included speech therapists, occupational therapists, behavioural therapists, EALD teachers and Learning Support Assistants. Even with the ultimate in school based education, which I'm not seeing in Victoria, more learning still happens outside school when students are relaxed. Who can deny that kids always grow the most physically and emotionally when on holidays. Add some focussed adult or mentor time to the learners everyday experiences and learning is exponential.
One to one or small group settings in the home and wider community is when all the learning happens at Naturally Learning.
The beliefs underlying the Naturally Learning philosophy have developed over 25 years of experience in education, lots of reading and some really great people that have taught me through sharing their art, skill and knowledge.
NATURALLY LEARNING BELIEFS
High impact teaching strategies in a relaxed, professional learning environment.
Cognitive Function: For our brains to engage fully we need to move our bodies and have our sensory needs met. Schools cannot possibly provide this in the way home education can. Students may move freely, indoors or outdoors, take breaks, eat, drink, have pets around, dance, turn off the lights, turn up the heating or listen to music while they learn. The student decides on the learning environment that best meets their needs. It's like before I start to work on this web page I get organised: add light, grab a cuppa, get my glasses and then squat or cross my legs on the chair so my hips don't hurt. I look a bit odd but it meets my need and I can focus on the job. I believe it's important for students in The Busy Room to be comfortable and able to move freely, in this way the learning can happen. Private & Group Tutoring lessons include movement, based on educational kinesiology, a set of exercises, some meditation and a drink of water are a great way for students to get focused and settle into the lesson.
Nature Deficit Disorder, No Thanks: We all perform better just being able to see nature from our workplace or classroom. A nature based learning environment therefore has enormous benefits. There is loads of research to show the positive effects of engaging with nature. Mental health, physical health and learning are all enhanced through engagement with nature. In The Busy Room at Naturally Learning nature is central to all learning. A stroll in the sensory garden, a dash down the forest track, lying in the grass or a splash of water are all magical ways to enliven the senses and engage the learner. Whether you just follow the natural line of inquiry that comes from engaging with nature; spend time to answer the question, start a conversation about the rays of light shining on you or deliberately introduce a non preferred topic, the learning will happen. Engagement is learning. The questions, observations, quiet reflections and monologue retells are the learning. You might get tired of monologues and introduce a 'recount or narrative scaffold' to your English lesson or engage The Busy Room for a Private Tutoring session, and soon and you'll be enjoying the retells even more as in your mind, you check off curriculum outcomes achieved.
High Impact Teaching Strategies: Research, professional development and loads of my own anecdotal evidence suggest that there are some teaching strategies that have the highest impact. Some are to do with learning routines, like tuning in, practise, revision, reflection and others relate to assessment and planning. By engaging the best practises I developed in classrooms with a relaxed nature based learning environment, parents as educators are able to focus their teaching like an expert. My goal is to empower parents as educators with these teaching strategies. The Busy Room has already seen the results from one hour tutoring. Small groups and individuals have already benefitted from the The Busy Room's philosophy of high impact teaching strategies in a relaxed learning environment.
Inquiry Learning: In it's most simple form inquiry learning is the old learning by doing model, or the master's apprentice or anything that involves the learner being actively engaged in their own learning. Most often this is through play or an area of interest at The Busy Room. If the student has not brought their own hot topic I have a range of data driven options. Through observation, record keeping and ongoing anecdotal assessment I am able to provide some structured or guided inquiry on a particular skill or knowledge base that will enable the learner to move forward. The inquiry leads to the focused teaching which leads to better tools for further inquiry and so on.
In schools we teachers do our utmost to make the learning opportunities reflect the inquiry process. At home and at The Busy Room the inquiry learning is constant, not contained to the two hours allocated by the timetable. Inquiry learning opportunities abound and if learners have their basic toolkit of English and Mathematics skills to back them up, the learning never stops. Inquiries may last 20 minutes or they may last 6 months. Each inquiry is unique and relevant to the student or group of students at the Busy Room.
The Facts about English and the 'Dys' Myth: I do not believe in 'dys' ing the students. THRASS strategies, philosophy and resources guide the teaching of handwriting, reading and spelling skills in The Busy Room. THRASS recognises the 44 speech sounds in English and teaches them from the very beginning. We have learnt to speak using the 44 speech sounds so it only fair to then teach the most common spelling choices for the 44 sounds.
I also focus on articulation, pen grip, and letter formation.
The first piece of misinformation in school is that there is a sound symbol relationship between the letters in the alphabet, of which there are 26, and the sounds in English. It doesn't work. English is not phonetic therefore letters do not have sounds. Letters are symbols, there are 26 of them.
Speech and words have sounds, sounds are represented by combinations of 1 ,2 ,3 or even 4 letters to represent one sound. There are no rules, however there are patterns. If we look at derivatives of words the spelling makes a whole lot more sense.
Many words have origins in other languages. English is not phonetic. Letters do not have sounds. Pen grip must be taught as a pencil is a tool. Fine motor skills are really important and more play is needed.
I do not like dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, dyspraxia, I do not like that they are labels that make learners feel like they can't do something. I believe with the facts about English, more inquiry, more nature and some really focused teaching, the 'dys' epidemic will be gone!
Less Screens and School: I believe there is a place for screen time and some of the stuff that happens at school.
'Screens are great for documentaries, online learning, research and a little bit of entertainment.'
Naturally Learning recommends 2 hours of screen time a day for little people, less for the littlest of people and up to 4 hours for tweens & teens.
By limiting screen time, especially for the home educated, you are providing opportunities for the little people to find others way of being. I recommend a kind of open ended schedule that is developed collaboratively with the little people. We have open ended, wholesome activities as suggestions for what to do with all the other hours they are not on screens.
The open ended activities on offer currently are: exercise, be outside, observe something, pet care, manage own dishes, manage own clothes and a random act of kindness.
Boredom is great, that when creativity is born.
Some of the high impact teaching strategies used in schools are great. The inquiry learning model is wonderful and if the BER (Building Education Revolution) buildings in most government primary schools were used as they were intended, I believe public education would actually be like this;
Schools could be more like learning labs.
A place where students are free to play in a supervised environment with expert teachers located in permanent learning labs.
The expert educators would offer a series of activities some group, some private, some teacher led, some student led and students would sign up for classes, from Foundation through to Year 6.
All the support services for families would be based at the school and students could access integrated support services or in class support. That way educators learn the strategies the specialists use and everyone benefits.
Students could still be at school between 9am - 3:30pm, Monday to Friday but only for as long as it was meeting their needs. School attendance would be optional, depending on the needs of the family and the individuals.
'May there be freedom from suffering and the causes of suffering...'
The facilities are already there, the funding and the experts are there, the resources are there and teachers would be sooo... much happier working with students who want to be there. Most of the discipline and behavioural issues teachers and students are dealing with currently would be eliminated if the 'troublemakers', were given the freedom to express themselves and move freely. More climbing, playing, resting and being at home and less stress for everyone. I seriously think the education system in it's current form is actually damaging both teachers and students.
I'd be interested to hear your thoughts. Contact me to share your ideas about the future of schooling.