November 2, 2013

Methods and Materials Vs. "Natural Learning"

There is often much discourse and confusion over using methods and materials in home education and independent learning.  I've heard the argument that "natural learners" do not use methods or materials and if you do - you are not a "natural learner".   I disagree with this statement because (A) it's a fallacy and sets up the false dichotomy of two extremes, ignoring the more realistic and identifiable existence of the perpetually sliding scale wherein most families operate; and (B) because it denies the potential value in using tools to achieve a goal.  It's very unhealthy to limit ourselves by limiting use and exposure based on a (weak) philosophical ideology.  By refusing to use curriculum or certain books/tools, we are essentially enslaving ourselves to another methodology after all.   In education, methods and materials are part of our world.  Use them!  Just don't be used by them.  Aye there's the rub!

There are several methodologies available through home education networks that provide curriculum  based on Trivium ideology.  Most of these are labeled under a “Classical Education” heading.  

Personally, I have used and/or reviewed several of these and while I can say that many of them do offer valuable tools and skill building exercises, I found them to still be boxed, and by boxed I mean that they are standardized curriculum and as such are limiting to a truly whole and natural learning experience or environment.  

That said, it is always a good idea to start familiarizing yourself with the methods, ideas, materials and curriculum that exist because the information will help you discover what will be right for your child and your family.  Just don’t commit to any one at the exclusion of other ideas.    In fact it is wise to avoid committing to any approach ever.  The best advice I ever received is the first advice I usually pass along and that is to stay flexible!  Allow the unique personality, needs, desires and characteristics of your child to be the main factor in determining the curve of your flow.  Allow your own family dynamic, cultural habits, personal ideals and beliefs to guide your decisions.  Keep in mind that this will change as your family grows and as your child grows and it’s important that we grow with it.  That flexibility is precisely what school cannot offer and what you can.

I’m not saying that there is no room for methodologies or resources, certainly there is as most successful and healthy independent learners will mix-match and blend.  I cannot tell anyone exactly which resources, methodologies or materials to use because in order to create a personal experience, this has to be a personalized experience.  I encourage you to embrace your freedom and to use it to the advantage of your family.

Using books and materials
Always use the world and natural life to learn, and use workbooks only as supplements and ‘exercise’.  Workbooks are for workouts;in the same way that dancing and playing are best for exercise, but a treadmill can be useful too but we should never rely exclusively on the treadmill.

Workbooks are helpful and should not be a “sin” in home learning.  They can be useful.  We must simply remain flexible and we must use them and tailor our use to fit our style and needs rather than be dictated by them.  Skip pages, use them to help illustrate, exemplify or for just plain practice.   
Don’t follow directions exactly, use creative judgement.  Following directions is a useful skill as well, but so is adaptation and improvisation.  Most workbooks assume the audience is schooled so you have to be creative and adaptive.  Perhaps just refer to the book for ideas, then make up your own exercises.  

If you remain flexible and keep in mind that in true natural learning, everything and anything can be utilized, then we can benefit from the organic world as well as the manufactured materials.  Tools and materials can be very useful if we use them in ways that are helpful to us.  

Simply put: When it comes to methods and materials - Use them as a tool, not a rule.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Discussion Welcomed. SPAMMERS will be blocked!