• Connect And Respect

Aren't children limited without a curriculum?

"But if you don't have a curriculum won't children be limited to learning only what the parents know about?"

Or sometimes put "how will children know what they don't know if you don't expose them by teaching it?"

These are questions I have been asked on more than one occasion. If you view learning through a school lens i.e. that children can only learn something if it is formally taught, then I can totally understand why this would be a concern. Whilst I can see however that this is a fear, it is not one borne out in reality from my experience.

When we support natural learning we are supporting and facilitating our children's innate curiosity to understand the world in which they directly participate. Curiosity can be sparked from a plethora of sources, which often are not from something we have chosen to directly expose them to. It can be a passing character in a book, film or video. It could be a conversation, a chat with a friend, something they witness ... literally anything. By giving them freedom to explore their curiosity and interests without judgement (with obvious safety caveats) we are actually giving our children access to all of life; the whole of the world.

Curriculums can only ever offer a tiny slice of all world knowledge and information. Curriculums are created to reflect what someone else (an adult, often a politician) believes to be valuable (or even worse testable) at some point in the future. Content set externally to the learner's interests and passions is often poorly retained. How much of your schooling curriculum knowledge have you retained today? Passion driven knowledge often has extremely high retention and understanding, as it is often relevant, interesting, useful and/or needed in that moment, and thus adds to the learner's mental map of the world. When you impose a set external curriculum you could well be limiting children not expanding them. You could actually turn the concern round and ask "doesn't a preset, defined curriculum limit children from learning in a meaningful and expansive way about all of the world?"

I thought I would include just one example from each of my children that illustrates how fluid and dynamic passion led learning can be:

My eldest son (12 years) walked up to me recently and said "can we find more information on Ancient military history, particularly Ancient Rome and Ancient China and their military leaders, tactics and campaigns?" Whilst I answered "yes" the following sped through my mind: "Google, you are indeed my best friend", "I think I'm about to be pushed out of my comfort zone", "where on earth did this come from?!"

I have pondered the last question considerably. And looking back at his interests over time I can see the path. Manga and gaming have been two of his big passions. By being allowed to freely explore these areas, I can now see how he has gotten to asking that question. You see, manga covers the most amazing array of subjects from volleyball and YouTubing to Vikings and frankly the downright bizarre. It was through reading thousands of chapters of manga (he has a number of subscriptions) that he was introduced to the exploits of Lu Bu (an ancient imperial Chinese general and warlord). As for the gaming path, for a long time he played the video game Civilisation (a game that has spawned the most enormous amount of knowledge and learning e.g. geography, history, political figures, historical figures, political systems, economic systems, societal systems, religions the list is endless). Through playing Civilisation he became interested and invested in military tactics and strategies to improve his performance in the game. I didn't purposefully "expose" him to these things. I didn't have an academic "plan", but by supporting his interests and passions he has continued to explore subjects that are way beyond my personal interest or knowledge base.

An example from my youngest son (8 years). Through his interests in gaming (FIFA in this case) and various You Tubers he has developed a passion for football. Since then we have found a fantastic coach who supports him both with his football skills but also is another trusted adult through who he is exposed to more ideas and interests. In fact, his interest in football has lead to him to explore lots more areas including nationalities, footballers' lives, careers, trials and tribulations and whole array of literacy and numeracy skills.

Neither ancient military history nor football are in any way my passions, nor in my knowledge set. As a facilitator of their learning, rather than teacher, it doesn't matter and is in no way limiting.

#naturallearning #homeeducation #selfdirectededucation #unschooling #connectandrespect #passionledlearning


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