child-led learning

IMG_6488 IMG_6489 IMG_6486It takes courage to follow your own innate wisdom’s, especially when it concerns more lives than just that of your own.  I have always followed the mantra, when you know better, you do better. I am watching carefully how my children are learning, even how other children i am around are learning also, by simply observing, allowing, and encouraging a child-led process to unfold. This area in my children’s development has become a necessary pursuit and now a passion. When developmental  learning for a child doesn’t play by the generalised rules, it becomes necessary to begin the journey of discovering new ways for the information to be grasped, finding a way for the learning to happen. Our way has come to us on an instinctual level, i simply allow my children to lead the way in their learning,  most of the time and almost every day. It may seem unlikely that we could possibly be covering all the developmental learning targets with children taking the lead however, if we are able to get out of our own way of old views on how things must be done in order to achieve results, we open up a new space of possibility for things to unfold. And children are born knowing what they want and need already.  We know this to be true from babies who cry to have their instinctual needs met.  Nobody teaches a new born how to be hungry every few hours or how to be tired, or how to feel uncomfortable.  We trust babies to tell us what they need, to eventually get their needs met, even without the use of spoken language.  So why is it that we stop trusting them, stop trusting that they instinctively know what it is they are wanting to learn, wanting to know more about?  Maybe it started around the time the first three-year olds began contradicting their parents?  A mass collaborative decision to get things under control before an ensue of outspoken three-year olds possibly unraveled?  What would happen if we continued to trust them, kept them safe and allowed them to lead the direction of what it is they want to know more about. All children are curious we know this to be true. Usually about absolutely everything. This innate curiosity starts to take a certain shape and head in certain directions as they grow. I watched a small boy yesterday, load his 4-year-old arms up with off cuts of wood and lug them down to another part of the play area where he was building.  He continued this process of going back and forth, carrying the wood to his construction site with immense importance and determination. He lay the wood pieces in parquetry style, perfectly creating  a flat image of a house plan from his imagination. What was remarkable to me was that he was constructing this project in amongst a highly distracting group of twenty or so four-year olds. I wondered what would have happened if he was left to remain focused on his project for sometime, and given the opportunity to further explore this creative venture, with access to tools and supplies. Who knows what would have become of his fabrication. This is child-led learning. This is the perfect example of a child who clearly has an interest in construction. All sorts of learning can be applied to his choice of project, maths and geometry, comparing and measuring all of which can be explored. Creative thinking, conceptualisation, problem solving and independence all play a large role in a project such as this. Most importantly you will have the desire, willingness and enthusiasm of the child. Isn’t this ideal? Children learning in a way, that allows them to set their own course, a direction of learning where we are simply not filling them with masses of information that they cannot relate to, or have little interest in learning about and possibly will never again use in their lives. Of course, when we leave the education system as young adults we usually once again return to learning more naturally.  When we want to know more about a topic or subject, we begin the process ourselves. Technology allows us to research and explore information on just about anything we want to know about.  We pursue our interests, and intern continue the process of learning by our own innate wisdom once again.

intentionally moving off the path

Asperger would often just sit with the children, reading poetry and stories to them from his favourite books. “I don’t want to simply ‘push from the outside’ and give instructions, observing cooly and with detachment,” he said ” Rather, I want to play and talk with the child , all the while looking with open eyes both into the child and into myself, observing the emotions that arise in reaction to everything that occurs in the conversation between the two of us.”

-NeuroTribes, Steve Silberman

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This is how i want my children to learn, i want to be the observer not the dictator to their curious and instinctual  minds. I want to watch what they are drawn to, and where they take themselves naturally when provided the space, opportunity and environment to do so. I don’t want them ever to become accustomed to what is perceived as normal or abnormal about themselves in a class room, by the  opinions that are deciding where they sit on some grand scale of intellectual competence.  Children are loosing their natural flow. They are being denied the access to learn by  instinctively following from their own interests, a naturally occurring process that is inherent to everyone.  There is no room for individual self-directed learning anymore.  Instead they are being shaped and moulded, and filled with information about things that are meant to support them in their lives, but really have nothing to do with their life at all.  By the time they are reaching high school it’s all but gone. Thats when it really becomes prevalent to what is happening. It is then that they too  begin to realise the sad truth of how little they matter in the system, how small their voices are, unless of course they have an exceptional skill that can offer some personal gain to the school.  It becomes entirely about working hard, retaining the masses of information, memorizing as opposed to learning, endless testing and our children tirelessly keeping pace, trying to  prove themselves over and over again.  It is about them illogically having to have their whole life plan set out before them, at the tender age of sixteen.   This is not the learning we are striving for. The learning we strive for is one that doesn’t require forcing information upon them with the expectation that they retain it and then perform it back in some way, as proof of a job well done. My children are learning to count, I know this.  I hear them practicing all the time, for their own pleasure.  I have also watched them refuse to count on demand or worse feel so under pressure, to prove themselves that they simply can’t.  Testing children is much the same. It fills them with dread, panic and insecurity, and really is no way to conclude where a child’s level of understanding is really at. Testing children in this country in the educational systems is out of control.  We test everything, even how fast they can run, in ‘beep tests’. This has nothing to do with nurturing the physical health of our children, or guiding them towards naturally being aware of how to take care of their own bodies, and everything to do with competition and adequacy verses inadequacy.  Never before in our history has  the pressure to perform been so rampant, you have to wonder how much learning is actually taking place.   We are living in a time where we are now recognising the expansive neurological diversity amongst ourselves, more than ever before, and the educational options to cater for the diversity in our children’s differences is few. Parents are wanting a new approach, they are wanting individual learning styles for their children as they are uniquely learning individuals. They are recognising that many children cannot learn effectively in a traditional school environment anymore.  With the number of children being diagnosed with learning differences it is inevitable that something will have to change. There is simply no one size fits all model that can be followed effectively anymore.

 

my superman

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life on the autism journey is always a bitter-sweet battle for me. The battle rather has more to do with the outside world than the sanctuary of our own spaces.  My predicament comes from trying to figure out how much do I insist he learn to change and conform himself to fit into what has been deemed to be acceptable social norms, and how much is simply left to remain exactly as it perfectly is.

Autism has this beautiful quality where it demands that you be impeccable with your word. you must say only what is true. Your must keep to your word, always and precisely in what you are offering, anything less always results in deep confusion and distress. It is a mindful practice, one that challenges me always and where emotional attachments play a very minute role. Its takes great discipline to become aware of everything you speak and to remember that everything to the Autism mind is literal. It is one of my most favourite qualities, amongst the many. I am learning, that not everything said has to be taken so personally, i have learnt to become unattached to the words, love has many guises. I am not hurt if my superman voices that he doesn’t miss me when we are apart or when he periodically moves out of home and into his nanas house and says he’s staying forever at age four.  I’m  not needing him to fill any illusionary gaps of insecurity within myself.  I’m not needing him to kiss and cuddle on my terms when intimacy for him feels like an intrusion into his space.  More often that not, his affection is shared through rough and tumble games on the couch, and for me that will always be enough.

How much do I train his indifference? Endeavour to adapt his behaviours so that they are more suitable, more pleasant to the outside world? He will most likely always say inappropriate things at inappropriate times yet they will always be truthful. Do I try to filter the truth for the benefit  of others, to spare unanticipated feelings being hurt through their misunderstanding? Do I even have the right? This is after all who he is, in all his shades, the difference is, he really is no different to any of us at all. We are all of this, accept most of us just don’t say out loud what we are thinking, and more often that not filter our truths in fear of being judged, not liked, or to keep up with what ever disguise we have going on in that moment anyway. The Autism mind will always struggle to understand the false fabrications we invent to cover up true emotions being expressed, they will always state the obvious in any given moment no matter how socially awkward or offensive it may be, and i am drawn to this outwardly candid approach, there is greater depth for learning here.

We have in the safe sanctuary of our space, learnt not to take offence to the words. We have learnt to laugh more easily,  even at the inappropriate, especially at the inappropriate.   We are beginning to understand that the words and actions on their own, carry no feeling they are just words, just actions.  They hold no power until we decide that they do. It is only then that our own insecurities paired with the words or actions hold any force, or can take on impact in a negative or positive way in our lives. We are always going to come across people in our lives, who we will disagree with, who’s words and actions will not serve us, this is the beauty of life, the beauty of diversity. We have much to learn from the Autism mind. They have the ability to detach, to not place meaning in the meaningless. ‘ Suffering is universal. The origin of Suffering is Attachment. The Cessation of Suffering is Attainable. Path to the Cessation of suffering is, (after all) Detachment’ -Buddha