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
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.
We have been enjoying what could be the final warm days before winter approaches. Our beach explorations are almost a daily ritual now. I imagine we will just trade our bare feet for woollen beanies and gumboots and continue on through the colder seasons, rather than forgoing this regular adventure we have become so accustomed to. There is so much discovering and learning to be done right beneath our feet. This place we now call home has become the learning ground for us all, full of science and biology, life and language. On this day, alone we see crabs that have died recently still full of colour and shape allowing little curious minds study them closely to see if any signs of life remain. They ponder over a washed up skeletal shell that has been floating in limbo, now resembling little to who it once was, prompting questions of life, bodies and where we go when we are no longer here encompassing our shells? We play with seaweed that pops water when you squeeze it, discover jelly fish and intensely investigate their tentacles. Learning this way, is peaceful, it flows to a beautiful life rhythm that can’t be obtained in the class room or from behind a desk. It is here that our children are learning about real life and cycles, growth and change. They are absorbing everything and anything that interests them, with minds like sponges. They are leading the way in their learning right now, deciding what they want to know more about, its they way we would like it to remain, it’s the way i believe it should be. For now this is the way we will move, it’s the way that serves the children the best. We will learn, create and discover the world around us hands on, and endeavour to grow and evolve and nourish our humble, inquisitive little people on their journey.
This space is where we spend most of our days now, so much so that no amounts of endless scrubbing in warm afternoon baths can remove the dirt now ingrained onto the soles of our feet. It’s how we like it, we have become apart of our land, preferring not to wear shoes most of the time. The soil is sandy here, easy for digging, perfect for sandy wet mud play. The children are always wearing it somewhere on their bodies, we are not fussed anymore by messy hair and grotty faces, rather opting for happy free-spirited kids now. We are in the beginnings of embarking on creating a permaculture garden. We are learning about the intricate details of how our land moves, where naturally slopping surfaces are perfect for an orchard of fruit and olive trees, where the rains fall and naturally flows down towards the abundant vegetable forests we plan to have at the bottom of the orchard. We are watching where the sun rises and sets on the land, paying particular attention to the naturally occurring elements, we will gather, collect and reuse organic mulch from fallen leaves and cuttings, we are composting everything and have adopted worm farms. We will waste little, give back what we take out and learn the art of soil ecology. We have planted, apple and pear trees, plum and peach, passionfruit and blue berries with raspberries around the open compost. All hands are helping, are learning, are apart of the process. We have begun a notebook, documenting our creative envisions, drawing, taking pictures, keeping track, writing notes and keep sake stories for remembering. The children are learning so much more than simply where their food comes from. We envision no longer needing to buy in mass from supermarkets, understanding deeply the difference between fresh produce and produce that has been harvested prematurely to sustain the traveling process that so often exceeds months before reaching the table. We will let go of the idea and need to eat foods that arn’t naturally in season, we will unlearn all we have learned about the act of food consumption, and mass production and endeavor to show the children the difference, letting go of anything that is working against the natural flow of our world and in turn ourselves. We will learn that food is sacred and not to take what we grow, eat and share for granted understanding deeply the many who are ironically and unnecessarily are still without this simple human right. And we pray that our small turning can be of some impact in the greater turning around of all that needs be.