Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Free Range Learning (1 of 3)

Free Range Learning 

How Homeschooling Changes Everything


Thanks, Laura!
Laura Grace Weldon’s Free Range Learning combines insightful wisdom, tender compassion, and vibrant understanding in helping the reader see the potential in meaningful, real-life learning. What it means to grow up and parent in a respectful, engaged, and joyful family. Her handbook transforms boundaries—or does away with them altogether. She is a kindred spirit.

I would like to share my favorite bits of Free Range Learning—with mostly direct quotes. Apologies for the many salient points that I leave out within the 275 pages of this inspirational ‘go-to’ reference

Due to the extensive material I wanted to include, I will split this post into three separate posts. This is part one of three. Parts two and three will follow on consecutive days, with a fourth post containing all three parts in one. 

The Wisdom of Laura Grace Weldon (tasty morsels of her unique thinking)

Education as Life, for Life

ü  The child’s wondrous progress from helpless newborn to a remarkably sophisticated five-year old happens without explicit teaching. In fact, most of a child’s learning is so continual that it goes unnoticed.
Ø  Toddlers experiment like enthralled scientists. They rapidly develop a grasp of everyday physics.
Ø  They master nuances of social interaction long before they can speak in sentences.
Ø  Their comprehension expands much more quickly than their growing vocabulary. Often, children seem to ignore what they aren’t ready to learn, only to return to the same skill or concept later with ease.
Ø  What they do is intrinsically tied to why they do it, making the learning process purposeful. They are confidently in charge of their own instruction.
Ø  They require little fanfare for their achievements, as mastery gives them more than enough satisfaction.

ü  Experiential learning, along with the guidance of parents and other elders, is precisely the education known throughout the majority of human history. Schooling is the experiment.

ü  We are wired to understand down to the cellular level. Nothing can replace direct observation and experience. A natural education is complex and purposeful. When each person is empowered to learn as it suits him or her, the process of discovery is invigorating.

ü  True education has to do with nurturing critical thinking, innovation, and lifelong openness to learning. When education is weighted toward measurable outcomes, the meaning of learning is diminished. Standardized testing is profound evidence of societal shallow thinking.

Hmmm, I may have to redo that...

ü  Dissent is an essential component of critical thinking.  Disparate viewpoints are an excellent sign that a young person is developing a quality that goes beyond the mere accumulation of knowledge. It has to do with independent, clear-eyed thinking.

ü  Educational standards increasingly focus on measurable outcomes that make learning an indirect rather than a direct experience.
Ø  This translates into rigid curricula with regular drills to ensure passing grades on mandatory tests.
Ø  This approach takes children farther away from what we know actually promotes long-term learning.

ü  The subject matter in school, even when taught well, isn’t necessarily what the child is ready to learn.
Ø  It may cover material the child has no interest in.
Ø  The material may be so remote from the child’s life that it has no relevance.
Ø  Children soon learn that the educational process is boring or makes them feel bad about themselves.

ü  Schoolwork repeatedly emphasizes skill areas that are lacking, or goes over skills already mastered with stultifying repetition.

ü  The energy that formerly prompted a child to explore, ask questions, and eagerly leap ahead becomes a social liability. Often this transforms into cynicism or disobedience.

ü  They see that what they achieve and how it is achieved is relentlessly judged.

ü  They learn to quell independent thought and value-laden ideas.

ü  Gradually, children’s natural moment-to-moment curiosity is distorted until they resist learning anything but what they have to learn.

ü  The life force is drained from education.

 Innate Gifts

ü  Left to their own devices, children act quite a bit like geniuses.
Ø  They don’t learn in a straight line
Ø  They are highly individual
Ø  They may not be all that interested in what others think of them.
Ø  They don’t necessarily apply common sense to their pursuits
Ø  When their concentration is interrupted, they may react with frustration
ü  Notice that these traits are more common in the youngest children, before we “teach” them.

Just for you, Laura...

ü  The concept of equality is educationally misapplied, muffling many students’ abilities and strengths in a misguided effort to build up areas that have been determined to be “weaknesses.”

ü  Children are expected to attain certain measurable outcomes in all subject areas at each grade. This negates the uneven and distinctly individual ways in which children develop.

In the Flow: Focus and Creativity

ü  As ‘free range’ children spend their days in exploration based on their own interests, they access their potential naturally in a way well suited to their needs.

ü  Their focus makes a mockery of what is supposedly a child’s developmental handicap—a short attention span.

ü  Adults may regard children’s pursuits as irrelevant—calling them away from their interests to what they deem more important. We may chastise them for not paying attention to the time. But, it is our own dreary grown-up preoccupation with schedules and planning that can harm a child’s ability to focus if we aren’t careful.

ü  A huge part of learning is the “figuring out” process. Learning through creativity means mistakes will be made. Sometimes, the mistakes are the most important part of the learning process.

Wow, I should patent this feeling...

ü  Creativity is a life force when it arises as a healing impulse, as a truth-telling impulse, as an impulse to approach mystery. This is why it is so essential to encourage a creative, self-aware approach from the earliest ages.

ü  The fertile imagination of young children can stay alive to invigorate learning and inspire problem solving throughout life.


This ends part 1 of 3 to Free Range Learning. Laura Grace Weldon's Website and blog (and Facebook) are active and fresh resources for the interested reader.  The pictures used here are from Laura's Facebook page—search 'Free Range Learning'. Look for part two and three in the coming days. 

Papa Green Bean