Sunday, February 5, 2012

Children Learn Best in a Natural Environment

As many of you know, I work as a real estate appraiser now that my children are grown.  The other day I went to a house where there were two primary-aged little boys. They had just come off the school bus at the end of a long day.  When I first arrived, they were following me around the house, expressing curiosity about what I was doing, asking questions about my camera, and answering questions that the mother didn't know the answer to!  In short, they were inquisitive, intelligent, and engaging little people.

After a few minutes, they were told to sit down and do their homework. It quickly became apparent that the younger one, who was in first grade, was a struggling reader.  The process was difficult, and the feedback he was receiving was clearly making him believe he was less than adequate for the task.

This was on one of those rare winter days down south when it was almost 70 degrees and sunny outdoors. The outside was beckoning to the boys, but they still had to do their sit-down work, even after hours and hours of sitting and being quiet in the schoolroom.

Later in the week, I went to IKEA with my daughter and purposely sat down near the children's play area to eat my lunch.  Next to us, there was a table with a family of young children, who were being forced to sit still and eat their food.  They were squirming and misbehaving.  In front of us, there was a little girl, maybe three years old, who was happily playing in the children's play area while her parents sat a few tables away watching her.  I doubt she was in any danger of starving to death, and the parents were able to enjoy a happy lunch hour while she played, having fun in her own element.

Both of this instances just reminded me that I absolutely love to observe and/or work with young children when they are in their element, and I absolutely hate working with young children when they are out of their element, as is the case in almost every classroom situation.

I hope those of you who are homeschooling make the most of your opportunities to let the children learn outdoors when possible.  Even indoor work can be done in a more conducive environment.  A small reading area, with a comfortable big pillow in a sunny corner, makes a small child much more likely to enjoy curling up with a book than he would be sitting at a school desk. 

Little children love to learn. They just hate sitting still in a contrived atmosphere and being made to sit for hours doing work that engages their minds but keeps their bodies in a straitjacket.

We used to take our books to the park sometimes. I remember sitting by a stream reading Thornton Burgess stories to the kids about Grandfather Frog while sitting by the frog pond at Red Top Mountain State Park. 

I just feel sorry for kids who aren't allowed to be kids.


  1. Parents get to enjoy those experiences so much more in the right environment also.

  2. You are so correct! I was the mother who made homeschool more like school. It was really a battle for me and my kids to get them to sit and do their work. Then I took another look, out of desperation, at Charlotte Mason. We have had an almost total turnaround! It is amazing, when you let kids be outdoors with short classes and play mixed in, how much better and smarter they become! They enjoy learning! The other day, by 7 year old said, on a Saturday, "Can I pretend I'm in school and do poetry? It's just pretend!" I was so thrilled!