Meeting the Need to Learn

This is the second in my series answering questions from a reader. The first post is here.

2) If in fact, the child does decide that s/he would like to study physics, I’d venture to guess that the majority of unschooling parents don’t know enough about physics to do it justice. I know I certainly wouldn’t. What then?

This question is taken out of context, but essentially it is, “How do you meet your child’s desire to learn something about which you are ignorant?” The concept of learning physics as a whole subject (and the fact that the world isn’t really divided up that way) was addressed in my last post.

Thankfully, this is a relatively easy problem to solve. Assuming that a child is delving into a new area of learning, and they continue to show interest in it and want to get deeper, they have numerous resources other than their parents. In fact, most unschoolers learn things completely independent of their parents.  A parent may be called upon to be creative in finding ways to meet this need, but there is a whole world of possibilities out there, many of which are unavailable to children in school.  What’s more, this is exactly how an unschooled (or free schooled) child becomes an independent thinker, and a person who knows exactly how to learn something, rather than just sitting and waiting to be told information.

Let’s take a simple example. My son (who, granted, is three), is very interested in cars and trains. At this point, his main interaction with them is through toys. He holds races, tows cars around, etc.  But, we are always looking for ways to expand his experience with these things. (I would argue that most parents of pre-schoolers do the same. Our society just believes it is no longer a valid way of learning from the ages of 5 to 18.) So, we’ve taken our son on a train ride and to a car show. We borrow videos about rock crawler races. My father-in-law, an avid racing fan, talks to him about races and different parts of cars and my son helps my husband maintain our cars. What if he wants to know more about how a train works or what a conductor does? Well, we could easily look it up online or head to the library. We could go to a train museum or even find a local train enthusiast. We’ve even found very realistic train simulators for the computer.

What if the subject is more complex? What if a high schooler wants to learn about neuroscience? Well, at this age, kids are often very self-sufficient in their learning. If they have questions that can’t be answered online, you could take them to a local university library. You could also pursue classes at a local college or even an online university or find films on the topic.  You could even contact a local neuroscientist to talk to your student.  (Randomly, I have two friends I went to college with who are now neurologists. Hey, I bet you could look at your own alumni network and find someone who could teach your child about something they are interested in.)

We live in an age where finding out more about a topic is relatively easy. The important part is that they are allowed the freedom to do so. And, when they’re done with that topic and don’t really care to know more, we must respect that and give them the space to find their next passion.

What things have you done to help your child follow his or her interest?

Next post: Are public schools REALLY that horrible?

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3 Comments on "Meeting the Need to Learn"

  1. apaulinaria
    28/04/2012 at 12:52 am Permalink

    All very good points. But you forgt to mention that if a high schooler wanted to learn neurosurgery he/she wouldn’t even get the chance to. But that’s the whole point of unschooling isn’t it?

  2. Cassi
    28/04/2012 at 11:49 am Permalink

    Excellent point!


  1. [...] in my series of blogs addressing a reader’s questions. The other posts can be found here, here, here, here,…

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