Teachable Moments/Stolen Moments

Children do not need to be made to learn about the world, or shown how. They want to, and they know how. — John Holt

We are all in the kitchen. Several processes are happening all at once. We have a pot of tomatoes simmering on the stove top, the thermomix is soupifying some potatoes and leek and we are preparing a couple of banana breads to bake. There’s laughter, there’s chatting.

Are people learning here? Most probably, it’s kind of an unavoidable side effect of life. But we aren’t here in this moment to learn anything in particular, we are here to live and learning is just a part of what makes that a possibility.

I’m not asking about adding quarters and halves or if we use 3 eggs from the dozen how many are left. I’m not asking the kids to answer things that I already know the answers to. I’m not asking anything that isn’t required to co-ordinate and understand how to complete our task together. I answer questions, I don’t invent them. It is in essence the same dynamic as if I were cooking with people who weren’t my children.

As much as I understand when unschooling parents exclaim things along the lines of “actually we are have to be more involved and attentive” because in a society that values highly what school provides, it can feel a very vulnerable position to openly and unapologetically reject that, I also always recoil a little and wonder, what unintentional message is attached to those words? What does it suggest when we try to compete with a concept we fundamentally disagree with?

Contrasting unschooling against conventional methods of instructions will always misconstrue the situation; claims that no, we don’t have a curriculum to facilitate our children’s learning but we have something else; us, involved and attentive parents, seem to actually consent to school’s assessment of learning rather than confront it. It is an admission that something external need guide this process and well, that’s certainly not my position on the topic.

When we give weight to this image of unschooling that involves a parent on the prowl for “teachable moments” we are contributing to the continued distrust of children, it is another way of controlling the direction and outcome. It is to recognise a child will in their everyday existence encounter learning but they are certainly not capable of living them without supervision because well, what a waste if you do not extract every ounce of available learning and especially if you do not find the learning here that one would also encounter in schools.

And yes, if we “neglect to take the reigns”, then they probably won’t learn the same things another would or that one might envision for them based on “school coloured glasses” or everything that could be conceivable available within the situation. But isn’t that the point.

When we accept that learning at its core is about what one wants and needs for their life, not everything one could or “has to” do then we appreciate that the child is in the best position to determine that distinction. “Teachable moments” focus heavily on what’s there or perhaps specifically, what’s there that most aligns with the arbitrary hierarchy of worth that school conditions. Unschooling should instead be a focus on what’s meaningful to the individual and only they can know that. Attempting to “enhance” their experience only robs them of their interpretation of it.

When you teach a child something you take away forever his chance of discovering it for himself. — Jean Piaget

So of course I am involved in my children’s life but am I specifically attentive of their learning? I don’t feel I really need to be. They have that covered, life has that covered.

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