Rethinking Education: Real vs. Artificial

As I have continued on my quest to spend more time outside I’ve been challenged to reconsider how I approach education with my children.   I’m still working through things, but am leaning toward a more natural and experiential form of education.

Our lives are filled with artificial colors and flavors in our food, artificial socializing, artificial entertainment and even artificial learning.  We spend so much time reading about things (or learning about them via TV or internet) that we become overloaded and fail to experience much of what we are learning about.

I have been very interested in Montessori activities for Samuel, but as I look at the list of skills Samuel could be learning in a “prepared” (read: artificial) environment, I see that he is learning so many of those things already by participating in life with me.  I don’t need to spend money on specially made toys for Samuel to learn.  If I want him to practice pouring and scooping, let him cook with me. Yesterday Samuel spent 45 minutes playing with spoons and bowls, an empty sink and a sink full of water — nothing artificial needed.

I am building an educational philosophy of experience. Experiencing things in every-day life, things in the natural world and lessons from history.  We can then use language, be it reading or writing, to enhance and share what we are learning. (Oh, and math – there will be no problem learning about math because math is simply describing the way things work that we see around us.)

None of this means learning shouldn’t be intentional. As parents, I believe it is our responsibility to teach and shepherd our children.  I think it is important to embrace natural interests, but also to teach the discipline to stick with things that don’t come easily or aren’t exciting.

I’m not quite sure what this will look like long-term.  How do I find the balance of being intentional, but learning from real experiences? How do I shift from using books as a primary educational tool to taking a supporting role? How do I provide enough real experiences without those experiences becoming artificial?

What do you think? I’d love to hear your feedback.

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2 thoughts on “Rethinking Education: Real vs. Artificial

  1. I’m glad you’ve come out of stalking! It’s nice to see you posting – welcome. 🙂

    I agree that there are certainly some good things from Montessori, and for a classroom setting, I would probably most likely be drawn to this or a similar method, however I am not crazy about it for homeschooling.

    Your post got me looking into Charlotte Mason, and I resonate a lot with much of that philosophy. I’m still not sure about how I feel about literature being abstracted from everything else and the emphasis on living books. I really think books should be a supplement to what is being learned, and used when it is not possible to gain experience, not as the basis. But I don’t know, maybe that’s unrealistic?

  2. I think Montessori is a great concept, but you are right…it is hard to find a balance of being intentional while using a child’s guided interests as a starting point. We haven’t landed on anything, but we hover very closely to the Charlotte Mason ideology. I think that words and ideas spark so much more in a child than they could have done without. It is a bit guided in that sense. The concepts are similar. I really liked this article. I just realized, this might be my very first comment on your blog…I guess I am coming out of stalking!

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