My wife, Bobbie, and I have been teachers all of our adult lives. We have spent many years in both public and private institutions and, having survived a few years, we have seen almost every teaching innovation and/or gimmick the world has experienced. Bobbie is an accomplished musician and music teacher in elementary grades and college. I have taught in the fields of reading, spelling, math, and history at the elementary, junior/senior high and college levels. We have both done a lot of work with learning theory — on how people learn.
We have gathered together all of the ideas that we believe can be called Natural — as opposed to Artificial. For example, it is Natural for a parent to take Andy for a walk in the stroller and while walking and talking, the parent can say, “Look at the beautiful flowers. These red flowers smell nice, don’t they? These blue flowers are pretty, too, and they are bigger than the red flowers.” In context and in a natural, real way, the child has learned about ‘flowers,’ ‘red,’ ‘blue,’ ‘big.’ This has given the child a meaningful experience for the words and concepts. Later, we’ll go shopping and say, “Andy, shall we buy some of these green apples or those red ones.”
Contrast this with the more often techniques used in “teaching the Kids their colors.” Out comes the blocks or color strips or worksheets and the kids are supposed to differentiate among the colors. This is Artificial or at least Contrived — It is not Real Experience.
Learning, rather than Teaching, is the process. Learning is as natural as breathing. We learn from the environment around us and from the people who exist with us. We can’t keep our kids from learning. So what are we as parents to do with our kids? We take advantage of all of those real life learning opportunities and channel them into the things we call reading, writing, arithmetic, science, history, and whatever else exists — from birth (and before). The child learns and we support and guide.
The Ultimate Goal is for each of our children to become an independent learner. This is kind of scary for some of us parents but it is the necessary goal. We are to give our kids Roots and Wings — and eventually, the Wings must take over.
The Natural Path to Learning is based on the idea that each of us learns in our own unique way, at our own special pace. One Size Does Not Fit All Children. Many school and home school programs are set out in a sequential, rigid pattern and the child must learn in that pattern and at the rate required to be on grade level or to not “get behind.” NPL requires that the program be fitted to the child not the child fitted to the program. Our child will be learning the skills and information at his own pace and in his own best learning pattern.
Your child, and not the program, is at the center of the learning process. Fortunately, and very happily, we have real experiences to share with you. Two years ago we were presented a gift in the form of our great grandson, Reese. We, again fortunately, live in the same city as Reese and his Mom and Dad so we get to spend a lot of time with him. We will be sharing with you many of the living, learning experiences we enjoy in our relationship with Reese. In the meantime, we will be submitting articles taken from our book, The Natural Path to Learning.
By the way, we will be using a lot of critical thinking and creativity experiences which sadly have been disappearing from our school lessons — it is almost impossible to write achievement test items that include this kind of right brain activity. So, if you want to raise your test scores stay with that left brain only memorization and fact recall. However, if you want to broaden and deepen the learning, let’s get to the right brain stuff, too.
We’ll have more commentary on testing in future articles.
Peter S. Pierro, EdD – parentscoachesasteam.com