Learning through conversation

One of the key ways home educated children learn is through the numerous conversations which arise throughout each day as a result of situations encountered. The other day, we had two such conversations, which deserve mention here.

The first followed the sad death of one of our guinea pigs. Having watched his decline over a couple of days, my second son, to whom the guinea pigs belong, and I decided we needed to visit the vet. There, as I suspected, we faced the decision as to whether to put the little creature to sleep. As we sat together with the guinea pig, we both felt a sense of peace that it was the right thing to do, to stop his suffering. It was a moment of growing up for my little son, and though he wept, he felt he had done the best for his pet.

The next day, one of the boys asked whether people are ever "put to sleep" and so commenced a discussion of euthanasia, during which we looked at arguments for and against and the older boys gave their opinions. All this is done very informally, just through conversing. It is learning which is not really measurable.

The second example arose when my eldest son and I were looking at some simplified economics animations on the Open University website (Watch them here). As we talked about different economic systems, we moved into a discussion of communism, the pros and cons and, ultimately, why it doesn't work and the problem of human nature. We talked about George Orwell's Animal Farm, and he even expressed some interest in reading that book together, which I shall have to act upon.

A great strength of home education, which is often difficult to explain to people, is the room for adult / child discussion and conversation in context and at a level appropriate to the individual child.