Learning for Themselves

In the post, Apologies, below, I talked about how our house move has thrown us into complete chaos. I am not very good at operating in chaos, and need some degree of order around me to function. So I have been rather preoccupied, as I mentioned, with just trying to sort the house out. It will be great, but there is a lot of work which needs doing, and it is all taking rather longer than I anticipated, or would like. Never mind. Sometimes, that is how life is - and you just have to get on as best you can. The situation has given opportunity for an interesting experiment in truly autonomous learning. What happens when I - with all my agendas and plans and ideas - am not in the way, and the children learn for themselves? Well, I promised you a few examples, so here they are ....

My older two boys became very interested in commandos not long after we moved. They set up a club, which they are still encouraging their new friends to join. To be admitted to the club, a friend must complete a super tough obstacle course which the boys have designed in our garden. They spent several weeks following a training schedule and undertaking training exercises in the garden. They also found out about the commandos and made little booklets about what being in their club entails.

From this interest, stemmed a fascination with the exploits of Bear Grylls. They spent a lot of time watching Bear's survival videos "Man Vs Wild" on YouTube, where he is dropped and has to survive in different parts of the world including the East African savannah, a volcano in Hawaii, the Australian outback, the Amazon rainforest, the Sahara. They learned a lot of very interesting things about these different environments and some amazing survival tactics. Bear Grylls strikes me as a great role model. As a keen scout, our eldest son has encountered him in his role as Chief Scout, even meeting him at the end of The Chase Walk 2013 before he really knew who he was! The boys got hold of his autobiography, "Mud, Sweat and Tears" which we have been reading together. This includes his experiences of training for the SAS. We also discovered that Bear has written a series of fictional adventure titles for children, and my second son downloaded the first in the series on his tablet and has been enjoying reading it.

Dinosaur Adventures
My third son came across the programme "Andy's Dinosaur Adventures" on CBeebies. This channel is aimed at younger children, of course, but with a small brother in the house, it is sometimes on, and this programmes really captured his imagination. He watched these programmes avidly, and learned all kinds of information about dinosaurs. He and his older brother then devised a wonderful imaginary game, "Jurassic Journeys" where they would dress up as explorers and go out on adventures through time, encountering dinosaurs on their travels.

We went on a day out at a nature centre where they had a dinosaur trail with lots of huge models of dinosaurs, and he chose a book all about dinosaurs from the shop, which he has enjoyed looking at and reading for further information. We also have a DVD of the series, "Walking with Dinosaurs" which all three older boys have enjoyed watching.

Amazing machines
One day, we noticed some young men out on the street in front of our house, racing a quad bike. Fascinated, my husband went outside to see what they were up to, and our eldest son soon followed as he loves machines. Conversation ensued and we discovered that they were engineering students at our local University and had all sorts of projects on the go - doing up cars on their front drive, even overhauling a car for racing. They have a welder and a soldering iron, items our son has long desired. So he has been popping round to ask the students all number of things, and has been able to sit out on their front drive whilst they work on their cars. He has learned all kinds of things from this, and then from looking up how to do certain vehicle maintenance tasks on YouTube. He has been looking for a car wreck to take on and repair, and he and his brother dug out their Tamiya radio controlled cars and gave them the necessary attention to get them both running again.

Lego, as ever, has been popular. Our third son is particularly obsessed and creates no end of fantastic models and vehicles. The boys came across a competition to create piece of kit which would be useful in Arctic exploration, and all worked on entries, doing a bit of research in the process, and writing a blurb to describe their models in the gallery.

Bridge Building
One sunny day, we went out to a National Trust property and, in the woods in the grounds, the three boys decided they would build a bridge across the stream. They worked together for a good hour, moving logs to achieve their aim.

I'm sure there have been other projects, too. These are the ones which come to mind. Just this week, our eldest son has decided he wants to build a water powered rocket and today we have been gathering the supplies he has requested to be able to do that. Not my idea! Of course, work on the house itself has also provided opportunities for learning as builders and other workmen have come to do various jobs for us. When fitting our new stove, the plasterer was asked by our eldest son if he could have a go, and he showed him how to smooth the plaster and gave him a turn with the tools. It is great for the boys to encounter and observe tradesmen at work in this way. Our eldest son went on to strip the lining paper from the living room wall and smooth it ready to be re-papered .... For a fee, of course!