Support Joy

Comparison is the thief of joy

Theodore Roosevelt

When we begin Unschooling and move purposefully into a life without school we can easily find ourselves wondering what our children would have learnt if they had been at school today. When my children were younger, we lived on the same road as two Primary schools and watched four school runs every day. As an ex-teacher it was easy for me to imagine what was happening inside those buildings, and at what times, and I carried with me many years worth of knowledge about which year groups were learning what curricula. It was easy for me to compare that information with what was happening in our home and it was easy for that comparison to steal joy from our day.

Frequently it would cause me to turn my gaze to look at what, according to school, my children should be doing: learning to read at age 4, completing worksheets, listening to instruction, and many other things. It created in me feelings of apprehension and fear which resulted in my trying to create opportunities at home for my children to do school-like tasks. In comparing my children to their schooled peers, I had shifted my focus onto the object of my comparison and off of my children. It never had the desired effect of reaching school standards and it always stole time and effort, better placed elsewhere, from our day.

We are somehow convinced that real learning requires serious concentration. It certainly doesn’t look like a child enjoying themselves. Enjoyment in schools is for Playtime only. Silence, eyes front, no games (except the ones devised as a rouse for play devised by the educator) no diversions, stick to the task, and you work until you are finished. But achieving this zone of concentration is more often a result of feeling confident and relaxed in your working environment and with the task at hand. It can not be replicated successfully purely by going through the motions and having the appearance of real learning.

It is also achieved by those who are outwardly enjoying what they are doing. Our brains are busy releasing an array of chemicals throughout our day and when we are happy and relaxed and enjoying ourselves we have a greater capacity to learn as compared to when we are anxious or nervous. When are children are happy and enjoying themselves, when they are passionate about what they are doing and intrinsically motivated in their pursuits, the learning that occurs is deep and fulfilling. It is possible, in fact necessary, for children to be joyful, for learning to occur.

Top Tips for a Joy Filled Life

  • Start by stopping. Stop doing things that are stealing your joy and your children’s joy. Stop comparing your child to others. Stop doing the things that cause stress or upset. Anything where you are coercing your children. Start by re-thinking how these moments can be joyful instead. Maybe it is possible to stop doing them altogether. Maybe take a break from it for now whilst you assess. Maybe there needs to be some creative thinking and problem solving so that everyone is happy with how to proceed.
  • Try and sneak moments of joy in to your daily lives: A daily joke; an unexpected gift; a favourite snack pre-prepared; a secret build on a Minecraft world; topping up an online account with credit; fixing a beloved toy; or an unprompted cuddle. Create a moment that will bring a smile to your children’s faces.
  • Looking at our children and what makes them happy is our only guide. Doing more of the things that light them up and make their eyes sparkle. Watching what makes them excited and helping them explore that further. Understanding what it is about a certain pursuit that engages them. Facilitating more laughter, more love, more grace, more joy.

Learning doesn’t have to be miserable and hard work. In fact it is more effective if it isn’t. Learning has its greatest impact if we are loving what we are doing. Enjoy each moment.

Read more:

Seek joy

Choose joy

Living a joy filled life

Published by heiditsteel

Teacher turned Unschooler: passionate about autonomous education and supporting our children's natural inclination towards learning through play.

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