The animals other than man live by appearances and memories, and have but little of connected experience; but the human race lives also by art and reasonings...Aristotle, De Anima
With a view to action experience seems in no respect inferior to art, and men of experience succeed even better than those who have theory without experience.
The conversation over at Melissa's blog has taken a turn towards whether unschooling is "child-directed" learning.
JoVE from Tricotomania writes (in Melissa's comment box):
I, too, wonder where people get that idea that unschooling doesn’t involve active parental participation. And I think I agree with Sandra that the nature of that participation might be what is not being understood. Reading to and with your child regularly, doing puzzles together, looking at things, are all participating. We, as parents, don’t have to follow an “approach” like phonics or memorizing sight words or whatever. We can just share the love of books with them
Pam Sooroshian (quoted at Building an Unschooling Nest) writes:
This is why some of us dislike the term "child-led" or "child- directed" learning — unschooling is not child-led or child-directed learning — that makes it sound like the parent should just be a "follower." Not so — parents are active participants and part of the job of an unschooling parent is to keep the child in mind and to fill his/her life with just the right amount of interesting new experience, chances to repeat experiences, down time, and so on.
Jean Liedloff (author of the Continuum Concept) wrote an article called "Who's in Control". She is pointing out something that John Holt often discussed -- that children want to learn from adults and from the world; they need to have their needs met, but they don't want everything to be self-referential and turned back towards them in a reductive manner. (I see that all the time in new catechesis and educational material influenced by the self-esteem movement -- everything's always about "How do YOU feel about this, what do you think of YOURSELF" and in my experience that is mostly definitely not what absorbs children in their growing years. They want connections, rather).
It appears that many parents of toddlers, in their anxiety to be neither negligent nor disrespectful, have gone overboard in what may seem to be the other direction. Like the thankless martyrs of the in-arms stage, they have become centered upon their children instead of being occupied by adult activities that the children can watch, follow, imitate, and assist in as is their natural tendency. In other words, because a toddler wants to learn what his people do, he expects to be able to center his attention on an adult who is centered on her own business. An adult who stops whatever she is doing and tries to ascertain what her child wants her to do is short-circuiting this expectation. Just as significantly, she appears to the tot not to know how to behave, to be lacking in confidence and, even more alarmingly, looking for guidance from him, a two or three year old who is relying on her to be calm, competent, and sure of herself.
In the context of what Liedloff has written elsewhere, I don't think she is talking about using this adult "centering on her own business" as an excuse for neglect. Rather, she is saying something like what John Holt often said, that children have a real need, a true hunger almost physical, to find out more about the real world, and that natural activity in the real world is the best way to have that hunger satisfied.
Also, since I'm following this great discussion so closely, Melissa wrote another thought-provoking post Is Knowledge Relative? and Amy wrote some More Thoughts on her family's decision to try unschooling.