Developmental Learning vs. Educational Models

I wanted to put together a brief explanation of my stages I shared in my previous post compared to other educational models out there, like a Thomas Jefferson Education or classical education or Montessori, etc. I had been quite amazed when I thought about how much my children’s learning lives had lined up with the Thomas Jefferson Education model of learning phases. But, something didn’t quite “sit right” with me. And then I realized what it was.

When I homeschooled my children, I wasn’t following any “educational protocol” set out by anyone. I was trying to be as organic as possible and keeping myself open to being directed by the needs of each child. If I had been following a theory, it was unschooling. And yet, I had chosen unschooling because it had matched what we had been doing up until that moment of starting our homeschooling lives.

So, unlike unschooling proponents dictate, during the exploration stage of learning (ages 8-10), I found myself drawn to collaborating with my children in a freestyle and flexible kind of way by asking them to join me in some learning activities that I felt they were ready for but not exploring on their own. That might be some math, or grammar, or science experiments, or other foundational skills of knowledge. Primarily, I continued to feed their interests and facilitate access to resources of their initiation.

Then, around 11 years old for each of them, I felt very strongly that each child was letting me know that it was time for more formal activities, and the ability to gain goal setting skills and prioritizing and a mental work ethic, etc. I felt it had to start slow and build year to year. I felt it needed to incorporate all the information we had figured out so far about how each child learns, timeframes associated with their style of learning, temperaments, and a base grounded in their gifts. In this way, together we started a more serious collaboration regarding their learning lives, and incorporating these other skills (prioritizing, goal setting, work ethic, concentration, etc.). It appeared exactly what they were needing and ready for in the natural developmental path of learning.

Then, a few years later, having built up to a “full schedule” of activities that could take up to about three hours to accomplish, and they were doing so independently, a new stage occurred. Each child took this new knowledge of goal setting, concentrated work ethic, etc., and was translating that into large chunks of time being devoted to an area of interest on their own initiation. A sharp focus has occurred for each of my children during this stage of pursing a gift. Suddenly, we knew where each was heading. Balance became very important during this time, as well as seeking outside resources to assist in building their abilities.

Only one child has entered the transition stage, and one is entering it now. There is a shift during this time period for my children, naturally.  Truthfully, we’re still trying to figure out how to navigate it correctly. We are trying to understand what our role is in supporting them during this time. What we have figured out so far is that an increase in responsibility is necessary at this time, particularly outside the home. It is equally apparent that we are as needed as ever in helping them navigate their way out into the world, yet stepping back and being counselor more than facilitator.

My development of these stages was not in creating a new “educational model”, but to try to give voice to what I saw as an organic, natural development to the learning process. I was trying to be “undefined” by outside educational models as I raised my children and supported them on their learning paths. Instead, I wanted to provide the necessary resources, support, facilitation, information, guidance, or direction that each stage that presented itself called for.

So, my collaborative learning stages was created as they emerged. I did not try to fit my child(ren) into any existing educational method in order to produce “x”. Does that make sense?

How I view using these learning stages is to be useful in recognizing what role a parent can play during each stage and how the environment can be shaped to support the stage. By the time I figured out something, I found that the stage had changed. It would take a year to figure out what had happened, another year to figure out how to adjust things to support it, and another year that it came altogether, and then, bam, it switched again. So, I was lucky if I had one good, flowing year. I view them like the developmental charts at a pediatrician’s office. It’s good to know what stage is coming up so that you’re not surprised when the stages shift, and maybe you feel a bit prepared in knowing how to gather the appropriate resources to enjoy the new stage sooner.

3 responses to “Developmental Learning vs. Educational Models

  1. I’ve just come over here from a comment Stephanie left on Ron’s blog entry at I can see I will need to read more. But I also think you should submit this post to the Unschooling Carnival (if you haven’t already). It seems to fit rather well with a post I have submitted and one Ron wrote the other day.

  2. Cindy, I started from almost the opposite end as you. I read everything I could find, everything. I wanted to know what everyone thought of education since the dawn of time, practically. But I sort of ended up in the same place, in many ways. Interesting!

  3. I love the way you write about unschooling, broadening the concept and putting into perspective. I also love the way you share the journey you have taken in understanding your children’s needs and helping them learn and grow, without prescribing models and techniques. 🙂