Thursday, 21 June 2012

Learning through soft play

This morning I took the boys to 360 Play, a huge soft play centre in our area.  As mentioned yesterday, one of the benefits of Home Ed is the option to go to places while others are at school/ work, and we certainly enjoyed being there when it wasn't hugely busy.  I had not planned it as an educational trip per se - just a chance to let off some steam on a rainy day, and also get some socialising in with other Home Edders.  Yet again though, now that my eyes are more tuned in to notice learning opportunities that just come up through play, I was surprised when I took a vague mental tally of the things that I saw them learning...
I immediately noticed all three boys learning and refining their gross motor skills as they tore around the enormous multi-level play frame & slide.  They also enjoyed the dodgem cars (I have to accompany Youngest as he's too small to go on his own, but he's still insistent that he steers the car!  So, co-ordination practice for all was very much in evidence - particularly as Eldest and Middle were enjoying the benefits of having the track mostly to ourselves, so they had the space to practice 'doughnuts' and other fancy steering techniques, without the supervisor telling them off for causing confusion on the track.  Later on, Youngest and Middle found the 'shooting balls into holes' games, and spent quite a while enjoying target practice (hand-eye co-ordination etc).  There was even a bit of science involved in the ball room, where three balls seem to float on their own, actually suspended on columns of high-pressure air - and the younger two loved getting the balls into the collection tubes as quickly as possible (learning to balance speed with accuracy).
Those were just the obvious points that I noticed... I'm sure there are many more ways that active play helps children to develop - research has shown that the benefits are physical, mental, social and emotional.  I was just happy to see them having a good time, and expending some of that ever-present energy.  I don't really feel the need to justify their play - I just find it interesting to take note of how much learning is going on all the time.
This afternoon the children watched some nature documentaries, and other educational programmes, then Eldest spent some time on MathsWhizz (he has automatically carried on doing half an hour of that, followed by half an hour of Clone Wars) while Middle, Youngest and I got to grips with their bedroom, and we actually uncovered the floor!
So, on the one hand it could be said that all we did today was basically played, watched TV and tidied up - and even if that were entirely true, I would just revert to my mantra from the other day: "and that's ok because we're deschooling".  However, it's all about how you look at it.  I am greatly encouraged in this deschooling lark, that an absence of learning structure is nowhere near the same as an absence of learning - I've just got to learn to see it through different eyes.  I may not be putting pressure on the boys (or myself) to perform to my preconceived standards of learning, but that has not stopped them from learning - far from it!  And I am learning at least as much too!  Learners are us :)

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