If you are beginning to homeschool a child who was withdrawn from a public or private school you may need to go through a period of deschooling. The deschooling may apply to both you and your child and it is an open-ended period while you and your child come back to ‘yourselves’ and recover the teaching/learning equilibrium that kept both of you balanced in your child’s earliest years.
A parent’s work teaching a child to talk is one example of the teaching/learning relationship between parents and children. Although babies and young children have a natural ability for mimicry and language acquisition, and learn the language into which each is born, someone does have to take the time to provide the language and to just be there.11
Unfortunate children who end up in orphanages that are holding pens may not acquire either language or culture. A young girl who was adopted by friends of ours recoiled when a woman addressed the little girl in what should have been their common tongue. This woman was a native of the same country as the little girl, and was the wife of one of her father’s co-workers. The child ran away from the woman.
For the little girl the words seemed to be the sound of a place she apparently didn’t want to be reminded of, yet she did not appear to understand the words and hid behind her new mother.
At the time we assumed the girl was four or five years old but it turned out later that she was about seven — and she didn’t speak the language of her native land. Your child learned the language you spoke to him because you spoke to him.
A lot of things that are learned by children are learned because someone was ‘there.’ These sentences are being typed because I’m sitting on the porch pecking away at the typewriter [this book was indeed originally composed on a typewriter]. It’s happening because I’m ‘there.’ A garden gets dug because the gardener is ‘there.’ The birds get fed in the winter because a sunflower seed grower was ‘there,’ because a seed-packager was ‘there,’ because a grocer was ‘there,’ and because I’m ‘there’ to put the seed into the birdfeeder.
“F/8 and be there” was advice given in early journalistic photography for photographers using completely manual cameras. With homeschooling the advice could be summed up as ‘Invest yourself and be there.’
11. Christophe Pallier, Anne Christophe and Jacques Mehler, “Language-specific listening,” Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Vol. 1, No. 4, July 1997 http://www.pallier.org/papers/Pallier_tics97.pdf
Copyright 2006, 2008 Valerie Bonham Moon
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