How does Functional Education reflect Enquiry learning?

Enquiry learning is the third piece of the puzzle that fits seamlessly together with Waldorf and Montessori to form our comprehensive education program.

The role that Enquiry learning plays is to develop the children’s learning from the ‘Teacher Led’ end of the scale, through to the ‘Child Led’ end.  How a child learns is incredibly important to how they approach life and learning opportunities later on in life.  

When a child is primarily exposed to only ‘Teacher Led’ learning opportunities, they become masters of following instructions and their ability to think for themselves and approach problems with logic and creativity becomes diminished.  Contrasting to that, when a young child is left to make all the decisions about their learning from a very young age, and only encouraged to follow what they currently find interesting can lead them to become limited in their knowledge base and reluctant to step beyond the unknown to explore subjects they don’t yet realise they enjoy.  It is a fine balancing act that we work hard at here at Functional Education to begin the children with predominantly ‘Teacher Led’ learning and then transition them gracefully towards ‘Child Led’ learning.  Essentially handing them the control and the reigns once the solid foundation has been laid.

The idea behind this is that the children can soar and take their learning to new heights of understanding and creativity, well beyond what a teacher could ever imagine for them, as long as they have been grounded in the necessary skills before launching.  Those skills include carefully scaffolded experiences through the younger years, that are built upon a step at a time until the child is ready to stand completely independently and take charge of their learning.

We do this through a variety of ways.  In the early stages we draw upon one of Montessori’s eight guiding principles.  The principle of choice.  From an early age the children are encouraged to make the work their own.  To enhance the teacher example and personalise their work.  Each child produces their own text book of work as opposed to blindly filling in worksheets that have been produced by the teacher with ‘fill in the blank’ spaces available.  Stories are created from the children’s own imaginations and pictures are drawn to accompany the written work.  Children can choose the direction of the stories and the art work.  Tactile objects are used for many subjects and children have choice in how they will solve their maths equations and what resources they will use to do this.  The early years focus on learning the basics in letters and numbers and building a foundation of reading, writing and arithmetic skills (all taught artistically and with beauty and creativity)

As the child progresses through the program and becomes more competent in independent reading and writing activities they can then begin to explore the wonderful world of research projects.  The month long topic modules are then scaffolded carefully to begin with a ‘Teacher Led’ introduction which transitions towards a ‘Child Led’ research project and accompanying presentation.  These projects allow the child to focus on the aspects of the module they enjoy the most and allow them to stretch their wings and fly as high as they can in the most creative of ways.  An example of this may be a Pioneering topic.  Once they have heard the early stories of the settlers the children are then encouraged to research an area that interests them.  It could be; the clothing, food, weaponry, trench warfare, games, housing, trade, politics, cheesemaking, farming techniques, tools and implements, ships etc.  The list is limitless.   How the child then decides to present their research and findings is entirely in their hands and this is where they can build on their other interests.  The presentation could be painted, sculpted, a power point or a short video, pamphlets, posters, a book or hanging mobile.  It could be written in poem form or a song composed.  The projects are original works that allow the child to express themselves to their fullest potential.  The early years of this process develop all the necessary skills for effective planning, researching and presenting.  All essential skills in producing a quality piece of work.

Over time, the ‘Teacher Led’ component of the topic falls away until in the later years of the program the child is directing and leading their own learning.  Deep questions are asked that require much thought to answer and the topics are no longer based on recounting a particular topic.  Now as the child has a solid foundation to lean on, more pressing topics can be presented that have no one single answer.  An example of this would be in one of the Discovery topics when the stories of the ships who set sail from Europe to explore around the world and came across other civilisations was looked into.  No longer is this a project about ships or about a particular captain.  Now the topics of research become more thought provoking.  There can now be a social, political, religious or economic aspect to explore.  Who funded these explorations and why?  How did the societies live in these other lands prior to the explorers ‘discovering’ them?  What impacts did these meetings have both then and now on these societies?  If the Spanish discoverers never landed in America, what could the world possibly look like now?

With a solid learning foundation to lean on, and years of carefully scaffolded experiences, a child of Intermediate age can successfully navigate these larger questions with understanding and interest.  They can delve into the topic with respect and with a desire to understand the thought processes behind the decisions made by others.  They can be open minded and explore aspects from a variety of angles and begin to make connections as to how our world was formed and shaped.

These are the students we are raising.  Not sheep who can blindly complete a task they have been instructed to with little to no thought of the bigger picture.  Our students question and they have the skills to take that question and follow it down a path of discovery and research to find some possible answers.

The curriculum program at Functional Education has been carefully crafted to contain certain aspects of three incredible learning systems; Montessori, Waldorf and Enquiry for a reason.  Each of these systems contains a wealth of skills that fit seamlessly together and build upon each others strengths to help us educate children with a passion for learning, who are comfortable in their creativity and in learning new things throughout the rest of their lives.

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