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The family at the centre of early learning
The family at the centre of early learning

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2 Exploring learning in family situations

Ivan Illich’s work, Deschooling Society (1971), is influential in recognising the value of informal contexts for children’s learning in everyday situations with families and communities. Parents may not be aware of the unique and helpful contributions they make to their children’s learning in everyday, authentic, activities. Illich saw formal institutions such as schools as potentially dehumanising, and proposed the need for learning to be a more convivial or sociable activity. Think for a moment about the types of feelings and learning that may occur when on a shopping trip, visiting a relative, collecting water, taking a walk together, having a cuddle, splashing in puddles, tending to animals, making jelly, building a train, or pretending to hide from monsters.

The way that everyday activities can support the development of children’s relationships and participation can be seen as ‘companionable learning’ (Roberts, 2011). This means that children in these situations will experience:

  • making their own decisions and choices
  • a sense of security and belonging
  • sharing communication
  • a sense of well-being.