From the Book:
Kaizen (改善?), Japanese for “improvement”, or “change for the better” refers to philosophy or practices that focus upon continuous improvement of processes in manufacturing, engineering, and business management… Kaizen was first implemented in several Japanese businesses after the Second World War, influenced in part by American business and quality management teachers who visited the country.
”The Kaizen approach to life requires a slower pace and an appreciation of small moments”.
(One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way by Robert Maurer, PHD)
Continuous improvement in small steps:
Kaizen or continuous improvement may have been a revolutionary approach when applied to business, but in life this is how everything evolves. Evolution by definition is continuous improvement and change. And any parent – especially to young children – would recognize it as the natural way by which growing up and mastering new abilities – occur.
Slow pace and appreciation of small moments is the best mindset to cultivate when raising young children and is often instinctively used by mothers and fathers. We delight in any show of progress by our baby, tiny as it may be; the new sound, the new movement, the funny face in reaction to a new taste… many small moments, many small steps that will eventually manifest a big change. There is actually no other way to grow up; one or several small steps every day, without stress, without fear, without fail. It is all part of nature’s grand scheme of continuing survival of the animals and human races. And before we know it, a baby has mastered walking, talking and such. All built on very, very small actions he/she takes every day.
In my mind, this process is why anybody who so chooses can unschool their kids.
Because the only “secret” unschooling parents allowed themselves to discover was that the same continuous, daily, small-steps improvement that occurs in young children – and therefore goes almost unnoticed – continues to happen for older children, teenagers and even for adults.
Unschooling our children requires that we respect and allow natural continuous improvement to go on beyond our child’s early years. For the truth is there is no fundamental difference at how we learn and master new things at any stage in life. Deciding to put a child in kindergarten or school is based on arbitrary judgment or practical solutions for problems and life-style that have nothing to do with how learning really happens, at any age.
Growing up is not dramatic when you witness it on a daily basis, as all parents do. If we have not seen a baby for several months or years, we will marvel and be amazed (why???), at how they grew up, how they have developed, how much they have learned… But when we spend our time with them, day in and day out, things happen at a boring slow pace. Small, almost unnoticeable daily improvements happen all the time but they are not very impressive or noticeable until the first step, for instance. Before it, the child is picking himself up and maybe moving around holding the table, for many days. Every day getting stronger on his small legs with no noticeable improvement, except there was some, every day, as we all know. That first independent step may have added some drama, but the before and after had little or no drama.
The other day, my daughter – who is now 10 – gave me a suggestion on how to respond to an email I was wondering about, that had to do with group activities she wanted to take part in. It was a great suggestion that seemed very compatible with my writing style (my voice). If I would have told her to write the email herself it would have sounded very different (her voice), but since she is reading my back and forth emails almost daily, she seems to now know how I like to answer; what is my style. No one sat and taught her my style, to the contrary. From time to time I wonder aloud, in front of her, whether there is any privacy left. She brushes it off and continues to read my emails, incoming and outgoing. She obviously learned something from doing so.
Unschooling is not more complicated than allowing our children to slowly become better at whatever they choose to do. Complications arise for us – as unschooling parents – when we get impatient or fearful of the pace of progress our children show, or become judgmental of what they choose to occupy their time with. Dealing with that fear and how to find out if the problem is ours or our child’s is a subject for another chapter.
Deferring Bragging Rights:
Be aware, though, that many unschooling parents who choose to let their children go about the business of growing up and slowly improving at whatever they choose to do, also give up – or more accurately defer – bragging rights. Mostly around their kid getting an A on his/her test or being an honor student. Also, being with our children daily we do not see much change, as is the nature of small improvements. Take heart, though. The grown unschoolers I know, including my own children, are very much worth bragging about, on so many levels! And when they leave home it is easy to see how much they have grown and how well they function and succeed in the real world.