The past week I committed to spend one-on-one time everyday with both of my children.  We are a tight knit family and work really well as a unit.  Balancing infinite homeschooling, career, family and education; it’s been easy to fall into the pattern of doing everything as a group; afterall doing things together saves both time and energy.  Our one-on-one time had became sporadic at best and as I reflected on our family and routine, I realized this might be an important addition to our days and decided to make a conscious effort to make it happen.

The benefit of working together as a family is the cohesiveness, the teamwork and the fun of doing things together.  But, sometimes individuals can get lost in the group.  There are moments when each of our strengths are accentuated, but there are also times when our individual weaknesses go unnoticed simply because of the group dynamics.  Sometimes we become entrenched in our ‘group role’ and each person may not be reaching their full potential.  As with most things, there needs to be a balance of the two.

This week, I have been reminded of each person’s strengths and weaknesses.   One-on-one time has helped show me areas that could use a little focus and ways to boost confidence through each child’s strenths.  I have gently encouraged and highlighted each individual’s gifts.  I  am learning just how valuable this personal time is for us as individuals, in our relationships with one another and for our family as a group too.

I am so grateful for the ability to create this space in our day because I am finding such important and deeply rewarding results for all of us.  This is just another wonderful gift and opportunity that infinite learning has given provided for my family.

I love when opportunities to learn and projects take on a whole new life and provide even more gifts than I first imagined.

I encourage you to read about our most recent family learning project on a guest blog post I’ve written at Infinite Learners.

I picked up my kids yesterday and could immediately tell something was off with my youngest. It was obvious he was bothered by something, but wasn’t forthcoming with anything. I let it go and gave him space but just before we got home, I heard him crying.

I asked him about it and encouraged him to talk and after some time he finally let it pour out. Apparently, when they were out for dinner, he had been teased by other people at the table. He was teased about a topic that is already particularly sensitive for him and he was feeling hurt by it all.

As his sobs continued, my heart broke a little for him.

So many emotions flooded through me. I felt empathy, sadness, a little angry and annoyed. My first thoughts were wanting to comfort my son, to make the hurt go away and help remind him what a beautiful person he is and that he doesn’t deserve to be treated that way. My next thoughts were that I needed to talk to those involved, let them know the impact of their actions and encourage them to not do it again in the future.

But then I realized, doing that would be a huge disservice to my son.

As a mother, I hate witnessing my child feeling hurt. There is an innate feeling for most of us parents to shield our children from pain and hurt. But, I can’t protect him from being hurt…and do I really want to anyway? There have been many times in my life where it’s felt painful in the moment, but it’s brought about the most amazing gifts and become an impetus for me to grow and change. Would I want to take that away from my child?

I realized, if I went to those people it would be me trying to get them to change. I would essentially be teaching my son the very things I am working so hard to turn around in my own life. We cannot ever change anyone else and if we are feeling hurt about something, it’s an opportunity to look inside. We can only ever change what we feel and what we do and looking to others to change so we feel better could set my son up for a lifetime of feeling powerless, it may hold him back and possibly set him on a path of unhappiness and discontent.

So, I proceeded in the way I’m learning to live myself. I showed him great empathy and expressed how much he is loved and supported. I helped my son know that he can’t change what others say or do, but he can change himself. He can also choose to learn from situations like these and make different choices for himself, both now and in the future. I explained that it was his job to just keep feeling the best he can about himself and keep being the person he knows he is deep down inside.

I also helped him see a different perspective of the situation. I could see how the people there were likely just doing what they know, how I was very sure they would never have done that if they thought they would hurt him, and how I would guess they thought they were actually trying to connect with him, thinking they were playing with him in some way, not hurting him. I helped him know he can change the way he looks at the situation so he can feel better about it and perhaps even look at it as an opportunity to learn more and grow.

One can never know how these lessons will end up, but as a parent, I feel I good about how I processed that experience last night. It ended up being an important lesson for both me and him and another opportunity for us to learn and grow.

This morning, I was in a conversation where there was an assumption that my ‘job’ as a homeschooling mom must be increasingly challenging with all the ‘research’ I must need to be doing in order to ‘keep up’ and teach my children. She was unaware that we are unschoolers and as it was explained that we learn more ‘loosely’, her comment was that if it were her, SHE would need to do things more ‘by the book.’

I realized that being an infinite learning family requires trust, and at times, radical trust.

As infinite learning parents we have to trust that our children will learn. We trust that they will learn what they need to know, in their own way and in their own time. And we have to trust in our ability to know our children and follow their lead, encouraging at the right times and backing off when necessary too.

I’ll be the first to admit, it’s not always easy. My boys are learning to read later than many kids and over the years, I’ve had to trust that they would indeed learn when they were ready. And as the years move forward, there have been times when I’ve questionned if I was doing enough or not.

I’ve danced this line again recently, wondering if more ‘formal’ methods are necessary, but I was reminded again yesterday, that learning really just happens. As we made our way around town running errands, my son spelled every word he saw and in addition to that he proclaimed that words like ‘gem’ and ‘gym’ should have, in fact, been spelled with a J. He’s learning and it’s happening because they are curious and interested and I don’t need to push because learning is one of those things that really does happen organically.

In my heart, I know these things. I believe we can’t help but learn because we all have an inner desire to know things and grow. Sometimes it’s important to take a moment and re-evaluate what we’re doing and look at the results to remember why we choose this path. Sometimes it’s good for me to remember to trust.

Travelling is such an excellent way to learn. I remember trips as a child where I’d learn geography, social studies, math and other things without even noticing. It was always the most fun because the things I learned were disguised in fun and adventure.

As an adult and teacher, I see that travelling is the perfect example of Infinite Learning and why it is such an effective way to learn.

Learning and travelling go hand in hand. Going to new places, seeing new things, having new experiences makes it impossible to walk away without gleaning something new.

Travel has all the elements necessary for learning. It’s fun, relevant and it’s interesting.

We recently returned from a trip and I was delighted today to hear my children recount all sorts of trivia and details. Some of the information were things we talked about more than once and reviewed over the course of our trip, others were things mentioned casually once or twice, but obviously had an impact.

Most of us grew up with the experience of learning in a classroom…learning in a structured, specific and linear way. But, when we are out in the world, experiencing and living and learning just sort of happens.

I am reminded of the importance of expanding our vision of education and remembering the importance of components like fun, relevance and motivation. And most of all, I was delighted to see my children expand their knowledge while having fun and being out in the world having new experiences.

You know the one…the really important one?

I’ll back up a little….

The other day, I took my boys out for lunch. While we sat waiting for our food, I told them about a study I heard about on the news earlier that day. I told them the premise of the study, the findings and before I offered anything else, I asked, “What do you think about this?”

They quickly jumped in with their initial reactions, followed by their own way of making sense (or not being able to make sense of it) and then they asked me what I thought, so I told them.

This led us to a discussion where I offered my opinion that any study can be crafted in such a way that it can provide ‘proof’ of almost anything and we discussed how that can be done.

Then we got to the important part of the conversation, where we discussed that even if a ‘specialist’, a ‘scientist’, an ‘expert’, or even their (gasp) mother says/writes/publishes something, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is the truth.

We talked about how we all have that inner knowing and if something feels right or if it feels wrong to us…THAT is what we need to listen to the most. We talked about how things can be misleading or misinterpretted and the most important way of knowing is our own gut feeling. Sometimes that inner voice says, ‘this feels true to me’, sometimes it tells us something seems amiss…and often it says, “I think this is right (or wrong), but I need to find out more before I make my own conclusions.”

I told them that I believe their truth would always be found if they go within. No one, no study, no institution can ever tell us all the truth. It is something we all must find for ourselves.

I hope they will listen to that inner knowing, educate themselves when necessary or when interested and feel confident to go against the grain if they feel it is their path.

Of course, this is just all my own opinion…you’ll have to listen to your inner voice to know if it resonates with you or not.

Reexamine all that you have been told in school, or in church or in any book. Dismiss whatever insults your soul. – Walt Whitman

…when thing just gel and the opportunity for real, hands on learning is at hand.

We had one of those magical moments over the holidays when my son asked how salt could melt snow.

It led to a research project where we discovered that salt lowers the water’s melting point and how the salt disrupts the water-vapor equilibrium. (Which, then led to more learning about definitions of words like “vapor” and “equilibrium”).

Then before we knew it, we were filling bowls of water, adding salt to one, writing out a hypothesis and a procedure and checking every hour to record our findings.

It was one of those moments where you just know something really fun has just happened. The whole day took a different turn than could have been predicted, the learning was fun and everyone was involved.

Those are the moments where I know infinite learning is really a great way to learn.

Our culture has become quite unchild-friendly in many ways. I believe it is important for our children to be involved in all areas of life. How else will they know how to be in the world?

Over the holidays, my children were presented with many opportunities to be the only children in the room full of adults and adult conversations.

It was probably not their first choice at times, but they were sitting in on many different conversations with people of all ages and backgrounds and presented with the opportunity to meet new people and interact in their own ways.

I sat back, observing them and realized what a gift it was for them to be interacting with many so many different people, having the opportunity to experience all kinds of social interactions and find their own place within each new experience.

I watched as they became comfortable with strangers, found ways to interact and share their interests and felt comfortable sharing things with everyone between twenty and ninety.

Our culture often excludes children from life and social situations. Children are sent off to school, they are told to play in other rooms, in some groups, children are excluded from life milestones like weddings and funerals. How will they know what life is about unless they are part of it and find their way in it?

There is certainly a balance of these things. While, I see the gift in them being included in the group of adults, there are also times when they are happiest going to another room to play their games or with other children. As infinite learners, I feel we have a lot of opportunity to balance these things for their benefit.

As other children are now back in school, I find that I’m once again happy with our choice to live the life of infinite learning where my children have the opportunity to experience a vast array of day-to-day life experiences, observe culture goings-on and striking the balance as we continue forward.

What if…we didn’t have clocks and calendars?

I’ve noticed this year, the seasons seem to have all arrived about a month later than usual. I ended up celebrating my birthday a month later and I feel like I’m a month behind and could use another month before the holidays. I have wondered if there is a shift in nature and we are pushing against it because of our adherence to the calendar and it got me thinking…what if there were no clocks and calendars?

Would we notice the seasons were a month later…or would we just be in the moment with whatever weather was occurring? Without the continual reminders of shopping days left before Christmas, would we be more relaxed and make or buy things when we feel inspired?

As infinite learners, we live a lot less by the clock and calendar than most people. We are blessed that we can sleep until we are ready to wake naturally, eat our lunch at 2:30 or whenever we feel hungry, do whatever we choose (most of the time) and be flexible with our lives. But I started to wonder what life might be like if we did it even more.

We would definitely be more present without these things. We would definitely flow more with the rhythms of nature and perhaps it would be easier than what we do to ourselves now. And yet, I can hear every person who loves to organize, gasp at the thought of not having these things to coordinate people and activities.

I’m guessing that we would have to become more community-minded for this to really be effective and it would require a more radical shift in our culture, but nonetheless, it is an interesting thought to ponder.

I admit I’m not quite ready to throw out my calendar, but I think I will experiment with the idea of being more present and see how it goes. I’ll keep you posted about how it goes.

I love the holidays. I love decorating, I love hanging out with friends, I love visiting with family. I love giving gifts, eating decadent foods and sharing in the joy of the season.

I love how this time of year is so easy to engage the kids in activities. They are as eager as I am to try their hand at crafts, make special ornaments, decorations, and create magical gifts for others. It is a delight to visit craft stores, dig through our craft boxes and create all sorts of delightful things for the holiday season.

It just feels like fun…for me and for them.

It is also a time when we talk a lot about community, sharing, giving and doing things for others. A time to focus on connectedness.

There are an abundance of holidays at this time of year and I’ve enjoyed the conversations of different beliefs, traditions and religions. It is nice to present things to the kids in a way that allows them to explore what interests them and choose what fits with their beliefs. (And, not surprisingly they think the idea of giving and receiving gifts is especially fun).

I love the holidays and hope you enjoy yours too.

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