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When we think of learning and education, we often think the important lessons consist of those involving reading, writing, math, science and history.

But what about real skills, what about life skills?

My children have been learning about relationships lately as our family navigates our way through some real life situations. These experiences have provided an opportunity to sit down and have a lot of honest and open discussions about things. It seems to be a very important topic to learn.

I’ve heard some parents say they want to keep painful things away from their children, wait to discuss difficult issues until they are older, and how many of us, as children heard things like ‘it’s all fine’, when clearly, nothing could be further from the truth.

The fact that real life situations are happening in our lives and the fact that we have the time and opportunity to sit down and discuss them openly and honestly, seems to be of greater importance than whether or not my child knows how to multiply 3 and 5.

I feel my children have a lot more exposure to real life scenarios, partly because I’m openly and honestly discussing things, partly because we are out in the world and we have the time and energy to work through these things.

Whatever it is, it feels like it is a blessing. Things like math and reading seem to be skills that can be picked up anywhere along the way. They are important to know too, but it seems like taking time to focus on life skills, especially when opportunities arise, seems like a really important way to spend our time right now.

Understanding people, relationships, how the world works, and being guided while out experiencing the world, is a real gift…for all of us.

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As we approach the end of the school year, we have been asked a few times if we are winding down our school year too. As infinite learners, we aren’t. There is no beginning and no end to our education.

It caused me to look at our cultural beliefs and wonder how it came to be that we (collectively) believe that a person’s most valuable learning happens between the ages of 6 and 18 in the confines of an institution.

When I reflect on my own learning experiences, I see how I learned my letters and ability to read before I went to school, how I learned about relationships and social interactions from my family, how the things I value most as an adult, are the concepts, skills and crafts I’ve learned as an adult, most often, on my own. It challenged me to ask, what exactly DID I learn in school and were they things that are really important in the grander scheme of my life?

I remember sitting in certain classes in high school wondering when I’d ever use a particular skill. Technology and things are changing so rapidly right now, many of our children will be doing careers that aren’t even created yet, so how do we know what skills they will need to learn? I have learned that things I’m not so good at are things I can either avoid, hire someone else to do or use a computer to help make it easier. And things that didn’t interest me at all in school, suddenly became my greatest passion to when it suddenly became relevant in my life.

So, as I reflect, once again, about education and learning, I see there really is no beginning and no end and no bounds to how or where a person does their most significant learning. I feel my greatest education happened when I wasn’t in school…so perhaps we should give kids more time off school so they can really learn some important things.

I had the opportunity to really watch someone interact and teach my children new skills. What I observed was how it was a completely different approach than I would have taken and yet, very effective.

As one person, I only have the skill set I have. I only know how to do the things in my own way and share things through my own unique lens. It was a gift to see someone else show my children how to do things in a way that I would not have been able to from my own framework of life. It was an even bigger gift to watch as my kids thrived.

It was a great experience for us and reminded me that this is exactly the kind of thing I love about being an infinite learning family. We create many opportunities where the kids are interacting with others, learning from others and experiencing things in different ways with different people. They are able to be part of the community, see others model things that are of interest and seek out more information or guidance when ready.

We are free from the structure of school and its limitations on time, resources and money. If my children want to learn how to do something, we can find someone skilled in that area. If we want to seek specific experts, we have the time and freedom to explore that as an option. And generally, we are interacting all the time with different kinds of people who offer a wide range of beliefs, opportunities, and ways of being in the world. We have exactly what we need in our community and the ability to go forth and seek it at anytime.

It is a great way to learn, a great way to really be part of the community and a great way for my children to find their way in the world. It is exciting to have this freedom and opportunity to learn from others.

It seems to be a ridiculous and unfair notion that children’s skills, intelligence, and talents be evaluated based on their chronological age.

I have not ever asked my peers they are reading at a 42 year old level. I’ve not ever suggested that my friend is a genius because she is parenting at a late-thirty/early-forty year old skill level when she is in her twenties. Once children are out of school, we stop assessing them based on their age and use other, more fair and accurate assessments to discover who they are, where they excel and what they know.

The idea that our skills are based on the year we are born seems not only extremely limiting but a bit preposterous too.

Learning is individual. The pace, vastness and methods are individual. Evaluation, as such, really needs to be individual as well.

I love being an infinite learner because my children to learn at the pace they are comfortable learning. My seven year old can tell you things about reptiles that are probably equivalent with a high school science report. My eleven year old can tell you things about human interaction that would likely be discussed in a university psychology courses. There are other skills, like reading, where they are still in early stages, but when it is all balanced out, they are continually moving forward, expanding their minds and learning new things.

They have the freedom to excel in areas that are most important to them. They are not limited by what other children their age can or should be learning…likewise they are not pressured to meet the standards set by averages and numbers. They are free to move at their own pace, learn at their own speed, excel in their own ways. That seems like a real gift.

The minute we start to standardize things, there will be people who exceed the standard and those who drop below. It can be limiting in more ways than we realize…and once again I feel blessed to be creating a space where learning has no limits!