I have developed a new appreciation for the seemingly impossible job we ask teachers to perform.

I am one parent, home educating two children. My boys are as different as you can imagine. They have unique interests, ways of learning, talents, strengths, weaknesses, and skills. My job, as their teacher/parent is to know these and use them as tools to help each child achieve their greatest success.

What works in my favor is that I’ve known them all their lives. I spend every day with them, I’ve observed them as they’ve grown and interacted with them more than any other person. But, it’s still difficult to find the balance…even just with two children.

How do I balance everyone’s needs? I sometimes feel like a juggler as I throw up the balls hoping to find a way to give each child time and space to explore things in their own way, sometimes with their sibling and sometimes on their own.

As their parent, I want them to both thrive and feel proud of themselves and confident in what they do. Sometimes, as siblings, they undermine one another and that is difficult to watch and navigate through as their parent.

What I’m discovering is that there is learning in those experiences too. And, even though part of me wants to separate things out so they can both shine in their own ways and own times, sometimes it is important for them to go through more difficult times too.

I continue to trust that everything is unfolding in a way that is best for us all. I do all I can to give each child opportunity to shine, encourage each other and be accepting and understanding of one another.

I applaud those teachers who make their best efforts to balance the needs of their students and see how impossible it is for them to do what they are asked to do in the school system. And in this, I’ve found another reason, I am grateful we are able to homeschool.

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We stood at the cashier and as I finished my transaction, she looked at the boys and said, “You’re not in school?”

“We homeschool,” they replied.

She looked at the time and saw it was not quite noon and said, “Shouldn’t you be at home in school then?”

The boys just shrugged, having no idea what she was asking or how to respond.

I interjected that we were in school, we just moved our classroom to the grocery store that morning.

She then turned to them and said, “Oh, well in that case, what’s the tax going to be on this bill?”

My seven year old piped up and said, “I don’t know, but I do know these two drinks add up to $2.”

It was an interesting exchange and what I came away with was another opportunity to revisit what we are doing and why it works so well for us as a family.

The situation helped to remind me that we are walking a different path but that my alternative view of education and learning is something that really resonates with me and seems to be working very well for my children too.

And I enjoyed another opportunity to observe the kids continuing to just be themselves and feeling confident in what they do know and how they interact with others.

I have long believed that motivation is the most powerful tool in learning. I have witnessed in my own life how quickly and easily I learn something when I have a strong motivation. My son recently showed me another example of this concept.

My oldest is not a fan of physical activity. Since he was born, he has appeared to be quite uncomfortable in his body and often seems to have difficulty getting it to move and do physical things with ease.

I recently suggested the boys look into doing a class, activity or sport this year. My oldest heard a list of things and decided he’d like to try karate. I was a bit surprised, but looked into it and found a class that we could attend as a family and tried the first class for free.

It was an intense workout (just ask my sore muscles). My red-faced boy was panting, struggling at times and asking me when it was done, so I assumed it would be our first and last class. When we were done, I asked him what he thought and if he wanted to continue. His face lit up, he asked when the next class was and if he would get a Gi next time.

We signed up.

I realized later, his motivation seems to be getting the Gi and being able to show people what he’s doing. In fact, he asked me not to tell our friends and family because he wants to surprise them himself, showing up wearing his Gi and demonstrating what he’s learned. He even said, “I bet no one will believe I’m doing this.”

It’s interesting for me to see that this child, who isn’t comfortable with most physical activity and is not very coordinated is interested in doing a very physcial sport that requires a lot of coordination. But the reason he’s doing it is because he’s found some motivation stronger than his discomfort. It shows the power of motivation; and it really is incredibly powerful.

I am excited we’re doing this as a family.

I feel happy watching him be so excited about his new activity. I like the fact that he’s anticipating feeling proud of his skills and wanting to show and surprise others. I like that he’s found some inner motivation to do an activity that will benefit him in many amazing ways and is moving forward, even though it was difficult for him that first week.

I liked the reminder that even though I think I know him well, he knows more about himself than I ever could.

And most of all, I love the demonstration of the power of motivation and how it can propel us to do and learn things others may have never imagined. It’s been another gift for me in our infinite learning journey.

September has presented interesting personal challenges for me since we declared ourselves an infinite learning family several years ago.

At first, I tried to go against the current and rebelled against the cultural vibe of reorganization, planning and scheduling that comes hand in hand with the back to school culture. I refused to be part of it, but in my private protest, I still felt angst and a lot of shoulds…I should be planning something, I should be setting goals, I should be getting new workbooks or pencils or something.

Then I stopped pushing against the idea and just floated into our own little world where we were busy doing end of summer things and pretending like we could live in a bubble and not notice what was happening around us. That didn’t work so well either because when we returned from our little oasis, all the local activities, sports and classes were filled and had already begun.

This year is the first year I’ve embraced the planning vibe that occurs in September. I’ve stopped to admire the new notebooks for sale, sharpened a pencil just to smell it and sat down to see if there was particular direction we wanted to head this year.

And……I liked it.

I realized that doing something different than the majority of families doesn’t mean I have to push against it or remove myself from it. I can embrace the parts of it that work for us and step away from the others that don’t.

It was fun to sit down with the kids and ask them if they wanted to try something new, join a group, play a sport. I liked having a discussion about where they want to head and if there was anything they wanted to learn now or in the near future. I enjoyed sitting down to discover what local classes, sports and other activities are available and determine if it’s something we want to do or not.

I liked finding my way into a more comfortable place in September after all these years. I am enjoying the fact that we can still be infinite learners and embrace some parts of the school/community culture without denying what works best for us. I feel like we are really finding our way and benefitting from it in many ways.

Happy September everyone!

We just returned from our first real camping adventure as a family. Before this trip, my idea of camping was roasting marshmallows over a late night fire, sleeping under the stars and doing everything to avoid having to get out of my warm sleeping bag to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. My camping experiences were either pre-children or with toddlers, so I hadn’t factored ‘education’ into my idea of camping.

Fortunately for us, our camping companion was also an infinite learner who took the time to bring some books, learn new things and then share it all with us as we sat around the fire. It was fascinating to have someone with us who approached camping from a very different perspective and it was a wonderful role model for my boys.

I observed us learning and enjoyed that it was shared in a way that captured our attention. By the end of the trip, the boys were able to identify the trees in our campsite, we learned how to estimate the remaining daylight hours, there were discussions of different kinds of fires needed to attract attention if lost, as well as understanding the animals, plants and other wildlife in our area. We learned different techniques, different styles of camping and developed a new appreciation and understanding of the great outdoors.

I loved being able to step out of my role of teacher and observe our learning. I enjoyed our teacher’s enthusiasm and could see how far enthusiasm can carry a topic. It was fun to see how much we all retained and what was of interest to each of us based on our own learning styles.

The kids became an integral part of our camping team; helping us with set up, meals, keeping the site clean, and helping with tear down and packing up to go home. Camping gave the kids the opportunity to learn different leadership roles, gain some independence and have a lot of fun doing it.

Roasting marshmallows was fun too but I’m grateful to have experienced camping in a new way and see another great example of infinite learning in action.

Today we met with a group of infinite learners for a picnic in the park. It was an unfamiliar group for most of us. We all knew a family or two, but largely, we were a group of strangers, brought together only because we are infinite learners. I cannot tell you what a beautiful experience it was to both participate in and observe.

We came around the corner to find the teenage boys cooking the burgers over the fire, a table of crafts where older children were shown what to do then they helped the younger ones, more than enough food to feed a small army, and children of all ages playing together and having fun.

Older kids playing with a soccer ball were welcoming of younger ones who wanted to play too, some of the children headed off to the playground, others engaged with one another and many were enjoying the beautiful natural setting and having fun with sticks, climbing trees and running free.

I loved watching this group because everyone was accepted, everything was acceptable and there was a real free-flow feel to the day and a natural interaction among people of all ages, genders and backgrounds.

It was a true joy to be part of this group today. I loved the feeling of acceptance among everyone, I loved watching everyone participate and I loved watching the natural interactions occurring everywhere.

I was truly inspired, proud and thrilled to be part of this group today and once again, feel blessed to be an infinite learning family.

I realized how our schedule is so different than those in school.

This month, we went shopping for new school supplies! While schools are winding down for the year, we are stocking up on new supplies!

As the kids in school are finishing up, paying less attention, dreaming more of playing outdoors…we are doing more learning now than other times of the year.

The weather is beautiful so we are outside more, noticing more things in nature, being out in the world. It is easier to travel to places (not too hot, not to cold) and finding ourselves in museums and other attractions on a regular basis.

It’s blissful, these last few days of June, when kids are in school, summer vacation has not officially begun and we can enjoy all the attractions we love, with the minimal amount of crowds.

I notice some of my friends are busy scurrying around doing last minute field trips, end of the season picnics, buying gifts for teachers and feeling stressed out with busy schedules, kids who are feeling ‘done’ with school and ready for summer, but having to put in those last few days.

Yes, this is my favorite time of the year and I’m grateful once again to be an infinite learning family.

Yesterday was one of those days that felt like the best thing in the world is to be an infinite learner.

We got things done in the morning at home then decided we would drive to a neighbouring city to visit one of our favourite museums. A quick check to see it was open until 9:00 p.m. gave us the space to take our time and enjoy the journey.

We made a few fun stops along the way, admired nature as we drove, sang songs, laughed and talked. When we got to the city, we decided to stop in at a few of our favourite shops and check things out. We ended up buying a few new books for each and had fun looking at all different kinds of things.

From there, we made our way through town and decided to head to the museum. Along the way, we spotted a new attraction. A hands-on place for the kids to learn some interesting new things while they are having a whole lot of fun. We stopped in and feeling our abundance of time and resources, we were able to take in the full benefit of this new attraction.

It had just opened a week or two ago, so we ended up being the only ones there. The kids got to be one of the first to check out this exciting new place, have a lot of interaction with the guides, extra time at each station and generally just enjoy the entire experience in our own way and at our own pace.

I smiled and felt so grateful that we could be there, on a Tuesday afternoon and get a really unique and wonderful experience of the place to savour for ourselves.

We did finally make it to the museum. It’s interesting how we have been there countless times and I inevitably learn something new each time. We were one of a few people there as well and we just enjoyed looking at the familiar, learning new things and enjoying it at our own pace too.

An evening drive home was fun, we were all exhausted but happy and acknowledged it was a fabulous day. Again, I am feeling so grateful for opportunities and experiences like this that I can share with my children and enjoy so fully.

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.

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.