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…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.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

There are a million little reasons, many of which you’ll likely read here over the coming months, but what is at the essence of it all is that I love to learn.

I am always learning something and I feel very passionate about being a life-long learner.  I take formal classes, I read books, I talk to ‘experts’, I go to seminars, I engage in conversations with people to share points of view, I teach myself new skills, I am always using my curiosity and desire to know more to inspire me to learn more.

This is what I want for my children.

I want them to know, to really know how to learn, to find it magical and fun and inspiring the way I do.  I want them to get excited about reading things in books, asking others, ‘googling’, and finding inventive ways to quench their thirst for new information.

I realize I am a product of public education and it did not stop me from feeling passionate about my own education.  But, I feel it was my outside school experiences that created this passion to learn.  I also see my father and my children’s father, who both felt forced to take classes they didn’t want to take, felt trapped in school and both ultimately dropped out.

I love how unschooling, or more appropriately named, infinite learning gives us the freedom to persue any topic that appeals to my kids, at any time and in any way.  I love how they can learn as much as they can without having to move on to something else or stick to content that is more age appropriate.  It is exciting to watch them thrive and begin, what I hope will become a life-long love affair with learning. 

I’ve seen time and time again how learning ‘outside the box’ as we often do around here is fun, free and honours each child and their unique interests.  I love how they are really free to learn in any way, on any topic at any time they feel inspired.  This is why we unschool.