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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.

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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.

…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.

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.

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.