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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.

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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.

I had the most interesting conversation over the weekend with somone who believes strongly in the importance of critical thinking. It was interesting for me to participate in this conversation and once again confirm that what I’ve been doing naturally; allowing my children the space to think as they choose, experience life through their own lens, question life and put together things that make sense for them, is paving the way for them to be free thinkers.

Freedom, growth and expansion requires people who think outside the box. It requires people having the resources, time and energy to think expansively, the ability to share their ideas with others, expound on their ideas and implement them. It requires a society that encourages it. Our culture seems to be sorely lacking in this area. Sure, we think of ourselves as ‘free’ in our democratic society, but are we really?

If we look at our cultural institutions and the collective view of raising children, is there anything that demonstrates our society actually values and encourage free thinkers? One would think if it were an important value, it would be something we would be strongly supporting and creating institutions to foster this in our children.

But our societal view of children is still largely focused on them being a group of people who need to obey, listen, follow rules, talk only when spoken too, not be rude, etc. I hear people talking all the time about feeling proud that their children listen to them, that they follow rules, get along well in school, etc. Kids in our society are frequently told what to do, how to do it and when to do it. How are any of these things encouraging free thinking?

My kids ask a lot of questions. Every topic is open for discussion. We often talk about rules and laws…many of which I’ve discovered are as ridiculous to explain as they are difficult to enforce. We talk about life and share ideas. And when they challenge me about something and say they just don’t think it’s true, I smile and believe I am doing my part to help foster their critical thinking.

I am encouraged to see a shift occuring. I have surrounded myself with many people who are encouraging their children to be free thinkers and giving them the space and freedom to do just that. It’s not easy at times, but I think it’s what we need to make necessary changes in the world. Time and time again we are seeing that old ways are no longer working and new, critical thinkers are needed to move us forward collectively. I think it’s long overdue to start encouraging our children to be free thinkers. It will not be the old ways that will continue to move us forward, it will be the next generation of free thinkers.