Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Live to Learn Together

Welcome to the September Carnival of Natural Parenting: We're all home schoolers
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how their children learn at home as a natural part of their day. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

With back-to-school efforts in full swing by many of my friends, I started thinking about posting my thoughts. Then I saw the invitation to submit for the Carnival of Natural Parenting co-hosted by Lauren at Hobo Mama and Dionna at Code Name: Mama. And I thought I would give it a go.

I have always loved learning. And while I never really hated school, I thought it was a huge waste of time. I constantly got in trouble for reading ahead during "read-aloud" times where students took turns reading from the text book. I would show up for classes on Monday, finish the work for the week, and then skip the rest of the week. It wasn't that I was so much smarter than other people, I just learned differently. Show me once, and I usually get it. I have great respect for different learning styles, the schools I have witnessed just can't.

Before I had kids, a family I nannied for hired me to supervise their education as well. The biggest reason being that their 3rd grader didn't know how to read.  It didn't take me long to figure out he needed to MOVE for his brain to process. If you asked him to sit and read, he couldn't focus. But if you gave him a ball to sit on, or something to work with his hands, he could manage just fine. Spelling and math became a breeze when I would tell him the word or problem, then he ran around the outside of the house, came back and had the answer. It is called the Bodily-Kinesthetic Learning Style (1). He never would have had that kind of opportunity at school. How can a teacher, no matter how great, keep control over 15-30 kids when they ostensibly all have different styles? They can't, and so they "encourage" students to follow the more mellow learning styles: sitting quietly to learn and work.

This was the biggest reason I have always said that I would avoid industrialized school if at all possible. Having made this choice early, my husband and I were able to create our family life as one open to the opportunity to learn from the day we found out we were expecting. When L1 was born, our adventure in learning as a family began. 

We tend to be a bit lazy around the house, so we plan our time carefully, and spend as much time as we can out and about. We do the "normal" things like visiting the zoo and aquarium, but we don't just wander from exhibit to exhibit. We visit areas during Keeper Chats to learn more about the animals. When L1 was old enough, we looked for the ones where a not-too-busy zoo keeper is working, and willing to talk to our boys about the animals, as well as listening to L1 talk about them (even if he isn't entirely decipherable yet). 

This is actually our main method of creating learning opportunities: going places, and talking to the people who know, and are open to having a conversation with a 3 year old, because L1 has a lot to say. We are regulars at a local produce stand, where the manager stops when she sees us to tell L1 his favorite foods are in and where they came from. She also introduces us to any new foods they have that week. When we visit farmer's markets, street fairs, libraries, anywhere, we look for the person in the know to talk with. Then we take that information home with us, and explore it to the extent of our interest in the topic. Which can include finding books to read, a website to explore, or a craft to make. When they are old enough to start asking about different topics, we will search out the experts to talk to and learn from.

I guess you could call it Child-Led Learning. The premise of child-led learning is that children learn best and rise to their full potential when they are allowed to lead the way and explore subjects when they feel ready. (2) Except this isn't just for my son's benefit, we do it because it is our responsibility to continue learning all through our lives. That is the lesson I really want to teach my children. I am not the teacher, we are learning together using the resources that are so abundant in this age of information. We live to learn, and that never stops. It doesn't matter where you are or what you are doing, everything is a learning opportunity when you take away the idea that "school is where you learn". School is a place for certification of your education, which will be important as they grow older. But for now, the world teaches my children in a way no mass education machine can even fathom much less provide. Good thing I can.

1. "The physical (bodily-kinesthetic) learning style."Learning-Styles-Online.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Aug. 2010. .

2. Madison, N.. "What is Child-Led Learning?." wiseGEEK: clear answers for common questions. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Aug. 2010. .


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated September 14 with all the carnival links.)


  1. I love the way you helped the third-grader learn to read by playing with a ball and running! That was so insightful of you. I hope I'm that wise when it comes to seeing what my son needs from me.

    I also love your descriptions of how you go about using your zoo visits and other excursions as learning opportunities. I need to be more intentional about those things as well. Thanks!

  2. What a lovely post - it's so refreshing to see parents following their child's lead with learning, and respecting their individual needs for differing learning styles.

  3. I have never heard of the learning style you described with the third grader, but I can think of several preschoolers I used to teach that would probably benefit from it!
    Thank you for the ideas on how to make outings even more enriching - we do try to make things child-led, but I never thought about finding people out and about to make the experience better. I will make more of an effort to encourage those interactions!
    ~Dionna @ Code Name: Mama

  4. That learning-style stuff is so important (and neat when you zero in on what really works for a kid, or yourself!) and I actually learned a lot about it in grad school (to be a teacher, ha ha). The challenge in a school setting is being able to use all the different styles enough to reach everyone -- its true, its often not possible, at least for every lesson!

    I, too, feel like we benefit a LOT from getting out of the house and going places, even "common" everyday places can be so rich in learning possibilities (and cool interactions with others). We couldn't get out much for a good year and a half there when my twins were babies, but now we are getting out again and I'm so glad!

  5. the way you're interacting with your community is really admirable. showing your children that people who work at the places we visit everyday are respectable, intelligent people is so valuable in a time where people think so poorly of others with "service" jobs.

  6. School is a place for certification of your education, which will be important as they grow older. - I strongly agree with this statement. In all my job applications and school applications, school graduated and grades ranked high on top of the evaluation criteria. i have a friend who pulled out her first year high school student from school, homeschooled him for the 2nd year and now plans to put him back in school for the 3rd year. but the school won't recognize the homeschool year which means her son has to repeat 2nd year! so how do you deal with barriers such as that? even in acceptance for gradeschool, schools check what preschool you came from and require you to submit the teacher's progress/evaluation report.

  7. Most teachers believe in some form of learning styles or multiple intelligences theories. The notion that each child learns differently, so we should adjust instruction accordingly just seems like such good old-fashion common sense. But common sense is often an untrustworthy and unreliable guide to good teaching. Despite what the snake oil learning styles and multiple intelligences folk tell us, they are simply wrong. Check out Don’t Teach to Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences for the five reasons why teaching learning styles just does not make sense.

  8. Mark- I'm sorry to say I don't understand the article you shared. I *think* I understood that the issue was too often being told a child is of a "certain" learning style could therefor limit them. While I could understand this idea, I tend to think the same as labeling learning disorders, or other developmental delays. They could easily be turned into and excuse for not managing beyond the prescribed levels. OR you can take the information, and use to it go beyond. Now that the teacher or child understands what works, it is time to take that information and apply themselves beyond it. Not pigeon hole them to a stereotype of that style.

    What I am positive of, is that *IN MY EXPERIENCE* children whose advancement has been suffering in industrialized school need time to discover their own style of learning, and in that, rediscover the joys of learning. Or alternatively, not teaching a particular style, but taking your child's cues on their own learning methods and working to encourage them in their efforts.

  9. As an adult teacher I have seen so often how the ones with really bad hang-ups about education are the ones who have 'different' learning styles. It's amazing seeing a previously disinterested adult really take to learning something because you're able to teach it in a more interactive way!

    Good post and really great points raised.