I got out of having to write a learning report this week for our homeschooling program by doing a family survey for the program instead. So I thought I’d write a post here describing what a week in our household looks like with respect to learning. Here are some things we did over this past week:
My son recently discovered Reading Eggs and I’ve been wanting to encourage a wider variety of computer game play, so I got him an account and renewed Daughter’s at the same time. He’s completed up to Level 18 and Daughter is at Level 50. Both find the games very easy from a reading skill perspective, but they enjoy playing the games and opening the “eggs” they get when they complete a level. They’ll play on this site for a good half-hour at a time, and lately have been doing it about once or twice a week. Sites like this are good examples to pull out when probing family members wonder if our kids are actually learning anything (“Why yes! Little Johnny’s Reading Eggs report says he has just mastered three new phonics!”).
The weather has been very wet lately so I took them to an indoor play centre in our local mall. During the day there are very few children and my kids have lots of room to run, climb, and play. My son is doing extremely well at “keeping his hands to himself” and so for me it’s a nice break: I sit on a comfy sofa and knit while they play. They come out glowing and sweaty – good exercise! It costs about $15 so we don’t go very often, but when we do it’s a treat for all three of us.
Later in the week the weather cleared a bit and we took the dog for a walk. We hit a local forest trail, pretty much empty in the middle of a weekday, and the dog ran around exploring the woods while the kids and I ambled along, stopping to climb on fallen trees, examine mushrooms, or squish through muddy sections of trail. We usually hike for about 45 minutes, stop for a snack break, and then head back. We do this about once a week, weather permitting.
We also hit the thrift shop this week, which we go to about every other month or so. It’s another favorite rainy day activity. The kids get to play in the toy section while I pick out a whack of clothes for them (I scored a beautiful Donna Karan sweater for Son for $3.99!). Each child is allowed one toy to bring home. They are, sad to say, usually plastic junk that I would never pay for new. But not only are we saving plastic from the landfill, but after a few months when the toys have been forgotten I bring them back to the store as a donation, thus recycling them again! Daughter likes to peruse the kids book section while I hit housewares. I found three glass tealight holders for $1.99.
This past week we also went to pick up our annual purchase of beef. We got a half-cow last year and still had lots left so this year we just bought a quarter. We get the meat from a pair of sisters my mother knows, who are in their seventies but still live on the old family farm, raising a few cattle each year that live a life of grass-fed luxury and never see hormones or antibiotics. On our way to the pickup spot I talked with the kids about why we buy our meat this way and not at the supermarket. These sorts of opportunistic conversations are a hallmark of Free Learning. The subjects we’ve covered, the questions that have been asked, are all so much a part of how the kids accumulate knowledge. Yet such learning moments are not often valued by traditional educational methods.
About once a week one child or the other, or both, will come and help me cook or bake something. This week I was making palacinka (as they are called in Husband’s family), also known in my family as English Pancakes. They are basically crepes, which we serve with lemon juice and sugar. Son asked to help out. He worked with me to measure and mix the ingredients, flip the pancakes, and dress them. Cooking is a lovely way to spend time together, and it is very educational. The kids learn about math, chemistry, and nutrition in a meaningful way but to them it’s all just fun (and yummy!).
This week the family visited with mother-in-law in her new tiny apartment (she lives in the interior of our province but rents a place in the city during the winter) the kids had nothing much to do, so she pulled out a few pens and some paper. The children happily amused themselves drawing pictures, somehow working a storyline into their drawings which they then played out by drawing on each others’ pictures, thus expanding the storyline and bringing each other’s creative energy into the activity. Once again, these are the sorts of things that traditional educational methods tend to overlook as learning moments, but by paying attention to what the kids do and how they do it, I find learning is everywhere and in everything they do.