Learning, naturally

A couple of weeks ago I started keeping a daily log of our activities so that when the next quarterly reports are due, I have something to refer to that will help me remember all the ‘learning’ that went on in our home.   Writing things down make me very aware that on some days the only thing we do is play, or have friends over, or watch movies….  And although I know that learning is happening no matter what, on those days it’s not something I can point to and say “we learned this“.

Then there are days like today.

Today we watched bits and pieces of the Royal Wedding and talked about monarchies and how they work.   We talked about the church ceremony and why in the Church of England  “you may kiss the bride”  is not part of the service.   We learned the meaning of the word “troth”  and from that, “betrothed.”

Later we researched possible reasons our cat is caterwauling all night even though he is neutered and healthy.   And then based on that research we went and bought him some new toys, a water fountain and even a leash – because most of the info we found said that barring any physical condition he’s probably just sleeping all day and therefore ready to play at night.   So we need to wear him out.    (And as you can see from this photo, a new catnip mouse had virtually no effect.)

Our incredibly tolerant cat, Cosmo

Maya learned how to properly chop carrots with a paring knife so that the pieces don’t shoot off the cutting board and onto the floor.

While I was at Pilates the kids made three videos and edited them.

We placed an ad on Craigslist for a new night dispatcher to work at our store, and Maya helped me go through the 30 email applications we received.   She spots any spelling or grammatical errors, and then Ben has us explain them to him.  Spelling is pretty straightforward, but capitalization rules and punctuation, less so.  It’s a fun way to learn about that stuff.  (And sadly there are LOTS of errors to choose from in the applications we receive.)

Finally Maya worked on her Spanish homework this evening.   While she was doing that, Ben pulled out his Spanish book, “100 First Words in Spanish”  which Maya gave him when she moved up to “1000 First Words in Spanish.”   On his own, without any help, he did the same work Maya was doing, which was to choose two words in Spanish and write sentences using them.   At the end, he asked Maya a few questions – how to say ‘and’ and ‘doesn’t like’ – and they spent the next hour making up silly sentences using Spanish words.

It seems to me that this is how learning should be.  It ebbs and flows from day to day depending on our moods, energy levels and particular interests.    How unreasonable is it to expect children (or people of any age)  to sit in a place where they are presented with the same subjects every day, at the same time of day and for the same length of time?  English, Math, Science, Social Studies, Language – whatever the designated subjects are.   It’s counter-intuitive to learn that way.  Or to try to learn that way.    Even in 9-5 jobs, the days are never exactly the same.    More and more people work from home or make their own hours, because employers have figured out that not everyone is productive at the same time of day, and not everyone needs the same amount of time to do whatever tasks they are assigned.

When people ask I often say that life learning is “organic learning”.  It is learning the way nature intended.   Without bells telling you that your time slot for learning English is done and now your brain must switch over to Math.    Without designating which subjects are worthy of your attention.    Without “have to’s”.   Without testing.     With freedom and joy and intention.


About Amy

Amy Milstein was born and raised on a farm in Indiana, but after 20+ years considers herself a full-fledged New Yorker. She is married with two kids, who do not go to school but are instead life learners. This means they learn by living in the world (real life ) instead of hearing about it and simulating it in a classroom. With her family, Amy loves to travel, read, watch movies, write, sew, knit - the list is endless.
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