Way back at the beginning of my Home schooling journey, I was encouraged to consider my own ‘vision statement’. I remember feeling like it was a bit of a ‘cheesy’ thing to be doing for my home and family setting, but I could also see the merit. And so I carefully considered, from various books I’d been reading, how to put in a nutshell what I wanted my family to look like in terms of the big vision. And I wrote it down! ‘LIFE IS FOR LEARNING AND LEARNING IS FOR LIFE’. Then I posted it on my kitchen cupboard to remind me, and my family! By recognising that all of life presents opportunities to learn – not just the time spent on ‘book work’ – I quickly embraced the first part ‘life is for learning’. I also wanted to instill in my (then) very young children, that learning would not just take place at the dining table up until the age of 16-18 years old.
But rather the tools, opportunities and principles I would nurture in them and model to them would (I sincerely hope) be useful all through life. Looking beyond what is immediately in front and to the big picture of life, that learning never stops and that life itself springs from an eager heart of learning. Funny, but I’ve seen the phrase I put together in various places since…did someone post the statement from my kitchen cupboard on Pinterest? Or did I see it somewhere and without realising it, plagiarise? I’m not sure. Anyway, 9 years down the track, whilst we’ve not been a perfect example of a homeschooling family (nor did I ever attempt to create one) we have grown together and learned many things together in so many varied and interesting ways. Take for example the day the chimney sweep came…no point attempting to continue with our table time lessons. I knew this was going to be much more exciting to watch! I first enquired if the chimney sweep was happy to have an audience, (I’ve found that tradies are nearly always happy for interested spectators!) and he proceeded to explain what he was doing and why. It was fascinating, and I don’t just mean for the children. And guess what…they’ve never forgotten it! The luthier who repaired my stringed instrument ‘may we please watch you while you do the repair?’ The farmer at milking time when we happened to be there. Pretty soon, my then 8 year old, was invited into ‘the pit’ to attach milk cups and help the very kind farmer – and my son begged me to visit the farm at the same time each week, so he could have a chance to ‘help out’. Wonderful learning opportunities. Yes, this would often add time to my already busy day, but truly – it is well worth the investment of time to stop, watch, ask and learn in these real life scenarios. The wonderful thing about this ‘real life learning’ is there are SO MANY opportunities as a home educating family. Hardly a week passes without such learning. Do I document it? Well, no, there is no worksheet with questions to show that learning has taken place or been retained, sometimes a photo to record the moment – which BTW is a very valid method of recording and evidence learning. And as so many incidental learning moments are anecdotal and rarely planned, I confess I don’t have a detailed record of such occasions. If you are the type who likes to keep a note or you are at the early stages, I encourage you to keep a journal of learning. Set aside just 10-15 mins one day a week to pull it out and write in. Don’t try to keep one for each child – it will be a mountain too hard to climb! But over time, you will be amazed at how many of these precious moments have occurred and the vast array of learning that takes place through them. By looking back from time to time, this will bring to mind for both you and your children how much learning has actually happened from these opportunities.. Children are amazing sponges and they are even better at making connections between things that happen or have been read about than I am. It’s wonderful to observe them joining the dots, so to speak, and fit things together that would never have a place to connect in any formal subject-divided curriculum!
So the next time you have the washing machine spring a leak, the car break down, or the window cleaner distract your beautiful lesson time, take a deep breath, and see it as an opportunity to watch and learn as the work takes place, with your children by your side. (N.B. always ask first, and bear in mind safety matters – respecting if it is not appropriate to stay and watch on some occasions!) You will be amazed at the learning opportunities all around you and the richness of life that is crafted for you by them. Keep the big vision in mind as you ponder what is important to you in the learning environment you create. I look forward to the next time we share in the journey of learning from life together.