Learning vs School

It’s been a while since I have posted anything. We’ve had a number of interruptions over the past few weeks – visa issues, serious illness in the family, the fact that I am nearly 5 months pregnant and getting tired easily. Thankfully everything is sorting itself out, but we have been pressed to simply do life over the last few weeks, much less write about it.

Bookworm came home from Brownies a few weeks ago and told us that she had been talking with some of her pack about homeschooling. Apparently they were all going to go home and ask to be homeschooled – they thought that the idea of half an hour (!) of school a day was brilliant. Thankfully I didn’t get any angry comments from parents the following week!

We definitely do more than half an hour each day – but it got me thinking about my kids’ perceptions of their education. We try (with varying success) to steer away from using the word “school” – because I am trying to get them to embrace a life of learning. I don’t want them to think that school is where you learn, and the rest of the time you don’t. Seeing as we are not in the school system, why bother with the necessary distinctions imposed by that system?

We have bookwork each day, the part of our day that looks most like school and what Bookworm was probably referring to – though it usually takes longer than half an hour! But there is so much more that we do in our learning than bookwork. Like the reading that we do alone and together. Like the epic game of battleships that Bookworm and I played yesterday – learning grid references, communication, the importance of listening carefully (otherwise you tell Mummy it is a miss when she has hit your ship!), and strategic thinking. Like the engineering skills Snugglepot is learning by building structures with her “Clicks” blocks. Like the tangram puzzles that we play with. Like the lessons we have learnt over the last few weeks about showing consideration for others, and caring for people while they are sick. Like the parts of language that we learn when we play Mad Libs, or the literacy skills from reading Braille coded messages that I have written for them. Like the very important and carefully done sharing of food so that everyone gets an equal amount. Like the calculating of the cost of sweets and the counting of coins to see if the said sweets can be bought. Like the writing of letters, cards, and notes to friends, family and each other. Like the “typing game” on the computer. Like the Edwardian Farm program we have been watching and enjoying. Like the way Buttercup counts her toast pieces to make sure that I have indeed cut it into six triangles – like the way she counts nearly everything, in fact. Like the way we notice patterns in things and pause to remark on them.

There is so much that we learn which looks like playing, or fun, or just normal life. Some of it is simple, some of it is quite sophisticated. Sometimes the learning opportunities are deliberately created, and sometimes they happen naturally. Sometimes I worry about how much they are learning. But when I sit down and think about it, they are learning an awful lot. Some of it is out of a workbook, and a lot of it isn’t. I don’t know whether I should be concerned that they think they are not learning for a lot of the day, or let them just keep doing it, filling their minds with good things and being blissfully unaware that this is all part of their education.