Posted in Coffee and Conversation, Life Writing

Coffee and Conversation: But How Will They Learn?!

Grab a cuppa and a comfy seat, and let’s chat a while.

It’s Monday again – time for Coffee and Conversation.

When I was six, my familywas driving on a highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living lives as important to them as mine was to me.

I wanted to know what those lives were, and to share my own…

This post’s title is something I get asked sometimes, about my homeschooled and curriculum free children. The answer is extraordinarily simple, but the problem is that most of us spent our childhoods in school, which we were told was our job. We were there to learn, and the stakes were our entire futures.

So we absorbed the message that learning was work, and that, if we didn’t work hard, if we “dropped out”, we would fail at life. We needed to “make the grade” and “apply ourselves”, else we would not be successful. High stakes, indeed!

But life with my two children, always homeschooled, and unschooled since they were 7 and 5, sheds a different light on learning, and puts a spotlight on my own childhood tendency to ignore school assignments in favor of personal explorations.

Learning about Hamlet -or, Shakespeare in the park.

Around here, learning is like the air; it’s all around us, all the time. All we need to do is live interesting lives, and explore where our interests and passions lead us. – and we learn rampantly.

Today was one of those days that, to me, really shows how learning happens here. None of it was planned ; it was organic,happening as a result of whatever we’re doing. But neither is it disengaged; people have to be interested in things, and in each other, for this learning to really blossom. It’s all about engagement, passion, and being together.

So, with the permission of those I live with, I invite you to come share our way of learning.

Math, architecture, pyramids, balance, structural integrity – and fun!

Dragnet and Adam-12 offered:

  • ethics;
  • the definition of society;
  • a discussion of scarlet fever;
  • Hitler and the Holocaust (Annalise knew a reference to the six million dead; she’s not sure where she learned it).
Pattern block fish – geometry, color, art, imagination, and fine motor coordination.

Minecraft offered:

  • Nine-year-old Annalise said: “In metaphorical terms, Miah owes me a glass house.”
  • She was referring to a conversation we had some months ago, when her brother was complaining about something she did, and I pointed out that he sometimes did the same.
  • We then talked about the saying, “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”.
  • She decided to build a glass house with her Kindle Minecraft app, snuggled in beside me, and remembered that conversation (and knows about metaphors!).
  • She also Minecrafted a glass river and that glass house;
  • a pen and habitat for the pig and chicken families she bred;
  • and mazes complete with dead ends.
Weaving a learning life at Eighteenth Century Days. History, art, craft, survival, design…

Our income tax refund came in, so:

  • We shopped for a new computer for me and a refurbished one for her;
  • discussed the family budget ;
  • preparations for the new kerosene tank that’s coming tomorrow;
  • details for Unschoolers Rock the Campground 6;
  • Jim returned from running errands with a bonanza – “half of a new kitchen!” according to the kids (small appliances, utility items);
  • and a new tool kit – with lavender accents! – for a girl who loves pretty things and making things. Plans for a birdhouse already pending!
  • She gave us the razor blade knife- she says it scares her, and she doesn’t want it.
  • She’s been measuring and testing the level of various surfaces, and examining her pliers and adjustable wrench.
We all start out as avid learners…this girl had an early taste for literature!

Annalise and I browsed the newest copy of The Homeschooler magazine:

  • She lit up when she saw an ad for “Building a Country” an American history computer class “with a Minecraft twist”, and a Minecraft article.
Revolutionary reflections…learning history through dress-up.

Meanwhile, Jeremiah, 12, who was awake most of the night, was at his grandparents’, helping with various odd jobs, as he’s done for the last several weeks:

  • “It was pretty much all woodworking- and cake,” he says, of his day.
  • He’s been earning spending money.
  • Last week, he bought himself a coffeepot for his room. “This is a step on my path to maturity,” he told me.
  • Averaging what he earned last week and this, Annalise figured how much he could earn in a month;
  • She compared that to how much she’s likely to earn, when she dusts for her grandmother.
Language learning – Hands On Japan at the library. His name in brush painting.

There’s been making, and artistic exploration:

  • We looked at old pictures – our late dog, Bunko; my late fiance, Tim; family and friends.
  • Miah drew characters and scenes based upon My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, using an image on his computer.
  • Annalise made me a tiny airplane made out of toilet paper, “You made me for me, so I made this for you.”
  • She narrated stories involving Littlest Pet Shop and Monster High characters.
    Happily building their brains with every breath, while Journeying Through the Body.


There’s been some physical stuff:

  • I asked Annalise if she’d rather go ice skating once more before winter ends, or swimming. Swimming wins- it’s been a long cold winter, and apparently, at this point, water trumps ice.
  • Lise went outside to explore, and discovered that one of her snow boots has a leak.
Impromptu hooping- physical education on a lovely spring day.

That’s how life works here.

It’s unpredictable, and untidy, and as big as life. It doesn’t translate into test scores or grades or lesson plans. Tomorrow is likely to be different, with other things happening. But there’s no doubt that a diverse array of things were learned, explored, and engaged in.

How about you?

How do you learn best?Do you like lessons, or spontaneity, or a bit of both? Pull up a seat, and I’ll pour you a cuppa, offer you some Chinese food, and let’s learn from one another (and you’re welcome to watch The Big Bang Theory with us!)!