How Learning Happens

Thursday, October 11, 2012

I got an email from a blog reader recently who is at a homeschooling crossroad. She has been at home with her young children, fully immersed in her local attachment parenting and homeschooling communities, and thinking about the future. Kindergarten applications for next fall are due soon to both her urban public and private schools, and she is wondering if she should continue on her current unschooling path or choose a more traditional education route for her oldest child. This crossroad is something many homeschoolers encounter, whether in the early years of opting out of preschool and kindergarten, or later when deciding whether or not to send an older child to a formal middle school or high school program.

"My husband's biggest concern," this reader writes, "is how life goes on, younger siblings are nourished, and learning happens."

The intensity of life with young children, the constancy of needs and demands, can make it seem nearly impossible to meet a child's educational needs while managing a busy household and tending to younger siblings. That is, until we realize that meeting our children's educational needs is something we parents have been doing masterfully since the day they came to us.

We shower our children with love and affection. We respond to their cries and tend to their needs. We listen. We watch. We create a home environment that sparks curiosity and we find community resources that expand our children's personal growth and imagination. As our children get older, we recognize the unique ways in which they learn best and we choose classes or curricula tailored to their learning styles. We settle into a natural family rhythm that incorporates younger siblings, other family members, and friends in everyday learning.

And then we see how learning happens. We see how our children's innate curiosity and drive to know and do propel them to learn. We see them acquire new skills and new passions. We see them nurture relationships with friends and siblings and community members. We see them learn to read, to understand mathematical concepts and patterns. We see them become increasingly interested in music and art, science and technology, history and geography, languages and current events. We see their energy when exploring the natural world around them. And then we see ourselves guiding them, facilitating their learning by identifying resources to augment their natural learning (library books, computer programs, community offerings, classes, activities, curriculum, etc.).

And then it gets easier. Children get older. Bigger siblings become more independent and autonomous--and helpful. Needs are met with less intensity. Daily, weekly, and seasonal rhythms are established based on family priorities and children's interests, and shift as necessary.

We see our children learning, growing, flourishing without formal schooling. We see family relationships strengthening. We see ourselves enjoying this path of natural learning together, collaborating as a family, seeing everyday occurrences as dynamic learning moments. We see happy, well-adjusted, inquisitive children growing and doing.

We see how life goes along, siblings are nourished, and learning happens naturally, rhythmically, beautifully without the need for schooling. That's how it happens.


  1. That is a perfect explanation. I agree. I often times think the most difficult aspect of home educating is letting go of our past experiences and imbedded ideas of schooling. It can be hard to let go of the public school mindset and the belief that home school should resemble public school.

  2. What a great post! We started homeschooling our children years ago when it wasn't very popular. We are so glad that we did. We hope they decide to home school our grandchildren as well.