Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A is for Apple {But right now it's more fun to pick apples!}

Welcome to the September Carnival of Natural Parenting: We're all home schoolers
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how their children learn at home as a natural part of their day. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


My chiquitita is now 4 years old. For the same number of years, I have asked myself a million questions about her learning and education. I just want to make sure I do the right things when it comes to such an important thing as education. Will she go to preschool, and if so, when? Will she go to private or public school, or will we brave it out and home school? What activities should she do? How often? The list goes on...

And there is not really one right answer, I've come to realize.

What I have come to realize is that the best source of learning is all around us. It's called life.

Plus, it all comes down to knowing your child and catering their education to maximize their learning.

For example, I know Maddie (and I suspect many other kiddos do too) learns by playing. So we play. I sneak in numbers, letters, and life lessons into our make-believe worlds and she gobbles it up. My mom plays with her too a couple days a week. In Spanish. The games include grocery store, petshop, doctor, rescue missions...oh the list goes on.

Once in a while I have been known to sit down with her and do a proper workbook lesson but she gets restless and wiggly...so we pack it up and go outside to hunt for caterpillars, bird nests, or in-need-of rescue--earthworms all while I answer her many questions...including the recent: "Why do dogs poop?", "Why are there clouds in the sky?" and "Will the sun melt you if you get too close?"

I know for a fact she is learning because she comes to us for more.

The other day, as soon as she heard me clanking around in the kitchen, she ran over, pulled up a chair to the counter and said "I want to help you cook." I replied without thinking, "Oh, not right now." And she very intelligently reminded me, "But mommy, I need to help you cook so I can learn how to cook for my own self."

Wow. What a great lesson that was for me. I was immediately reminded about one of Elizabeth Pantley's stories in "Hidden Messages: What our words and actions are really telling our children" (which if you have not read yet, you really should). It is about a teenage boy who, excited to have recently acquired his driver's license, is sent to the grocery store by his mother to buy hamburger meat. He returns empty handed and his mother exasperated, asks him why. He replies that he did not find meat that looked like hamburgers. The moral of the story goes: do stuff with your kids because by doing you are also teaching them. And they need to learn this stuff from you.

In their early years kiddos just love doing what you do. They mimic your every move. It's the way they learn. So juice their little predisposed brains for all they are worth and do stuff with them!

Here in my house we: Make the beds. Prepare meals together. Feed the dogs. Go for walks and see, I mean really see, the world around us {Nature is full of amazing stories and lessons}. Do chores and make them fun. Grow a garden. Go to the Farmer's Market. Go apple picking in the fall. She helps peel and core them for freezing...

Pretty much anything we do she does her own mini-me version of it.

Also, we let her climb trees. We let her explore and get dirty {not too dirty!}. And we often let her make mistakes because she learns better that way {for example, she is always wanting to bring this or that toy with her when we go out, and I keep saying "no" because it might get lost or she might get tired of holding it. So one day she did bring it and just as I predicted, she lost it. Luckily we did find it, but now she knows to either be careful when she brings stuff or she just chooses to leave things at home}.

I think she has also learned to be street smart or better said, life smart. By this I mean she understands her environment pretty well and I feel confident that she won't take off into the street or not know how to play and interact with others or that she will help out a fellow human if need be. Honestly, I much prefer she first have street/life smarts. And I love being the one teaching her this stuff because this is the kind of stuff that stays with them forever. Being book smart comes all too soon and often parents have a secondary role in this kind of learning (like if your child goes to school).

We also talk about anything and everything and we don't shy away from difficult questions. Of course everything we say is age appropriate but it's so fun to see how you can adapt your answers/teachings as they grow and mature.

Workbooks and lesson plans are great too, but honestly they can wait {Only recently have I really noticed Maddie is interested in sitting for longer than five minutes to practice her letters}. I say we should enjoy the magic of our little one's early years because much too soon they won't want to play anymore.

So far, I have not decided what will happen next year when Maddie hits the age-deemed-by-society when she will be ready {?} for school. Oh boy that could really be a whole other post, a really long one at that! {Which by the way, I am really looking forward to reading and hearing about successful homeschooling stories}.

And as far as my boy goes, well he follows in his sister's footsteps. And thankfully his mama is more relaxed the second time around about things and lets him play in the dirt, and he's a boy so that happens a lot.

So, for now we continue living life to the fullest and learning all we can as we go along.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated September 14 with all the carnival links.)


  1. Great post! I look forward to getting that book by Elizabeth Pantley. Luckily I think my kids would recognize ground beef -- but there are an awful lot of varieties! "Life lessons" are so important. I have a bachelor's degree from a prestigious university but when I graduated I couldn't do my own laundry. SNORT. What a waste of $80K. Anyway, great post.

  2. I have loved reading these carnival posts and seeing the same message from so many sources - education is life (and vice versa). I wish every parent who has stressed about what/how to teach their little ones would read them! Thank you for sharing your story with us.

  3. I love how perceptive your daughter is, about her own need to come alongside you in the daily tasks. You've really inspired me to renew my commitment to doing things with my son, even when it makes everything take longer and maybe not turn out as it would have otherwise!

  4. "What I have come to realize is that the best source of learning is all around us. It's called life."

    Well said!

  5. That's what life is all about! Thank you for sharing.

  6. I like what you say about life smarts vs. book smarts. Book smarts are about books. Life smarts are about everything!

  7. Great post! For somebody who's not sure what to do about school, you sure sound like an unschooling mama to me. ;)

    You definitely get it!

  8. Kat, you need to talk to my neighbour if you're thinking about homeschooling! She has 5 kiddos & homeschools...she's pretty amazing.

  9. What a great post. It feels good when I realize what our daughter has learned just by observing my behavior and how I go about cooking, cleaning, etc. To her, helping is fun... It's play, not work!

  10. "It is called life!" Exactly, and it is all around us... I love your post!

  11. I like your point about letting her make mistakes. That's a very very important part of the learning process and I think too often, the school and the home environment make mistakes the worst possible thing a child can do. I hope that my children will feel comfortable enough at home that they can learn from their mistakes and know that it's ok to make them.
    Also, so jealous of your daughter's opportunity to learn a second language.
    Great post!


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