Tag Archives: learning

Lifelong Learning

Welcome to the August 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Life Learners

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have talked about how they continue learning throughout life and inspire their children to do the same.

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Although I graduated nearly 15 years ago, my education is not finished. In fact, I would say that I’ve learned more since finishing formal schooling than I ever did in school. My husband never had the opportunity to attend school for any length of time, so nearly all his knowledge, which is considerable, has been self-taught. The idea of life-long learning is an important concept for our family.

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Business learning

For a time, I ran my own online business selling children’s organic and homemade items. There was so much to learn. Things like product presentation, taxes, establishing a customer base, web design, networking, marketing, and Ebay were not new to me in theory, but in practice…well that’s a whole different story. What I didn’t realize at the time is that the things I learned in the 18 months or so that I ran my hobby business were just a taste of things to come. Like kindergarten to the business world.

I closed my business when we made the move to Mexico, 9 years ago. Since then, we have “failed” at a number of businesses here. Although for the most part they were not profitable monetarily, we did learn quite a bit in the process and therefore, don’t consider these ventures a waste of time. The businesses we have failed at include a produce truck, taco stand, clothing store, bread baking endeavor, tire repair shop, bricklaying, ranching, farming, gardening, essay writing, and blogging to name a few. Currently, my husband and I have steady employment, part-time employees, part-time owners. I run my own Saturday school and afternoon tutoring sessions  but also work for a private elementary school during the week.  My husband maintains our mini-ranch and sharecropping endeavors in the mornings and is the maintenance man for the same school in the afternoons. Being gainfully employed doesn’t mean that we’ve stopped looking for ways to expand our knowledge base. Recently I was asked to write essays for a Business English course. (See Failing at your own business–University courses) Not only did it pay well, but I learned quite a bit about Business English which I have now incorporated into my Saturday classes, teaching interested students how to write memos and other office documents. My husband was also offered a part-time position at a liquor store. He comes home eager to share what he learned about types of liquor, inventory processes and delivery systems.

So how does this impact our son?  He told me just the other day that he’s decided he’s not going to work for anyone else but be his own boss.  Entrepreneur in training I’d say. (Making a Living Without a Job, revised edition: Winning Ways for Creating Work That You Love)

cultural learning

Cultural Learning

Besides learning how to make a living, I’ve had to learn how to navigate a different culture since moving to Mexico. This includes not only learning new vocabulary but also learning how things are done. I know that I’m far from proficient, but I think I’ve made some progress. I accredit my minuscule advancement to my willingness to make a lot of mistakes and ask endless questions. Who would have thought I’d have to relearn how to bury a person (See Mass and Burial–Mexican Style) or how to shop for groceries?  How about learning how to wash clothes in the stream?  Or how to buy land?

natural

Natural Learning

As a family, we look for opportunities to learn about our natural surroundings on day-trip adventures.  I’ve recently discovered iNaturalist. Now I can upload all those photos of pretty flowers and someone, somewhere will identify them for me. From there, I can research how the local natural world might be useful (See Natural healing) now that my two main sources of Mexican home remedies, my mother-in-law and my husband’s grandmother, have died.  I’ve learned how to make a tea for stomachaches, use aloe to aid in wound healing, dry feverfew and use agave.  I have so much more to learn!

Cave exploration outside of Cerano, GTO.

Cave exploration outside of Cerano, GTO.

Learning in the next generation

Because of our family philosophy, we encourage independent learning of our now 13-year-old son. He wanted to learn how to play soccer, we made sure that has become a reality A few months ago, he asked if there were any teachers that I knew that could teach him Portuguese. I asked the Worldschoolers group on FB and was referred to Duolingo. My son has been regularly progressing through the beginning Portuguese course online. He uses it to chat with Brazilian Minecraft players. (See Hey Parents. What Minecraft is doing to your kids is kind of surprising) He’s thinking he might learn Vulcan after he finishes the Portuguese course.

His most recent interest is in learning how to make Youtube videos. It isn’t an easy thing by any means and one that neither his father nor I can help much with. When an opportunity presented itself for him to make a video of his life (See What is it like to be a kid in your family? ) we purchased an inexpensive mini-camcorder and together made a video that his grandma in the United States is proud of! See it here!

bike repair

Our attitude has always been, if you don’t know how to do something, learn! No one is going to do it for you. Skills that my son has learned at our side include bricklaying, cooking, bicycle repair, and gardening.

planting

However, we fully realize that my son needs more opportunities for learning than we can provide him. With this is mind, he attends the local middle school, where not only does his Spanish continue to improve, but he also is learning quite a bit about carpentry. So far he’s made a clothing rack and lidded box, quite useful items actually.

We continually stress that even if he is soon to finish his formal schooling, there is no limit to the things he could learn. “I don’t know” is not an acceptable answer in our home. Is it in yours?

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Learning Resources

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo 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:

  • The Financial Advice That Saved My Marriage — Shortly after they got married, Emily at Natural Parents Network and her husband visited a financial planner. Many of the goals and priorities they set back then are now irrelevant, but one has stuck with them through all of the employment changes, out-of-state-moves, and child bearing: allowances.
  • Lifelong Learning — Survivor at Surviving Mexico–Adventures and Disasters writes about how her family’s philosophy of life-long learning has aided them.
  • Inspiring Children to be Lifelong Learners — Donna from Eco-Mothering discusses the reasons behind her family’s educational choices for their daughter, including a wish list for a lifetime of learning.
  • Always Learning — Kellie at Our Mindful Life loves learning, and lately she’s undertaken a special project that her family has been enjoying sharing with her.
  • We’re all unschoolers — Lauren at Hobo Mama embraces the joy in learning for its own sake, and wants to pass that along to her sons as she homeschools.
  • My children, my teachers Stoneageparent shares how becoming a parent has opened doors into learning for her and her family, through home education and forest school.
  • Never Stop Learning — Holly at Leaves of Lavender discusses her belief that some of the most important things she knows now are things she’s learned since finishing “formal” schooling.
  • Learning is a Lifelong Adventure — Learning has changed over time for Life Breath Present, and she is more excited and interested now than ever before.
  • Facebook: The Modern Forum — Dionna at Code Name: Mama explains why Facebook is today’s forum – a place where people from all walks of life can meet to discuss philosophies, debate ideas, and share information.
  • 10 Ways to Learn from Everyday Life (Inspired by my Life in Japan) — Erin at And Now, for Something Completely Different offers tips she learned while living in Japan to help you learn from everyday life.

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Learning and Teaching Summer Course–Year 3

summer course image 1

For the third year in a row, I was asked to participate in the summer course. This time, not only would I be the English teacher but the organizer. I started looking for teachers in mid-May. As SEP had reduced the summer vacation period and added extra teacher work days, many teachers were less than enthusiastic about committing themselves for the entire summer. As a result, scheduling was a nightmare.

seed name

Then, the popularity of the course swelled our numbers. We ended up having 2 groups of 25 students, although it would have been better had they been divided into 3 groups. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough teachers available to do that. We offered art, music, crafts, English, P.E. and computer classes. The large number of students per group meant that they had to share computers. After the first 2 days, I split the groups even further. I had 10 or so students doing an activity in the adjoining classroom while the rest were using the computers. As each student finished the activity, he or she would take over a computer and send the user to complete the activity. This meant that I was at the school the entire day.

sunflower snack

As the owners of the school had begun construction on the vacant lot, we were not able to use it for planting this year. That seriously impacted my proposed classes. We still did the indoor planting and activities, but it wasn’t nearly as intensive and hands-on as I would have liked. I also added some plant-related crafts and at least once a week we had a “cooking” activity. For instance, one week we planted sunflower seeds in toilet paper tubes, then did some paper ball sunflowers, then construction paper and seed sunflowers, then peanut butter, raisin and celery snacks. When the sunflowers sprouted, we planted them along the edges of the soccer field. Unfortunately, the school gardener thought they were weeds and mowed them down.

planting

I wanted each student to be able to take home a plant at the end of the course again but wasn’t able to find any terracotta pots in the area. I ended having them paint Styrofoam containers instead. I know, not environmentally friendly, but I was desperate. The kids had a good time and rarely missed a day, so all in all, it was a success. Yet I would have liked to have done more.

painting pots

The stress of making sure the teachers arrived on time, supervising during lunch and recess, assuring that the teachers had the materials that they needed for class and the occasional discipline problem or injury was tremendous. Plus, I was also teaching at least 4 of my own private English classes daily in addition to the summer course classes. By August, I was exhausted. I’ve decided to rethink my participation this summer now that my son will be too old to attend.

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Learning and Teaching Summer Course–Year 2–Teaching Agriculture

summer course 2013

I had an incredible inspiration for how I wanted to teach English for the second summer course. The owners of the school had bought the vacant lot next door, and it would be just the thing to plant.. All my teaching would be centered around the hands-on growing activities. I was so excited!

searching for corn

We had enough students to divide the class into two. Ages 4-8 were in one class. Ages 9-13 in another class. We offered music, P.E., art, and computer classes as well. I had to make some modifications for the difference in the age groups, but not much.

toiliet paper seedlings

So we planted. We planted starter seeds in toilet paper tubes. We planted test plants (one with no sun, one with no water, one with too much water, one well cared for) in soda bottles. We planted corn, beans and squash (See also Planting with the three sisters) in the vacant lot. We also planted sunflowers, but they didn’t really grow.

plowing

We brought Fiona, our donkey, to till up the lot. My husband, son and I actually came the day before to work the land because the dirt was packed down. The kids didn’t care that they weren’t actually breaking ground. They loved following Fiona around.starters

Then we planted, watered, weeded, added fertilizer when the plants yellowed and tromped merrily through the mud every other day. On inside days, this was the rainy season, after all, we learned about plant parts, discovered the difference between fruit and vegetables, attended to our indoor seedlings, learned about beneficial insects and the growing process, sang and generally had a good time. When our seedlings were ready, we transplanted them into pots they had made in art class.

transplant

The final day of class we invited the parents to see what we had learned. Each child received a sprouting tomato plant to grow in their backyard. Since the corn was not yet ready for harvesting, we invited everyone back in October for a Harvest Festival, which was another smashing success. We played wheelbarrow, rode Fiona, picked and toasted our very own corn, had sack races and enjoyed ourselves immensely.

wheelbarrow

It may seem strange that this type of activity was so enjoyable to semi-rural Mexican children. It just so happens that this particular group of students were townies, at least, 2 generations removed from the farmers their grandparents were. Moroleon had an industrial boom some time back and now all the adults work in clothing factories, not in the fields. In just one generation, the children had lost their connection to the natural world and oh the joy in rediscovering it!

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Parenting Challenge–Creating an Atmosphere for Education

Often unexpected finds create the best environment for learning.

Often unexpected finds create the best environment for learning.

When we say that education is an atmosphere we do not mean that a child should be isolated in what may be called a ‘child environment’ specially adapted and prepared, but that we should take into account the educational value of his natural home atmosphere both as regards persons and things and should let him live freely among his proper conditions. –Charlotte Mason

I asked my 10-year-old son what he thought he has learned by living in México. His immediate response of “that to get things, you have to suffer” was not what I was expecting. But he’s right. Everything is more difficult here, more difficult than you might imagine. So how can I, his mother, provide an atmosphere for education when just meeting the basic necessities of life takes so much time and effort?

How do I create an atmosphere for learning?

I provide options for investigation.

I am a teacher and as such have a natural tendency to provide my son with stimulating games and books at a variety of levels. When my son asked me what happened to the dinosaurs, I had a book already in my home library that offered a variety of theories. It was quite advanced scientifically so, I had him skim what was presented there, allowed him to ask me questions about things he didn’t understand and then asked him what he thought the answer to his question might be. When he said he still wasn’t sure, I was pleased to say that neither is anyone else. Did he learn something from his investigation? Most definitely. When we found a dinosaur print in La Yacata, he went back to the same book to try and identify the dinosaur that made the print. Again, he wasn’t sure that he had the correct answer, but finding the one right answer wasn’t the point in the educational experience.

I allow my son to be involved in economic decisions.

Each of our various business ventures have been family efforts. My son has a stake in what we decide to embark on and therefore, has a say in the matter. He also has obligations to make the venture as success as well. When we had the Crap Shoppe, he learned, mostly from his abuelita (grandma) about doing business and negotiation. I could trust him to make sales while I ran to the store or went to teach a class. This has served him well. He has just started his first outside-of-the-family job. He works from 9:30 to 12 Wednesdays in the mercado (market) selling plastic bags to the merchants. He takes a cart and goes store to store offering his wares. He works along with the nephew of the owner, but after the first day, he told the owner that since he did all the work, he should receive a percent of the sales rather than a fixed amount. The truth was in the pudding, since when the nephew went alone on Saturday, he sold next to nothing. My son now gets 10% of the sales.

I set an example.

Adapting to this new life has not been easy for me. I make social blunders all the time. It requires every bit of my focused attention to pick up the cultural nuances and make sense of them. I have stumbled along paths that are not remotely what I had in mind when the journey began. And I have learned from it all. I have pointed out to him that even those people who make me uncomfortable, laugh at my errors or are downright mean, have taught me something. In fact, these people have been some of my best teachers. And that as long as I don’t give up, I haven’t failed. As he moves towards adolescence, with the desire to fit in and just be one of the crowd, I hope that my example will serve him well.

I learn from my son.

We work hard for every little bit we have and no, things don’t come easy. There are hundreds of little disappointments that make a bit of success so sweet. When I am tempted to grumble and curse about a late night walk home because of a flat tire, my son says, “Mom, have you ever seen the stars look so beautiful?” and I can look at it as the grand adventure that it is.

Creating an atmosphere for education is not providing high-tech teaching material in a child-centered classroom. Rather it is providing an environment that fosters questions and inspires wonder. Nothing new has ever been discovered, invented or learned without it.

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