Tag Archives: self-directed learning

We are Educated by Our Intimacies –Otherwise known as what we did this summer


Sometimes I worry that my son isn’t getting the education he deserves. We live in a rural area, he attends public school, but the education system is not the best, we don’t have regular access to the internet or public library, etc. But then he surprises me by discovering his passions on his own, and I look for ways to enhance his learning along with those lines, some formal, some informal.

For instance, this summer my son was able to attend both music and art classes as part of a program I was coordinating for a school. While he didn’t learn to play an instrument in the music class, he did learn to listen. Now two months after the class ended, he still mentions how much he enjoyed it. He has me listen to songs the teacher introduced him to in class and talks about their music, meaning, and rhythm.

chalk and pastel drawingcrayon batik

In his art class, he learned how to create a chalk pastel and glue drawing, something I never would have thought to teach him. (To see how it’s done–Chalk Pastel and Glue Drawing.)  He also created a crayon batik drawing. Such exciting and fun art techniques!  While I don’t believe he will necessarily become an artist, art is definitely part of a well-rounded education.

cool rock

As for informal learning, we had several geological adventures this summer. (See Las Cuevas en Cerano and Picking Capulines) My son found some incredible rock formations. Our little home library didn’t have much in the way of rock and mineral books, so I sent the pictures via email to an old college buddy who happens to be a geologist. He did an incredible write-up, complete with diagrams and highlighted areas, about the pictures.  He sent links to geological studies of our area.  My son was fascinated, also incredibly impressed by my friend’s rock knowledge, and learned something in the process.

food prepcookingwpid-cam012412.jpg.jpeg

My son also expressed an interest in learning how to cook this summer. He asked if he could make something by himself, which was ok by me. He spent 2 days leafing through cookbooks until he found a dish that he felt he could make and that we could also find the ingredients for in our local market. He chose spaghetti carbonara.  He asked that I supervise, but not help.  I was happy to oblige. We all enjoyed the result!


Reading has always been an interest of his, however, his new phone, and subsequent game downloads distracted his focus a bit this summer. I had to change my tactics somewhat when I encouraged reading over games. If there were a book I wanted him to read, I would read it through first, and he would see me reading it and ask questions. I would only tell him the bare minimum, piquing his curiosity. When I finished the book, I left it in his room, seemingly by accident. Sure enough, he would pick it up and read it, usually in one long Sunday afternoon out with the goats. Two of books that he especially enjoyed this past summer were Bridge to Terabithia and Hatchet.


My son also nursed an injured heron back to health. Our little guest stayed until its wing healed and then was on its way. Take about a hands-on experience!


Then he wanted to plant a flower garden in a little area that we haven’t had much luck in sowing. Again, he didn’t want any help, just the seeds and spent a happy afternoon planting. Unfortunately, the few plants that did sprout were quickly eaten by escaped chickens. Think it’s time to redesign the chicken area!


He and his young mare Shadow began their joint schooling this summer as well. My husband worked with my son, and the two of them started light training for his horse. While they both are up for it, it’s still a long way to Wordsworth’s
‘proud to curb, and eager to spur on, the galloping steed’; and then, the home-coming:––

First day of first grade!

The first day of first grade!

First day of Secondaria!

The first day of Secondary!

All too soon, the summer ended, and formal schooling began again, this time at what is known here in Mexico as secondaria (secondary). His hours in a structured classroom have increased from 4 to 6 per day. None of us are happy with the current schedule and have looked for alternatives, but have yet to find any that will work for us. Meanwhile, he does enjoy his biology class that is currently learning about the study of genetics (See Goat Genetics) and a woodworking class where so far he has made a complete set of stone-age tools and a doll’s table.

Learning, whether in a formal or informal setting, is essential to growth. It goes without saying that I want my son not just to grow, but to flourish. Sometimes that means creating an atmosphere for learning, and sometimes it means capitalizing on the environment that presents itself. And as Charlotte Mason writes …We know that parents and teachers should know how to make sensible use of a child’s circumstances (atmosphere) to forward his sound education; should train him in the discipline of the habits of the good life; and should nourish his life with ideas, the food upon which personality waxes strong.




Filed under Carnival posts, Education, Parenting Challenges and Cultural Norms

Parenting Challenge—Inspiring Learning

learn about the world

Some people are incredulous when I tell them that we live without electricity at our home. Whatever do we do all day? These astonished souls comment they would just die without TV. That’s a sad commentary really. There are so many other things to do besides sitting mindlessly in front of the boob tube waiting to be entertained or enriched with essential knowledge that supposedly can only be had by watching the nightly news. I can guarantee that we are never bored. We have animals antics to watch, chores to do, gardens to plant, inventions to create, tables to dust, books to read, building to do and so on. I am not saying television viewing is all bad. There are all sorts of educational programs out there. And we enjoy a good movie or two. We do have the capacity to watch movies despite not having electricity. We have a Portable DVD Player, and it is such a sweet treat for us at the end of the day to curl up and watch a movie together. Because of years of use, the power never lasts for more than one full-length movie, so our viewing time is limited, but who really has time for hours of movies anyway?

 We are more ready to be done unto than to do; we do not care for the labour of ordering our own lives in this direction or in that; they must be conducted for us; a press of engagements must compel us into what next, and what next after. We crave for spectacular entertainment, whether in the way of pageants in the streets, or spectacles on the boards. … There is nothing intentionally vicious in all this; it is simply our effort to escape from the ennui that results from a one-sided view of education,––that education is an atmosphere only.–Charlotte Mason

My family in the U.S. sends us one box chocked full of goodies, things hard to come by where we live, once a year, usually in January. We tear into it with gleeful anticipation. This year was no exception. In fact, I believe they outdid themselves this year. In addition to a Kindle with more than 300 books on it, oh how many hours of pure bliss there, they sent my son some projects. When we laid out the boxes, I told him that regular class would be suspended and he could build one project a day. He was delighted.

There were several Lego sets, a music box kit, and a solar educational kit. He could barely wait to finish breakfast the next morning before he got started. After he put to together the boxed sets according to the instructions and marveled at them a few days, he set about taking them apart and designing his own stuff. He analyzed how much solar power he would need to charge his cell phone and tried tweaking the kit to fit that purpose. It wasn’t strong enough for the task at hand, and he was disappointed, but he kept up with his experiments. No boredom here!

Education is a World Business.––Next, we may have poetry, or art, or philosophy; we cannot tell; but two things are incumbent upon us,––to keep ourselves and our children in touch with the great thoughts by which the world has been educated in the past, and to keep ourselves and them in the right attitude towards the great ideas of the present. It is our temptation to make too personal a matter of education, to lose sight of the fact that education is a world business, that the lessons of the ages have been duly set, and that each age is concerned, not only with its own particular page, but with every preceding page.–Charlotte Mason

I had been trying to get my son interested in reading some of the books on my shelf to expand his understanding of the world. One of the books I wanted him to pick up was about Greek mythology, but he wasn’t interested, and I didn’t want to force the issue. One day, I brought home a movie, Lightning Thief, that I thought he would enjoy. Well, the next morning, he was still going on about the characters and the film. So I casually tossed my mythology book on his bed and said that he might find this book useful in understanding the movie better. He spent the better part of the day devouring the book and then watched the movie again, absolutely delighted with the information he now had. I didn’t feel that we needed to have a “proper” lesson on the subject since my mission had been so easily accomplished.

A Wider Curriculum.––Give children a wide range of subjects, with the end in view of establishing in each case some one or more of the relations I have indicated. Let them learn from first-hand sources of information––really good books, the best going, on the subject they are engaged upon. Let them get at the books themselves, and do not let them be flooded with a warm diluent at the lips of their teacher. The teacher’s business is to indicate, stimulate, direct and constrain to the acquirement of knowledge, but by no means to be the fountain-head and source of all knowledge in his or her own person. The less parents and teachers talk-in and expound their rations of knowledge and thought to the children they are educating, the better for the children. Peptonised food for a healthy stomach does not tend to a vigorous digestion. Children must be allowed to ruminate, must be left alone with their own thoughts. They will ask for help if they want it.–Charlotte Mason

The next movie I am going to recommend to my son is The Patriot and then toss Johnny Tremain on his bed and see what he makes of it. World History includes U.S. History after all.  And this inspiring learning bit, rather than formal lessons is a walk in the park for both of us.  How enjoyable!




Filed under Education, Parenting Challenges and Cultural Norms, Teaching