What We Do All Day

Posted on Sep 14, 2010 in Featured, Learning | 10 comments

This month’s carnival topic couldn’t be more appropriate for us. Last week was our first official week as homelearners. Of course, as the carnival theme points out, “we’re all home schoolers” and “children, of whatever age, are learning all the time” whether they attend traditional schools or not.

In fact, our daily routine this past week really didn’t differ much from our routine over the summer. The difference now is just that as I’ve officially signed up with a home learning program, I’m responsible. Ack. How nerve wracking!

The program we’ve signed up with is called SelfDesign and it isn’t curriculum based. We can learn any way that we want and follow our kids’ whims and interests. There really are very few constraints and I love that the program recognizes exactly the theme of this month’s carnival: kids are learning all the time, just by going about their daily activities. We are assigned a learning consultant who helps us come up with a learning plan for the year. They encourage you to do mind maps with your kids so they have input into what they want to do over the year. The learning plan becomes the road map that guides us. The more overwhelming part is that we must report weekly to our learning consultant. The report includes a journal and reflection on our weekly activities and we must log a certain number of hours spent in these activities each week.

Initially I felt really worried that we wouldn’t DO enough to account for all these hours. I have ordered some books and art supplies and other project materials that I intend to have in a cupboard to dig into when the little sister is napping. But alas, they haven’t arrived yet. Swimming lessons don’t start until October. We’re still deciding on some other group activities. What were we going to do every day?!

It turned out that the answer to my dilemma wasn’t to rush to the computer and start googling and printing off worksheets for my not even 5 year old, pre-literate little one. The answer was to just start observing our day with fresh eyes (funnily enough our reports are called Observing For Learning).

What did I see?

The first day, Rain was outside in the garage with his dad. He came inside with a board. Onto the board he had screwed some fasteners to hold down some flexible hose. He had attached some plumbing bits to the hose, including a spout and a tap/valve. He showed me his handiwork and then went straight into the bathroom to test if his valve worked. Sure enough, it did. Water poured from the faucet at the bathroom sink, through his hose, past the valve (which he had put in the open position) and straight onto the bathroom floor. Success!! We mopped up the water, and put him in the bathtub with his contraption and he proceeded to play experiment for another 30 minutes. Early science experiment disguised as play.

Later that day, we went for a walk on the beach for an hour. Rain ran about and dug for crabs by following the air holes in the sand at low tide. He identified various types of shells, filled our van with rocks and driftwood and watched some kite surfers playing in the wind. A walk at the beach became both science class and gym class.

And what about the questions I answer all day long? In the last couple of days, I’ve answered questions on why the tide always changes, how to identify an evergreen tree, why someone might lie or steal and whether or not it’s a good thing to do, what is in the center of the earth, and a surprisingly tricky one to answer: what is math?

It’s a little tricky getting the hang of logging our “schooling” hours but it’s not from lack of time spent learning. It’s more a matter of quantifying all these little moments spent in conversation through the day, as we drive, as we grocery shop, as I keep  a little one on the toilet company, as we eat lunch, as we pick up toys, as we tuck them in to bed at night.

I do look forward to the arrival of our supplies and to using them to add a bit more routine to our day but I’m certainly a lot less worried about what we’re doing in the mean time.

How do you observe your kids learning at home? I would also love to hear some of the great questions your little ones ask!

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

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting. This month our participants have shared how their children learn at home as a natural part of their day. Visit 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:


  1. I haven’t done any research into how we’ll HS yet, but I really like the idea (at first, anyway) of being accountable somehow. If not to “motivate” us, but to show us that we really are learning all the time – what a great concept!
    .-= Dionna @ Code Name: Mama´s last blog ..Learning Through Play- September Carnival of Natural Parenting =-.
    Twitter: CodeNameMama

  2. All the little questions they ask, it really makes you see how much there is to learn and how much of the day is about learning. Most of it without a desk, teacher, or tests. 🙂
    .-= Summer @ FindingSummer´s last blog ..Every Day Is A School Day =-.
    Twitter: summerminor

  3. I just love kiddo’s questions because it shows just how curious and keen they are to learn…everything! I just love your approach to schooling. I daydream about homeschooling and it looks a lot like what you are doing now! I will have to check out that program. Thanks for the great post!

  4. If I ever did homeschooling I’d have to have an outside guide like what you’re using. I bet it also helps to keep you thinking about what it is you’ve actually taught that day; even if it doesn’t feel like teaching.
    .-= Jessica – This is Worthwhile´s last blog ..Lessons learned by bowling yes- bowling =-.

  5. I like how just the need to reflect on what you’re doing has given you “fresh eyes” (as you put it) on what you’ve been doing together all along. I’m inspired to take that kind of look at my days with my little Critter.
    .-= Rachael´s last blog ..Unschooling the School of Me =-.
    Twitter: RachaelNevins

  6. I think I tackled the “what is math?” one myself recently. I also struggle to explain complex cultural references. For instance, today we listened to the song “Little Boxes” and my daughter wanted to know (1) what ticky tacky is and (2) why they put children in boxes. Not that straightforward for a 5-year-old to understand.

    Really, there’s no way to make children STOP learning. Whether they’re learning the lessons you want them to or not might be a different story, but they’re picking things up all the time.
    .-= Amber´s last blog ..Exiting Gracefully =-.
    Twitter: AmberStrocel

  7. Well, first of all, maybe SelfDesign is exactly the sort of thing I need: a little structure, but still child-led. It sounds from you like the curriculum guides the parent more than the kid, and I like that!

    I really love hearing your stories. The valve water successfully pouring onto the floor made me laugh. Your post has inspired me to really be present and observe Mikko playing/experimenting/observing with fresh eyes this week, to see the ways he interacts with and learns from his world, if I just let him. Thank you!
    .-= Lauren @ Hobo Mama´s last blog ..September Carnival of Natural Parenting- Too lazy to unschool =-.
    Twitter: Hobo_Mama

    • Hey Lauren,

      Self Design can be done in the States too. We’re doing it with our daughter and I have recently noticed they have it down there too even though it originated in BC. 🙂
      Twitter: bfmom

  8. This sounds like an incredibly peaceful way to learn, too. And I’m sure it inspires more learning as there are no negative feelings to it. Awesome.
    .-= Luschka @ Diary of a First Child´s last blog ..Sticks And Stones May Break My Bones… =-.
    Twitter: diaryfirstchild

  9. great article, thank you for this information.


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