How do they learn?

Caren Knox answers #5 of the unschooling meme (original here)

There's a list of questions going around facebook now, it started as questions for homeschoolers but they were very school-at-homey, with things like "What do your children wear to school?" or "Favorite subject?" or this weird one, "Sports, music, or art?". I weep for the homeschooled child who has to choose! Someone changed the questions around to better suit unschoolers. You can see the questions on Ronnie's blog. I chose to do just one question, question 5.

Here's my answer.

What kinds of ways do your family members learn about stuff these days?

I don't even think about learning anymore. It's not something I can quantify, or say how it's happening for anyone other than me—and quite frequently, I can't for me, either. It's organic. It's in bits & pieces so small we don't notice.

It's in this or that conversation, chance meeting, or something we come across on google. I can say, "I want to learn the lyrics to I'm Yours" so I google that, but who can say what I learn along the way? I learn how sing365.com lays out and organizes their search function, I learn that lyricsmania has a bunch of pop-ups, I learn how to block pop-ups. I learn something from every visual image I come across—wow, that lime shade of green on that site looks really good with that blue. I learn Jason Mraz sings barefoot—or did at least once. I learn his drummer hits the drum differently than most people I've seen. Along the way, I'm seeing ads, links to other videos, etc. I can't tell you what I learned because it happens so quickly it doesn't make a conscious impression. Apparently, Land o' Lakes has a new half & half they're very proud of. I learned that.

I got this years ago, when, on a walk with Evan and the dog, Evan started talking about the origins of the universe, and different theories about it, and his thoughts about it all. I know he's never checked out a book from the library on the origins of the universe. He may have read a magazine article about it, but at that time, we mostly had Utne Reader, XBox, and Game Informer in the house. He may have seen something on Discovery or Nature or PBS or History, but I know we had never sat down together to watch anything like that –it's something I'd want to see! What I realized happened is that he had picked up a piece here, a piece there, probably not even consciously. All those pieces got put together in the joyous amount of free time he has to dream and ponder and BE, until he had this cohesive collection, and wanted to share it with me. He couldn't have told you where he learned it. Or when. I doubt he would have said that he had learned it. It wasn't a conscious thing.

That's what unschoolers mean when we say learning happens all the time. It doesn't mean at the end of the day we can list and quantify and sort out everything that was learned, neatly into school subjects. It means it happens like breathing, you can't stop it from happening. You can't tell when it's happening, because learning truly isn't separate from living.

That's one thing that helped me let go of controlling television—I saw in Evan's drawings how he used shading to create a mood, or changed his characters' eyes to show how they were feeling. He learned that through living with real people who interacted with him, but also through TV. Even if he hadn't been interested in drawing, I could see I could not tell what he was learning from watching. I wasn't able to get inside his brain, and even if we talked about it, he wouldn't have been able to tell me everything. The play of one character off another. The colors of the sets. How dialogue was working—or not working—to sound natural. Lots of people find farts funny.

We learn through all five senses, frequently the sixth, and through connection with each other. We learn from books, from magazines, from movies and TV and You Tube Poop. We learn from Barbies, from guns and swords and Bionicles and Legos. We learn through talking, through watching and asking, or waiting. We learn through cooking, shopping, eating, eliminating. We learn from driving or riding the bus or walking or biking. We learn by listening to music, or playing an instrument or singing or banging a rhythm on the table. We learn through living, whatever life looks like that day, whether it's a trip to Discovery Place and the library or a day of not getting off the couch because we're so hooked by David Tennant as Dr. Who we watch all the episodes on the XBox.

There are as many ways to learn as there are... people. Multiplied by infinite ways to learn. Learning's not an event, it's in every moment.

So I can't answer that question. The answer's too big for my blog.

POSTED BY DHARMAMAMA AT 8:18 AM (June 9, 2009)

More of that Meme! by various other unschoolers

Caren's original has some sweet comments.

More of Caren Knox