Sunday, February 7, 2016


Self-Education @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

I spend my days educating my children. Well, I use the term “educating” loosely. I attempt to provide an atmosphere of learning and quality content to draw from. Some days (not often) that looks like strict lessons in Latin and grammar. Most days, for better or worse, that looks suspiciously like unschooling.

One of the greatest things parents can do to create a home atmosphere that encourages learning is to let their children see them learning. This benefits children in several ways, but I’d like to highlight just one benefit at the moment.

Learning new things is hard.

I think parents forget this sometimes. 

Some of us have been long-removed from situations in which ideas or skills are brand-new to us. Maybe we forget the frustration that sometimes accompanies the learning process. Maybe we forget how it feels to be awkward at something new. Maybe we forget the stress that hits when we are asked a question we have no answers for.

Have your kids watched you struggle with something new? Something difficult? Have your children watched you choose to learn something for its own sake, because learning is a worthwhile pursuit?

When your kids are struggling with learning something new or doing something difficult, do you think of a time when you felt the same way?

Have you experienced that moment of break-through, when a skill or an idea you’ve been wrestling with suddenly (or not so suddenly) comes with something resembling ease? Have you shared that moment with your children?

I’ve had Spencerian handwriting copybooks on my shelf for a few years, always meaning to get around to them—some day. This past month I realized that I needed a now or never moment, so I pulled them off the shelf and just began. No planning. No ceremony. No beautiful fountain pen. Just the kitchen table, a pencil, and me.

It so happens that I discovered something: Spencerian handwriting is difficult for me. It’s frustrating. I, who have always enjoyed handwriting, have found a challenge.

So each day, as the boys sit down at the table to do their math on Khan Academy (which deserves a whole post of its own), I sit down at the table with my handwriting copybooks and my belated inexpensive fountain pens and write. I’m still waiting for a break-through. But my boys are watching me try and struggle and keep at it, and I’m experiencing empathy for them as they try and struggle and need encouragement to keep at it.

In addition to the Spencerian handwriting—which is just for me; I’m not requiring the kids to do it—I’ve also restarted Duolingo Spanish. Just a few minutes each day is all it takes (at home on the computer or on the go with the app, and it’s FREE!). The boys are not learning Spanish; it’s just for me. (Though guess who wants to learn Spanish now? That’s right. All of them.)

Just a few minutes each day—but I make sure my boys see me trying something difficult and keeping at it…

Because learning is a joy, even when it’s hard.


Danielle said...

Love love love this!! Started playing my flute again with this thought in mind. In addition I am truly enjoying it, probably because I get to do it at my leisure and not in a strict class with homework. Ha! I make my own homework up! Hope my Girls will follow my lead and learn things they love!

Jill Foley said...

Love this! I am very interested in those handwriting books - I love cursive but am always wanting to improve mine.

This is also the encouragement I need to get back into Rosetta Stone spanish.

jeana said...

We do duolingo Spanish too! We have a lot of fun with it. I have a calligraphy book I bought last year that was complicated for me so it now sits on the shelf. You have inspired me to get it out and try again!

Also, I was wondering if you could do a post on Khan Academy? We used to use it here and there but we never really got as much out of it as I'm sure is available. I've seen you mention it before was wondering exactly how you use it.

Heidi said...

Danielle~ I totally need to be playing my flute every day as well. Ahem. I think I'll add that to the few minutes a day list. :D

Jill~ I'm glad I could encourage you. I've always loved handwriting, but it's difficult for me to form consistently shaped and sized letters according to someone else's directions. ;) I always liked making up my own. Ha!

jeana~ I really need to do a post on Khan, because I think it's one of the best online resources for homeschoolers. We're using it exclusively this year for all three boys. I'll bump that to the top of the list and try to share this coming week.

Angel said...

I have spent the last year learning cursive myself, and falling deeply in love with fountain pens. (Check out Platinum Preppys at Goulet Pens, still cheap but MUCH nicer than the Pilots. Or there is a Jinhao set on Amazon that is also nicer, but very cheap, or message me if you want to go deeper lol) The progress is very slow going.
I also decided I wanted to take up piano a couple months ago. All of my children started the free online lessons as well, and they have all surpassed me.

Rebecca said...

I know it was mentioned as an aside but I would love to hear your thoughts on Khan Academy. We have bought Teaching Textbooks but have some technical difficulties at the moment so my daughter is using the work book and I started my son on Khan just a few days ago. He seems to be doing all right although when he got stuck on a problem, he didn't know where to go to try to get it right so I had to be right there to help him and honestly I would love math to be something I don't teach, which is why I like Teaching Textbooks. Hmmm. The dilemma. :)

Racking my brain to see if I have taken on anything new for myself lately!!! My goodness, I'm coming up empty. Thanks for the encouragement to tackle something new!

Unknown said...

This is exactly why I starting taking classes from Future Learn. Last year it was on Hadrian's Wall, and right now it's Shakespeare. I have never known anything of Shakespeare!

And I'm looking forward to your Khan Academy post.

-Kimberly in Michigan

Heidi said...

The detailed post about Khan Academy is up!

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