Layers of Education

They say that you need to see an advert at least seven times before it becomes effective. The first time you see it, you barely notice it. But with each successive exposure something builds inside of you, embedding a memory in your mind which can then be recalled at any relevant moment.

I think education might work in a similar way.

The first exposure to a new idea or concept can be overwhelming to a child. Long division, for example. (Actually, that was overwhelming for me too…) Or the significance or the bubonic plague. Or the location of key geographical cities. All new information is NEW. And however spongy our kids’ brains, it may take a few times before the neural pathways are sturdy and sure.

I used to get this a bit wrong. In my pursuit for excellence of education, I mistakenly thought that each time a child was given new information, they needed to remember it perfectly before we could go on. I would feel a failure if my five year old couldn’t recall every detail of our history story. I became frustrated when my nine year old couldn’t work out how to solve every maths problem in his book. I felt that 100% learning had to happen first time around.

But I was wrong.

Lunching on the beach at high tide (and trying to avoid seagulls!)

Lunching on the beach at high tide (and trying to avoid seagulls!)

I should have known it. Am I not exactly the same? I can read a chapter of Romans, and fifteen minutes later have no idea what I read. But if I read that chapter in the morning, talk about with my kids later, write about it the next day, re-read it the following day, mediate on it, look it up in different versions, hear a sermon on it, read a book that refers to it and watch a program that relates to a concept from it – THEN I know it.

And so it is with children. One of the oh-so-many beauties of homeschooling is the way we can engineer overlapping layers of education for our children. As they learn about the effect of the moon upon tides we can offer opportunities to reinforce this new knowledge. A trip to the beach to see tides in action; a documentary on the moon; a lesson in gravity; a game about moon phases; a conversation about forces; a library book on science; a poem about tides. As pieces of the great knowledge puzzle start connecting in their minds, the strength of learning is increased and a network of pathways are created which can continue to be traveled and built upon as learning keeps taking place.

Sometimes it’s as simple as redoing lessons or rereading chapters over a few times. Sometimes it requires a topic to be looked at through various depths – an overview, a narrowed-in focus, a detailed study. Other times it’s the combination of a variety of topics interlinking with one another, such as history and geography. Whatever it is, the one thing I have learned is that frequent, varied and passionate exposure to information creates a solid education.

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Car-schooling

'Edible Poetry' at the library!

‘Edible Poetry’ at the library!

“Homeschooling” is a bit of a misleading term. Most – if not all – homeschoolers I know do their learning in all sorts of places: woodland walks, playground trips, libraries, grocery stores, swimming pools, National Trust sites, leisure centres, doctor’s waiting rooms, friend’s houses, service stations and, most definitely, cars. In fact, one of the beauties of homeschooling is that education can happen anywhere, anytime – no restrictions!

Becoming an electric car family has re-shaped our learning a little. Every day or so we drive up the road to our local rapid charger, and top up. For many, electric cars are still a thing of the future, an inconvenience, a hassle. For us, it’s an opportunity.

A full charge takes around thirty minutes – and it’s as unavoidable as getting petrol for a regular car owner. But it’s also thirty minutes of our day which is internet free. Distraction free. Housework, email, toy and (mostly) phone free. And suddenly what looks like an inconvenience becomes an opportunity.

Our charge time has created a regularity I was struggling to find. While we charge, we read. Usually it’s our current literature read-aloud (Little Lord Fauntleroy, right now, which I LOVE) and a bit of our geography curriculum.

We also spend a fair amount of time driving to and from events, lessons and errands. This travel time is useful listening time, too. We have used it to listen to great audio books from our library (we particularly like Michael Morpurgo’s ‘An Elephant in the Garden‘), inspiring classical music, and an audio version of our history curriculum (The Story of the World). We have plans to listen to Micheal Thomas’ French course soon, and also an audio reading of the Bible. There are so many exciting and educational CDs to choose from, that travel time never needs to be wasted!

Do you do your learning in fun and unique places? Have you got any car-schooling suggestions to share?

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