Learning by Osmosis

If you have read this blog for any amount of time, you may have noticed that I go through cycles of worry and paranoia about how we teach our two sons, ages 7 and 11. Much of this is fed by the fact that the homeschool moms I spend the most time with are the type who buy curricula and are pretty darn disciplined about following a particular schedule. Hearing about how their kids get up, eat breakfast, grab their workbooks and are sometimes done with school before all of my kids are out of bed makes me a bit insecure and I end up wondering if we’re really doing enough. We, as I have mentioned before, are not strict unschoolers but we’re definitely closer to being unschoolers than anything else. We approach learning as something which happens naturally, prodded on by life and inborn curiosity and try to save more formal lessons and such for things which the kids are unlikely to learn without a more concerted effort. It is a method which fits our style as a family and matches our family’s philosophy about people and learning. However, I have to admit, it also leaves me a bit insecure about whether we’re “doing enough”.
For this reason, I cherish experiences like the ones we had at brunch this morning. A few months ago I wrote about coming to the realization that my younger son’s math workbook (which I got for him because he asked) not only had no relation to his understanding of math, but was probably holding him back. I’ve been feeling kind of bad that he’s probably behind where he could be with math since we wasted most of last year being dependent on the stupid workbook. However, this morning, Collin demonstrated his ability to do simple multiplication problems and was even able answer his brother’s “Oh yeah, if you’re so smart what’s 10×20?” question correctly. I never taught him that. Hmmmm . . . Perhaps that’s what happens when math is a practical process used in everyday life rather than a series of steps or facts to memorize.
Then my older son surprised me by commenting that my husband (whose birthday was today) is now old enough to be president. I never taught him that either. I have often been concerned over the fact that he shows no interest in history or civics, yet somehow he knew this little tidbit of trivia.
Apparently they’re learning by osmosis. Another homeschool mom I know has commented that she wonders sometimes if our attempts to educate our kids actually cause them to learn or if they just happen to coincide with what the child was going to learn anyway. She may have something there. So I’m feeling pretty good about our approach today. That should last for another hour or so before I start worrying again :p

3 thoughts on “Learning by Osmosis

  1. Rebecca T:

    I found your site via Cruncy Cons, and was just passing through until I saw this post and felt a urge to comment.

    I was that kid who never received much math education (never learned my tables, etc.). However, as I grew older, I had a natural gift in science and math but still had to work hard to catch up once in college (I’m an Engineer).

    To this day I have problems with my parents for not giving me a solid foundation in math. On every other subject I’m with you – just not math because it isn’t something you will do on your own without being forced – like table manners.

    If you are are interested, the best math homechooling theory I’ve seen (and used) is explained in the Robinson Curriculum.

    Best of luck whatever you choose.

  2. Actually, math is one of the subjects which I do work on more formally with my kids. I don’t use a curriculum as I have a good enough foundation in math that I can take them to pre-algebra on my own. (My 6th grader is actually starting algebra next week.) I just meant that I had been stressing a bit about not doing more with my younger son least year and was relieved that he was figuring things out on his own regardless. I know there are people who say kids will learn to do calculus all by themselves, but I’m not comfortable trusting in that. But not to worry, math actually is one of the things I work on with them more formally. I’m thrilled that my 7 year old figured out what 3×4 or 20×10 is, but I doubt he’ll figure out 332×78 all on his own.

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