If we spent a day reading a novel just for the pleasure of it, not seeking to learn any specific lessons from the reading material, we would still learn the author’s writing style, new ways of phrasing thoughts, new personality traits from the characters, and new details about the geographic area or historical period described in the story. Lessons learned, and my experiment failed.
Suppose we spend a day in mundane domestic pursuits, otherwise known as cleaning the house. We might learn the whereabouts of several missing items, the best method for cleaning a mysterious gooey substance from the front of a kitchen cabinet door, a family member’s odd habit of discarding her shoes underneath the sofa, and how to quickly repair the vacuum cleaner when its rolling brush becomes hopelessly tangled with strands of hair, thread, and whatever else it has found. More lessons learned, and more failure at avoiding those lessons.
Okay, so maybe we need to leave the house. C’mon, kids, let’s go shopping — surely we can spend a day browsing our favorite stores and escape from lessons. Is that a Sale sign? Wait a moment — isn’t that “sale” price higher than the regular price at another store? Oops — that’s a lesson. Back to the browsing. Oh, look, we need some of those — now which size package is the better value? A little quick math, and, oh no, another lesson. We seem to have failed again at our attempt not to learn anything today. It seems that lessons are harder to avoid than was previously thought.
Off to the park. Surely we can escape the learning process with an afternoon of guiltless playtime. What’s that, dear? What kind of leaf is that? Umm… it’s a tree leaf. If you really want to know, you may take it home and look for it in the nature book. Tomorrow. We are trying to skip lessons today, remember? Yes, son, I did see you over there doing chin-ups. And you say that’s more than you could do last week? Sigh. Another lesson learned.
Parents, if you are feeling guilty that your homeschool routine is not quite as routine as you think it should be, be encouraged. Your students are probably learning valuable lessons no matter what they are doing. The preceding examples show that we can learn something from every situation we encounter. We may not be solving quadratic equations while doing housework or yardwork, but we are still learning important things. Our students may not be conjugating verbs while at play, but they are still learning important lessons.
Problem-solving, negotiation, investigation, exploration, analysis — these are extremely valuable skills that are rarely mastered between the pages of a textbook. Just try to go through an entire day without learning anything — but realize that each “failure” to avoid lessons will actually be a tremendous success in increasing knowledge.