19 July 2010

unschool monday :: work

Lots of learning around here happens through play. The owlets spend hours telling stories, playing games, pottering in the garden and daydreaming. There's also all the countless hours we spend in conversation, learning through questioning and research... One of their favourite ways to learn about the world though, is through work. Sometimes they'll tackle things they've seen me doing around the house. Other times they'll just jump in and help out. Little owlet is a regular fixture at my side in the kitchen. She pulls up a chair, climbs up and often takes the spoon from my hand. She can teach Huz a thing or two about how things are done too. Big owlet also loves to watch me work and her interest in maths has been sparked again just watching me prepare our tax papers the other day. "Wow, I didn't know that grown ups still did maths!!" She exclaimed, then jumped in to help out with the calculator, practicing her number knowledge.

The photo above is from our day in the sun last Thursday. The owlets had helped me out in the garden through the morning, enjoyed a picnic feast, a rest and a play... Then they were looking for something more. We grabbed a bucket of water, a basket and the potatoes we bought at the farmers market the previous weekend. For the next half hour, they worked away, scrubbing and cleaning. They counted potatoes, several times over, then talked about how they grow, how the dirt got there, where they came from and why buying local is best... A bucket of dirty water makes excellent stock for garden soup too, so the work turns into play...

Its so important to involve children in our work, and for them to witness what we do. We're careful not to force them to join in, but we always invite them or encourage them if they ask. Much the same as how we approach everything. We don't reward them for their work. Their pocket money is not given to them in exchange for work, but we expect and hope that they will join in and participate to make our family life run a little more smoothly. I've found that through working together, we find a way to re-connect, focus and create a little calm in our day. Its something I came across through our little journey with Steiner education and I'm so glad it stuck. When big owlet was much smaller, I'd be amazed at how we could turn a day around... You know 'those' days? The ones that seem to get out of control, when you have a three year old who is full of beans, but perhaps too many? They might be whingy, or grumpy, or a little rough? Perhaps you might get frustrated because you don't have time to sit on the floor and play by their rules all day... We always try and channel that energy into something practical, and as our owlets are always trying to prove their independence, to show us that they can do things all by themselves, we help them go for it. They work and learn, show us and themselves just what they can do and the pride they get from helping the family is reward in itself. Usually peace and calm are restored, and we're happy because we got something done that we needed to, perhaps not perfectly, but its done, and we're all happier for it.

Big owlet's major work of late has been reading. She surprised me a long time ago when she read a book to me, but we were even more surprised when she began reading to herself a few weeks ago. She had seen Huz and I enjoying reading and decided to pick up one of the chapter books I'd been borrowing from the library for her, just in case. At first I thought she was just skimming through, maybe looking at the pictures, but when she began recounting entire stories in great detail... well we were impressed. Some gentle encouragement, modelling how and why we read, and she's on her way!

More on children teaching themselves to read here.


  1. lovely sunny day for your spud scrubbing !

  2. I adore your big owlet's comment about adults and maths! That's brilliant :)

  3. I want to come live at your house and learn from the master... Love the potato scrubbing. So great to hear about the passion of reading which is developing. Great stuff.


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