31 October 2011

unschool monday :: learning together

An amazing thing happens after you've been unschooling for a while. You stop thinking about it so much and instead of looking for learning opportunities everywhere you just get interested in life. Learning, after all, happens as part of living. I have started to notice patterns, however. And variations on how learning happens for my owlets. I've also noticed how the owlets learn together, from each other.

Little Owlet is all about learning to read and write at the moment. She works on it for much of the day. She looks to Big Owlet for help at times where I'm busy. Big Owlet is happy to help her because it reinforces her own learning. Writing has been her big learning quest for the past year, so she's happy to get practice reinforcing her newfound skills. Little Owlet learns in a slightly different way to Big Owlet. She's more interested in sounding out the letters than seeing them and prefers to write letters based on shapes made from our hands, than by copying letters on paper. She tells knock knock jokes that are based on phonetics; "Knock, knock", Who's there? "Buh" Buh who? "Ball"... and so-on until she's exhausted everything in her proximity. It requires a certain amount of patience and humour. Big Owlet is amazingly patient, for an eight year old...

The brilliance of family learning is that the older children are so involved in passing the knowledge along. So instead of what looks like the 1 adult to 3 owlets ratio we have most days in the nest, Little Owlet has two people around most days to help her learn. Tiny Owlet has two owlets and one adult to help her learn. And when Huz is home, there are two adults. So much better than the 30:1 ratio we faced at the local schools. It also means that Big Owlet spends more time seeking information from both adults in the nest. As we come to read the same books to the younger owlets, talk about familiar themes, Big Owlet gains a revision session and her confidence grows as she helps pass on knowledge. And now that she can read well, she's taking initiative with her learning, as she sees us do.

Of course, there's an inherent drive in all the owlets to mimic what we do and mimic their older siblings. In the photos, Big Owlet decided to set up a bird hide and "observation office" in the back garden one day. She began drawing pictures of birds and writing down their names. Five minutes later, Little Owlet joined her and was doing the same, but in her own way, writing words spelt out in our finger shapes. Tiny, of course, needed her own notebook and pencil just moments later. I stayed nearby, just close enough to observe them... And so they worked for a little while, together, chattering and talking and helping each other... It's very organic, this way of learning and living. It seems very natural. Learning as a family, together.


  1. It's interesting the changes in perspective you have once you have more than one kid. Small Z loves learning to write, and Small DB loves to have a go too - on almost any surface... But the thing is - when Small Z was her age, I don't think I would have ever thought to give her paper and crayons, but with such things strewn around the room... it makes all the difference.

    That middle picture is my favourite :)

  2. Lovely post with gorgeous pictures! This does make me crave a sibling for T ;-)

    Sel xxx

  3. Not sure if you've looked at the Alphabet Glue site, but thought I'd mention it to you. Mainly because the last issue (it's an e-zine) was all about kid detectives! Kid detective books, kid detective craft, etc. So of course thought of your Big Owlet.


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