Living, Learning and Joining the Dots

I don’t want my kids to be “smart” but I do want them to learn.  I prefer to look for teachable moments as we live rather than having fixed learning time at home. It hasn’t always been this way.  With my first child, I got caught up many of the early education materials and methods of learning. For example: early readers, flash cards, learning charts, writing, learning colours and numbers.  All of these things are important, and I still use them sometimes; however, I think compartmentalised learning — that is very much ingrained into our society — can leave a person feeling very disconnected. After a while, I felt disillusioned with the entire process, and much of what I taught my eldest daughter at home was “corrected” (for example handwriting) when she went to school.  I thought: What’s the use?

Instead, I take up every opportunity to teach my kids as we live rather than having dedicated teaching time at home. I leave that for school (I do wish schools were more open in their learning methods also).  I hope to encourage my children to be learners of life rather than of subjects.  It’s interesting, over time, I’ve noticed we make connections and join the dots about what we learn as we live which makes the learning so enjoyable! 

Below I’ve set out a perfect example. Now, because I’ve put this into a post it all looks very ordered but none of this was planned or forced but instead, enjoyable, satisfying and just part of our everyday life.

1. Masterchef

Our family enjoyed watching Masterchef together. In episode 84, Michael cooks with cuttlefish.

Michael cooks with cuttlefish on Masterchef

2.Walking on the beach

Walking on the beach is something our family loves to do. We all find it relaxing and there are so many wonderful things to collect on the beach.

Walking on the beach

3. Finding cuttlebone from cuttlefish

We often find cuttlebone on the beach.

cuttlebone from cuttlefish on the beach

4. A question: How did the cuttlefish bone end up on the beach?

We googled it when we got home and found some interesting things.

why do i find cuttlebone from cuttle fish on the beach?

5. Cuttlefish bone for birds.

We found out how to prepare the cuttlefish bone for our bird.

1. Wash well.

2. Soak for 30 minutes.

3. Cook in a 200°C oven for 30 minutes.

4. Turn the oven down to as low as possible and cook for another 2 hours.

5. Store in an airtight container.

{how to prepare cuttlebone for birds}

preparing cuttlebone for birds

{our beautiful bird}

how to prepare cuttlebone cuttlefish for birds cockatiel

Putting it together

When you slowly put things together, it makes sense. It feels good to know about cuttlefish, not just because it’s something to know, but because it relates to, and adds value to our life. I get excited about this sort of learning. Beats looking at flash cards.

Living and Learning

I’m still discovering ways to learn as I live, and that’s the beauty of it: it never stops. Here are some of the ways I incorporate learning into our family life.


Asking questions is an absolutely fantastic way to learn.  The kids often ask me questions and I often respond like this:

a) What do you think it means? From there we can flesh it out rather than me telling them the answer.

b) Let’s find out. We can then look it up in books, the internet, ask other people and then there is always google (I love you google!)

c) Ask your father (HA!)

Take up opportunities

My fourth child knew colours earlier than all my other children.  I didn’t sit down and read a colour book with him but I did talk about colours all the time. So when he said, “Look. Truck Mum,” I would say, “WOW! I love your red truck!” There are moments like this everywhere and on every subject. For me, it’s an enjoyable, and purposeful way to encourage learning. Plus it doesn’t take any extra time. The opportunity is already there.

Love the Moment

The Love the Moment Challenges have opened up many learning opportunities; just stopping and taking time to notice the little things has brought a richness to our life.

Join the dots

I look for, and facilitate ways to join the dots about what we learn as we live life. The cuttlefish is a perfect example. I might even further this by borrowing a book about cuttlefish from the library because I’m rather intrigued by them now.

I not a very good teacher but I’m a good learner. I hope I’m teaching something valuable to my kids as we live and learn together.

Make connections and learn as you live life. Enjoy moments and find ways to join the dots.

What are your favourite ways of learning as you live?

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Kelly loves life at both ends of the spectrum: wearing high heel shoes one day and hiking boots the next; sipping tea out of a pretty cup and slurping hot coffee from a camping mug; challenging herself physically and stopping for quiet unhurried moments to feel the wind on her face. Kelly and her husband Matthew seek to live a fun and adventurous life with their four children and pet bird.

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  1. says

    I think the reason I love the internet so much is that it makes serendipitous learning so accessible. If something interesting comes up in my life, I can’t wait to get to the computer so I can search my local library for a book about it, and reserve it. Failing that, I might order the book online. If it’s something small, Google often brings me an answer, or leads me to further study.

    I believe the very best way to teach kids is as co-learners. We aren’t experts, we’re just all on the journey together, kids too. Kids copy what adults do, so showing them what we do with questions, seizing opportunities big and small, consulting the Google oracle (or in your case, asking Dad!) …whatever we do, we’re showing them how to be learners. Those Love the Moment challenges, to me, are icing on the cake, because through them, kids learn an attitude of wonder and gratitude.

    • says

      You’ve beautifully summarised my entire post in your comment. Thanks for the affirmation. I like the co-learner concept. That, I feel I can do.

  2. says

    I really like this post and it’s now the way I try to teach the kids to learn.

    With the older two we had the flash cards and we tried to ram knowledge down their throats. With the younger ones we spend more time exploring the world around us.

    • says

      You sound just like me Alex. With the fist child I purchased an entire shelf full of early readers and did colour charts and all sorts of things (ie. ramming knowledge). Now, we do so much more exploring together and it’s FUN!

  3. says

    Looking for teachable moments is certainly one of the greatest ways we can help our children learn about a whole myriad of things. I have never been one for flashcards etc. Whilst others were busy teaching the alphabet and how to read at kinder, i sometimes caught myself thinking ‘maybe i should do that too’. I soon found however that kids learn at their own pace and by the time they got to school they were like sponges and able to absorb so much. And often they were then very quick to catch up to the ones that were reading etc before school. I think its important that particularly in those early years we follow their lead and their interests and help them explore for themselves. And certainly teachable moments can continue right throughout childhood. With the older kids too if they hear something on the news or in the media it can be a great way to try and get those lessons in too. Great post :)

  4. says

    I totally agree – Learning should be intrinsic and not forced. I know myself with the first babe, I felt this pressure to make sure he knew all about the ‘general education components’ as opposed to just learning for the fun and the natural direction it takes. I’ve done an experiment whereby I set up an entire activity about the beach (something that he wasn’t really interested in – but I thought he may enjoy so designed it around learning about writing, painting and learning about nature – FAIL). As I’ve let go of this perfect standard (that I have), I realised today things just happened and one thing fell onto the next. The design/construction (helicopter), the play(flying), the painting (about rockets). Amazing what happens when the ‘forced’ nature is taken out of education and it just happens. Also brings to mind my thoughts on competition but that’s a whole other issue.

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