Wednesday, January 19, 2011

8 Ways a Mama Bear Can Learn

If Mama ain't learning...ain't nobody learning.

What do I mean?

Sometime in the last four or five generations we have picked up the idea, as a society, that learning happens at schools and universities. It is something that is done to a student by a qualified individual - often against that student's will. One day the student will graduate and then they will get to stop learning, other than occasional professional development or perhaps further education - again done at a school like facility or university.

I am going to assume that if you are reading this blog you at least have a passing interest in home education. Therefore, it is fairly safe to assume that you already know that people can and do learn somewhere other than school. But do you know that YOU can learn still? Do your children know it? Do they SEE it?

Not long ago I mentioned to Princess Doc that I had learned something and she asked "How come you didn't know that already? You're a grown up!" I explained that I am still learning every day and I hope to still be learning every day when I am ninety or more. It was a light bulb moment for her. Suddenly learning wasn't a path to be followed to a destination but an amazing place to be explored every day forever!

Why should we keep learning?

* To set a good example. A child will emulate behavior modeled far more readily than they will follow good advice. If your children see you learning, making mistakes, trying again, researching a topic of interest and completing a project they will learn skills that directly apply to their own studies and their own lives through your example.

* To keep your brain healthy. Research suggests that a good diet, exercise and lifelong learning are our best defense against age related brain disorders and mental illness like Alzheimers, age related bipolar disorder and many other devastating illnesses. If you don't use it you may well loose it.

* To maintain healthy relationships. If you are a homeschooling mother odds are you are home with your children most of the time. It is VERY easy to make homeschooling, mothering and keeping house into an all consuming task. Ask yourself, if your ENTIRE identity is your home and children, what kind of relationship do you have with your husband? What kind of relationship will you have with your children when they leave home? I am by no means suggesting that we should shirk our responsibilities in this area in order to pursue hobbies and selfish interests but I am suggesting that a well rounded mind can help us to be better wives, mothers and home makers.

* To develop our talents. If you are not familiar with the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30, I'll encourage you to go and read it.

How do we keep on learning?

OK about now there are women rolling their eyes at the monitor and saying "Great, ANOTHER thing to add to the to-do list!".

It's not about working harder, it's about working smarter! To learn, you don't need to enroll in a Masters program, you simply need to try something new, open a book, read something! Here are a few ideas of how to keep the learning going with a busy schedule.

1 Make yourself a book list. If you look at the top of this blog you will see a link labeled Mama Bear's Reading List. This is a list of books I want to read. I am trying to work through it at a slightly faster rate than I add to it! I read while I feed the littlest baby bear, I read while I wait for a doctor's appointment, I read for five or ten minutes after I get into bed (provided I get to bed before midnight), I read during nap times, I read whenever I get a spare moment and I'm not knitting...sometimes I multi-task and knit too. Compared to my ten book a week habit that I had pre-children it takes me a horribly long time to get through any book but the greatest thing about my learning right now is NO END OF SEMESTER EXAMS! If it takes me a year to get through a book, so what? As long as I am reading and enjoying and learning, what does it matter how long I take?

2 Practice a new skill or craft. I am a self confessed yarn addict. I love to knit and I am also learning to crochet. There is always something to learn with these crafts and I am constantly challenged, frustrated, ecstatic, devastated, intrigued and thrilled with my yarn adventures. Thankfully, this is a portable and easy craft to pursue. I knit in front of the TV, in the car, while I listen to children reading, while I wait for appointments, when I am camping, when I am visiting friends, when I take the kids to playgroup. Pretty much any time I sit down and I'm not reading, I have yarn. Sometimes, I do both. I realise that not all crafts are this easy to accommodate, but get creative. If it is cake decorating, scrap booking, quilting or dress making that boils your personal potato find a way or make a way to do just a little bit each week. You will be surprised how fast it clocks up.

3 Connect with fellow students and experts. When I joined ravelry, a yarn crafter's social networking site, I fell in love with knitting all over again. You can find all sorts of forums, blogs and websites all over the net. You may have a local group or a friend with a shared interest who you can connect with. You need to be aware of your time spent here and make sure that it is adding to your learning, not taking away from your living (as internet over-usage is apt to do!) but it can be worth doing. Barns and Noble run book clubs on their site which can be a great way to find people to discuss what you are reading with you.

4 Make use of podcasts, audio books and other techno aids. Downloading a few podcasts into your MP3 player to listen to as you do the dishes or go for a walk, or peg out washing can be a fabulous, time efficient way to add to your learning. Seriously folks, there is SO MUCH out there, your problem will be narrowing it down. Here is a list of 20 places to start just from my own bookmarks and poking around. Can you believe, I am still saving for my MP3 player?

free classic audiobooks
free christian audiobooks
homeschool radioshows

(just as a side note, if your kids have ipods to load up with lots and lots of educational goodies, you may be interested in this page telling you how to set a maximum volume to protect your precious offspring from industrial deafness:

5 Don't be afraid just to dabble. I love to write. My writing consists of sporadic blogging and the grand aim of writing just one sentence per night in my journal. My garden teaches me heaps, but probably only gets an hour or two a week out of me. I love to cook new things, but only try maybe one new recipe per week. If you set your self small, attainable steps toward learning or improving your skills you will be more likely to get it done. ACHIEVABLE is the key word here.

6 Keep a notebook. If there is a particular topic that interests you, start a notebook where you jot relevant facts, ideas, book titles that you want to track down, paste newspaper and magazine articles and make notes as you read books related to the subject. It could be dog breeding, meta-physical poetry, the role of women in the Bible, household management methods or healthy eating. Whatever it is, keeping your thoughts and research in a central place can help connect the dots. It doesn't need to be fancy, it won't be submitted for marking, it is for your eyes only.

7 Link it to the kids school work. You love scrapbooking? Have the kids help you make a scrapbook and call it arts and crafts - or better yet, teach them to create their own scrap book about subjects they are studying (check out these links for more ideas:,, or just google homeschooling scrapbooking). Do you love dressmaking? Have the kids help you make medieval costumes as part of their history and craft learning. I always wanted to learn Latin so guess what we are learning this year? That's right! I can justify teaching Latin lots of different ways but when it boils down to it I want to learn it and it won't hurt for them to learn it too. Kids can make great study buddies! And sometimes, the best way to learn something is to teach it.

8 Take a short course. You may not be able to commit to a Masters program, but perhaps you have time to take an Adult Ed course. Perhaps you can take a course online. I quickly scanned an interesting blog post the other day listing "12 Dozen Places To Educate Yourself Online For Free" and you can bet I have bookmarked that one for a better look. This is something I am more likely to pursue in a season of life when the bear cubs aren't quite so time-intensive, but it's nice to plan ahead sometimes. Perhaps you have a burning desire to learn how to Zumba, join your local gym. Perhaps you want to learn how to throw pots or draw, the local TAFE may well be running a short course. If you can work it in, it can be well worth doing.

So check it out, think about it and get creative with your time. I honestly believe, nobody is to busy to learn.


  1. You're absolutely right, and have expressed all of this so well! I realised a long while ago that my educational desires would be more easily satisfied in autodidactic fashion, than a post-grad course which would never meet my lofty expectations and particular interests (and be expensive, time consuming and vain).

    I often bookmark sites which interest me, but don't often find time to visit them. So this year I'm also starting my own physical binder, to work through in free moments. I might aim to blog about my 'curriculum' (ha ha) once a term or so too.

    Happy learning!!

  2. Great Idea Butterfly! Blogging on a regular basis about what you're learning would be a fantastic way to pull your thoughts and learning together - kind of like an online learning journal. When the bear cubs are a bit older I will be encouraging them to start blogs to journal their own learning so I guess it would work for Mama Bears too!