Friday, September 4, 2015

What is educational?

According to the definition of education is: 

1.  the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.

As unschoolers, not everything we do looks educational by mainstream standards (though some of it surely does), but this life provides a rich education nonetheless. 

*All photos in this post were taken during the last two weeks in August.
Is wandering alongside a river educational?
What about looking in the mud for animal tracks?
bee balm gone to seed and blue lobelia

Is learning to identify wildflowers and plants educational? What about knowing which weeds are edible, or medicinal, or may cause a rash?

wild ginger

What about exploring a nature reserve?
Playing with sticks?

Does learning how to be quiet and still within count towards an education? What about learning when your body needs rest, or food, or time to lay in the grass and daydream? Or time to run, twist, and jump? How to pay attention to your breath? Or how to calm yourself when you're angry?
Is identifying, harvesting, and cooking chicken of the woods (Laetiporus sulphurus) educational? We only harvested a small portion of this beauty and added it to a stir fry over rice and it was delicious!

What about learning how to read a map to find the trail head? And then reading a trail map to keep on course?
Is being able to examine nature up close at your own pace an educational activity?
Is doodling mandalas part of an education?

What about skating in the house with your sister?
Or learning art techniques, such as glue batik, to create a family banner for the backyard?

What about flipping through magazines? What if those magazines have titles like Muse, Smithsonian, Wisconsin Magazine of History, Wisconsin Natural Resources, National Geographic, Science News, Popular Science, Scientific American? What if they don't?
Surely reading is educational. What about reading while swinging? Or listening to audio books? Or snuggling on the couch reading Harry Potter aloud after everyone else is in bed? What if we're reading an encyclopedia of animals of the world but are never, ever going to be tested on it?
Is climbing educational?
Or searching along the river banks for clam shells?

Or making ripples in the water and seeing how far they extend over time?
Is learning to appreciate beauty wherever you find it part of an education?

Is playing with friends educational? Surely, the word socialization gets thrown around a lot as it pertains to homeschoolers.

What about watching YouTube videos about Minecraft? Or playing Minecraft? What if the videos are AsapSCIENCE, or CrashCourse, or Doodling in Math, or how to make homemade lipstick from coconut oil and crayons? Which ones are educational? Which ones aren't being learned from?

Sylvia and her friend made several different colors of lipstick using beeswax crayons and regular ones to compare.

Is growing, harvesting, and preparing fresh garden food part of an education?
Or learning how to make peach crisp?
What about collaborating with a friend on canvas?

Is watching a satirical comedy show about current events educational? Or listening to public radio? Or volunteering to help provide supplies and services to local families in need? Who decides what constitutes an education?

We don't unschool 'cause we're anti-school. We do it because we're pro-living-and-learning, and it works well for us. So well. And full of goodness.


  1. Woods and paper mandalas and the Smithsonian... all familiar, these last few days.
    Lipstick? No! I think Maddie and her friend would love that. : )

  2. More familiarity, Stephanie, huh? No surprise there. ;) The lipstick is worth trying. Sylvia and her friend really enjoyed it!

  3. YES!!!!!!! i looked around on the local first day of school, and i saw one kid immersed in taping together sheets of paper to make a huge map of our town, just 'cause she wanted to, and another announcing that she needed a few hours on the shared computer because she was so excited about where her story was going...but even examining the stink bug we found under the bed, making grilled cheese sandwiches, harvesting mint, going camping, making lipstick (my girls love doing this!), or drawing faces over and over and's all just exactly what we should be doing, and it is RICH!! i love the juice you are sharing.

    1. Lovely! It takes so many different forms, doesn't it? Some of them exciting and some of them seemingly mundane, but it is all sooo good.


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