Always learning

Written by contributor Rachel Wolf of Lusa Organics and Clean

Last week my mom came to visit.

When she arrived I was cleaning up from a class I had just taught to our homeschooling coop.

As we tidied up, she asked about our lesson.

“What were you teaching?”

I have a background in environmental education, so we could have easily been digging in to some serious topics.

Endangered species management, ecology, or plant taxonomy perhaps.

Or maybe something basic yet academic.

Like math.

But instead I was teaching letterboxing.

Letterboxing is a treasure hunt.

Using clues and a compass, you find your way to a well hidden box, often in a natural area.

The box contains a notebook and a rubber stamp.

Using the stamp and notebook you brought along, you exchange stamp prints and re-hide the box.

We love letterboxing and do it often.

It is not, however, what you would call “school-y”.

My mom was unimpressed.

“Yes. But what are they learning?” she asked.

Like much of our homeschooling, there was a wide breadth of learning happening at once.

They were reading and writing, sequencing and problem solving. Developing fine motor, gross motor, social skills, and more.

But to be honest, I hadn’t given that much thought.

Academic goals (in this case) were secondary to how awesome it would be to find, create, and hide letterboxes with our friends.

And while sometimes learning objectives are at the center of my mind, often they are not.

Because I believe that learning happens all of the time, I rarely keep score.

I am – of course – aware of the strengths and struggles of each of my children.

But we don’t have a fixed time-frame for pushing through those struggles.

We’re taking it easy. Each at their own pace.

Isn’t that half of the beauty of homeschooling?

To allow each child to set their ideal pace.

Our days are rich with freedom. We are learning constantly, whatever each  moment brings.

And we trust that given the right environment, each child will learn what they need to know in order to thrive.

That trust prevents me from hurrying them into a lesson they aren’t ready – or hungry – for.

In truth, I don’t take credit for their learning. 

Their learning is organic. And it is all their own.

They teach themselves through their insatiable curiosity.

I’m just their liaison with the world.

So what are they learning?

Whatever they are ready for.

If they have asked the question, then they are soaking in the knowledge.

That goes for reading, math, science – and yes, even letterboxing.

Because it doesn’t need to look like school to be rich with opportunity.

What about your family? What unusual activities are favorite learning opportunities for your children?

Want to learn more about letterboxing? I share our letterboxing story here, or visit, or

About Rachel Wolf

Rachel Wolf woke up recently and realized that she's living the life she has always wanted. Her days are spent with and two spunky unschoolers, running LuSa Organics (her small business), and hanging the laundry out on the line. Rachel writes about her homeschooling, homemaking, and non-violent parenting path on her blog Clean.


  1. This is such a great post. I have been homeschooling in this way lately and I feel like I need to remind myself that learning is always happening.
    Twisted Cinderella’s latest post: Wordless Wednesday: Cell Phone Captures

  2. I love this post. Our “school” goes very much the same way as yours. I am often getting comments from my mother about what the kids are doing or aren’t doing. I love reading about other homeschoolers who’s school looks like ours. I love knowing we aren’t alone in our endeavors.

  3. I worry about documenting learning for the government powers that be, but other than that I agree with your laid back approach. Today my daughter and I walked to the post office and on the way home she asked why the sidewalk was cracked. I tried to explain the expansion of freezing water in a way I thought a three year old could understand. She seemed to think it was cool. It gave me hope for future homeschooling.
    Bethany Vitaro’s latest post: As We Wait: Now for Nook Too!

    • This is my concern as well. We’re coming up on our very first “portfolio review” with our county. _I_ think what we’re doing is adequate, but what do I put in the little boxes on their form which is standard for all grades k-12? Do I say what I actually think (which is “it’s just kindergarten, just let him play!”)? Do I try to make it _sound_ like we’re doing something specific for “art” and “health” and “social studies?”

      I think I’m mostly nervous because it’s my first time and I don’t really know what to expect.
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  4. Having gone to school myself, and now a home-educator, I still struggle with letting go of a set curriculum. I am entering our fourth year with the children at home, and am only now starting to gain the confidence and understanding that they are indeed learning all the time.

    I don’t know if this is the most FUN, but what gives me the most satisfaction that my children are learning, are working in and around the home. When I come along side them and show them how to clean a bathroom, or when they cook and bake with me – those are when I feel, “YES, this is what it’s all about, and what they won’t have time to master if they were going to school day in and day out.”

    I love having the privilege of training my children and preparing them for daily life as adults, as they master basic skills that I was never taught growing up.
    Tehila’s latest post: I need courage!

  5. I loved this article! It’s so easy to put learning in a box, and think they have to be using books, or workbooks to be learning. Like you said, they are learning through life. Great reminder. Thanks for linking up with us at Courtship Connection!

  6. What are they learning? A little geography, survival skills, logic. Just because it doesn’t quite fit the cookie cutter, doesn’t mean you can’t learn anything. It sounds like it was a fun class.
    Suanna’s latest post: In School this Week…

  7. What are they NOT learning? Everything is so new to kids that they’re soaking up far more than you could teach them, and they’re enjoying the process. And so are you — being a liaison is so much more fun than being a teacher.

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