Letting it Percolate

Letting it Percolate



If your family is anything like mine, whole days can go by without any formal learning taking place.  Emphasis on formal (in contrast, not a day goes by without any learning taking place).  Our days are full, but they are also full of time.  Time to play, time to think, time to live with a concept and let it become a part of our lives.  In contrast to the drill and kill method of schooling – which conveniently has been drilled into many of us – we prefer to let it percolate.

Whereas in a school situation, there is limited time to introduce a concept, and to evaluate whether or not a child has grasped it before moving on, at home, time can be practically unlimited.  One day your child, who was recently introduced to the concept of addition, will pipe up with – “Mommy, 10 plus 10 equals 20!”  Or they’ll take their lego car and use it to randomly explain force, gravity and friction to you.  These are moments that a teacher can’t always wait for.  That a formal learning setting would have to test for.  For homelearners, they are like a perfectly brewed cup of coffee.

So, how can we help our kids percolate?

Time.  We can give them time away from formal, sit-down, adult-introduced learning.  Time to play.  Time to think.  Alone time, and undirected together time.

Play. It doesn’t take much more than time to encourage most kids to play.  But, it is something we should be conscious of – both in providing time for self-directed play, and approaching learning in the spirit of play.  Both will help our kids absorb the things they are experiencing (read: learning), and face them with a positive, natural interest.

Arts. We just read this fabulous picture book about Albert Einstein (thanks Jamie at Simple Homeschool for recommending it!).  When Albert was overwhelmed with his thoughts (which he gave himself plenty of time to process), he took a break and played his violin.  In the Waldorf philosophy, this same concept is addressed with the practice of handwork: knitting, felting, painting.  Something about repetition, and using the parts of our brain that address the arts, allows our intellectual brain to rest.  And reset.

My  3 year old daughter reminded me of this today.  My son was frustrated with something he couldn’t do, and she pipes up with: “When Albert needed a break he would go and play his violin.”  It made me smile.  She was right. Sometimes we need a break. Sometimes we need to let it percolate. Process.

In this case, she, too, was letting it percolate.  We read the Einstein book together a few days ago.  I didn’t ask her to tell me what lessons she learned from it. We didn’t have a formal discussion about it. But, she was thinking. Letting it percolate.  And then applying it to real life. Her life.

Isn’t that the end goal?

I’d love to know how your kids process things.  What do they or you do to allow them time to percolate?


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  1. This really strikes home. We have less formal learning days than I ever imagined, between driving around like crazy to various activities and farm chores, I always feel this nagging guilt that we are not doing enough science or math or grammar or whatever. I want to have faith that what they are learning is taking hold in the small moments, the playing, the writing, the dreaming.

    Thank you for this.

    • You’re quite welcome! I often feel the same way. I wonder if we ever get over that, or if it’s just something we have to remind ourselves of – that they are always learning, and in wonderful, untold ways. Thanks for taking the time to comment. :)


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