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How People Learn

How People Learn

How people learn is of particular interest to parents and educators alike. For those who have studied how to learn, it’s evident that there are three distinct stages of learning. Those stages are known by different names, depending on what educational pedagogy you follow. To be sure, there are subtle differences between them, but the heart of the matter remains the same.

The Stages of Learning

Learning takes place in these stages:

  • Overview
  • Familiarity
  • Expertise


EducationClassical ModelCharlotte MasonUnschooling
1.      Overview1.      Grammar – Memorization1.      Collect1.      Extensive Exposure
2.      Familiarity2.      Dialectic – Logic2.      Connect2.      Feed Interest
3.      Expertise3.      Rhetoric – the Art of Persuasion3.      Compose3.      Fuel Passion


How It Used to Be

When I was growing up, “learning” – the expectation that we would fully understand something – went fast. To clarify, we were often shown a concept or explained once and then expected to “get it.

At least, I think that’s what happened. I’m not exactly sure.

We were expected to know the first thing because we’d already moved on to the next thing. Since it was assumed we all understood the first thing, kids who couldn’t keep up with all the new stuff moved into the slower groups—those who could keep up (or pretend that they could) were segmented into the upper level. The kids bumbling along but not as slow were placed in the middle level.

We all tried our darndest not to be relegated to the lower level.

Happy young mother having fun with her child in summer day - Daughter kissing her mum outdoor - Family lifestyle, motherhood, love and tender moments concept - Focus on woman faceEverything is New

However, to kids, everything is new. They have little context about where to place all of the things they are learning. And kids are distracted (some more than others) by all the new things they are seeing, hearing, and feeling. For example, when you read a beloved childhood book to your child for the first time, you have associated memories. For your child, it’s the first point of contact.

Years ago, I heard Andrew Pudewa state that they most likely need it if your kid asks for help.

That was a paradigm shift for me since I grew up in a system where asking questions or needing help was frowned upon or showed weakness. In reality, when our children ask questions, they are trying to contextualize information and create a grid for new or unfamiliar information.

Why Learn About How We Learn?

When we understand how people learn, we can strategize our homeschool experience far beyond simply purchasing a curriculum. Of course, the curriculum is a piece of our overall strategy, along with nature studies, field trips, hands-on experiences, camps, community service, and more.

Also, knowing how people learn, and specifically how our kids learn, allows us to create a robust and dynamic homeschooling life that feeds the heart AND mind while doing all of the other necessary activities that educating humans require.

What to Expect When Homeschooling

Because we have a better understanding of how people learn, we can permit ourselves to go slower when needed. We adjust – cutting down on expectations or ramping them up as needed. We will come to expect questions and confusion – even occasional mayhem and frustration. Awareness that children will hit a point of “not getting it” allows that friction to be part of the process of learning instead of allowing frustration to mold our relationships or character.

So, what does this look like?

Let’s use learning how to knit as an example. These stages are the same if you are five years old or fifty!

Stage 1

Exposure to the tools and vocabulary of knitting: I need to learn how to hold the needles, position the yarn, “feed the yarn,” even roll the yarn into a ball, understand terms like “knit,” “pearl,” “cast on,” “cast off,” etc. I need to learn how to store my materials properly and practice the basics –like knit and pearl until they become second nature. I might find a knitting mentor, or call Gram, or watch YouTube videos, go to yarn stores, join Raverly or sign up for an online class or club as I gain exposure and an overview of what knitting is all about.

Stage 2

I am familiar with the terms in this stage, so I don’t have to look them up every time. I can easily practice casting on and knitting rows, pulling out, reading patterns, and gaining in my ability to knit with precision and care and follow directions, read patterns, and complete a small project with success. This is where friction often happens because the excitement of something new and novel has worn off, and you are not yet proficient enough to shake off mistakes. Re-working, tearing out work you’ve already done, looking up mistakes, asking questions, and problem-solving will get you through this stage.

Stage 3

At this stage, I begin to knit with some proficiency. Patterns or stitches are memorized, completing projects becomes second nature; consequently, I begin to modify or create original designs and perhaps even teach others to knit. This expertise allows me to delve into various aspects of fiber arts, adding other needlecrafts to my repertoire. I take joy in learning and modifying, doing, and adding to my knowledge base.


Do you see how this goes?

You can apply it to Math or star gazing, cooking, or mechanics regardless of age.

Understanding that there are stages of learning and that friction is just a part of the process can make learning anything more enjoyable!

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3 Reasons to Homeschool

3 Reasons to Homeschool

Everyone decides to homeschool for different reasons, but I want to share with you our top three reasons to homeschool.

Our homeschooling story began in 1991 way back in Southern California. We have continued to homeschool across the country, with numerous children (most of whom have now graduated) for the following reasons:

(Still unsure about homeschooling? Check out Should I Homeschool?)

Reason #1 – Education

Our kids are getting a solid education. Is it perfect? No. Are there gaps? Yes. Is that normal? I think so. Do we continue to hone and improve what we do? Yes.

Educating our kids at home has streamlined the academic process for the simple reason that there are fewer people to manage, no classes to change or halls and lockers to navigate, and no worksheets to slow us down. We learn the lesson; we move on. This pace has given our kids plenty of time to do things like scouts, sports, travel, read voraciously, study art, plant gardens, create things, help us re-build an acreage, serve others, write novels, participate in horseback riding, karate, and soccer, and pursue so many other interests.

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Reason #2 – Faith

Homeschooling allows your kids to have time to refine, define, and own their faith.

Of course, it doesn’t take homeschooling to allow kids to own their faith, but it does allow them time to own it before the world and peers, and a whole host of other voices, come along to batter and beat it into something almost, but possibly, not quite Christian. Our kids leave our home with a solid understanding of the Bible, including its history, language and culture, the history of the church, the importance and personhood of Jesus, and a glimpse at how imperfect people attempt to live a life of vibrant faith.

Is it perfect? No. Do we fail? Yes. Is that normal? I know so.

Kids grow up and decide and determine what values they’ll follow, what memories they’ll treasure, and which they discard. The voices of the world are loud and noisy, and there is no guarantee that any of our kids will grow up to follow much of anything they’ve been raised with. The whole idea that if we raise our kids a certain way, it will guarantee specific values and lifestyle in our kids is idolatry, pure and simple.

We get to follow God and be faithful to what He has called us to do. Our kids also have that choice- to hear and obey, or not. Twenty-eight years into this stint of homeschooling has taught me some hard lessons, and one of the most challenging has been to realize that everyone works out their own salvation with fear and trembling. We don’t get to take our kids, or our spouses, or anyone else to heaven — just us. But we can sure do our part on behalf of others, including our kids.

That being said, raising our kids with an understanding of the Bible, history, literature, critical thinking skills, and a knowledge of Faith is one of the greatest gifts we can give our kids. What they do with that gift is up to them.

Reason #3 – Family

It’s a busy world. Homeschooling has allowed us to spend hours together, playing, reading, learning, building, re-modeling, cooking, gardening, arguing, and laughing together. The good side of that is that everybody knows each other. The downside of this is that everybody knows each other.

Is it perfect? No. Do we get on each other’s nerves? You betcha’.

But really, how many people do you ever get to know well in life? Precious few. Add in social media and life online, and it’s no wonder that people are, literally, getting lonelier. Homeschooling has given our family time to sit around the fire watching fireflies and the Milky Way,  discuss great books, history, literature, and ideas for hours.  We can travel, sightsee, and fall in love with God’s world and each other. Quality time almost always demands quantity time. Our family has been blessed with plenty of both, and it has enriched each of our lives.

What are your top 3 reasons for homeschooling? Are they the same as when you first started or have they changed?

(Just now deciding to take the homeschooling plunge? Check out our post on Homeschooling 101.)

Do you currently homeschool? Or maybe you are considering it. Check out the three reasons why we homeschool. Are your reasons the same? Do you have anything you would add? #homeschooling #TrueNorthHomeschoolAcademy #whywehomeschool