When a Random Comment Reflects Learning

My four-year-old getting ready to carry the beetle to our garden after his talk with it.

After they find out that we homeschool, people often ask me how I know my kids are learning.  After all, while kids in schools (and even some homeschoolers) take tests, I don’t test my children.  And the answer is, in a myriad of ways.


Sometimes I know they’re learning because they demonstrate a skill.  For example, my 8-year-old can add, subtract, multiply, divide, and work basic fractions.  I know this because these are skills he uses to accurately calculate a variety of things in his day-to-day life.  On a similar note, I know he can read because he reads voraciously, and he talks about the things he’s read.


My four-year-old gains new skills and proficiencies on, it seems, an almost daily basis.  He’s constantly doing things himself that he used to need help with.


At other times, my boys will ask questions that clearly prove prior knowledge of a subject.  They want to know more about whatever it is they’re interested in.


And, sometimes, I see their learning not through any concrete task, but simply through some random comment.  For instance, the other week my 4-year-old called me outside to meet a beetle he had found in our yard.  As I sat watching him interact with the beetle, he said, “Oh you beautiful beetle!  You decompose things and make rich soil.  Did you know that?  Let me put you over here so you can make dirt for our garden.  Thank you, friend!”


And then I knew, all of our talks about the importance of beetles to the eco-system had stuck.  When we checked out that stack of beetle books from the library, he retained some of the information.  I didn’t need to give him a test on beetles, a random comment let me know that he was learning.


In addition to the things I see or hear, I know there are so many things that my boys learn that I’m simply not aware of.  But I know that they’re both curious.  I know that they love to learn.  And I choose not to worry about the specifics of which bits of information they may or may not know at any given moment.


There are a great many things I want my boys to learn before I will consider their schooling complete.  But I also trust that they’ll learn them in time, and I don’t feel compelled to test them to see how far we are along that road.  They’ll show me in their own ways, and some days I get delightful surprises – like the above conversation with a beetle, that demonstrate that we’re on the right path.



By the way, if you’re looking for a good book on beetles, one of our favorites is The Beetle Book by Steve Jenkins.

4 thoughts on “When a Random Comment Reflects Learning

  1. tonilea

    That is very impressive. You must be doing a wonderful job (better than any school I know of). Congrats to you and blessings to your family. Your sons sound super smart. It has been a LONG time since my children were little but I remember a book from the library (a very elementary story) that was about spiders in the garden. I loved that book and read it to my children often, but I have forgotten the name of it as well as the author and am wondering if you might have a suggestion/recollection — I have to bring a book to a baby shower (for MY baby) and I would love to get that book for her. If you have any other suggestions I am totally open to them — you sound like a great resource! Thanks.

    • Thank you. You are very sweet.

      I don’t think I know the book you are referencing. If you look under the “children’s books” link in the tag cloud on the right side bar, I’ve reviewed a few children’s books that we particularly enjoyed. Perhaps that will help?

  2. tonilea

    Me again! I suddenly realized I need to be more specific. It is NOT a book about spiders. There just happened to be a spider in the book (hiding in a cabbage I think). I have googled books about spiders and children’s books etc etc. I did not find what I was looking for. As I remember, the illustrations were similar to those in Margaret Wise Brown books. I realize this is a long shot (picking your brain, I mean) but frankly, I am stumped — I want a book that no one else will be bringing. We were sked to bring a book instead of a card, which is a nice idea, but I figure she will get several copies of Goodnight Moon and The Day You were Born and I’ll Love You Forever which are all wonderful, but one copy is sufficient! Thanks again.

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