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    Educational Philosophy, Home Education, Mother's Education

    How She Learns: My Personal Continuing Education Journey

    September 23, 2014 by Brandy Vencel
    How she Learns: My personal education journey

    I ‘ve already told you that I think the possibilities are endless. There are a million creative ways that we can continue learning while we do this wife/mom/homeschool/insert-other-job-name-here gig. So today, I’m going to tell you what I actually do. Keep in mind that it looked almost totally different when I had four little children, three of whom were under the age of four. I was lucky at that time if I was able to get in that 30-minutes-per-day minimum.

    Listen to this post as a podcast episode:

    These days, my youngest child is the age my oldest child was back then. There are no high chairs at my dining table. Everyone can take a shower and go to the bathroom and get themselves into the car (on time!) without assistance. It’s just a different stage.

    When you’re in the midst of those busy early years, it feels like it lasts forever. And for people who are blessed with more children, it does last a lot longer than it did for me. But eventually, that stage comes to a end, and things are just … different. There is more time — time beyond the minimum.

    This is what I do with my time. I’m going to use some of the categories in my previous post οn a mama’s continuing education to guide my explanation. I inadvertently used some things I do as examples in that post, so I’m not going to repeat myself here. This is whatever I failed to mention before, meaning that the two posts together give a full picture of how I approach this part of life.

    Variety of Reading

    During the school year, I choose very few books for myself because my number one priority is to pre-read for my students. Because I’ve been pre-reading all along, this mostly consists of reading for AmblesideOnline Year Seven.

    Originally, I approached pre-reading as a chore that got in the way of the things I wanted to read. A couple years in, I realized I was reaping huge benefits from the AO curriculum — that I was actually becoming a better educated person! — and that entirely changed my attitude.

    I submitted to the curriculum as something that wasn’t just good for my children; it was good for me. So I got a commonplace journal, a book of centuries, and a nature journal, and I started pursuing the curriculum as my own form of learning.

    This means that right now, I’m reading eighteen books on a variety of subjects. Thankfully, AO reads these books in very small bites, so it’s not as overwhelming as it sounds. Because we are finally in the upper school years, most of these books are actually written for adults, and they. are. a. feast. I usually cannot wait until my study and prep time.

    My reading, then, falls into these broad categories (this is how I think of it, anyhow):

    • History/Geography
    • Philosophy/Logic
    • Literature/Poetry
    • Government/Economics
    • Citizenship
    • Science/Nature Lore

    I’m not able to read much in addition to the curriculum. So, right now I’m reading a book for the AO MEC (Mothers’ Education Course) project, and I’m trying to (slowly) finish up a couple things I was reading this summer, and that’s it.

    There are two big categories missing from this list, but I tend to cover those in other forms.

    The reading I choose myself is seasonal. I often squirrel away books for a break week, the Christmas holidays, or summer break. I have to be really picky, though, because most of my reading is not my own.

    The Importance of Scheduling

    If I didn’t have a scheduled time to read, it wouldn’t get done, at least not consistently. As much as I love to read, it would be drowned out by other duties. I have set aside Sunday afternoons for reading, but this year I’m also doing some reading on Friday or Saturday afternoons as it fits in. Year Seven is quite a lot, and I want my Sunday reading to feel leisurely, not rushed.


    I mentioned magazines in my previous post, and I highly suggest the ones I mentioned. I think good blogs can also be a sort of magazine, and we can get a lot out of reading them. I really try to use blogs for education, and they have always served me well. With some blogs, I will subscribe for a season. For example, when I was preparing to refinish some furniture I owned, I subscribed to a number of blogs that focused on furniture repair and painting and I learned a ton. After the project, I unsubscribed to those blogs.

    There are other blogs that I’ve subscribed to for many years. I use a feed reader called Feedly which I’ve divided into categories: educational philosophy, theology and culture, nature lore and science, blogging and web design, news, food and health. On weekdays, this is often where I do my reading. I can’t necessarily get thirty minutes in a row, but I can snag ten minutes here and there, and that’s easily done in a feed reader.


    My ability to listen to podcasts ebbs and flows. When I walk outside, with my children (which happens more in fine weather than in the summer, of course), I don’t bring along a gadget. I’m often unsubscribing and moving things around because, like I said, I think using a twaddle filter for all these things is a good idea. Our time is limited, so we must make the most of it.

    I’d love to hear what your favorite podcasts are, by the way!

    Local Group Meetings

    I’m a part of two local groups, technically speaking. The first is a small group. This is the leadership team for the larger group I’m a part of. Both groups are such a joy to me. We read and study together, discuss our lives — especially school and children, but we aren’t limited to that — and I always leave refreshed. I really can’t recommend a local group enough.

    The Children as a Category

    This really didn’t fit into my Mother Culture post from before, but I feel like I cannot leave off without mentioning it. This idea appears in the original article upon which I based my Mother Culture post:

    Then she can listen to her children, and perhaps do a little thinking–not about frocks and foods, but about characters, and how to deal with them; or she can take a book, and “grow” that way.

    The emphasis of the article is upon reading, so that’s where I put the emphasis in my post, but I did want to mention this. It is a worth-while expenditure of time to sit and thoughtfully, honestly observe my children. Usually, before I do this, I pray that God will give me eyes to see, because it is so easy to invent excuses for why our children are the way they are.

    A few times a year, I sit and observe, and then I tell my husband what I’m thinking. From there, we try and devise a plan of action for how to help our children overcome their faults and weaknesses. Sometimes, when something is really going wrong with a child, we can read and read and nothing comes, but when we spend time in mindful observance, we are able to untangle the mystery.

    Our children can sometimes be an area of study.

    In Conclusion

    And this concludes our series! This is sort of amazing, actually. When I wrote the original Learning how to Live post, I didn’t have it in mind to write a series. And when I started writing the series, I had no idea that I was in for such a delightful journey. Thank you all for walking along with me.

    Click here to return to the series index.

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