Inspired to Learn
Lessons from baby turtles & dolphins
“Children come in to the world burning to learn and genetically programmed with extraordinary capacities for learning. They are little learning machines… They acquire an incredible amount of knowledge about the physical and social world around them. All of this is driven by their inborn instincts and drives, their innate playfulness and curiosity.”
—Peter Gray “Free to Learn”
After spending four months in Mexico, we realized we needed to use this as more of an opportunity for our girls to learn Spanish. So our older girls started an online Spanish course for kids in March. It’s very interactive & so far they love it. Right away we printed off some worksheets that it came with for them to practice. They spent about two hours working on them that afternoon, asking for minimal help & then printing all the words they needed to complete the activities. They loved doing that “work” & it was fun! They requested more school worksheets, so we subscribed to a site with lots of different options for their levels & they’re excited to choose a few each day. That’s how learning should be—inspiring, joy-filled, & rewarding
I recently read a book called “World Schooling” by Ashley Dymock De Tello. She interviewed many parents of children who are educating while travelling. Many of them have found education is more effective if they encourage their kids to learn at their own pace & timing, when they express interest in things they see in the world around them. Not the usual rushed, on-target, reward-system we’re used to in our standardized western schools. Not that we shouldn’t encourage kids to read, write, & learn math. Those are needed skills for life. But helping them pursue their interests as they arise increases their desire to learn.
Daniel Prince, a “world schooling” father of four says:
“Kids in schools these days don’t have a love of learning. It’s just ‘sit down in a classroom with 30 kids, heads down, [be quiet], listen to this, see what I’ve got on the chalkboard & open your books to page 62.’ There’s no love there. But if you can give a child a love of learning so that they want to learn...& you can give them the tools to go & learn (which we have now at the touch of a button), then they’ll educate themselves.”
Kids want to learn. It’s inherently in them. Ours have been saying, “Can we watch a video about how the tides work? Can we learn about pelicans? They looked so cool on the dock last night! Can we find out more about the Mayan people & how they lived? I liked swimming in the cenote. Where do they come from?” What they’re observing here, in nature, the culture, archeological sites, & visiting various zoos has inspired them to dig deeper. Since we came to Mexico, even though we’re moving around quite a bit, the girls use our dining room table wherever we are for their Lego projects, arts & crafts, writing daily in their journals, & doing their worksheets. We have to clear it off several times a day just to use it for eating meals 😄
Several weeks ago, I realized I hadn’t encouraged Teija (6) to read in quite awhile, so we started reading together again. Now that she’s back into it, she’s been picking up books on her own, & reading through them, only asking for help with the more difficult words.
Eva (8) & I have had a tradition since December that we will quite often play Memory in the evenings, after her younger sisters are in bed. I was pleasantly surprised at first at how playing against her really challenges me—I think she has a bit of a photographic memory, & wins more in an evening than I do. I like to think that it also helps me—gotta do whatever I can to ward off losing my memory. My grandparents played Scrabble every evening & it kept them sharp—neither of them ever got dementia!
Eva is learning her times tables with the help of flash cards, writing them out, & doing worksheets—she’s even been teaching Teija the easier ones as she goes. It’s pretty amazing to listen to them, going back & forth. The way Eva wants to teach, & Teija wants to keep up, is inspiring to me.
Another thing we’ve noticed is how our girls are all becoming much braver in the water. Being near a pool or the beach for nearly four months of our stay has definitely been “swimming immersion” for them. Just a few months ago, Teija could barely swim ten feet, grabbing the edge of the pool, as she went. Now she can swim the full length of a 30-foot pool, likes putting her face in (she hated it before), & goes out over her head in the ocean, following me, doing her doggy-paddle with confidence. Eva has taught herself to do some amazing flips & spins underwater. And Annika is enjoying swimming with the help of her floatie or one of us supporting her as she goes.
We released baby turtles on the beach in Puerto Escondido the other night. There must have been over a hundred of us out there with our coconut shells, lined up to collect a cute little squirming “tortuga.”Teija’s was so eager to get going, it scrambled out of the coconut shell, & landed in the sand before we even got them to their launching point! We helped it back in without touching it (our oils are bad for them) which was pretty challenging, & then she happily traded with me, for my much calmer one.
What fascinating little creatures—they will travel the world, & then come back to this same shore years from now, to lay their own eggs. And they have the potential to live for 150 years!
Watching them scamper down the shore & into the water to swim for the first time in their lives was exhilarating. The volunteers told us that the sun guides them, & that’s why we had to release them around 5:30p.m.
But seeing a few of those enthusiastic & innocent little guys get taken off by seagulls who badly wanted a tasty snack was devastating for all of us, especially the girls. We were glad there were several volunteers throwing sand up to scare most of those squawking gulls away. Of the dozens our group released that evening, only a few were lost. It was a good opportunity for us to teach our girls about the realities of nature & the food chain, although harsh.
We got up early the next morning & were headed out to sea by 7 a.m, with 6 others & our expert “capitán.” After almost an hour of watching the town grow smaller while bouncing over waves at high speeds, we knew we had arrived at our destination. Dolphins were jumping up everywhere! Not just ahead, but beside our little boat, & around the other boats nearby too. Suddenly a spurt of water shooting straight up—a huge whale surfaced right amongst all of those excited creatures.
Our captain welcomed us to swim there, making a joke about us being shark breakfast & another about his “propina” (tip) going up if we swam for too long. Several of our group jumped out, including Tom.
Then our youngest, Annika, still 3, decided she HAD to get in. She wouldn’t let up, almost in tears, insisting she needed to get into that deep blue rolling ocean water...so Tom took her & she rocked on the waves, tasting the salt water, & clinging to her daddy for a few minutes, her face one big smile. After we hoisted her back in the boat, I took my opportunity. I’d never been this far out at sea, swimming on the waves...what better time than when hundreds of dolphins were jumping up nearby, not to mention a huge whale might come by & spray us, as it came up for some air.
Could this really be happening?! It was almost overwhelming how many of those enthusiastic creatures there were everywhere before us! Pictures & even videos can’t begin to capture the scene we witnessed. And they weren’t just jumping out of the water as they hurriedly swam along, but doing back flips, twirling straight up into the open air, relishing in their freedom & absolute joy. It was such a magnificent display of acrobatics, like nothing we’d ever seen before. They were elated, & seemed to be on a mission to get somewhere. And at the same time they couldn’t help but express their uncontainable zeal for life. We were all in awe, almost left speechless by the wonder of what we were watching. What an amazing gift from our Creator to be out amongst such incredible yet mysterious animals—some of the most intelligent in the world 💙
Our girls have learned so much by being on this adventure. Just yesterday I overheard our oldest speaking in Spanish to a girl about her age, also waist-deep in the rolling ocean water. “Si, pero no hablo mucho Español. Me llamo Eva. ¿Como te llamas?” All I could do was look on & smile. Every little bit is a step towards our girls learning a new language…& so many other new things.
“Poco a poco” as they say here 💛