Learning doesn't really begin, it is with us from our moment of conception, because it is synonymous with growing. And growing is synonymous with living.
Babies begin with observation, imitation, curiosity, exploration. Sensory exploration and observation is their doorway into knowledge of their world. How things feel. What things look like. How things smell. What things taste like. As they explore and touch, their parents begin modelling the names of the things, giving their infants names for these things they sense. And then comes repetition. They say a new word over and over again. Partially for the joy of their new trick. Mostly for practice. When they learn to run, they run for the joy of their new skill. And for practice. This is learning. After words comes groups of words. Groups of words of followed by sentences. Sentences followed by stories. Lines by a crayon are followed by scribbles. Scribbles followed by marks resembling words. Then might come single letters - perhaps the first letter of your name, or the first letter of your pet, favourite food, or favourite story. Then comes words, or parts of words. Groups of words. Sentences. Stories. This is learning.
Observation, imitation, curiosity, exploration, questioning, repetition. These are the ingredients for learning and they are how we learn throughout our lives. Learning is hardwired into our bodies and souls. The trick, as our children grow, is to harness this natural method of learning and weave it into formal studies, combining what we love with what we need to know and understand.
Two ingredients are important to creating the bridge between what could be considered play learning and formal learning. A library and a garden.
Sharing stories with our children as a natural part of our daily lives paves the way for reading, writing, listening, reasoning, and creating. Stories weave knowledge of our world into life. Distinct, yet connected. Stories not only connect us with each other and grow a common culture within our family, but they open doorways into untold areas of knowledge. Stories in written form connect us with reading and writing. Stories unlock interests and ideas. Stories promote conversation.
Gardening, appreciating gardens, and simply spending time outdoors is a living gateway into maths and science. Counting, comparing, contrasting, observing, seeing and making patterns, measurements, and shapes, becoming acquainted with what forms our earth home and what shares our natural world with us are all hidden gems open to us when we spend time outdoors. Picking flowers, digging in dirt, climbing trees, rock hopping, splashing in creeks, eating outdoors, enjoying nature walks, watching birds fly, catching dandelion fuzz, shell collections, pressing leaves, picnics, are all ways to form a relationship with our living world. Interacting thoughtfully and meaningfully with nature connect us with an experience of science and maths. Nature connects us with our home. Nature unlocks wonder, interests, and ideas. Nature promotes conversation.
This is how learning begins.