My children are at the age where dinosaurs are their best friends. Not only do we read all sorts of books about dinosaurs, but thanks to Forest Park, there is a dinosaur park they love to visit every weekend. The other day they drew maps about how we went from our house to the park.
Out of everything there is to see and feel at Forest Park, my kids are so focused when they get to where 2 large replica dinosaurs are stationed, running around the dinosaurs and touching them all over (which makes me cringe given the ongoing pandemic). If there were real life animals, like little squirrels running through the park, my kids would not see it. Instead, all they see are the replica dinosaurs, all they touch are the dinosaurs and all they want to talk about involves the dinosaurs. For my kids, learning, even about dinosaurs is social.
Whether one child is constructing the map to the park by themselves or another child is running around the dinosaurs, the process of learning for them is the same. They create meaning with simple things like a trip to dinosaur park not as individuals, but as members of a social community with a general shared consensus, they formulate on their own, on how the journey from our house begins and how it ends at the dinosaur park.
But above being social, learning for my kids is collaborative. Scholars describe collaboration ‘as a natural learning process that all learners engage in from time to time.’ Homeschooling my kids this year, has fostered collaborative learning in ways I never expected or planned for. As a teacher and co-learner to a 3rd grade student, a first grade and junior kindergarten student, I have gained deeper understanding of how my children structure and make sense of their world. Like with our daily trips to the dinosaur park. Not only do they enjoy seeing and learning about the same dinosaurs every time we visit the park, I also enjoy watching them learn once again about the same dinosaurs. Every story, every experience, even at the same site and with the same replica dinosaurs is different. My role as their parent is blurred in this space. Their love for the park has vicariously become love for me also. Co-learning occurs between all of us in ways that are mutually satisfying, mutually valued as we make sense of the world around through the lens of dinosaurs. This co-learning, a gift from homeschooling, is totally worth keeping.