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It’s science: Your kids are learning all the time—school or no school

The whole world is a classroom, and they learn from it every day (so don't stress about those worksheets).

benefits of unschooling

There's a stack of unfinished worksheets on the end of the counter. I prepare myself for the battle that may ensue when I pull my kids from what they are happily doing to impose temporary house-arrest until the homework is done and submitted to their teacher.

I know when I skip the battle because I am too tired, too frustrated, too anything, I feel like I am not doing my job and wonder why I can't seem to get it done. But something inside of me is not so convinced that my kids will get more from sitting still and filling in the blanks than running around free, doing what they want.

Turns out, something amazing happens when you give kids space and time to just do—they learn. Learning is a natural process, happening organically every day so don't put too much stress on checking off boxes during homeschooling. Something as simple as looking for bugs or finding dandelions in the backyard is an opportunity for knowledge.


Psychologists have a term for this: experiential learning—learning from experience or by doing. "Doing" helps us learn from the world and gain a better understanding by exploring and doing something to see what happens. By experimenting with trial and error and learning from mistakes, we develop thinking, language and spatial reasoning skills and learn how to collaborate to improve social skills.

So even though it may look like your kids are just playing during unstructured time, "Any emergent experience can present a learning opportunity—it can emerge spontaneously, right there in front of us, or it can be planned in a proactive way to richly engage us with the many dimensions of the experience." explains Dr. Colin Beard in his book, The Experiential Learning Toolkit.

Not only can experiential learning occur outside of the classroom, it can also happen without a teacher.

According to developmental psychologist Robert Kegan, knowledge is continuously gained through both personal and environmental experiences, and being able to make meaning out of those experiences. Dr. Knud Illeris, a professor of lifelong learning at the Danish University of Education in Copenhagen, outlines three major core dimensions to learning—thinking, feeling and doing—all of which can be experienced beyond the classroom or the kitchen table.

And if you feel up to the task, you can facilitate and direct some of your children's learning by using the "5 Questions" model to help them think about what they are up to:

  1. Did you notice (…)?
  2. Why did that happen?
  3. Does that happen in life?
  4. Why does that happen?
  5. How can you use that?

By asking these questions, as a co-explorer of knowledge, you can guide them in thinking about their experience before, during and after to help open up new ways of learning. When we think in this way, we gain valuable skills—critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity—that are essential for life.

Bottom line: When you are deciding if homework takes the place of exploring outside, and your kids aren't interested in the worksheets, it could be best to let your kids do, mama.

10 must-have registry items that will change your life, mama

The baby gear heavy hitters that should be top of your list

Calling all mamas-to-be! It's a fundamental truth of (impending) motherhood that your prepping-for-baby To Do list can feel a mile long, but really the best way to feel organized is to sort out the most important item at the top of your list: your registry. Sure the items you choose to include will end up running the gamut from nice-to-haves to absolutely essential game-changers, but mamas in the know quickly learn one thing: Not all baby gear is created equal.

So while you can and should pepper your registry with adorable inclusions that aren't necessarily can't-live-withouts (go ahead, add 'em!), you should make sure you're ticking the boxes on those pieces of baby gear that can be absolute life savers once you're in full-blown mama mode. From car seats to bouncers and playmats, your play and travel gear will be some of the most obvious important items on your list, but so can unexpected things, like a super comfy baby carrier and a snooze-inducing white noise machine. So to help you sort through the must-have options, we turned to the holy grail of motherhood that is buybuy BABY and handpicked 10 of the very best essential pieces that will change your life, we promise.

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Our Partners

Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Earth Mama: Effective, natural herbal care for mamas and babies

Founded and grown in her own garage in 2002, Earth Mama started as an operation of one, creating salves, tinctures, teas and soaps with homegrown herbs. With a deep desire to bring the healing powers of nature that have been relied on for thousands of years to as many mamas as possible, Melinda Olson's formulas quickly grew into Earth Mama Organics. Since then, the brand has remained committed to manufacturing clean, safe and effective herbal solutions for the entire journey of motherhood, including pregnancy, breastfeeding and baby care, and even the loss of a baby.

Bravado Designs: Soothing sounds for a good night's sleep

With 28 years of serving pregnant and postpartum mamas under their belt, Bravado Designs is a true authority on the needs of changing bodies. It's true that we have them to thank for rescuing us from the uncomfortable and frumpy designs our own moms had to live with. Launched in Canada by two young mamas, they designed the first prototypes with extra leopard print fabric certain that a better bra was possible. Throughout the years they've maintained their commitment to ethical manufacturing while creating long-lasting products that truly work.

The Sill: Instagram-ready potted plants

We've long admired this female-founded brand and the brilliant mind behind it, Eliza Blank. (She even joined Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety on and episode of The Motherly Podcast!) The mission behind the business was simple: To make the process of bringing plants into your home as easy as possible, and as wonderful as the plant themselves. With their in-house, exclusively designed minimalist planters, the end result makes plant parenthood just a few clicks away.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

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The 6 biggest lies I believed before having kids

Just about all of us had set assumptions about raising kids before we became parents ourselves.

Just about all of us had set assumptions about raising kids before we became parents ourselves. Some of these ideas might have been based on our own ideas of how we would absolutely do things differently than everyone else. Others, we believed what everyone else told us would happen would apply to our littles, too. But, that's not always the case, mama.

Below are six of the biggest lies I believed before having kids—and the reality of what actually happened for me.

1. Put your baby down drowsy, but awake

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Life