Window on the World

This morning, Michelle and I shared a particularly interesting discussion. She observed, “I have learned more about the world since we moved to this tiny cabin in the forest on the edge of the ocean, than I learned in my previous 40 years.”

I thought about it, we talked it over, but as soon as she said it, it seemed obvious to me. Perhaps not so obvious was why this might be so.

Coast Range Detail, Alaska

Our real window on the world can sometimes get a little hazy, but we’ve broadened our horizons in other ways (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

We talked about the many things we’d learned since moving to the homestead. We ignored, for the moment, the steep learning curve we experienced moving off-grid: learning to manage our own electrical and water systems, and the like. Instead, we focused on subjects we learned about in the course of our every day leisure.

Right now, we’re both reading The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living (paid link) (check your local, independent bookstore). We find it gratifying that we’re not so much learning new techniques, as finding confirmation that our lifestyle is very much on the right track (see Hygge).

The Little Book of Hygge

The Little Book of Hygge (Image: Overdrive Media).

Discussing Denmark reminded me of a wasted opportunity I experienced in high school. Some classmates and I went to Washington DC with the Close Up program, and ended up visiting the Danish embassy. I remember it being a lackluster visit—none of us knew anything about Denmark. If I were to go back today, I would have so many questions to ask! But not then.

That led to something I learned last year: we seem to have Viking ancestry, at least on my father’s side. We also discussed other examples of independent learning, including all we’d learned about the author, Jane Austen, and the Regency Era in which she lived and wrote (see An Alternative to the Superbowl – Austen Fest).

So how did this happen? We credit a few key factors.

First and foremost, we raised Aly as an adult, not as a child. In fact, we embraced that idea before it became a popular concept. That doesn’t mean we didn’t let her be childlike—far from it. But, we spoke to her on a level she could understand, rather than talking down to her.

Aly grew to adulthood on the the homestead. While we stayed engaged in her childhood interests, they became more a part of household conversation as she aged. We unschooled her, which set all of us on a more formal course (or method at least) of independent learning (see Unschooling: Self-Direct Learning on the Homestead). That may have started it, but Michelle noted that it continued during the five years of Aly’s absence from the homestead.

Certainly, ease of access to information has helped immensely. Not only is our reference library close at hand in our tiny space (see Introducing the Homestead Reference Library) we have the internet! Significantly, internet access has changed in our current home over what we started out with in Juneau. I’m not talking about download speeds or other improvements. In Juneau, the computer sat at a desk in the front room of our house, somewhat separate and distinct from our living area. One had to go to that room to access the internet. Now, a computer sits close enough that anyone can grab it and put it on the table, if it’s not there already. All that information, literally at our fingertips, has to make a difference.

A final factor may simply be free time, or less distraction from everyday life. We keep busy on the homestead, no doubt, but it is, generally, a more contemplative lifestyle. We have the luxury to think about things as we go about our business. And, there’s no question, audiobooks help as well (see Voices In My Head).

There’s surely much more to it than all that, but you begin to get the idea. Whatever we’re doing, we seem to do it right. We have a window on the world, and take advantage of it more than we might. We notice the expansion of our horizons, at any rate, even on days when the weather completely socks us  in.

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