Gaps in their Learning

Engineering Activities for Kids - An Everyday Story

Engineering Activities for Kids - An Everyday StoryAre you worried about gaps in their learning?

It’s an interesting question, isn’t it? It seems so heavily laden with assumption but also asked so easily. When you decide to homeschool, people invariably ask, are you worried about gaps in their learning? I think what people are saying when they ask this is,

“Do you think you can teach them everything they need to know?”

“That’s an awful lot of responsibility to take on….. how are you going to do it?!”

But to worry about gaps in our children’s learning assumes that it is possible to know everything. And it just isn’t. We all have gaps in our learning; there is more that we don’t know than what we do know.

And isn’t that what we want anyway? Don’t we want gaps in our learning? Imagine, if it were possible, to know everything. To have experienced every wonder, to never marvel in awe, to never feel a drive to know and understand. To be able to speak every language, cook every dish, build every bridge. What would it be like to live such a life?

Engineering Activities for Kids - An Everyday Story Engineering Activities for Kids - An Everyday Story Engineering Activities for Kids - An Everyday Story

I’m not worried about gaps in Jack and Sarah’s learning. I welcome them with arms outstretched. Learning is not linear. There is no start point and no end point where every part in the middle must be filled in. Learning is a giant, never-ending mass of swirls that goes round and round; enveloping our whole being.

When we pursue learning with passion and a humility that recognises that what we know is such a tiny speck in the infinity of knowledge which has come before us and surrounds us in this moment, we stop worrying about gaps and embrace the possibility to discover. We are not afraid of what we don’t know, we don’t feel compelled to conceal our gaps, we are instead enlivened, uplifted and inspired to seek answers.

I’m not worried about gaps, not one little bit.


“Of course, a child may not know what he may need to know in ten years (who does?), but he knows, and much better than anyone else, what he wants and needs to know right now, what his mind is ready and hungry for.
If we help him, or just allow him, to learn that, he will remember it, use it, build on it.” ~ John Holt


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15 Replies to “Gaps in their Learning”

  1. Beautifully put and something I needed to be reminded of today – thank you!

  2. Yes, it was a fear of mine too – how do I teach them everything they need to know? But then I realised that I couldn’t possibly. That was such a huge stress relief for me and a real turning point in our homeschooling.

  3. How beautifully put. Your children are blessed to have the experience and learning they have.

  4. Surprisingly (and sadly), I get the same thing, maybe with a different spin, from parents who want to know how our Reggio inspired center-based program is going to get their children ‘ready’ for (real) school…
    I’m getting pretty good at not physically cringing when they ask if I teach phonics. It helps if I try to remember what they really want to know is will our program help their child be successful.

  5. If I think back to my own (public) school experience I know that I’ve got a ton of gaps in my learning – because the teachers didn’t presented it in a way suitable for me, because I was concerned about bullying, because I wasn’t interested at that point in time… I am sure I am not the only one but I guess people don’t think about the gaps between formal curriculum and actual learning when asking you this question?

  6. “Learning is a giant, never-ending mass of swirls that goes round and round; enveloping our whole being.” – This. Yes!! It took years for me to let go of that linear public school mindset, and I hope to help my children continue to love and explore and learn just to learn.

  7. Oh Kate, this is so timely for me! My children are older (7, 10, and 12) and we are entering our 5th year of homeschooling. Although I still struggle and question myself and things are always evolving, I always come to the conclusion that it IS best for our children. However, a harsh comment from my own father just yesterday put me in a tail spin and has me quite upset. Your post has made me feel much better! Thank you so much for sharing your insights!

  8. As a primary school teacher, I also worry about gaps in learning. My worries are different. How do I present this curriculum in a way that is interesting and accessible to everyone?; how can I create ongoing opportunities to revisit topics (because I know students need more time or aren’t interested/ready to learn addition in week 4 of term 3!!)?; when do students get to explore topics of interests and be deeply immersed in learning? And what can I do to mitigate those gaps, which keep getting wider. If it were even possible to compare perceived “gaps”, I’d know that your children’s education would be more well rounded than my student’s (despite the long hours I keep trying to compensate for the gaps).

  9. I couldn’t agree more!! I love the way you have put this. I’m not worried about gaps, I’m worried about all the spaces of my child’s curiosity being prematurely and proactively filled until that desire to strench and grow is diluted or gone xx

  10. Beautiful post, Kate. So funny that I read this tonight. I was just thinking, as I drove my daughter home from a book reading by an illustrator, and she chatted and chatted about her artistic techniques, about how she has these areas of incredible knowledge–more than most adults–and then these “gaps” of things she knows nothing about. And it led me to thinking about how there is so much to learn in the world, that it’s impossible for anyone to learn it all. So who’s to say what matters, and what doesn’t? You put it so well here. Thank you.

  11. lydia purple says:

    yes! yes! yes! and thank you.

    i am always learning, always discovering, always building and redesigning and improving my life. i want my kids to be the same.

    one quote that is related to that ever evolving circle of learning: ‘sometimes we have to forgive ourselves for not knowing what we didn’t know before we learned it.’

  12. Absolutely!! Exactly my thoughts xx

  13. I want to turn it around somehow – no, not afraid of gaps, excited to see the variety of what they will learn!

    Who would guess that my 4 year old would be into bacteria, white blood cells, DNA, molecules . . . I barely did any science at school and couldn’t have told you the difference between an atom and an element! By respecting her questions and supporting her interests, both of us know so much more about the microscopic world than we could have imagined.

    The exciting thing about this journey is that neither of you know where it will lead – there’s no set curriculum deciding in advance what you’ll learn at what age – it’s a wonderful adventure!

  14. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!! I have never known how to approach this question and always had guilt about it but this is such a perfect response that it has cleared my mind.

  15. I graduated from high school with a ton of gaps in my learning–Math, English grammar, Science, Geography, etc. I learned English grammar in summer school and college (1 year!), and the rest I learned through homeschooling my own children.

    So don’t let the critics get to you.

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