23 July 2012

Life-long learning

I am pleased that learning is a lifelong process. It brings interest to our lives, it enables us to improve and change what we do and how we live. A system that offers to sell you everything you could possible need doesn't exactly support the idea of learning, nevertheless, if you step back from a purely materialistic approach to living, learning is what you'll be doing. None of us is born knowing everything we need to know. Being prepared to skill ourselves to do what we need to do in our chosen way of life is an attitude that is developed as we mature.

Here are two crazy youngsters at the very start of their own journey. I think this was taken in 1976. (This long lost photo ripped as I removed it from its old frame.)

It's better than it used to be, but even ten years ago, it was much more difficult to find creditable information about many of the "from scratch" tasks we all commonly carry out in our daily lives. It was accepted then that housework was done by women who "stayed at home" using appliances that made it all just as easy as could be. Then and now, there were chemicals to spray and wipe, poisons to rid homes of insects and mice, super phosphates to fertilise vegetables and many many shops where you could buy anything from a bottle of water to anything your heart desired. (I wonder what our great grandparents would say to us about buying water to drink.) Times have changed; there is an alternative now. Now there is a more realistic understanding that we all do some form of house work, that home is our haven, that it's a much safer and sustainable option to reduce the number of chemical products we use in the home, we understand the concepts of seasonal and local produce, developing community, solar and wind power, self reliance, recycling and the wise economy of restraint. We are still tough on women who "stay at home" but I'm hopeful that too will change. Soon.

All of these concepts require something of us. They require that we think about what we hope to do in our lives and then learn what we need to deliver those hopes and dreams. If anyone should ask me what is the major difference in my life now compared to before, I'd have to say mindful learning. First there is learning how to do all the small step tasks that we now take for granted, then we learn how they all fit together. Hopefully the fitting together closes some systems so they sustain themselves, require no new inputs, yet still deliver year after year. When we have all that in play, we improve what we do and how we do it - we become experts in our own homes. And that requires more learning so we keep improving. If you're lucky, you'll never lose the will to learn and it will be a lifelong activity.

Remember though that learning is not done in isolation. Often when you learn, you teach at the same time. Being a role model for your children, encouraging them to spend time with you while you cook, sew, knit, mend, plant, harvest,  construct, clean, create and nurture will show them how to do it too. It may not give them the ins and outs of each tasks, but it will give them the attitude to learn. And that, my friends, is one of the greatest gifts.



  1. Quite right, everything I have learnt in the last 4 years is so interlinked and each new learning curve feeds into the next. I took delight in the last few years In sharing what I am learning with my 4 children so that they will face a changing world much better equipped.

  2. Wow rhonda..look at you..what a stunner and hanno's eyes are to disappear into..you look very happy together and i am so glad that you have journeyed together.
    I love learning..but i didn't have a good role model in my parents..thankfully my gran was there for a while to show me the little things that now i realize are so simple and very frugal..it was her total way of life..if she didn't grow it then she didn't eat it..if she didn't make it,bake it then we didn't eat...i was with her for 5 yrs and whilst i was little i can remember her podding peas in the sun on a chair outside the back door...sitting with her was lovely as she would just chat away about the old days..
    So having her in my life for a short time has taught me so much and now i am passing it to my little girls and my son..i am hoping they are going to enjoy it as much as their dad and i have done...

  3. Love the picture of you and Hanno!

    I am so grateful to be able to learn new things every day.

  4. Thank you for your post Rhonda - I especially enjoyed the photo of the 'youngsters'. I've been reading a number of blogs recently and am SO encouraged by the number of younger bloggers who want to learn homemaking skills and to live mindfully. There really does seem to be a growing awareness that going back to a simpler life and realising that perhaps the old wives knew/know a thing or two, is something to be cherished.

    1. I am one of those younger bloggers. We need that encouragement as offen those around us think we are a tad nuts :) so thank you. Mel

  5. When I think of the home of my dreams and the things I take the most pleasure from in our home and such it relates back to my family. From my parents to their sisters and brothers , my grandparents and even my grandparents friends. What they held high and what they did with their hands and how they felt about it and life has stood us well all through these years. The skills, the mindset, the pride of doing a job well done, the work ethic, and the love of learning..most all of it comes from what I observed and loved from my family and those who had a part in my growing up. They passed it down to me and then it was my turn to pass it down to the people I know and love. What they take from it is for them to decide but the basic skills and life lessons may help them through their entire lives like those of long ago did for me. One step at a time and keeping on keeping on. Life is an ever evolving course of lessons and one lesson builds apron the next until you have a genuine skill. A skill that through practice now comes easy to you, it is just now a part of your every day life...an extension of you. { One that when you first tried it seemed so hard :) } Sarah

  6. Hi Rhonda
    I haven't posted before but I keep meaning to re what you say about society still not valuing women staying at home. In my experience as a single mother who HAS to work full time, I find that all of our institutions operate on the assumption that women with children ARE at home. Eg schools, home deliveries, tradespeople, etc. It makes life very difficult and our lives aren't functioning as they should be and my home is not yet the haven I want it to be. I strongly believe that families are functional units and that there needs to be somebody at home to manage the work there full time, whoever that is. I do understand what you mean about VALUING though and I think that this is the crest of the real shift to gender equality, women going out to the workplace was the first step but women coming home again (and men) is the change. Kali

  7. I learn new things everyday. It keeps life interesting.

    I love the photo of you both in 1976

  8. This has really hit home for me the last few months. With not working I have more time with my son, and without either of us noticing, he's learning new skills. I was browning some chicken in the dutch oven the other day and he asked me if I was making chicken stock. A couple of years ago I was concerned that he wouldn't learn all the skills that I did when I was his age, simply because I was working full-time and he was in before and after school care. We've both flourished and gained more confidence.

  9. Rebecca (The Hills, Sydney)July 23, 2012 8:54 am

    I am at the start of the journey. I have been making changes, i have even knitted some dishcloths (and will never go back to disposables again!) and I am learning every day. The more I learn, the more disgusted I am getting with supermarkets, food giants and advertising. I am learning also, so I can teach my children, by example and by showing and explaining to them, that simple is better. I hope this will start to snowball through the younger generations, we need to lead the way and relearn the skills that our great grandparents took for granted, before they are lost, and reintroduce them as the new normal. I am loving this journey, it feels right, and it is having positive impacts on our home life as well. I gain so much knowledge and inspiration from this blog, it is a must read for me. Thank you!

  10. Great thoughts as always Rhonda. Quite pertinent to me, too, because my nearly 4 year old is super keen to learn everything! She is right by my side all day. I have actually been finding it a bit tiring as I am also breastfeeding a 3 month old and I don't have a moment alone. But this post has made me realise how important it is I do show her. I know what a great trait it is that she is so keen to learn how to cook, clean, read, write, garden, play tennis etc.

  11. I just love your photo you shared of you two! Such a gorgeous picture! :)

  12. Lovely seeing you in your youth...a very cute couple!! Still are!! I am sometimes still shocked looking in a mirror...whatever happened to 20??
    Elizabeth in NC

  13. Every year I feel as if I am learning something new, something useful. This year, I am teaching myself how to spin yarn and how to quilt. Something else to add to gift giving and clothes making.

    Thank you for always inspiring and encouraging Rhonda. Your wisdom is exactly what is needed in today's culture...


  14. Thanks, I have enjoyed reading this post.

  15. This is so true. I am just the other side of 40 and while in some ways I dread getting older I am loving that I am more confident in myself and my choices than I ever was. I only wish that this had come sooner in my life but I believe that getting older gives you gifts along the way, even though you may not realize at first.

    I hope you had a good time at the Farm Fantastic on the weekend. Unfortunately I had to sell my "life hours" and was unable to make it there to see you. I was really looking forward to meeting you! I hope your week is really enjoyable. If I was visiting my daughter at Quinalow this week instead of next week I would come and see you at Bell. One day we will be able to meet, hopefully.

  16. Oh, what a special photo of your beginning life together - so sweet! I do wish more people could discover/acknowledge how challenging it is to "stay home." I feel I'm constantly learning and problem-solving, even more now than when I worked outside the home. It's been a humbling experience to say the least!

  17. What a perfect sentiment. (And such a lovely photograph!)

    One of the things I think I love most about our chosen way of life is that it fosters just that sort of learning. There is no "set it and forget it"; even tasks that I've done a million times are never precisely the same twice, and I learn something new from each variation. It's part of the challenge, I think; drudgery would be doing the same things in the same ways, day in and day out. xo

  18. Hello Rhonda,
    Must say, you make a lovely couple =)

    I was talking to my mom about making soap this weekend and learnt something new. During the war, my grandfather, who was in charge of an estate, was given a soap recipe by the owner of the estate. He thence made and supplied all the workers with soap during the war period when supplies were limited.
    One of the ingredients no doubt was coconut oil as coconuts are plentiful on the island.
    Method for making your own coconut oil from scratch:

    Trinidad & Tobago

  19. Hi Rhonda, I recently wrote a blog post with a similar sentiment, regarding the life long learning of a vegetable gardener. I talked about the contrast between 'book learning' and 'hands on learning'. We are so fortunate these days to have such a wealth of information at our fingertips. Gardeners can refer to countless books to learn information about vegetable growing. However, it is not until our hands make contact with the earth, does the real learning begin. Lessons learnt through experience, over time, in response to change and challenges. That is where the true life lessons are learnt. Sam xox



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