“We can best help children learn, not by deciding what we think they should learn and thinking of ingenious ways to teach it to them, but by making the world, as far as we can, accessible to them, paying serious attention to what they do, answering their questions -- if they have any -- and helping them explore the things they are most interested in.”
This September, many of Judah's age-mates began school. Judah, upon hearing about this school stuff, promptly informed me that he wanted to stay home...and also, he didn't want me to teach him anything at home either.
Lucky for him, this was our plan anyway. Lucky for me, I can be home with the kids full-time to enact this plan of inaction. Truly though, to call it inaction is doing it a disservice. We are unschooling Judah and Neve, and ourselves really, but that doesn't mean we aren't learning. Instead, at the heart of the unschooling is a belief that humans, particularly young ones who haven't been squashed, have a natural desire to learn. We are a curious species, with a huge capacity for gaining wisdom from every day life.
And so, we wake up. We have breakfast together. We talk about what we're eating and how it fuels our bodies, and how our body digests it and how we'll likely poop it out later today. Kids love talking about poop. And then I ask the kids what they want to do for the day. Invariably, one will ask to go to the library or on a hike or to visit some family member or other. And so we do.
We hike and we identify trees and bugs and marvel at the beauty of moss or leaf formations. We throw stones in a river and learn about currents, and physics, and how to make the best splashes. We go to the library and Judah picks out books about fur traders and letters and numbers and hat stealing fish. Neve picks anything by Sandra Boynton. We go home and draw pictures and words on the chalkboard wall, and cut and glue random paper to random things, and make up silly songs and play the piano. We talk endlessly about how everything (from babies to PVC pipes) is made, because that is what Judah wants to know. We visit my mom or my sister or Luke's family. In each home the kids interact a little differently with their surroundings, but in each place they are embraced and loved.
The best part of all this living is that the kids are doing so much learning, but they don't know it. They love it, because no one is making them do it. No one is telling them that they cannot learn unless they are in a structured setting with a sticker to prove they are doing it right. There is no shame if Judah calls an F as S, or when Neve tells Judah he's a "good girl" for peeing. They are learning because it is intrinsically rewarding for them, because they are free to fail.
Some days this journey is exhausting. Some days, when I see what other children know or can do, it can be scary. All along, I have to let go of the comparative expectations we, as parents, put upon ourselves. I have to trust that my children will learn all that they need to learn, in their own time. There are moments of pure light, when I can see a breakthrough in their understanding. The light of those moments carries me through for another day.
I am so blessed. I am so privileged. I get to witness their blossoming. I spend my days with two minds that have so much potential; I hope I help them reach it.