Today marks our 2nd anniversary of unschooling. I was reading through last year’s postand was reminded again of how much we’ve grown. We’re not so much about “doing unschooling right” anymore as we are about just living and allowing life to unfold. Last year still contained so much focus on the “un”, as in what we weren’t doing (workbooks, tests, etc). There was still a lot of justifying that had to be done to skeptical family members. There was a lot more to learn and to change within myself and as a parent. It was a wild and exciting first year.
Our second year was much more comfortable. We still had some skepticism thrown our way; some of it pretty hurtful. But it’s become just something that happens and doesn’t deter us. Another person’s doubts doesn’t send me scurrying for advice or wondering if I should purchase a math workbook. The proof is in the pudding and the pudding is mighty rich in flavor these days. Things interest him; things that baffle onlookers. He’s well-spoken with a large vocabulary (words like conundrum are common place). He’s confident and kind. Any small amount of time spent with him will tell you unschooling works for us. Works very well, indeed.
But what has baffled me is what I was told might happen and what I truly wasn’t expecting. At least not yet. Sure we saw his mental growth. It would feel almost sneaky sometimes watching him learn to type while playing a computer game or learn math while playing cards. But what I wasn’t prepared for was a more formal interest in learning. This is not the happenstance, inevitable kind of learning; not like the little things he’d pick up here or there to connect the dots in his head. This is an active searching for knowledge, an interest in the formal. Want some examples from a proud mama? Of course you do!
1. First, there is all the spelling going on. A dozen times a day a new word will be triumphantly spelled for us. If a mistake is made, he’s eager for the correction (an amazing feat for a perfectionist to take such mistakes in stride). When a new word is spelled for him or a misspelled word is corrected, he takes a quiet moment and you can almost see the letters formulating themselves behind his eyes as he commits the information to memory. We discuss the sometimes confusing phonetics of the American language. We test each other. This is great fun for a Word Junkie Woman like me.
2. Then there is all the questions that fly around. Questions about history, society, how things work. A recent conversation about the holidays started off when he asked why some stores are open for the holidays and why some people will work on those days, which didn’t seem fair to him. We talked about people who have no family to celebrate Thanksgiving with, people who may need the overtime offered with holiday pay, people who come from a different culture and don’t share our traditions. We talked about other religions that may not celebrate the same holidays, which led to a description and history of Hannukah, which led to the history of Christmas and its Pagan origins. He soaked it up and spent the rest of the car ride mulling it over.
3. And how can I forget his interest in political and social issues? He’ll listen to NPR while we drive (seems like much of his learning happens on the road!), asking questions and sharing his view. He listens to both sides of any subject and answers my questions on what he believes. Once he became so frustrated with a news story that he cried, “They’re gonna ruin the world!” He even pops off political jokes, sometimes having to explain the humor that went over my head.
Of course, all the hidden “Where did that come from?” learning is still happening, like his being able to name the assassinated presidents or describe a medical procedure. And the blossoming of critical thought and in-depth problem-solving is also fun to watch. But through all the sharing of knowledge, it’s been so natural and easy. It happens, all day and every day. No hours put on his learning, no test to prove his skill. We know his skill; we see it all the time. More importantly, he’s begin to know and see it himself.
Things aren’t always perfect. Some days are downright shitty. There are still some things that were picked up during his school years (by him and us) that rear their ugly head a little too often. And as much as I’d like to say “We’re there”, I don’t truly believe anyone is ever really “there” – in that perfect space with no conflict and no mistakes. We’re always learning and growing. But now we just do it so differently. And that’s the difference in our lives.