There are times when I wonder just what in Pete’s name I am doing unschooling. Mostly this happens when my kids learning cycles are stuck in the video game/TV mode. For realz, I see them sitting around and think to myself, “Right now there are millions of kids sitting at desks doing some actual writing on actual worksheets in an actual school with an actual teacher.”
It’s not unlike the freak outs I used to have when Naturalist and Golfer were in those schools, doing the actual worksheets for 6 hours a day only to come home and not be able to tell me what they were learning that day, that week, that month, or even that school year. Only, with unschooling, there is no teacher or school policy to blame. It’s pretty much just me and the kids.
So I have internal dialogues with myself where I argue back and forth about what kind of radical freak I am to question the status quo and even worse, gamble the productive future of my children on the faith that they, in fact, are competent and trustworthy human beings.
It’s enough to keep a gal up at night. Or up a lot of nights. But not up as many nights as I was when Naturalist was tormented going to school, tormented at school, and tormented after school. So, there’s always that.
But then, my friends, a night comes along like the one I just had and allows me to sleep a little easier (for the next couple weeks, anyway).
It started with Golfer and I watching ‘National Treasure’ which was spent less on watching the movie (that we’ve seen a few dozen times) and more on Golfer talking about history…where Washington is buried, who the Knights Templar really are, Benjamin Franklin’s inventions, different treasures around the world, the British, the Revolutionary War, why is there no memorial to James K. Polk (*snort*) without whom everyone in Washington, Oregon, Idaho & Montana would be speaking with a British accent…his discussions went on and on and on and I sat there thinking, “Whoa. I didn’t know any of this when I was 8. Or even 18.”
Then Naturalist came in with a book that Hubby bought himself and she started looking through it. She’s currently between Warrior books and looking for something to read. This, by the way, from a dyslexic girl who not only refused to read at school but would yell at me every day in 3rd grade, “I NEVER want to read. I WILL NEVER READ. READING is STUPID and a WASTE OF MY TIME.” Now I can’t keep a book out of her hands.
The book in question is Death By Black Hole and I assumed she was just flipping through it mindlessly until she started snickering to herself. And then snickering some more. And I was thinking, “why is she laughing at some nerdy science book?” so I asked her, “why are you laughing at some nerdy science book?” to which she replied, “Listen to this: ‘The Speed of Light; It’s the Law!'” Then she cracked up. I still don’t get it, but she took the book up to her bed to read another chapter. As she walked out of the room she threw out another quote over her shoulder: “How do you know when you’re surrounded by Carbon Monoxide if you can’t see or smell it?” pause “You drop dead! Hahahahahah!”
She came in a little while later asking about how engines work, which I don’t know, so we went to this wikipedia article and she helped me figure it out. Unhappy with the inefficiency of using gas as a fuel source, she asked if hydrogen would work any better, and if not, why, and what else could be used, and blah blah blah I was still stuck on what part fuel played in the whole thing. She declared, “Give me an engine, and a year, and I bet I could figure out a better fuel to use that would be better for the car and better for the environment.” Her boldness and confidence took my breath away. And honestly, after the hellish aftermath of her public school experiences on her bruised and battered psyche, it brought a little tear to my eye.
In school, her divergent and different ways of thinking meant she was labeled, categorized, and dismissed as anything but the most basic of learners. Out of school, past the labels, pathologizing, and standardizing, she is free to think as out of the box as she can. This distinction burns as bright as a lighthouse on a dark night in comparrison. It gives me hope when I see divergent kids being allowed to support their unique learning styles instead of being punished for them. As Einstein noted:
We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.
And now I’m finishing my night with Golfer watching a show about the history of Aircraft Carriers. In turn, he’s filling me in on the major battles of WWII and how each country affected the outcome–learned mostly from playing Blazing Angels on the WII and watching The Military Channel.
Tonight, I’ll go to sleep with the words, “I’m so glad we’re unschooling” on my lips.