LIVING JOYFULLY NEWSLETTER
Issue #19 | August 16, 2013
AUGUST’S THEME: The Unschooling Lifestyle
Hi again! Here’s today’s issue of the twice-monthly Living Joyfully newsletter. Thanks for subscribing! If ever you want to unsubscribe, the link is always at the bottom of the newsletter. And if you’re new, there’s a link at the top to the archive if you’d like to read earlier issues.
I had a great time at HSC’s Adventures in Homeschooling Conference over the first weekend of August. What a lovely group! It was great to meet so many people face-to-face that I’ve known online for years. Even though it’s a more general homeschooling conference, unschooling was definitely an integral part of both the talks and the workshops. The schedule was packed full of fun and interesting opportunities to choose from, while others enjoyed spending the weekend around the pool. It was all good! Seeing the many families in loving action is always a conference highlight for me. 🙂
This month on the blog I’m digging into the unschooling lifestyle and, as I mention at the beginning of the first blog post, it’s actually a bit of an advanced topic for many people—it definitely was for me! We came to unschooling from the “school-replacement” perspective, yet over time I saw how well the unschooling environment supported their more academic learning and eventually I began contemplating extending that same approach to learning life skills. That’s when it grew more fully into a lifestyle.
ON THE BLOG … so far this month
Would me doing the bulk of the upkeep in our home be “spoiling” them? Letting them “get away” with something? Shouldn’t they be “taking responsibility” for our home? As I mulled that over, I eventually came to disagree. In fact, it dawned on me that choosing to do the work myself to meet my own standard of living is a good example for them of taking responsibility.
LET’S TALK ABOUT … Neil deGrasse Tyson on children and science
This showed up in my facebook feed recently. It piqued my interest because Michael and I enjoy listening to Neil deGrasse Tyson’s podcast, Star Talk Radio. Neil, an astrophysicist and Director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, says he is often asked by parents how they can get their kids interested in science. I’m going to pull out some of what he said, but if you’d like to hear him yourself, here’s a link to his two minute video answer (the transcript is there as well).
A couple of newsletters ago I wrote: “I love discovering that while I’m often exploring life through the window of unschooling, there are many others, looking through completely unrelated windows, that are discovering the same kinds of foundational ideas about life.” And today I’ll add “and learning.”
It’s true! People who enjoy looking at the bigger picture of things through the lens of their passion are often coming to the same realizations that unschoolers discover, and this is another case in point. Neil probably doesn’t know it but he’s quite aptly describing the premise of learning through unschooling.
“And I have only one bit of advice. Get out of their way. Kids are born curious. Period. I don’t care about your economic background. I don’t care what town you’re born in, what city, what country. If you’re a child, you are curious about your environment. You’re overturning rocks. You’re plucking leaves off of trees and petals off of flowers, looking inside, and you’re doing things that create disorder in the lives of the adults around you.”
That is a key premise of unschooling: curiosity drives our children’s learning instead of curriculum. Children are innately curious. Nurture it, support it, get out of its way. I also love that he points out that this isn’t the easy way out, that giving our children the space to follow their curiosity does impact the parents’ lives. It’s a choice you make.
“And so then so what do adults do? They say, “Don’t pluck the petals off the flowers. I just spent money on that. Don’t play with the egg. It might break. Don’t….” Everything is a don’t. We spend the first year teaching them to walk and talk and the rest of their lives telling them to shut up and sit down.”
Then he points out that many parents make the other choice. But as parents choosing to cultivate an unschooling learning environment, we see and value the learning in all those situations, and we consciously choose not to tell our children to “shut up and sit down.” This is where the beauty of unschooling lives, in all those intriguing, everyday moments of life as our children follow their curiosity and explore their environment.
“So you get out of their way. And you know what you do? You put things in their midst that help them explore. Help ’em explore. Why don’t you get a pair of binoculars, just leave it there one day? Watch ’em pick it up. And watch ’em look around. They’ll do all kinds of things with it.”
This is another key piece I’m so glad he added! His initial “get out of their way” bit was great, but it’s not the whole story of learning. Not only do we give them the space to explore, we go out of our way to help them. To nurture their curiosity by taking them out into the world and by bringing pieces of the world to them. What do we think they might find interesting? Not what do we wish they would find interesting, but what would make their eyes light up with inquisitiveness? Learning shines when people are curious and engaged. Make that happen as often as you can. 🙂
Thanks for sharing, Neil!
LIVING JOYFULLY … with unschooling
My mind has been swirling this past week or so since returning from the conference, mostly around ways to share my conference talks. I’ve chatted with a few people, asked myself questions, and it seems to keep coming back around to audio. I realized how much I enjoy listening to podcasts, learning from others who are passionate about their topics of choice. Star Talk Radio is one such example!
I already have plans to create audio editions of my books, but after said swirling, I more solidly realize that there are people who prefer listening to reading, some who don’t have much time for reading time, and others who just enjoy listening while doing other things. So I’ve decided to play with creating a podcast. I’m thinking I’ll be able to share my monthly blog topics (including talking about questions posed in the blog comments), my conference talks, and some other ideas I’m percolating, in audio format.
It sounds interesting and fun to me! And it means lots of research and learning over the next couple of months, but that’s okay because I love learning new things. 🙂
On another note, I have received some great suggestions for next month’s Reader’s Questions on the blog. If you have a particular unschooling question or topic you’d like me to address, feel free to hit reply and let me know. Even if I don’t get to it specifically next month, I’ll do my best to incorporate it into future topics/posts.
And what’s up around here? Alongside my writing and podcast pondering, Michael’s spent this week at karate camp (he’s doing a 50/50 split of assisting and training) plus going back in the evenings to his regular classes. Next week the boys and I will be spending a few days at my Mom’s, swimming and playing and hanging out, as we’ve done every summer for more than ten years—that’s always great fun! And Lissy is planning to come for a visit in the next few weeks, so we’re looking forward to that as well.
I hope things are well with you and I wish you a lovely weekend living and learning with your family!