LIVING JOYFULLY NEWSLETTER
Issue #26 | November 30, 2013
NOVEMBER’S THEME: Unschooling Beings
I’ve really enjoyed tackling this month’s theme, that unschooling encompasses the whole range of learning that goes into being a person, a human being. Learning is an instinctual and enjoyable human activity, though conventionally, parents and schools make it seem like hard work. Conventional learning also focuses so much on academics that I think it really does a disservice to two other important areas of learning: about ourselves and how we tick; and relationships. Learning and growing as a human being is about understanding ourselves and our place in the world.
ON THE BLOG … this month
When you’re new to unschooling, this is a great thing to focus on. Think of this deschooling time as a season of Saturdays and, as you’re spending time with your children, notice how they gather information from the world around them. Challenge yourself to be open to whatever you see. Don’t try to filter your observations through learning style labels: drop any preconceived notions of what learning “should” look like, and discover what it does look like, for your children.
By giving your children the space to play with how they process the information they gather, by being a responsive partner in the dance of questions and conversations and silences as they piece together their unique picture of the world and how it works, you are helping them explore and discover how they like to learn.
Relationships are a fundamental piece of the being human puzzle. Conventionally, parents have one way of relating to their friends and colleagues, and another way of relating to their children. The beauty of the relationships developed in unschooling families is that we don’t treat people differently based on their age, so what our children learn about relationships growing up will always be helpful.
LET’S TALK ABOUT … Time to Think
Time to think has lost its lustre in today’s relentless pursuit of accomplishments, no matter your age. One of talks I gave at the HSC Adventures in Homeschoolingconference this summer was about the many benefits of choosing to give your family time to think—time to be. I think it fits nicely with our topic this month so I thought I’d share some of it here.
“By the time it came to the edge of the Forest, the stream had grown up,
so that it was almost a river, and, being grown-up, it did not run and jump
and sparkle along as it used to do when it was younger, but moved
more slowly. For it knew now where it was going, and it said to itself,
“There is no hurry. We shall get there some day.” But all the little streams
higher up in the Forest went this way and that, quickly, eagerly, having so
much to find out before it was too late.”
~ A.A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner
With our greater life experience we, like the mature river, can see that there is less need for our immediate hurry: we shall get there. Our bigger picture perspective allows us to see that our children’s need to eagerly explore the world often outweighs our need for routine because we know we’ll still get there in the end. We question the conventional wisdom of parents’ wishes always coming first.
Practicing patience can be easier around more obvious academic topics because we can quickly see the value of the learning happening in front of us. Their boundless curiosity as they dive into dinosaurs is such a beautiful sight to behold that answering their seemingly endless questions about the Jurassic Period can be more exciting than frustrating. And there’s a bubbling joy to be found in watching the Land Before Time movies over and over, quoting lines over dinner, acting out scenes in the yard, and setting up a prehistoric world in the living room, complete with your child’s growing toy dinosaur collection. That joy reminds us to slow down and let them savour the moment; to allow them to fully immerse themselves in the experience.
But there is also plenty of important learning that is less about the world and more about living in it: eating and sleeping and relationships and property and emotions and health and more. This knowledge is more focused on learning about themselves and how they relate to the world around them. Instead of straightforward facts, here living is entangled with people and feelings and sensations and judgments. It can take longer to explore one’s personality and how one relates with others, but it is definitely essential knowledge for living. And, as with all kinds of learning, exploring how they fit into the world works best when you can be patient: when you meet and support them where they are and move at their pace.
And what about those moments when our children get frustrated? Our first reaction may be to try to get them to stop what they’re doing, “If you’re frustrated, do something else for a while!” Their frustration frustrates us. Stopping may be a reasonable path forward, but it’s not the only one available. Patience helps us step back a moment and see some of the other possibilities. And when I manage to do that, you know what I find so fascinating? Their level of commitment to accomplishing what they are trying to do. We talked about this yesterday, the internal motivation of unschooling kids to push through challenges to reach their goals is incredible. Reminding myself of this can help me shift from frustration at their persistence to seeing the beauty of their determination. From that perspective, I can better empathize and more patiently help them find ways to move through the situation.
Whether it’s putting on their shoes without help, or building a block tower as tall as they are, or beating the final boss in their video game, there’s learning in everything they attempt. Whether they are learning a particular skill (like tying their laces), or discovering where their limits are (does their skill diminish when they are frustrated?), or exploring the ways they can deal with their frustration (does a break help? or a deep breath?), they are gaining experience, even if they haven’t yet put it all together. That takes time.
If you’d like to read more, you can find the full text of my talk here: Time to Think
LIVING JOYFULLY … with unschooling
I wrote something to a friend this summer when we were chatting about the value of giving thoughts time to percolate so I thought I’d share. Maybe the image of thoughts as rocks might connect with you. Of course, I couldn’t resist tweaking it a bit!
I’m imagining thoughts in a rock tumbler:
you fill it with jagged idea rocks,
not quite sure what’s buried in there,
setting it aside to slowly go about its business,
turning and tumbling,
bouncing off each other in the back corner of your mind.
Eventually you choose to peek again,
wondering what they look like now.
You reach in and pull them out,
handful by handful,
seeing these freshly churned and more polished ideas in a new light,
some recalling a great idea that now looks more mature and developed,
some sparking new inspirations,
some touching each other in a new way, creating new connections,
some having become so small they slip through your fingers.
If you haven’t guessed, I’m pretty fascinated by how humans instinctively think and learn. 🙂
And last, but by no means least, I want to say thanks again for inviting me along on your unschooling journey. Whether you’re new to unschooling or years in, I truly appreciate the effort you are putting into living joyfully with your family!
Have a wonderful weekend!