Sunday, October 21, 2012

one aspect of "what homeschooling means to me"

i haven't done any chumash for a week.  chana's been doing chazara by herself and is all finished when i get home from work.  tomorrow we start the next parsha. 

aharon, who is 16 months, asked for milk this morning (ie he gestured until i opened the fridge, then he indicated the milk).  i poured him a little bit, which he drank himself.  he doesn't like me to hold the cup for him anymore.  then he wanted more.  then he wanted to carry the cup out of the kitchen.  drinks outside the kitchen for anyone under 2 is a soft limit for me (meaning i generally don't allow it but if you throw a really big temper tantrum and i'm already feeling frazzled there's a chance i might choose a spill over a nuclear meltdown of emotion).  so i took the cup away and he protested a bit, but i stood firm.  he didn't go off happily to play, so i asked him if he wanted cheerios.  he did, so i got a bowl.  as i was putting the cheerios into a bowl, he came over to me holding a plate he had taken from the pantry.

as i transferred some of the cheerios from the bowl onto the plate and put the plate on the ground so he could eat, i realized that this is part of unschooling.  i had an idea about how cheerios are to be eaten.  he presented me with an alternative idea.  instead of urging him to do it the "right" way or my way, i followed his lead.  i could see on his face, as he sat down to eat his cheerios that he had decided to put on the plate, that he was enjoying not only the cheerios, but the ideation of his theory that the cheerios can be eaten off the plate.

after a few minutes, he gestured to the bowl.  he picked up his plate of cheerios and poured them into the bowl. 

last week was parshas bereshis and this reminded me that adam was told "v'kivshuha" to conquer the world, to use our abstract capacity to master our environment and to make changes in it and to discover scientific principles and apply them, which leads to all sorts of creativity and technology.  and we also have shabbos, where we desist and put our creativity into perspective of Hashem's creation. 

i think for me, a lot of homeschooling is about giving my children the opportunity to have ideas and to try them out.  to have opinions on what they want to do and how they want to do it, and to have either the glorious satisfaction of it working as they imagined, or having it work out not as they imagined, or having something completely different and interesting happen.  i feel like this is one of the great enjoyments of being human, as well as it being part of our mission and design.  it starts early, as soon as babies start exploring, and i feel that being told to sit at a desk for the majority of the day and to do work that you haven't chosen and haven't felt a spark of desire to explore ends up quelling most people's innate curiosity and creativity.

we are creatures of will.  we have free will and we have choices, and most human beings are largely unaware of just how much free will we really have and how many choices there are.  when your childhood is full of days brimming with possibility and exploration and delightful "what shall i do today?"s, who knows what adulthood can be like?*

*everything i've ready by unschoolers who are now adults indicates that they are responsible and productive members of society. 


  1. I really enjoyed this post.
    As sort of an "adult" I feel that i've already been "schooled' and taught the "right way" to do things where things flow not from my own creative mind but from learning what is expected of me.
    Do you think there are strategies that you utilize in unschooling your kids, that "adults" could use to try unschool themselves and re-develop the creativity that was squashed in their youths?

    1. i think there are a lot of thoughts that come into our heads that we automatically censor. we all have lots of ideas and thoughts; you're probably just used to dismissing them and not being open to their possibilities. you have to learn to pay attention to that voice instead of dismissing it. it's easier once you have children or if you are around children because they have all sorts of ideas and always ask to try them. pay attention, and you'll hear how many times a child has a thought about how to go about something and how s/he is discouraged by the adult. if you take a moment and think about it, and only say no if it's dangerous (or if the cleanup is going to make you into a mean person and you aren't ready to get past that yet ;) and NOT say no based on whether or not it will "work," you will find a whole world of possibilities and interesting things. once you get used to letting the children around you do things, you start realizing that you yourself have those same thoughts, except that you've been telling yourself no the same way you've been telling them no. the conscience is so efficient it takes the voices of authority we have from youth and incorporates them into our own thoughts so we are being told "no" without anyone even saying "no" anymore! so start getting used to saying, "why not? let's try it."