Tuesday, September 2, 2014

un-back to school

I'm seeing a lot of back to school posts.  We are not back to school.  Because there is no school.  We never stopped school and we never have school.  We have life and the learning and knowledge that emerges from life.

It's 10:30am.  The 8th grader is still sleeping until I wake her up or until she wakes up on her own.  This summer she finished Sefer Vayikra and is currently in the middle of revi'i in Parshas Naso.  We did factoring and graphing in algebra, and are in the middle of radicals.  She wants to take trapeze again, but the Yom Tov schedule means she'll miss 3 out of 6 classes.

The 2nd grader is not in the house.  Presumably he's with the neighbors or playing outside.  He's done some writing this summer, which he never showed interest in before.  But he doesn't read.  We figure by the time he's 11 he'll be reading.  Maybe before.  Maybe not.  He's much more interested in moving and playing and figuring out all sorts of projects he thinks up.  His mind and concentration abilities have really taken a cognitive leap in the last few months.  He's signed up for once a week science class this fall.  It's very hands on and has a lot of experiments.  It's for K-2 so he will be one of the oldest in the group.  That means he'll be expected to sit like a kindergartener.  He has shown very little interest in Hebrew reading or Chumash this summer, though the two times he did, the book was there and we did it for the 20 minutes or so.  He continues to enjoy learning halacha orally at night before bedtime.

The 4yo and 3yo are playing play-doh.  This morning, at 7:30, when 4yo crept into bed to snuggle me, he tiptoed out of bed and opened the sliding door a bit.  When he got back into bed, I asked him why he did that.  He said he wanted to know if the metal pieces that were attached to the door would slide with the door or not.  Observation, hypothesis, experiment, conclusion.  We grinned at each other.  A successful experiment.

I was remembering, this morning, that a half a decade ago, I saw a trailer for a movie about this crazy homeschooling family who lived in a van and didn't have formal lessons.  I was both intrigued and skeptical.  No math?  Really?  Is it really possible to become an adult without the lessons that society insists our children need?  Not just an adult, but a successful adult?  Who can hold down a job and be eloquent and function happily in society?  I watched the poised adult children being interviewed and I wondered.
I wondered what it would be like to be free from educational expectations and to focus on the type of learning that is a true and enjoyable discovery of the world.  The type of learning that has no schedules and no grade levels.

At the time, I was not bold enough to go for it.  It's a scary thing to play with children's lives like that.  But the seed of the idea was there.  It happened gradually.

Here we are.  I found from experience with my grown daughter that I have no problem unschooling every subject except math and Chumash.  I found from experience with my 8th grade daughter that I have no problem completely unschooling until grade 3, and I even learned to successfully let go of math.  Here we are with the boys, unschooling whole-heartedly.  Child led.  No grade levels.  Breaking out of the mindset of what "should" be taught or what they "need" to know or learn.  I still have a lot of premises about education, both from society and from what I've read and learned and thought about.

I'm reminded of something I read in Emerson this summer: "Speak what you think now in hard words, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said today."
What we understand is fluid and partial and we need to leave room for growth.  But we also must live according to what we understand to be true now.  Even knowing that it will change as we learn and grow.  This reminds me a lot of my homeschooling journey and how it has evolved and continues to evolve.  But isn't that the unschooling mindset?

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