Monday, January 27, 2014

Gnomes, Outhouses, and more about our days...

(So, we had a wonderful sleepover in the woods last week, in-between snowstorms, and the best photos I got were of Ani taking a trip to the outhouse.  Granted, it is the most beautiful outhouse I've ever seen, and she was wearing a brand-spankin' new hat that I made all in one afternoon, but really. For as beautiful as it is, this photo shoot is a little silly.)  (And yes, there was the "Mama, you aren't going to take photos of me sitting down in the outhouse, are you?" Um, no darlin.)

I found myself wanting to talk more about what I was writing about last time - the routine, the structure - in this one-sided conversation I am having.  I felt like I gave the impression that we are quite formal these days, and schooly.  Well, for us I guess we are. The fact that we are doing anything at approximately the same time every day is revolutionary.  However, the flexibility, the meandering, the spontaneity, it's all still there.

isn't it so pretty?
Our days are still mostly conversations.  What kind of mouth does the Giant Squid have? Do you think the ancient shaduf looked like this? Doesn't it look like Spain and Africa are actually touching? Do you think they might be touching? 

I also found myself thinking about a quick conversation I had with a vendor at market, just before Christmas.  She has two grand-daughters who I discovered are living with her, and she threw out an exasperated sigh to me and set into talking about how hard it is to homeschool them when they don't want to sit still or learn anything (these girls are roughly 6 and 4).  Knowing there was a short line behind me, I took a second to start to say something about how we do it at home, but I guess I made the mistake of saying, well, we mostly unschool in our house, and the dismissive smile she gave me, along with the "well, that'll do it" told me that she has an image in her head of what that means, and it doesn't match how we live.  Her look told me that I take the easy route, not schooling my kids, and it stung. 

Finding the line between interest-lead learning and providing some flow is tricky.  It can take a lot of energy to be available and spontaneous. I would say that our choice is far from "easy", but it makes for a rich and mostly really enjoyable life.

I've spent a lot of time since that moment at market thinking of how I could give this woman a glimpse of another way of doing things.  I would tell her I spend most of my days with my children, listening to them and paying attention to what they are drawn to.  I would tell her that we play a lot of games, read a lot of books, and listen to music. I would tell her that I don't freak out when they are so deeply into a game that I can't possibly steer, because I value their play time just as much now as I did when they were 6 and 4.  I would tell her that my kids learned to read when they were ready to read (at ages 9 and 6), and that I wished I hadn't panicked about math so many times. 

Really, I wish it hadn't mattered that she scoffed when I said we mostly unschool.  It just revealed a lack of understanding on her part, not a shortcoming on mine.  I could also have told her that the whole thing changes every season, that we are constantly tweaking and figuring out what is working and what isn't - that our fall was confusing and disappointing in many ways and that I am so thankful that our fresh start is feeding us right now.  I am learning that we all do better when I can shape some of what we're doing.  I'm not so interested in debating whether or not that makes us unschoolers, as the label truly does not matter to me.  I am interested in finding that sweet spot that feeds all of us, kids and grown-ups, and makes us feel whole and engaged.

But enough navel-gazing.  Back to this mischievous gnome...

Little stinker.  I see you...

(Interestingly, as I've been writing this post, I've seen a couple of others out there in blogland talking about how their families do or don't "unschool" (here and here.)  Must be the contemplative nature of this January...wish we were all sitting around with our afternoon coffees together, talking it out!)


Tokarz said...

How pretty a place!!!Nice to get another perspective!!and,I love that you could recognize the lack of understanding on the market woman's part, and know it is not shortcoming on your part!!! Bravo!! You're the most amazing schooly unschoolers ever!!

Reba said...

I love the blue hat! I love how you explain the parts of the day that flow like alone time and then together time. We do that too, although I had never thought about it. And even the spaces in our home reflect that....lots of spaces to be together and hopefully just as many little spots that encourage alone too.

Kerry said...

Ani looks like a rosy-cheeked little elf! :-)

The dismissive attitude towards educators (and you are an educator whether you school or unschool) is widespread no matter where the learning environment is: at home or in a public school classroom. I certainly took my share of potshots-from-the-critics.

Learning with kids takes a ginormous amount of thought and energy--wherever it takes place.You are doing a fantastic job with Ani and Liza.

merry said...

Amen to what all of the above said. It also takes a lot of patience - much more than I ever had! I don't think I could have done what you are doing, Deb. Very proud of you.