Looking back at the past 16 years, well longer really, 22 years, I marvel at how much my children did on their own, that was not part of a curriculum, class or other scripted educational exercise. We started homeschooling when my daughter was 5 (and a half) since she was already well past the area kindergartens, and the private schools were well past our means. Even with her younger brother in tow, we managed to blow through the kindergarten math, reading, phonics et cetera and play, enjoying the world and seasons. Eventually, I managed the knack of "after the fact" recording, where I would figure out where everything fit in the assignment forms after the children did something, built something or we went somewhere, or....Looking back at those assignment sheets, they are crammed-yes, there is math, English, science, etc-but the projects, the art, the life experiences! WOW
(Least you think my children are out begging on street corners - my daughter graduated with a BA in psychology from SFSU, and is looking to work on her graduate degree, among other things. My middle son has graduated from high school and is living on his own and working on a cattle ranch as a cowboy and doing general all around work including welding. My youngest entered the only local high school (that we'd consider ) and made it into GATE classes. Not bad for having fun homeschooling!? eh?) (Alas, none of them are social misfits, and have friends and an awareness of the world that puts "PAID" to the whole socialization myth.)
My 3 managed to cram a lot into every day and week. They still do, too. My middle son is the child who basically taught himself through unschooling, while the other two were close behind...as a matter of fact, none of them are afraid to go and figure out how to do what they want to do and to find the funding or materials for it. Which is good because my bank account is not a bottomless pit of money, it is just a pit ....without much in it :) Of course, my yard and house were pretty much a hopeless mess, but lets not dwell on that, shall we?
So for this post I thought I would pull out some recent examples of their creativity...and what was learned through each experience.
First the middle child...
Who decided to grow corn. What was impressivee was that he did all his own research, found his field, bought or got materials donated, and even made this handy plow (left) out of found materials. He eventually had a crop, that is until the deer came and ate it-even replanted three times. Sadly, we never saw the corn harvested and he never found out if he would have had the finances come out the way he figured. Possibly, had he invested in deer fencing he would have come out in the red, at least last year. Then this year he would have perhaps made a bit. Life changes though, and he is now too far away to maintain the field.
Some may think that this project was a failure, after all, he never harvested a crop. However, he learned a lot, and applied a lot of collected knowledge to make the corn field work, at least until the deer won. He learned perseverance, that there is more than one way to water corn (or that there is more than one way to approach a project), he learned to utilize found lumber and other things to build a fence and make a plow, he even used knowledge from an agriculture class to prepare the field and find seed and drip tape. No crop of corn was harvested, but a crop of learning, of experience and lessons in life was harvested, and that is what his life, our life, has always been about. It will carry into the future with him and help him be a can do type of person, something that is getting very rare indeed.
As for my other son, here is an example of what happens when you give a child room to imagine, to just play with out directions. Well, and a huge collection of Lego's ;) He loves Star Wars, but also adventure and fantasy. So one day they all morphed into a Indian Jones meets Star Wars sort of stage setting.
Here you can see what I mean, the rough and ready are taking on the droids. I believe the light and dark blue is water while the figure in the middle is a 'statue'. Oh, and here is a knight just in to help-see him there on the far left, emerging from the watery depths?
What I find fun is that he uses Lego's in ways my brother and I never thought of, such as the knight coming up from the deep.
The next photo shows Indiana Jones taking out a droid...ouch.
Again, someone may say, so? all kids play with Lego's. True, yet many don't go past the usual play and kits. Some, like my son spend hours planning, building sets or models, photographing them and publishing to Lego sites. They chat with other Lego hobbyist about anything Lego, and beyond. My son is much more aware of events taking place in the world today than many adults I know of, which makes him much more astute, especially of the political and economic climate. In discussing these current events with him, I have found him to be much more questioning of decisions made by the current crop of politicians, which is a good thing to learn early on. I want to stress I don't force these conversations, but do remind myself to stop and listen when he wants to talk. We have a lot of lively conversations, that is for certain!
So there is just a very small piece of our journey. Next post (which will be soon, I hope!) I will share some of our favorite ways to learn through homeschooling and unschooing....hopefully they will help someone else find joy in their children and the journey of learning in life.