Our 5-year-old isn’t keeping up with school kids his age and that’s more than ok with us. When we started homeschooling the idea was making school subjects fun, essentially hiding learning in play, while we were well aware of how early academic learning can be harmful in the long-term to children, we were still encouraging learning all academic subjects.Pushing literacy and numeracy wasn’t a priority but rather fostering a love of all those things by making them fun.
A little while longer on our path and we have come to realize that language, maths, science, music, art, history are all one big thing called life. You cannot learn math without finding out about history, or using maths in music, or history when learning about Art. We don’t separate life into subjects so we no longer separate their learning, their time into subjects either. Because they are still breathing, still living in the world, and growing from day-to-day. They are learning all the subjects when they come up and when they are relevant to them.
Pam Larichia responds to those who ask what unschooling looks like. “Children at school learn information and facts so that when they leave school they will be prepared for the real world. Unschooling children are in the real world and learn what they need to know when it comes up, when it is relevant to them.”
My 5-year-old doesn’t need to read now, he has no need for it at the moment. When he does he will learn it very quickly and proficiently, the information is absorbed much quicker and more effectively when it is interesting to them or relevant. We read together and he points out words that he sees he can recognise but there is no expectation that he learn to read or even want to. He is also under no pressure to write unless he wants to which he does occasionally. He can write his name and other letters but has never had to sit day-to-day practicing over and over. He also knows some numbers but not all of them but can tell you the odd and even numbers in our street from reading the no’s on letter boxes.
I’m sure if he were to go to school he would be told he was behind and would have to catch up, but Im so glad he doesn’t have to. He is forging his own path.
He is incredibly smart, his vocabulary is blossoming and his story telling and creative thinking is amazing. He knows so much about dinosaurs and has an unbelievable ability to mimic the exact sounds of a trex and velociraptor. I’m telling you its scary. He knows exactly how many eggs you need to make scrambled eggs and can make anyone a unique and tasty plate of food. He is fascinated by dog breeds and can name many different breeds, as well as having a keen interests in plant species.
He has learnt how to swim, after several years of water anxiety following a close call in the family pool, without lessons or coercion. He spent a whole season not leaving the step. Now he loves water and you can hardly get him out. He has also inherited a family love of music and is exploring this love by performing concerts and memorizing lyrics to his favourite songs, he is also getting practice playing drums and using a mic.
He knows holding hands makes him feel safe, and that a cuddle under the blanket is the best medicine. He knows his comfort food is steak with mash and mushroom sauce and savours each mouth full. He also knows that a good game of tickle monster is good for getting the endorphins pumping or playing a game of indoor soccer and kicking mummy’s butt.
He is creative, and good with a hammer and screwdriver, he can make and epic treehouse in a matter of minutes. He will also make you a caravan, market, hospital or airport pretty efficiently too.
He loves cooking and mastering science experiments, and making goop, he has learnt about balance, gravity, heat and fire, he loves rocks and treasures and often has a little pile in his pocket. He loves bugs, especially bees. He loves to learn about how honey is made. He likes to know how everything is made, if I am honest. He has felt lots of different sand in between his toes. The red dirt of the Pilbara and Kimberley, the sandy beaches of Broome and the dark dust of the hills.He has had to make friends from many different places and he is gaining more confidence as he grows.
He is working, working, working on so many skills and learning things on a daily basis. I don’t worry anymore if he is doing what all the other kids are doing, I trust he will learn what he needs to learn and more. I am glad he will get the chance to find his own path. Not only that, there is no expecation that he will be anything other than himself.
I can appreciate that homeschooling isn’t an option for many families, there are financial and practical limitations and I absolutely agree that school is the best option for many children and their families. However I think we can all benefit from looking through a less conventional lens at learning and education, ponder about it, question it, explore it. Learning is innate, its pleasurable, those dopamine cells are firing constantly. It’s no wonder we are seeking to know more. When we are interested. So how have we driven away the joy? Looking at learning through a new lens can inspire us to passionately seek out our own interests, even those things that may not lead us down the conventional path to success. We are also more free and open to engage with our children and joyfully join them in their own interests, even if we ourselves don’t understand them, knowing that they are passionate and engaged we can be confident they are learning.
Joining them where they are, rather than creating opportunities to learn something you think is better for them.
A study on grown unschoolers, done by Gina Riley and Peter Grey found that 75 percent of the group said their current career choices had a direct link to the things they were interested in as a child. It is quite a big percentage. But it’s not so astounding considering that we come into the world with such an incredible desire to learn everything we need to know to thrive. When we hand our mind over to someone else it isn’t surprising we forget who we are and what we enjoy.
Shifting my eyes from my very schoolish perspective, has helped me uncover my own desires and interests that were buried under a pile of societal expectation. I have been able to set free my inner child.
When I look back at my childhood memories and those things that I was drawn to I can draw a parallel to much of my life as it is today.
I was a mother, I would mother everything and I strived for perfection in this arena. I would get incredibly frustrated if I couldn’t swaddle the babies properly. I would always have a large family with plenty of pets. I would create hospitals and fill them with patients and even had my very own wheelchair made from an old golf cart. I was a scientist researching bird species, bird eggs, nurturing hatchlings that had fallen out of their nests. I was also a big dreamer. Spending hours listening to music and playing the piano, lying under a tree and pondering the meaning of life. I had journals full of musings, and stories and poems or songs. Probably terrible ones as I remember. lol
Today these things are still all there. Being a mother is my biggest passion, above everything i believe it is my greatest love. I am still awestruck by the beauty and vulnerability of birds, and still moved to tears when I hear a piano solo or instrumental. I still find myself pondering all those big questions and find writing about my journey is such a soothing experience.
When I was in school I had no idea what I wanted to do, I knew from what they told me that If I didn’t succeed now and know what I was going to do, I could damage all future choices I had of getting the career I wanted. I was nervous and followed the path I thought was the right one for me. I chose to study nursing as I did really enjoy the sciences but here I am, years after finishing my degree having rarely worked in that profession and with no real desire to go back, other than because well I should. I have the degree right, I should use it. What if we let go of the should and replaced it with could. If you could do anything what would it be? What is it you remember doing that brought you joy? When you find the answer put your energy there. Make your own path, don’t follow anyone else’s. And if you don’t know now, that’s ok. It takes a little practice, trying on those new glasses and re focussing on the new image you are seeing. Give yourself time, but not too much time as WE ONLY GET ONE LIFE!!!!
FORGE YOUR OWN PATH or fork in the road.