Sunday, August 29, 2010


I have this life-long love of language. I think about it, obsess about it, very, very often. I give probably entirely too much thought about words and phrases. Even when I seem to be just rambling, I'm concurrently analyzing everything I say, or storing it away for later analysis. And, because I have no real main, unifying topic for this here blog, I figure I might as well allow myself to wax on about terminology when I feel the urge.* So, here goes.

Back here, I said that I'd talk about the term "homeschooling." I keep using the term, but really only because I haven't wanted to reveal just how out on the edge I seem to be.** However, I think it's finally time for me to just write this post.

Yes, I identify us as homeschoolers, but more than that, I align us with unschoolers. We don't use a curriculum and we never have (and I don't intend to). There are times that I have directed what Pic is doing and I'm sure I'll find myself doing that in the future. It's difficult to completely diverge from my own experience, so this whole adventure will be a learning process. I am consciously trying to just go with what works for us and what we are interested in, though. I see no reason to set Pic down with a textbook or a worksheet unless she asks for such. And, please, before you roll your eyes, I actually used to ask for textbooks to read for pleasure. I recently bought myself a middle school math book from a rummage sale. I like to practice math problems. I like workbooks and textbooks. And, yes, I'm a total nerd. However, I don't know that Pic will be the same. I'm waiting to find that out.

I've heard a lot of talk and have read a lot of information on unschooling being child-led, but I am thinking more family-led. Yes, I am working to do my absolute very best in allowing Pic to choose what direction she'd like to go in her learning. I ask her what she is interested in learning about and she requests books on specific topics from the library. She chooses which movies she wants to watch and chooses many of her activities. We don't always do everything she wants, but if we don't follow her desires, we provide her with a reason why we're not going there. For example, Pic wanted to go swimming today, but it was really weirdly cold and windy and Cardo and I didn't want to hang out in the outdoor pool we have access to. We probably could have gone, even if only for a few minutes, and this is definitely an example of us not being too stellar, but we didn't just tell her, "No. Because we said so," and leave it at that. We told her why we didn't want to go and we asked her if she had any other ideas for what to do instead. We played for a good bit out at a park she chose, playing games she chose, after we visited the library where she choose books and a movie. I know this all probably comes across one of two ways. One: You might be thinking, "Duh. This is no revolutionary way to raise a child. Saying yes to things she'd like to do? You should have taken her swimming. What's wrong with you?" (Okay, I really hope you're not that harshly judgmental.) Two: "Why would you give your child so much power? The parents are in charge and kids have to do what the parents say. The end." (I also hope you're not this harshly judgmental.) Pic is a part of our family. Yes, she's younger and has less experiences than we do, but she's still a person. I don't see why we can't do and learn and explore with her. Whenever we want to tell her no about something, I want to have a good reason why. Often, on our walks, she'll ask if she can walk barefoot. Probably a year ago, we'd say no and leave it at that. Now, though, we tell her, "Okay. Please look out for glass [which we occasionally see] and let us know if you want to put your shoes back on." Nothing earth-shattering, but our lives are so much easier.

In fact, since we made the choice to not send Pic off to school, we all seem to be much more relaxed. When we're all together, most often, we have nothing to rush off to. We are able to spend leisurely time together. It's the "quality time" so many are often striving to fit into their days. We so enjoy our time together, hanging out at parks and walking/biking/rollerskating, that this really was one of the many reasons we decided to skip the normal school choice.

So, wow, I've said a lot and I haven't even really said what I wanted yet. ("Oh, no, I've said too much/I haven't said enough.") What did I want to say? We aren't just homeschoolers. We aren't just keeping Pic home from school and replicating the schoolroom at home. As I said, we aren't purchasing or otherwise acquiring a curriculum. So, we fit into the category of unschoolers. I am working on whole-life unschooling, but some of us (ahem) are a little more resistant to that. We'll work on it. But, here's the thing. No matter how much I love the idea of unschooling, I'm not the hugest fan of the term unschooling. I'm not exactly sure what it is, but I'm thinking several things. I don't like the negative connotation. I, for the most part, loved school. What I loved was the learning and the (very) few close friends I had. However, Pic can, and does, have all of that without the school building, without the taunting and peer pressure. (We'll see how those negative aspects of life pop up in Pic's life. I'm not looking forward to it.)

I recently saw the term "homelearning." I've probably seen it before, but it just struck me the other day. I really like the focus on learning there. What I'm really liking, though, is "life learning." [If you've been paying incredibly close attention, for whatever reason, you'll notice that I started using the tag "life learning" just before I announced our not-off-to-school plans.] Pic hasn't been formally schooled, yet she has learned plenty. She's been in daycare, but left before the kindergarten program started (she started at eighteen months and left when she was almost four-and-a-half). We had planned on her going to kindergarten, but, well, I started tuning into this whole world of (secular) homeschooling and unschooling. So, yes, we haven't started on the K-12 experience. And, yet, the other day, as we were counting out quarters for the bus, she told me, "We need sixteen. We have twelve, so we need four more." Just like that. She didn't even stop to think about it. I haven't taught her to subtract. I wasn't even helping her count the quarters. All I told her was that we needed sixteen. This was kind of the a-ha moment for me. Although I've heard it many times, that people can and do learn from life, I was seeing it in action. It was a small moment, but potent.

Okay. That was long, but it's late and I'm awake, so I'm rambling. In case you couldn't tell, I think through writing. It is through writing that I often come to understanding. So, Great Interweb, thank you for providing this space for me to spew my thoughts. And, thank you for providing for me oh-so-many resources and community members for this next great adventure.


* Just an example or two. In this sentence, I had first typed "since" instead of "because." I changed it because I've heard that "since" should only be used to indicate a passage of time. For example: Since I was three, I've been determined to teach. Also, I typed "theme" instead of "topic," but, well, "theme," in literature, implies not only a subject, but a statement or judgment about that subject. For example: subject/topic: love; theme: love is a many-splendored thing. And, yes, oh geez, I could just live in my head.

** Also, the term "homeschooling" is convenient and familiar.