Saturday, 25 May 2013

Laidback....or what happens when you're not trying!

Hey - how are you all?

Nice to see you here.

I just wanted to write a little post about the magic that can happen when you're not even trying.

Unschooling is pretty much a philosophy of actively rejecting school techniques as a means of learning, with the trust that learning is all about making connections organically, joining the dots in a random way. It's about treating workbooks and worksheets as something people should choose, not be forced to do.

Unschooling is about seeing past the usual labels of what is educational and seeing everything as inherently and potentially educational. Every experience. Every book. Every place. Every friendship. Every TV show. Every game. It's not about cherry picking things and splitting them out into  'educational' and 'non educational'. (Although this is a trap I still fall into. I'm trying not to! Nobody's perfect) Learning isn't portioned out neatly - it's seemless. It's a journey of discovery. It's not anyone else's to own or judge or comment. It just IS.

Unschoolers look beyond the usual labels, certificates, curricula but see the learning that spills all over the place in their own real lives, and trust that their kids will learn by simply being alive too. Being alive and having friendships, conversations, making and experimenting, trial and error-ing, going to interesting places, workshops, courses, festivals, fairs, museums. Watching TV and learning about animals and fashion and history and sea rescues and tribespeople and volcanoes and science discoveries and skateboard tricks and how cartoon sponges can live in pineapples under the sea! Piecing together what mass culture means. 

If it looks easy and sounds lazy learning like this. It is and it isn't. For someone very much 'educated' in the traditional way, this kind of learning still sometimes freaks me out. Particularly on those days when the Playstation seems more fun than maths or those other supposedly noble and worthy subjects - the ones we all hold up as THE BIGGIES.

And just when I start to wonder about this or that. The kids will astound me like Indie and Alfie this week.

Indie, the kid who I have inflicted the least amount of schoolyness on, the one who has been unscathed by earlier freak-outs of a school kind that involved workbooks and worksheets for his older two, has skipped along with his learning entirely organically really. Now 7, he has barely had to do any of the kind of mindnumbingly boring letterland type b*llocks that temporarily seemed like a good idea just a few years ago with the others. (Sorry Finn and Herb by the way)

I really haven't tried hard to 'teach him the basics' which seems an obsession with school. And yet he is reading. And using beautiful words. 

And this week, Pete picked up a maths book we had lying around, and tried Indie with it. He tried a page chock full of old-fashioned sums. Adding up hundreds. I didn't know Indie could really add in tens to be honest - he is still at the stage of counting to 89 and pausing as I say "90'! Anyway, I digress. 
Turns out, Indie sailed through an entire page of sums! As in 347+293 kind of sums. Written the old fashioned way. And he was so excited about it! I LOVE maths, he said! I'm a mathematician! And that night he took another worksheet to bed, because he wanted to do sums before he went to sleep. And he announced "This has been the best day of my life!' Which is pretty cool considering we have just been to Legoland and he has had a LOT of cool days! Seeing his unbridled joy at doing maths has made me laugh and smile and I feel really happy we didn't push anything with him. See what happens when you're not really trying?

And Alf. He is one smart little cookie. No preschool stuff with him AT ALL. No coaxing, no cajoling. No letterland-y type preschool educational crap whatsoever. No attempts to teach him the alphabet or anything that would be considered schooly. And yet he knows every letter. He can read the odd word. And the letters that are firing him up right now? The letters on the PERIODIC_FREAKING_TABLE no less. He has a beautiful old fashioned periodic chart on his bedroom all, a massive canvas that he likes us to talk about. This one is helium, it's the gas we put in balloons. This one is the symbol for gold. etc etc. Yep. Alf is a little scientist of the highest order! He goes round talking about elements, about solids and liquids and gases. Uses statements like 'This is really effective!' This is the kid who is making puddles and experiments all over the house and garden, mixing things to notice the change, his eyes lighting up when he says 'This is really sciency!' or 'If I squeeze this maybe I can get the nitrogen out!' 'Let's make a fire with the elements' (Um yeah Alf, but not inside the house darling).

So anway. Just needed to share in case any of you unschoolers are having wobbles. have faith! It's not a tidy and coloured in neatly between the lines kind of education, but it's a juicy way of learning that's for sure!


  1. Oh oh oh thankyou. As a newish home school mum after years in trad school (me) trad school (eldest two)Steiner School...(odd combinations) its been a bit of a leap of faith and learning curve, mostly for me, to pull out the two youngest and do it at home. But the more I relax, the more magic happens...but I still get the wobbles, the thanks for that post, I needed it!Mind you don't know what'll happen when the next addition arrives in July!!

  2. The wobbles and the guilt are totally part of the journey Henrietta! Sometimes because the learning is unseen it's a bit like the magic that happens underground over the winter.... All that work going on to bring forth the spring flowers and all those leaves and creatures.... (That's why I love the Root Children). Learning can be the same..... quietly being processed internally, then you only see the flower much much LATER!!!! Bit like a baby in the womb, unseen, magically growing in the dark, so much happening in there.... ;-)

  3. What a lovely post!

    This kind of learning is definitely not for the fainthearted and it absolutely requires a heavy dose of faith and trust to realise:

    that even if it really doesn’t look like it, some kind of meaningful learning is taking place deep within…

    that, somehow, even if all we do is chat, they are still processing, digesting and making sense…

    that, even if all they can do is ask a question, they have the ability to learn anything…

    Thanks for this x