Sunday, May 24, 2009

a boy's life: playing school

Mostly I save these posts for my Mama blog, but this is Trev's story, and his stories go here. So here you have it.

So today we've been playing school.
(Trev chose this on his own, of course.)
Well.... my idea of playing school is visiting ideas or concepts that are being taught in schools at the children's "grade level". Official Things. ;)

One of my favorite things to do is to spend long hours with Trev pulled up to his computer, and to help him with JumpStart World (Second Grade). I love helping him with concepts, I love seeing him read so quickly and efficiently, I love seeing evidence of things he's mastered that I haven't taught him, and that I didn't even know he knew.
Playing school is fun for me. It's fun for Trev, too, though of course my children don't call it Playing School, as they are just going about life, playing the games they enjoy.

Six months ago he was asking me about even and odd numbers.
We went through it all, ie "Every other number is odd or even. Odd means one left over. Even means it's an even amount for two."
He didn't get it.
Today he calls out (he was playing on JS2G, he has been -sans help- for the last couple of days, "Mom, what's an odd number?"
"Any number that ends in 1,3,5,7, or 9."
"1-3-5-7-9... 1-3-5-7-9..... 1-3-5-7-9..." he repeats as he chooses the triple digit numbers quickly that are odd numbers.
Game won.

Now this story isn't to say that I over-explained things to my son, and complicated things for him before.
I can usually explain something with grit and succinctly, as I know how to communicate with my children pretty well. (and they are excellent communicators themselves.)
But the point is to say that, as usual, It Just Happens.
I say "one, three, five, seven, and nine" and he repeats it. Just that easily he's got it.
He may not have the concept, per se, but who does?
I mean, not me.
As far as I can see, it's an arbitrary rule or application that someone just made up, or an observation. I don't know who observed it first or why, nor do I know why it is necessary to teach it.

So today he's building his "headline" stories... a sentence at a time. He's learning about commas and quotation marks.
I don't explain it in detail, I just tell him the marks go around what someone says.
I don't make him "get it", don't quiz him to make sure he's "passing", we just sit together and build the sentences.

In another of the JS2G games I watch him play a version of "bejeweled" or "tetris".
That boy's mind is soooo quick. He's laying out the patterns in his head, and as soon as they start to fall, he's flippin them around and moving them to the row they need to land in, then, impatient, he pushes the key that "drops" the shapes to speed the game up. (and it's not slow.)
He's faster than I am. (and I'm not slow, either.)

So. What do you do with a boy who says to his Daddy, "Dad. Island is spelled funky. The word looks like is-land, not island."
His daddy just agrees, comments on the silent letter, and they talk some about the construction of the written English word.
And the next day the conversation moves into how some words of ours are similar in French and Spanish, and we introduce the idea of languages evolving just like everything else does, in many cases from Latin and Greek.

Round and round it goes.

Trevelyn doesn't write.
Well - let me clarify that. Trevelyn has just about no interest in writing. Or drawing.
I figure it's because the boy is too interested in expressing himself in other ways.
I'm his mother, and I am not in the least concerned about it.
I see his keen intelligence daily, I see his imagination, I see his calculations, and I see his explorations.
Learning to do things (ie teaching him to do things) in an orderly and pre-planned fashion is not something I am interested in.

I can plainly see that he can read, regardless of not having been sat down and taught.

Here's the thing...
We live our lives.
We explode things and explore things, as I like to say.
We live, we cry, we laugh, we banter, we tease, and we torment, too, sometimes.
We try to live wildly when we need to, and softly when we need the quiet.
I try to inspire creativity, explorations, and discovery.

We just try to live Well-ly (an expression of Trev's that we've taken to) and let it all fall into place.
And guess what?
It does.

Friends... it always does.


  1. Oh excellent indeed!
    I'm amazed how they all develope differently too, in their own way.
    My Rainer writes all the time, but not really interested in reading on his own.

  2. Well said!
    Isn't it amazing? I, too, love when my kids have learned something and I had no idea!
    So cool ;)

  3. Isn't it quite amazing how it just happens, and how everything intermeshes. It's not really that complicated, it's just living!

  4. I enjoyed reading that,thanks:-)

    it never ceases to amaze me how things just "happen" ;-)xx

  5. Thank you so much for this post. It does just happen, doesn't it? I know in my heart this is true, but sometimes as my children get older and the pressure of high school looms, I worry and I forget. Keep on writing like this and I will keep reading. Even us old grandma ladies (who should really know better)need to be reminded now and again.

  6. Great post and worth remembering... things do just happen, learning happens, concepts fall into place and the world continues to turn.

    So much of what you wrote resonated with me. Even and odd numbers, silent letters, and the not wanting to write. Owen has made it pretty clear he prefers to film his stories so he's using the digital camera for short movies and we're on the lookout for a used camcorder.

    Your teaching/mothering philosophy is spot on.

  7. As it should be - just excellent.

  8. Isn't it amazing, how things just unfold? How they pick up things we can hardly believe?

    It use to be Zeb would mention some little fact that sounded so radical that in my mind I question what the heck we was talking about. But then he would prove that his crazy, hard-to-believe fact is in fact, FACT. And sometimes it's not. ;) But either way it's always an interesting conversation that leads to more insight into how his mind works and gathers info and grows.


  9. Hey Stephaine, I have a quick question about JumpStart World. We were trying it out spent most of the time loading and reloading, then back to start to load this normal? I really want to try it out but got a little frustrated today. Could it be the time of day we were using it??

    Thanks, Lisa :)

  10. Hi Lisa.
    Is it the online game? the free to try one?
    I've never had a problem with that one, though I had a maddening problem with uploading second grade, at first.
    But I have an account with them, so.... ??
    I would suggest checking out a few games from the library to see if you like it?
    There are so many to choose from...
    animals, math games, spelling, by grade level (called "Fundamental", etc.
    We love all of them. :)
    Sorry I couldn't be helpful!

  11. Fantastic, Steph! It's fun watching your son grow up since he's so different than my girls. Lots of writing and drawing here. This is going to be one of my go-to posts for 'unschooling works'.

  12. ok, i just found you through the comments on Childhood Magic...ur family is...delightful!! i am really enjoying the tour around your blog, your kids,your art work,etc... this unschooling interests me as i am very nervous without a schedule but get burned out so quickly WITh one!!LOL! question for ya- do you feel like you are constantly having to entertain the littles, like suggesting stuff, or do they just explore on their own?? i fear if we tried it, my 3 boys would just "play" with toys all day, torment each other, and ME! how do you keep them "learning" and not just foolin' around??


Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!