Friday, April 08, 2011
unschooling : embracing the All of it
Sometimes I feel... obvious... when I write about unschooling or parenting. Not because all of my thoughts are common to mainstream society, but rather because I think most of the people that I hang out with (such as it is) are people that think for themselves, too.
So it seems like preaching to the choir.
But then, I think, well, someone might stumble over here, and think "what in the world?!", and then I get an email that gets me to thinking...
There was an email in my inbox the other day... something like "Unique Educational Software".
I went to see what it was about, because that's what we do, right?
Right off I noticed that the letter was in a single paragraph (including the introduction) which I found strange, and then I read the words "[this] software actually interrupts the operating system which forces them to answer questions grade relevant as they play on the computer or on their social networks." (That is exactly how it was written.)
Here's the thing... I don't choose for people how to best live their lives, and I don't choose for them how they should educate their children. I think more often than not personal philosophies (including spirituality) have many more things "same" than "different"; that often it's the verbiage and frame that appears to separate us.
And I wasn't riled or put off by the email, but it did stir up some long-settled dust in a few corners of my mind.
So I'm sharing a few thoughts. With you. [smile] The Choir.
My children play on their computers. Did you know that? ; )
There are lots of reasons that I don't put limits on my children's computer play.
Probably the first reason is that if I was working on something and my husband came into the room and said "Your computer time is up, I'm shutting down your machine," I would be extremely... er... vexed. (Really, I would have never married a man that presumed to tell me what to do, but that's beside the point.)
Secondly, I think it's very odd -and ridiculous, frankly- that people somehow think that sitting passively in school, getting various bits of information thrown at them all day is acceptable (and effective!), yet when a child is inquiring and investigating on his own out of genuine interest it is considered grossly objectionable.
Third - my children play on the computer the same way they watch television... sometimes for a few seconds, then they're racing off because all of a sudden they have an idea for something they'd like to try out or create or re-enact, or see something they'd like to investigate; learn more about. They use props. They stand up and dance. They come running to tell their Mama something new and super cool. Even if they're "on the computer all day", they're not truly; I daresay it's much more involved and active than doing time in a classroom.
The computers are one of our main resources for our investigations. We own hundreds of books, of course, and dozens and dozens of games and lots of math manipulative sets and meter sticks and rulers and scales and documentaries and all of the lovely things that supply us with a rich learning environment. But certainly the computers are at the top of that list. I am so profoundly grateful for the internet... it's the whole reason that I say the need for school is obsolete. Anyone can learn about anything they can imagine at any time. How amazing and spectacular is that?
The point of that software was to interrupt what the child is doing (or adult, if you feel that your husband or wife is brainlessly spending too much time on the computer, I guess), and to insist they answer quiz questions. That assumes that we can't just ask our children outright!
I think people forget they have choices.
People forget that if they have a question about their child or his thinking or her life, they can just ask.
And I think we forget that we have free choice. We can sometimes feel trapped; that we must do things in a prescribed way.
People find a philosophy or curricula that appeals to them, and much after their initial enthusiastic embrace they feel all sorts of "must do"'s.
I think we see this particularly a lot in unschooling, but that could just be my own perspective and relating to the people I hang out with.
I think that we also forget we always have the choice of sharing every part of our selves; our needs, our fears, our likes and dislikes... it isn't unacceptable to share with our loved ones, we just need to make sure we're doing so with authenticity and love. "Hey... I"m feeling overwhelmed, do you think you could help me pick up?" And... "Oh! I love that you found a new game that is so cool and fun for you... but do you think you could take a break from it soon? I miss you terribly and want to hang out with you!" Or "Hey... I'm feeling like I (and/or we) need to get away from the house for a while and out into the Big Wide World... what do you say we head to the woods?"
I am as romantical a creature as they come, I imagine. I understand well the need for beautiful things that can be felt and loved with the All of us - with our skin, our eyes, our open hearts, and with eager ears. Things like textures. Streaming sunlight. Being breathless and grinning from chasing or laughter. Wooden toys. Fairy tales. Bare feet in grass. Leaping and flying imaginations. Creating something from nothing. Exploring something ancient. These are the things that truly make my world go 'round.
And my children being free to learn about animals, to watch movies, to laugh uproariously, to learn new games, to play with puzzles, to hear favorite or funny songs, to see new animals, to do research, to investigate their world... on the computer does not have to take away from that.
We can have it all.
My children have seen computers. We have three of them. I don't say no.
We have a backyard and a hose. We make mud.
We have space for gardens, they choose what they'd like to grow.
We have paper, they choose what to draw. Or not.
Books to read, musical instruments to play, trees to climb, cars to race, balloons to fly, tea parties to host, prehistory to create, museums to visit, paints to blend, games to invent, imaginations to let reign...
We don't have to say "No" to things out of fear or without thinking.
It doesn't feel loving. It doesn't feel magical. It doesn't feel freeing.
Saying yes honestly to the Self (and the needs and desires of the self), as well as to the possible joy in our immediate world is wonderfully empowering and liberating.
For me, it's just a matter of joyfully and enthusiastically embracing the All.