Friday, March 08, 2013

Looks Like School

Good grief.  I can't believe it's already been a month.  How annoying.  I thought it had been like a week-and-a-half!
I truly haven't lost interest in being here.... it's mostly that I'm still putting in ( paid! ) work for KiwiCrate (here); so we do lots of projects and pictures for them, and I don't have an abundance of time for them and this, too.  But I'm not complaining about them buyin' our paints and glitter (though I miss this space and my friends here among the blog pages terribly).....

So, anyway.  Where were we?

Maddie is reading.  Not just the "ants on a log" stuff, but other real words.  Like 'night'.  And 'those'. And 'skype' and 'minecraft skins' and 'What is your father's middle name?' and "What was the name of your first stuffed animal?' which are 'change your skin' security questions.  Yes.  Maddie's reading ability has exploded over the last two or three weeks due to Minecraft Play.  Trev cut his literary teeth on words like 'Jurassic' and 'Late Cretaceous', and Maddie cuts hers on "Maddie... can you skype?" 
Today she read to me Go Dog, Go.  Which you may say is not complicated, and you may be right, but when she never saw (or read) the word 'those' until today, and breezed right through it.....  well.  It's most impressive, my friends.  Most impressive.

Trevelyn is writing.  Not stories (he's quite adept at stringing words together properly and creatively), but writing with his hand.  Penmanship.  Which is something in which he has never had any interest.  I was telling my friend yesterday that it's my theory that things that come very naturally to us -the parent- I think we don't sweat, as we have no concept of not 'getting it'.  Meaning--writing is something I do easily and naturally, and it has never occurred to me that my children just wouldn't do it. 
Oh, there have been moments of fear or worry, once in a great while (every few years), but if we've practiced it came to tears (you choose whose), and it was soon left for another day.  A week or two ago we had that day.  Trev wanted to write.  To be able to write.  I had spoken with another friend about the possibility of disgraphia (something her son had), at the same time he was frustrated with his inability.  I put it to Trev ("Want you to know, Bud, that I'm not worried about it, and if it Is, then it Is, and it's no big deal, we'll / you'll just work around it") that it may be a possibility, and did he really want to learn?  Did he want to practice, since it was such a spot of frustration for him, and see if it was something that would come easier with practice?  Could just practice for a couple of minutes each day, if he liked, to see if it got easier.  He did.  And he does.  And it did... get easier.  He is breezing through his letters quite quickly, these days.  Sometimes pencil to paper, and sometimes it's the dry erase board.  (I don't think it's disgraphia, as he has no problems with conception.  He understands the written word beautifully - and does string together words and punctuation beautifully - it's just printing and drawing that he has had such trouble with.)


Looks like school, doesn't it?  One sits with a board, writing her own math problems...(she started with 5+5=10, then 10+10=20, then of course it was 20+20=40 and 40+40=80, and ran out or room after 80+80=160....) .....and the other has his tablet, practicing letters. 
But it doesn't feel like school.  It feels like.... learning.  Stretching.  Playing. Like 'goin' around the mountain.... to see what we could see'.

After that, today, we got our multiplication paper off the fridge.  Again--might look like school, hmm?  We were watching one of Sal Kahn's videos one day, and Sal (in his ever-so-easy-and-practical way, said, "You probably want to memorize the times tables.  It comes in real handy to know these things..."  I thought, "Hmmm... we should get on that more actively, maybe...." Not in a "should do" way, but instead a "think you?" sort of way.  It was decided, that yes-- 'twould come in handy.  So we have a paper on the fridge, and on the days that we remember we bust out a new one.  "Nine times seven is 63."  "Nine times seven is 63."  "Seven times nine is 63."  And later, as I pass by him... "Nine times seven is..."  "63!  Nine times seven is 63!"  And so it goes.  We have about half of 'em memorized, maybe.
And long division has come up (in the natural order of things), and how it works.  An' decimals.  And converting fractions, and remainders, and Pi.  None of it is anything worrisome, none of it is rigid, and none of it is stressful. 
When I ponder it, our ventures are more of a meander into different ideas and territories, rather than because of anything that 'must be done' (as already mentioned).  It's not a "have to know this" thing, but rather a "Oh, that?  Here's how (and why) that works..."
Slowly but surely, these things get unfolded in the unschooled life.  Maybe All Things, hmm?  :)  Certainly many, many things.

What else?

Trev chose our Smart Quest game, today.  Which is really what put these thoughts upon this trail for me, this evening.  It's one of those "If you were in school, you would know this" sort of games.  Because you studied This in third grade.  And That in second.  And This last year, in fifth.   
But I don't know if you remember it all, dear reader.
Anyway... we were playing.  Trev answers the fifth and sixth grade questions (he's eleven), and I answer the sixth; that's as far as they go.  (But often I lose, of course.)
My favorite thing about these "If you were in school, you'd know this" games, is that I get to be surprised and amazed at what my children know.  And they get to feel smart, 'cause That's something they've understood their whole lives.  (Something about solar energy, today, that Trevelyn was rolling his eyes at in complete disdain.)
"If you left San Francisco and flew west to Japan, what ocean would you cross?" 
"Psh.  The Pacific!"  Of course.  "Which of these states was not a part of the original thirteen colonies...." "What color is the light when all visible light waves are seen together?"  Psh.  "Does the day with the longest daytime occur on a solstice, or an equinox?"  Dude.  "Name the country that signed the Magna Carta in 1215, giving some rights to its people."
Sometimes things are asked that we've never heard of; twice, now there has been something about a story and some skates - we guessed golden- they were s'posed to be silver.  Sometimes I get to say, "Woh.  How'd you know that?" and sometimes I get to get really excited, and tell an exciting (to me) story about how something works or get out a cool tool.

So... the point?
I suppose the point is that all things come to pass.  That handwriting sometimes finds its way to eleven year olds.  That learning letters and reading can be a very slow process for one who has been writing letters and drawing very well since she was three--and then, one day.... there it is.
I suppose it's my point that living organically can bring handwriting practice to one's house just as it brought play with levers, pulleys, and a love for ziplines.

I guess that's the importance of keeping your eyes -and heart- open.  Some things come with absolutely no prompting.  Some things only want for a pause (at the right time), and a question.  Some things are understood immediately or inherently, and some can be learned thoroughly by a casual meandering over long periods of time.

I love that we play with dice and call it fun.  And that most of our 'math' (if you insist) play consists of strategy and logic games.
I love that my children know interesting facts about history and the world around us and have never been taught a lesson or seen (or dreaded) a text book.
I love that there isn't a museum or zoo within thirty miles (and there are several) that we do not consider 'ours'.
I love that I don't have (and project) a feeling of urgency about things that make themselves known in time.

I love the freedom of being able to enter something through the back.  Or sideways.  :)
I so love our life.


  1. Thank you so much for this post! It has come at exactly the right time for me - we have been homeschooling our 10yr old Aspie son for almost a year now and handwriting remains a huge obstacle for him - he has told me that he doesn't want to write but will draw pictures instead! So to know that, even at this age, it can still come to them is really encouraging. Thank you

  2. Rachel - when Trev was about five, I got wiggy about it for a minute. I was thinking "we should practice this". A friend (an unschooling friend) said "Seems to me that you can if you want to, but know that these things just come, too. As you know, my son was just accepted into prep school (he wanted to play soccer), and he's never written, either!"
    Since my discomfort with it was causing tears, I made a leap of faith, and backed off. Permanently. A close friend of ours of the same age wasn't writing either (hardly any), but his was developing and getting more orderly and smaller over time, just by his aging.
    The only reason the question was even brought up for us again, was because Trev was SO frustrated by it. He definitely expects things to come out as they are in his head, and letters most definitely were not.
    Shrug. So I asked. There was/is no "You need to do this every day", or "You said you wanted to, and if you don't, how can you expect to get better?" or "Why not do this, now..." when he doesn't want to.
    It's a "Wanna bang this out real quick?" thing. (Those are my exact words, most days.) And he always says "Yes!"
    Now it's coming easily, and without frustration or tears. He's relieved. He can do it very quickly, and more easily every day. He never gets frustrated, now, as he's writing (well, rarely), and he feels satisfied.
    So it was just never the time, before now. He just wasn't ready until this moment.

    I wanted to say one more thing about this.... a lot of unschoolers live according to the axiom of Trust.
    That's really hard for me. Not that I don't think my children are brilliant and wonderful people, but Trust is just.... too... Big, and willy-nilly, and Chancey to me. It's a little too vague and stand-offish.
    But! I am Very comfortable with a frequent re-assess and check-in.
    I don't meant that I am constantly judging and grading -not at all- but I do pay keen attention to them, to their interests and moods, and we have loads of revealing conversations.
    So rather than what sees like 'blind trust' to me, or waiting passively, it is my way to find things, offer things, suggest things (games, museum visits, etc), and show things that I think keep life interesting. And to listen carefully to what They think are interesting, and bring those in, as well.
    I think this time, with Trev, it happened that I said just the right thing, at just the right time, and his answer was a resounding, and happy "Yes!".

    Also--I think it's awesome that your son wants to draw, and not write! I don't think there would be any need to even practice letters... if he can draw, he'll probably write beautifully! :)

  3. Wait... that might have seemed that I 'urge' my children to do things, and I didn't meant that...
    What I meant was that just by playing games and asking questions I can see that they're brilliant and learning and making discoveries on their own (like from computer play, conversations with friends, and books), and so I don't need to 'blindly trust', as I can see that their learning is substantial and impressive!

    Frequent assessing and conversing is always a great way be wowed!

  4. Oh yes, Trust is really hard, especially when you're used to the school system! But I am trying (which is why your post was so timely for me!) Also, unschooling seems to be the way for us at the moment - although routine and structure are usually recommended for ASD kids, my son just does not respond to that at all, he just wants to do his own thing. But I know that he is learning so much, even if he is not "working".

  5. I love seeing the workings of your unschooling and the beauty of how it all falls in place!


Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!