Today is the first day of school, and I have to admit, I was overjoyed that my kids wouldn’t be packed up and shipped off to some over-crowded classroom. We got up when we wanted, ate when we wanted. It started out a nice, relaxed day.
Then the learning started. It wasn’t like most families. We didn’t have a curriculum or anything like that. There’s nothing wrong with that for families that do choose to raise their children that way, but it’s not us. However, learning did occur without me even trying to inspire it. Learning just comes so easily and naturally.
First it was a little spider while I was sitting outside talking to the neighbor. It was on our porch, and while I normally wouldn’t say anything about it, it’s the first school day of the year and I felt that I should at least do something educational. I’m not the kind of person to “sneak in learning” as I’ve heard other parents do, but I figured I can do something at the very least. It doesn’t take much to get a kid motivated towards learning. I called them over to check out the spider. It was a tiny jumping spider and the kids thought it was pretty cool. Sander even waved and said “Hi, spider!” This led to finding out that jumping spiders tether with spider silk as they jump. Then we talked about spider silk being super strong and found out about a cape that was made of spider silk.
Unfortunately, the neighbor was being quite a distraction. He’s one of those people that’s hard to get rid of. He just comes on over and expects to hang out all day, like I don’t have kids, a house to clean, and a life. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a nice guy and all, but having him over every day does wear on the family as a whole. He always wants to hop on the video games and the kids get sucked in to the idiot box. While normally I’m perfectly happy to let my kids watch television, movies, or play video games, they need to moderate it themselves. If I were to turn the television on and be watching it all day, or to play games all day, my kids would sit there, glued to the television until I turned it off. If they’ve got the power to decide what they use and when, they do much better. At least when it comes to sitting down as a family we usually have a lot of interaction, but with the neighbor, he plays the game and tunes everyone out but the adults. Sadly, it almost seems as though he wishes we could just ignore the kids while he’s here because he wants all the focus on him. It’s frustrating because his need to hop on the game system was a total distraction from our cool discussion about spiders. The kids tuned out and that was the end of that.
Later on Sander made his own discovery. He realized that the light that comes on when you open the dryer is controlled by a button-like switch, just like the refrigerator. He had to experiment with pressing it to make the light go off. Then he had to tell me all about it, which isn’t much from him yet. “Look! Mom. Light go on! Light go off!” I know it’s on par for a child that’s only two-and-a-half, but it’s still cute. He was so excited about the discovery that he had to show me that it was just like the one in the refrigerator. Sadly, he discovered that at two. I didn’t discover that until I was much older, in high school, I think, just because I was never allowed to “play with the fridge” and investigate how it worked.
He also decided today would be a potty day. He hasn’t actually used the toilet and has had a few accidents, but he’s decided diapers are no longer his friend. They’re uncomfortable when he’s wet and he’d rather not bother with them. It’s frustrating because he doesn’t seem to ever make the connection that he has to pee until it’s too late and seems to think peeing on the floor is kind of funny. I guess I can see where he’s coming from, but it’s a frustration for me. I just have to remember to take a deep breath and stay calm. He won’t be going through this forever. Sooner or later he will learn to use the toilet, whenever he’s ready.
Corde later questioned how long babies breastfeed. I told her it depended on the baby, so she asked how long she and her older brothers breastfed. Then she said she wondered how long it would be for Luca. I joked that Luca loves the boob juice so much he’ll never stop breastfeeding! Corde said that some day I’ll die and then he’ll starve because he can’t have anyone’s breastmilk but mine! That’s when we got onto the topic of a wet nurse. She thought that was really interesting, but shamed rich people for not having taken the time to feed their own babies. She said they must have been some pretty bad moms back then.
Beekee’s interests of the day? He was too busy building space ships to really do much learning about an actual subject. He needed to make sure his space ship had enough weapons in case the aliens attacked it. Then he had to tell me that it was full of weapons so that they can defend themselves when the zombies attack. He came up with a whole story about how zombies attacked and found out that they can eat through a spaceship, but they have to carry tools because their teeth would break because people teeth aren’t made to eat metal, unless they were alien zombies. I guess then all bets are off. Corde wisely pointed out that his lesson today was in story telling because he’s going to become the greatest sci-fi writer ever.
I think that’s the most brilliant part about unschooling! My kids can recognize when they’re learning new skills, even if they don’t have a letter grade to prove it. You can’t really have an accurate test of storytelling skills aside from telling the stories and seeing what people think. There’s no real way to prepare you for whatever your future may bring. Corde thinks she’s going to be a mom some day and thinks that learning how to take care of a baby now is really important. She mostly wants to be an artist, but she recognizes that other life skills are necessary. It’s always useful to know how to take care of kids, “so I can babysit when I’m older to save money for art supplies”. She decided she was going to make noodles for everyone for lunch, “because I need to know how to cook when I grow up or I’ll starve! No one can afford to eat out all the time and I can’t hope someone else will be nice enough to do it for me. What if I live alone?” She wants to be the one to teach her brothers how to cook, “So I can practice teaching. Maybe I can teach art some day!” She’s really thinking about her future and what skills might be fun and useful to her. As I’ve told her time and time again, you never know what you’re going to be until you get there, and even if you follow a dream your whole life, you may not want to do it anymore after you’ve given it a try. It never hurts to try other things. Who knows? You may even find something you love even more.
Of course, this is all probably scattered. Today has been the day of a million questions. Since all the other kids are in school Corde seems to feel that she needs to be learning today. Beekee could care less about learning, but since his sister is asking all these questions, he is too. Then there’s Sander, who is always a bit of a handful in and of himself. It definitely keeps life interesting, and most of all, I have no doubts that my kids are learning. You don’t need a school to give them that!