Monday, July 25, 2011

A Picture Speaks 1000 Words (Well, 883, to be exact): What Unschooling Looks Like at 9:17 PM at our House

One of the most important things I’ve learned as an unschooler is to recognize that I have a choice, not just one or two choices, but many many choices regarding my actions and reactions. When I use my relationship with my family as a guide--what choice best supports learning, trust, love--I’ve found that finding solutions to everyday conflicts, both large and small, is quite simple. My daughter has learned that too!
Last night, after Michael and I watched a video with Noor, she decided that she wanted to re-watch it.  Neither Michael or I wanted to sit through a repeat, so we told her that we’d love to sit and watch something, all of us together, but we’d prefer to watch something else.  She was sure she only wanted to watch her show.  We were sure we didn’t (we’d watched the same episode more than a few times with her already).
Without missing a beat, Noor offered a very workable solution: “I don’t mind if you guys watch something else,” Noor said.  “But I’d really like us to all sit together.  I can wear my headphones and I want to keep working on legos.” 
Michael nodded agreement and brought the laptop into the study so we could all sit together.
Every so often Noor would pause her show and we’d pause ours so she could share bits about her ongoing lego creation. At one point, Noor stopped watching her show for a few minutes and came and watched ours.  We paused the shows a bit later because she had to go to the bathroom and asked Michael to keep her company.  We stopped the shows yet again while Michael made us all bowls of ice cream with bananas, walnuts and chocolate sauce.  And, we paused our show another time to talk about something funny Noor noticed while she was watching her video.
An hour-long show often takes about two hours to watch in our house, but that’s okay.
When I realized how lovely the scene in our study was, how it spoke volumes to living in partnership with our children, how finding solutions where there are no winners or losers, only happy content members of a family who all feel their needs are being met and that their desires are respected, I decided to take a photo.  The scene in our study seemed to me to speak 1000 words about the joy unschooling has brought to our lives.
Standing on the stairs, looking down, my vision widened and I saw how the “mess” on our desk addressed so many other concerns parents have when they first encounter the principles behind unschooling.
Often, new-to-unschooling parents are afraid that if they remove regulations on TV/computers, food, and sleep, that their children will do nothing but “eat handfuls of sugar and sit in front of a screen all day and night.”
We’ve been in the middle of a heatwave, here on the East Coast.  It’s been HOT, too hot to spend much time outside, too hot, even indoors (very old and inefficient AC), to do much of anything but sit around.  Yet, even still, our lives have been rich and full of learning.  Surrounding Noor as she plays with Legos and watches videos on Netflix, are the signs of many of the things she’d thought about during the day: her bug habitats were frequently studied and adapted, the bug net is close, in case she sees something interesting fly by the window, there is a book my brother lent me, “Plato and a Platypus walk into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy through Jokes,” that as I was reading and laughing out-loud over, Noor paused what she was doing to ask what was so funny.  I read a few jokes to her and we talked about logic, specifically, about Aristotle’s Law of Noncontradiction.  Because one of the jokes was about a Rabbi, we also talked a bit about Judaism, religious jokes, and about the different Rabbis we’ve known, and about how some Rabbis are women.  Also on the desk is a new book about Manga, one of Noor’s many interests, her swimming goggles, a book I checked out from the library with math games, a snack Noor prepared, our cat Oliver, a plate/alter with things Noor used to cast protection spells, Noor’s US passport (she was thinking about making a new one, for her own imagined country), a diagram of invented Lego pieces she drew, and some crystals we made a few months ago.  Noor pulled the crystals out earlier in the day to look at, and they reminded her of the saffron rock candy a friend recently brought for her on a trip to Iran.  When Noor was talking about the candy, and how delicious it was, Michael suggested that they look up a recipe to make some, which they did. Afterwards, they looked at the crystals under our microscope (look at the cool!).

A parent could fret, seeing a child sit and watch videos and draw on the computer for hours at a time, that the child isn’t learning.  But if the parent widens her view, as I did looking at the desk, she will see signs of learning everywhere, including the video.  

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