September 18, 2007

Deschooling - Week One

J started up the computer as soon as he got out of bed. I had agreed to buy him one game off the internet so we downloaded Fizzball. He played it all day.

There were brief moments when I surreptitiosly tried to interest him in something educational. When I'd told him we would be studying what interested him for the year (he was all for the idea, by the way, unlike my husband) he said there were two things he wanted to learn. 1.) How to draw manga and 2.) How to echolocate. Yes, as in dolphins, bats and clicking noises. All I can say is he's really into the "Gregor the Overlander" books by Suzanne Collins. Anyway, I sensed a learning opportunity (Hooray!) and ran with it. I went to the Los Angeles Public Library web site and put a few books on bats and echolocation on hold.

"Guess what?" I told J, "I found some books on bats and echolocation at the library. Pretty cool, huh?"

He rolled his eyes. "Mom, I don't care about bats. I just want to echolocate. Like Gregor."

Shot down from the get go. But I did not give up on my first attempt to teach him something he wanted to know. It did occur to me that "teaching" may not be what I should be doing as an unschooler. But teaching is really just sharing information, right? I figured I was safe. So, even though I was sure humans could not echolocate I decided to humor my son. I googled "humans" and "echolocate" and it turned out I was wrong. I found several stories (with video!) about a blind boy named Ben Underwood who uses clicking sounds to get around just like a sighted person. So J took some time off from Fizzball to watch some videos about Mr. Underwood. We tried a few experiments to see if we might possess a smidge of Underwood's talent. The results weren't especially promising but the experiments were a blast.

From 4:00 to 6:00 J had his first chess class. The teacher is a chess master. (He can recite, move by move, famous chess matches!) There were some really nice kids, many of them close to J's age, so I was glad for that. J seemed to like it even though he was the easiest kid to beat by far. Hopefully that will change, otherwise I'm afraid he'll get tired of chess pretty quickly.

I almost forgot to mention, it was at the chess class that I decided to join the ISP (the class was held in their building). While I was there the female half of the couple that runs the place recommended "The Unschooling Handbook" by Mary Griffith and "Discover Your Child's Learning Style" by Mariaemma Willis and Victoria Kindle. So I bought them both. She also praised me for figuring out in just three days what takes many people three years to learn. That felt good. Of course, she's already an unschooler so she's biased. But I'll take praise where I can get it.

More computer time. If we looked up anything remotely educational I have no recollection of it. Mostly he sat at his laptop playing Fizzball while I sat across the table on my own laptop reading about unschooling.

At 3:00 J had his first private trombone lesson (he played last year at the Waldorf school) and loved his teacher. I hope this means he'll want to practice.

J went to his best friends house for the evening while I went to a book store to see Diana Gabaldon (author of the "Outlander" series).

More computer time, of course. But J also set up an elaborate village, made of blocks, on his bedroom floor.
This was the playing board for a game his best friend made up called D & D. It's not the Dungeons and Dragons you're thinking of, though the boys have given it the same name. J decided to create his own version of the game, so we spent a few hours on his bedroom floor playing D & D which, much to my joy, included rolling dice and using addition and subtraction. Hooray! He was practicing math and having fun at the same time! We were unschooling! I was especially thrilled to learn that in order to kill the tiger living on the outskirts of the village, we would need to roll not double, or triple, but quadruple sixes. We could figure out the probability of rolling quadruple sixes! That's math! And it would be fun! If only I knew how to figure probability.

That afternoon J had a Japanese lesson. I'd found a tutor on Craigslist and had made arrangements for him to have a weekly lesson when I was planning for "school at home." He'd already had five years of Japanese at school and since he's interested in manga (he wants to learn to read the original Japanese text) I'm still counting this as unschooling. Besides, barring an extended stay in Japan, this is the only way he's going to learn it. I wanted him to learn Spanish too (he'd also had five years of Spanish at school) but I'm giving up on that for now--unless, of course, I can arrange for an extended stay in Mexico.

We went to see "Becoming Jane" with a friend of mine after Japanese. Lest you think J is so amiable that he willingly attends "girl movies" you should know--I bribed him.

After the movie we discovered a comic/anime store where we rented four anime DVDs. So that night we both watched Dragon Drive and S-cry-ed.

Computer and anime DVDs in the morning. Homeschool book club at the park during the afternoon. We also talked about the Big Bang and Einstein's "cosomoloical constant" which Einstein regarded as the biggest blunder of his career. I was reading an article about it in a magazine and learned that Einstein announced this mistake at the Mt. Wilson Observatory which happens to be fairly close to our house. As I was researching a visit to Mt. Wilson I learned that our own Griffith Park Observatory was having a Public Star Party (a monthly gathering when the public can look through their 12" telescope) the following day. So I bought tickets.

That night J tagged along to my writer's critique group and watched the last anime DVD while I met with my fellow scribes.

We went to the Wired NextFest at the LA Convention Center. I had to drag J away from the computer to get there but he ended up loving it. J frequently says he wants to be an inventor and this place was an inventor's paradise. As an added bonus we ran into a group of kids from our homeschool group.

That night J went to his best friend's house while WG and I went out for dinner to celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary. I talked about unschooling and he listened patiently. He didn't say yes. But, he didn't say no.

Computer, which annoyed WG. Then we went to the observatory and saw the moon and Jupiter (plus four of its moons) through the telescope. I thought it was really cool. J seemed to have a good time but later said it was boring.

I declared Sunday a screen-free day. I know it goes against the rules of deschooling to impose restrictions and all that, but I figure we all have to live with ourselves and I just don't feel good about all that computer use. I imagined we'd do lots of fun things at home together, but then J got invited to go back to NextFest with his friend. So J left, WG went to work, and I had a pleasant (much needed) afternoon alone. It was heavenly.

Coming Soon...
My thoughts on week one.


Tracy said...

Welcome to the most wonderful journey you will take with your child. Just a few comments from a seasoned unschooler (I know you didn't ask -- just can't resist) First, he's learning something from all of it. In time you'll learn to embrace just "living it" and won't feel the need to pick apart all that is educational from every moment. Second, a good distraction (sounds like you're doing this) is just diving right into your own projects and interests. Next time check out stuff from the library for yourself. If he's interested, that's great! But don't think in terms of trying to sneak in educational stuff for his benefit. Living in LA you must have so many great opportunities! Sounds like you are really tuned in to have discovered unschooling with such an open mind. Came across your blog through my google alerts and just thought I'd take the time to let you know that I enjoyed your observations.

Rebecca said...

Congratulations from me too! This is a thrilling journey.