January 14, 2008

Saying Goodbye & Some Unschooling Explanations

Warren is off to New Zealand. Now it's just me, Jerry, the dog, two cats, a hermit crab, two tarantulas (don't ask!) and my twenty-something niece. Sounds like a full house but it feels pretty empty. I don't usually get all sad over Warren leaving (it's just part of his work) but this time is different. Jerry and I created a countdown on our calendar so we know exactly how many days will pass until we see him again.

Last time we went on location together was 2006. We were in London for two months. A week before our departure for home Jerry and I had taken the train up to a beautiful town in North Yorkshire called Whitby. On our second day there Jerry had a terrible cycling accident. There was no blood. He just fell and hit the handlebars wrong and the impact was so strong it lacerated his liver and bruised a couple other organs. We ended up spending two nights in ICU and a total of ten days in the hospital (mostly at the pediatric liver unit in Leeds). When I think of that experience I almost never think of it as bad luck or say to myself "wasn't it awful?" I can only think of how lucky we were to bring him home with us.

Anyway, I think that's why I'm feeling so sad about Warren leaving. Logically, I know the accident was a fluke. There's no reason something like that should happen again just because we're going on location. Thinking that way is ridiculous and I know it! But I guess it's bringing back all the memories and feelings of those last weeks in England and our trip home. We were all in such a state of shock.

Ugh. Sorry to sound so glum! The good news is that I've had absolutely no time for fretting over what Jerry is learning. In fact, I'm trying to lose the word "learning" from my vocabulary. I've decided it's wound up too tightly with school and the more tyrannical forms of education. My new word (words, actually) is (are) going to be "acquiring knowledge." I can't deny that Jerry is acquiring knowledge daily. In fact, Webkinz has turned out to be his latest source for all kinds of information! Who knew!? And he's getting really excited about New Zealand and Fiji (we're going to try for a side trip to Fiji!!) He's also learning a lot about medieval warfare (and lots of new vocabulary) through reading Redwall. We're reading it together and though I'm not entirely enamored with the story, I can't deny that the writing is pretty good.

I've just realized that writing "I've had absolutely no time for fretting over what Jerry is learning" and meaning it as a GOOD thing, will probably shock any readers who are new to my blog and aren't familiar with Unschooling. If you click on the link to the right of my blog that says "Joyfully Rejoicing" (or just click here) you'll find lots and lots of information about Unschooling written by Joyce Fetteroll. She explains it beautifully.

Here are a couple excerpts from her Unschooling Philosophy page:
The principles of unschooling are that humans are born learners. That children will learn best when given the freedom to learn what, when and how they want.

The goal of unschooling is not education. It is to help a child be who she is and blossom into who she will become. Learning happens as a side effect.

These are from How Unschooling Works:
Real learning is how they learned to speak English. If you can step back and look at it objectively, they don't consciously learn to speak. It's just there. They absorb how others use it. They play with it. They pick up a piece and use it as a tool to get what they need because it's better than the tools they had been using. (They realize "ook" gets them milk more efficiently than crying.) They never think, "Oh, English is useful. I need to practice and get better at it." They just use a variety of tools (including English) trying to get what they want and get better at the tools that work best as a side effect.

All the stuff they teach in school are tools that people might use to get what they want. In real life if someone is reading Charles Dickens and wants to know why society was like that, they'll read some history. Unfortunately schools do it backwards: giving kids the tools before they have the reasons or desire to use them, e.g., making them study Victorian England in case they want to understand Charles Dickens better. And because the tools are so dull when taken out of context, kids often turn away from the things the tools are good for.

Unfortunately there isn't a short cut from believing learning needs to look like school to believing that learning by doing is enough. And some people understand it's enough but still harbor feelings that it isn't enough. (The messages we pick up from society are pretty insidious and their roots go deep!) Read about the real learning unschooling kids are doing. Observe real learning in your own kid. (And take off the school glasses when you do it! ;-) Eventually you'll get it. :-)

That last one is good news for me.

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