Unschooling, World War 1, and Family Learning

Caitrin (14) and I watched “Letters from Iwo Jima” two nights ago. She’s become a mini expert on the two world wars (preferring World War I, however, because so few people understand it). As I listened to her cite facts and interpret data, I was in awe of how much information she retained from her history class this year in public school. She was a sponge, soaking in details, rearranging them to have meaning in her own mind.

I heard from Jacob (19) over the weekend. He wanted me to read his final paper for a class on globalization. He wrote about a documentary I had recommended he watch. His dad and I each took a look at the paper for edits, but mostly Jacob and I discussed the content. It was thrilling to see him engage ideas I had merely introduced to him. I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of three of his college papers this year: built on suggestions I made, then followed up with lengthy discussions of content where I became the student and he, the expert.

Johannah (21) emailed poems to me that she wrote in her poetry class so I could see where they came from (her rich experiences as a child). She had told me on the phone that she found herself using freewriting as her chief way to access the symbols and images behind her meanings. We had a good laugh about that.

It was one of those “pay day” weekends where I could see the fruit of deposits we’d made for years with our kids. I discussed some of this with the precocious Caitrin who summed it up so well:

“Mom, that’s what unschooling does to you. You spend your time being told that your life is your teacher. But you don’t know how to measure it. So you have to keep learning all the time to prove to yourself that you are learning. Unschooling is just your life, so learning is constant.

I wonder if that feeling produces any level of neuorses. I think it might. I do have some thoughts about unschooling that are not all positive and rosy. Measurement matters to kids; knowing they have “completed” something is a good feeling. On the other hand, it is nice to discover that for my least “schooled” child, she’s also the one reading all the AP English novels now, a full year before she takes the class, just because “they look good.” All my kids see every subject as open to them. Nothing off limits. In that way, the less structured version of school seems to have created this thirst for learning that is paying off well now that they are in structured school systems (high school and college).

They honestly believe that being able to know things and express them to others means they are growing as people and are interesting to friends, family and new acquaintances. That’s how they measure who they are: by what they know and are learning.

What I’ve noticed is that we have a family habit of sharing what we learn with each other. There’s this flow between members—sharing books, vocabulary, math equations (yes, even math now!), poems, ideas, suggestions, insights, philosophies, websites, personal writing and more. Everyone expects everyone else to be learning and that they will be able to educate each other. They like being both resource and audience.

It’s wild! So nice to be on this end of things. It’s worth it. Keep going!

Well, just had to share that today. It got much longer than I meant it too. How’s it going out where you are? Summer is here in the northern hemisphere. Do you have plans?

2 Responses to “Unschooling, World War 1, and Family Learning”

  1. the writer says:

    Thanks for sharing. I am happy it got longer than you wanted it to be – its good 🙂

    In most parts of Asia its hot as hell these days, and my plans are to go somewhere in the mountains and listen to the waterfalls, birds chirping and wind blowing, and then jot it down in a notepad (just as you have asked in one of your other posts). I am sure it will be fun1

  2. Kika says:

    “I wonder if that feeling produces any level of neuorses.”

    I would say yes, it can. At least for some of us.

    I really do struggle with “all or nothing type” homeschool posts – those from certain authors that purport that unschooling is THE ONLY WAY – etc. To me one of the most important goals and privileges in homeschooling is respect for the individual – including mom but also for the individual personalities, goals and needs of each child. And, as you know, from one child to the next these needs/goals can be startlingly different. Night to Day different.

    My oldest child – he is very linear and didn’t want tons of flexiblity in his learning. He prefered me to challenge him (as long as there was enough time left over for his specific interests)academically, give him plans written in an agenda, and help keep him on task. He has strong opinions about education and totally disagrees with unschooling 🙂 He enjoyed his homeschool experience but this year chose to attend a local highschool and is thriving there (despite not always agreeing with assignments or everything said/taught.)

    On the other hand, next in line is my currently 12 year old daughter who balks at any form of rigidity or structure that is not of her own making. She is super right-brained, creative (and oh, so messy). Very project and vision oriented. Unschooling would be her dream. Unlike her big brother she has no desire for an agenda, nor to complete requirements for graduation with a diploma… although she wants a teaching degree.

    Anyways, all that to say that this homeschool gig is full of challenges. And neuroses. At least on my part.