Ethan and I were exploring a creek near home back in Ithaca, NY many years ago. I think we hadn't been in the area very long, and I was on a mission to find as many magical places as I could. This place Ethan and I found was beautiful. It had a limestone creek bed, which made it a bit flatter and wider than some of the others we had found. The shallow water moved briskly over its surface, causing a beautifully dynamic sound.
Ethan threw a stone into the middle of the shallow flow. Then he wanted to throw another stone in, but this one he looked for was bigger. The next one was really big—as big as his five year old arms and legs could carry and hurl. I was crouched by the water's edge, watching him, watching the water, and listening to something that caught my interest. With every stone Ethan threw into the flow, the pitch of the creek changed. It was like he and the creek were composing a song together. At least, that's the way I saw it that day. Needless to say, I was giddy with delight.
Doug had been thinking and talking about water for some time. His interest no doubt contributed to my close attention to the sounds that day. After a while of playing at that creek with Ethan, I thought to myself, I need to bring Doug here. He, too, would find this utterly fascinating. So, another time, I did. And he did. But for different reasons than me. His reasons were based on the previous connections he'd made. Mine were based on the very different one's I'd made. But for both of us, real learning took place, and for a moment our paths came very close to crossing. I think they kissed.
When I read this quote this morning by Joyce, and followed the link to read some more, all kinds of experiences danced together and some new ideas were formed. Some new connections were made. This was one. Some I might not realize for days, or months or years, if I live that long.
If I had have taken Doug to the creek that day expecting him to have the same experience I had—see and hear the same things I saw and heard, or make the same connections I had made—I would have been sadly disappointed. I brought him, knowing he would love it for everything he already knew and was interested in, and for the treasures he would uncover as he searched for meaning in his own life.
I left Doug crouched by the water's edge with his hands behind his ears like amplifiers to experience what he was meant to experience without any presumption that I knew better what he should be focussed on. Ethan and I walked on ahead, looking at and listening for each our own treasures. That experience that day led to some really interesting work for Doug, and might have played a small part in the reason we are sitting here in our new apartment in our new home in California right now. But even if it hadn't led to this or that, it would have led to the connections that are responsible for knitting the fabric that shapes each and every one of us uniquely, lending us the information and experiences we need to each make our own contributions, whatever they are.
That's why I choose this path of learning for Ethan.
on Facebook, June 15, 2015
Each person who read these two stories of connections also was reminded of something, or probably several things, but not the same things as others were or will be. This is the sort of connection-building, association-forming learning that unschooling becomes when it flows well.