"Of your own certain knowledge…"

Accounts of moments when knowledge of natural learning was solidified

Description of a session from the October 2013 HSC Unschooling Symposium:

Your Own Certain Knowledge

Vague interest can turn to trust in others' accounts of learning and of parenting successes. Trust in those stories can give us courage to experiment, and from that we can discover our own proofs and truths to share with newer unschoolers, who might find courage from that to try these things themselves. Faith in others can only take us a little way, though, and then our own children's learning will carry us onward.

Some ideas become theories. A few theories might turn to convictions. Some early thoughts will be abandoned; others will gain substance. After much thought and use, what is left will be what you believe because you have lived it.

Share (if you wish to) a moment when learning surprised you in a profound way. A similar session was run in Minneapolis at the Always Learning Live symposium in May, 2013.

On Always Learning, a few days after that California session, Tori happened to write this, which is beautiful, and perfect:

I've been reading here since our kids (now 6 yr olds) were babies and I came to trust that the parents of grown unschooled kids knew what they were talking about when they described how their kids learned. It is truly awesome to experience our kids learning. Reading and swimming (two activities that many folks believe must be taught) arose spontaneously, easily, with joyful confidence. The corresponding joy my husband and I feel----immeasurable! (original)
Genevieve Raymond wrote:
Our oven is broken, and we've been baking our birthday pies at our neighbor's house today. I was just over checking on them, and my 8-year old daughter came running through the door and said "Mama, is two 7s fourteen?"

I said, "Yes, were you thinking about weeks?" (We had just been talking about how many weeks until she can take her new earrings out.)

She said, "No, I was thinking about how 7 is 2 more than 5, and two 5s is 10, so two 7s would be two 5s, plus two 2s."

She and her brother ask things like this pretty regularly, and I think it's so cool that they spend time thinking about numbers and math "just because," and also to hear the different ways that they calculate sums in their heads. If they were in school, there would be *one* way to come up with a sum, but they get to play around with numbers, turn them around in their heads, and discover the beauty of math for themselves. (original)

Colleen Prieto, October 2013:
Last night around 11PM, my 10 year old was sitting on the couch watching an episode of Seaquest DSV on Netflix.

Our pug was in his lap 🙂
On top of the pug, he had a page we'd printed off the internet a couple weeks ago - a chart of the Greek and Roman names for a bunch of gods, with a description of each (what they were "god of," who they're related to, etc.).
On the arm of the sofa, he had his Audubon Birds of the East Coast field guide.
On his other side, he had my iPad.

He was using the chart of Greek and Roman gods to explain to me that the writers of the show had made some serious errors. The show was calling Neptune a Greek god, and had him involved with Minerva who they were also saying was Greek. Then Medusa (actually Greek) got involved - and he was wondering who one writes to when a show has already been taken off the air, to let them know that it if they were going with a Greek theme, the gods should have been Poseidon and Athena - not Neptune and Minerva. Then Medusa would have fit well and all would have been good 🙂

Once he was done explaining all that 🙂 and while the show was still playing, he used the index in his field guide to look up a bunch of birds that he is hoping to see in Florida this weekend. He checked the migration and residence maps for each desired bird in the guide so he knows which ones should actually be around there this time of year. He then added the ones he wanted to a list he's keeping in a birding app on my iPad.

He showed me how he'd realized that he wasn't finding things at first in the index because he was looking them up by specific species name, but the index is organized less specifically - so in order to find House Sparrow, one must look under S for Sparrow and then find House under that entry, rather than going straight to H for House. But in the app, he can look under H to bring up the same bird. He thought it was pretty interesting how the same information is organized differently, in different places.

As I sat with him, I remembered sitting through boring lectures in school about the Greek and Roman gods, and retaining none of the information past the last Test I had to take. I remembered the How To Use An Index drills I had to do when I was in school. Then I remembered the quizzes where we had to properly alphabetize lists of words. And the old Apple mainframe computer we used once in a while in the classroom to complete prescribed lessons on How A Computer May Be Properly Used, and how huge that computer was compared to what we have now!!

I also realized, as I was doing all that Remembering, that my son has learned to type, to use an index, to use maps, to look things up in alphabetical systems, and to use computers and tablets with fabulously interesting apps and programs - all as a result of simply being surrounded by information he wanted - information to which he was drawn, and information that he wants to use for his own reasons. And I realized that he had the Chart Of Gods with him so that he could show me what he was talking about - but he didn't need to look at it more than once, as he remembered most of what was on it from reading it over many breakfasts, looking at it when he wants to tell a story or set up a play-scene with battling gods, etc. The information on that chart wasn't about a test or a quiz or a grade for him - it was interesting, and fun, and he took it all in and processed it and remembered it - and as soon as the character on Seaquest said Neptune was Greek, he ran off to grab it because he saw the problem right away.

It's times like last night that really drive the point home for me, about how kids really can (and do!!) learn *so* much in the absence of school and teachers. They learn so very well when they are allowed the time to explore and examine, question and Google, ponder and wonder—and they learn even better when they have the support of parents and other such people as they go after and capture the skills and knowledge that they desire. Pretty cool. 😊


Some stories are reported on the page "Getting it", and some, perhaps more sadly framed, in "If only I had…"


Words, thoughts...

Mindful Parenting, and unschooling

Me, speaking with Amy Childs, about moving from trusting others, to knowing for sure
(this links to that point in the transcript, but the sound file is at the top of that page)