Meredith Novak

Meredith has been writing for years about unschooling, as she figured it out ways to express that so clearly that others can understand it easily.

Someone was asking questions and missing the point. Meredith's responses are inspiring:

How do you go about exposing your children to things that you value, but that they don't immediately understand the value of--without burning out, giving up, or resorting to methods that don't feel quite right?

The biggest, most important thing to realize is that all the exposure, exposition and explanation in the world won't produce interest or a sense of value. Those things only come from within. You can't Make someone else care about what you care about, or learn what you want her to learn.

That's the problem with education itself - not you, not your kids, but education period.

Start someplace else - how do kids learn what they need to know if no-one is showing them what's important?

Kids learn because they are observant. I don't only mean modelling, I mean the human brain is designed to notice patterns and there are patterns everywhere - in speech, in social interactions, in shapes of things, in the relationships between physical characteristics. Some sets of related patterns we call "language" some we call "mathematics" some we call "music" etc. Kids can't help but notice those patterns and think about them because that's what our big convoluted brains do best.

Think about the things you're considering valuable in terms of education—they're Prevalent. That's why you want your kids to know them, so they're not lost and ignorant and helpless. I used to worry that my kid wouldn't know anything about religion because I wasn't "exposing" her to it in any kind of systematic way. But religious and mythological ideas are very prevalent—in books, movies, tv shows, puppet shows, random conversations in the grocery store. She can't avoid learning about a dozen different religions just from going about her daily life, observing the patterns she sees.

In addition, kids learn because they are full of curiosity and wonder. That's big. It's a marvel. Wondering is what takes people—including children—from observation to something else, to asking questions and looking for answers. To trying and finding out. Wondering is one of the reasons people push through challenges—climb real mountains and metaphorical ones. You can't Give someone that kind of motivation; it only comes from deep within. Sadly, you can take it away, and teaching someone who doesn't really want to be taught is a proven way of doing so.

How do you go about exposing your children to things that you value?

Step back from the word "children" and replace it with "friends" - how does the question change?

If you value something, make it part of your life. If you value music, play music, listen to music, dance and sing. Invite the people you love to join you - maybe they will. If you value scientific thinking, think like a scientist. If you enjoy math, play with numbers and relationships. The catch is to live your own values without trying to foist them off on other people - because that's not a very good way of sharing what you love, and because personality matters. All your singing and dancing won't make your kids musicians if they're not so inclined - but they'll know a few things about music. If you push music at them, they may associate what they know with drudgery and unhappiness - and then you've failed and failed more utterly than if you never sang a note in their presence.

September 2012 *

Because some unschoolers know her only as "plaidpanties" (from her e-mail address) or as "Meredith," I wanted to increase her name recognition and to help others know that a lot of the things they have seen here and there are by the same author.

Meredith still partipates sometimes in these discussions (and perhaps others):

Radical Unschooling Q&A, and
Unschooling Mom2Mom (facebook)

Minecraft and how much can be learned:

On food choices:
Health Food

Meredith's own blog "In our own time, in our own way"

Some of her articles at the "Enjoy Life" Unschooling blog:

Travels with a Conservative Eater

Peeling Back the Layers

Unschooling with atypical kids: would you care to explain?

On philosophy:
It was in discussing unschooling that I discovered I have a liking for philosophy and started to dabble in it on the side. I'd always been intimidated by it, mostly because of the way traditional philosophy education is structured, but when I approached it in a natural way, letting ideas swirl around and take me from one thing to the next, it started to gel for me.

Meredith in May, 2012 (in the middle, between Sandra Dodd and Joyce Fetteroll):

Other Voices (unschooling writers, collected)