Learning to See Differently
Rob and Jonathan are still, as I type, engaged in an all-day (though interspersed with a few breaks here and there) video game marathon. They're together. They're laughing. They're having a grand time, playing the same game over and over, building their teams, collaborating, growing bleary-eyed. There was a time not so long ago when I'd have worked like mad to get them to do something else. I'd have gotten grouchy and critical, and thrown snipes in their direction until I wasn't the only unhappy one. And when they'd grudgingly get off the video game or computer (or whatever it was I wished they'd stop), I wouldn't have anything better to offer them.
Katherine Anderson wrote:
For me, it's been helpful to know where I got that feeling of not getting what I want or need. It's not a feeling produced by my children's behavior. At times, it can seem so but that's not where it came from.
Robyn Coburn commenting on this quote:
If my children's boundaries should be respected, why shouldn't mine be?
[someone, of Thomas the Tank Engine and a four year old:]
**yes I recognize that there's much educational content in the shows.**Joyce Fetteroll:
I think it helps not to see it as educational content, because what he’s getting out of it that’s important to him very likely doesn’t look at all like something taught in school.
I [Sandra Dodd] lifted that from a discussion at [the old forum at unschooling-dot-com] to bring here because it kind of ties together two things that've happened on this list lately, and might be a missing piece to several people's puzzles, if not this week, someone's someday.
If people learn to use "learn" instead of "teach," it helps them move to another angle, to see things through a different lens.
Some people see experienced unschoolers ("experienced" meaning in this context people who have done it well and effortlessly for years, who aren't afraid anymore, who have seen inspiring results) mention classes, and they think "Ah, well if the experienced unschoolers' kids take classes, then classes are good/necessary/no problem."
But if beginners don't go through a phase in which they REALLY focus on seeing learning outside of academic formalities, they will not be able to see around academics. If you turn away from the academics and truly, really, calmly and fully believe that there is a world that doesn't revolve around or even require or even benefit from academic traditions, *then* after a while you can see academics (research into education, or classes, or college) from another perspective.
Once there was heavy fog at our house. Kirby was four or five. He had never seen it at all, and this was as thick as I have ever seen fog. He wanted to go and touch it. I yelled "Let's go!" and we ran up the road, and ran, and ran. About seven houses up we got tired, and I said "Look" and pointed back toward our house, which was gone in the fog.
I did NOT say "See? You can't touch it, really, it's touching us, it's all
I let him experience the fog. He learned by running in fog and smelling it, and losing his house in it.
For someone who has been out of and away from school for six months to take a class will not be the same experience as someone (child or parent) who has been out and away for eight or ten years. It will be different in very, very profound ways. And "profound" doesn't show from the house. You have to run until you can't see the house, and then profundity kicks in.
If anyone who understands what I'm saying can think of another way to say it, help would be great. If anyone doesn't understand what I'm saying, I recommend a full break-away from attachment to academics.
There are several sayings about the journey of a lifetime beginning with a single step and such. One step isn't the beginning of a journey if you keep one foot in the yard. You have to get away from the starting point completely.
I think I understand what you are saying.
The longer I am away from "school" the more sense all of this makes. The recent discussions about unschooling and behavioral boundaries, and approach to children, combined as a lifestyle have let me finally and completely relax.
I don't *care* anymore if my son never picks up an algebra book. I don't *care* anymore when my youngest daughter learns to read.
I have complete confidence in their ability to learn now.
But I didn't before. I *wanted* to believe that everything would work out but I was still afraid. I'd wait a long while, and then pull out a math book. It might have only been once a year, so most of the time we *acted* like unschoolers, but I didn't *feel* what most of the experienced unschoolers described as confidence. I pretended to be confident with my kids, but inside I was worried and it really interfered with my ability to just trust their ability to learn.
NOW, I can honestly say I LOVE this unschooling thing. I feel so FREE. I have all this energy now that I didn't have before because I was so busy using it up with worrying. NOW I am so excited about all the things we can do. There are no limits anywhere for anything. I no longer care whether their learning fits the state model or not. There are no barriers *anywhere*. We can go wherever we want, whenever we want, for whatever reason we want. We can stay up all night watching movies and sleep all day if we want (we did that last night).
If we make a mistake, so what. It just means we can take a detour and learn even more stuff along the way. There is no end to the universe and all the mysteries that we can explore.
The paradigm shift has happened. There will be no going back for me. It took me four years...but here I am.
My 15 year old son has been sharing with me some of his interests. He has shared with me how he goes with the neighbor to look at the stars through the telescope. We were looking for Netflix movies to rent based on his interests when he told me about his interest in astronomy. He told me he loves to learn about trains and he wants to learn more about rifle shooting.
I've seen it. I've seen him totally immerse himself into a subject. I've heard him share historical facts with me that *I* knew nothing about. His own knowledge exceeds my own in many many areas. WHO am *I* to say its not good enough until he does some algebra?? When he needs it he will immerse himself in it just like he does with everything else. I totally and completely believe it now.
Sooooooo....to get to the point you were trying to make: if he were to take a class now, my perspective of it would be so completely different. It would just be one more dish to taste on the buffet of life. It would hold no more importance to me than if he decided to go jam on the drums on a Friday night instead.
Pam Sorooshin responded:
On Feb 20, 2004, at 6:16 PM, SandraDodd wrote:
For someone who has been out of and away from school for six months to take a class will not be the same experience as someone (child or parent) who has been out and away for eight or ten years. It will be different in very, very profound ways. And "profound" doesn't show from the house. You have to run until you can't see the house, and then profundity kicks in.I do - but it is very very difficult to describe. I just posted yesterday about my older teens taking community college courses and I was loathe to do so, but made myself do it because I want to be forthcoming about our real lives. I was loathe to do so because I'm afraid that people will read that and think THAT is what unschooling should lead to. But that's NOT it. My kids maybe could be said to have "dabbled" in college. And that's usually considered a negative. But that's the closest I can come to describing how they view their classes. And they would be the FIRST to tell you that the classes were nice, but that they were just a little "extra" - not the basis of their education/learning. They view the classes as just another item on the HUGE menu of options. They don't view the classes as "where they learn" or at least no more so than the other ways they learn.
I don't know - I agree with Sandra wholeheartedly on this, but also find it difficult to articulate. I just want people new to unschooling to try to understand that we did first leave all "teacher-directed" type of schooling entirely behind for many years before my kids started taking classes. Now they view the teacher as a resource person and themselves as responsible for their own learning. It is VERY different than most of my students who think that I, as their teacher, run the show. My teens are running their own show, they are the directors, and the teachers of any classes they take are thought of more as useful technicians.
Genevieve Raymond, on Always Learning, September 2011:
I had an unschooling breakthrough a few weeks, when I suddenly got it that college wasn't essential to my children's well-being. Here I was, unschooling, but *always* living under the assumption that of course college should really be encouraged, if not required. So while I was mostly happy with how things were going with unschooling, always at the back of my head, I had that little voice wondering how whatever my kids were going to be interested in would read on a college application. It was like I was viewing unschooling as an alternate route to the same ultimate destination: college. Hey, being unschooled would really make my kids stand out on their applications! (My kids are 7, for cryin' out loud!)
I grew up in a very competitive academic environment, went to a "good" school, got my M.A. but what am I doing now? Following my passion: hanging with my kids, gardening, and taking care of our house and sheep and chickens. Did I need an M.A. for that? Absolutely not. But I'm still so stuck on academic achievement that my degrees somehow make me feel like I'm not a failure--to feminism, to my parents and grandparents, to my friends with "real jobs." Yes, I'm a stay-at-home mom, but I have an M.A. dammit! I STILL, at 37, ask people where they went to school, as if that's somehow reflective of who they are as a person.
Last week, when it finally dawned on me that my kids might go to college, or they might not (and if they want to go because they're excited about digging into a particular subject in an academic way, they'll do whatever they need to do to make it happen), it was such a revelation. Almost a total paradigm shift. And it allowed me to stop looking for the academic skills being acquired while playing video games or LEGOs. It allowed me to really trust that they will learn whatever they need to learn in order to do what they want to do.
It's so funny--it was one of those realizations that now, in hindsight, seems so obvious. Like, how could I even say I was unschooling when I was so obviously hampered by this attachment to a college degree? How could I have read all that I have about unschooling without understanding that essential point? (I know the answer to this one, actually, and it's a fundamental principle of unschooling: learning *has* to come from within, and until you're *ready* to understand something, no amount of teaching, reading, etc., can get the point across.)
So now that I'm free of that, I'm free to see ALL learning as important (and fun!)—not just the stuff we learned (or didn't) in school. I no longer worry that all my kids want to do is play. I mean, how awesome is that? They get to PLAY! ALL DAY! They are SO EXCITED about what they're doing in Minecraft that they can't stop talking about it to anybody who will listen. Can you imagine a kid coming home from school and enthusiastically going on and on about something they did at school that day? I know it happens, but not to every kid, and not every day.
I remember Sandra writing recently that if kids are interested, they're learning. I repeat that to myself, almost as a mantra. And I no longer worry that all they want to do is play.
A beautiful account of changing awareness in three generations, and unexpected peace and healing: Peace/Healing (anonymously presented, but I know who it is, and why; it's good)
Unschooling and deschooling, and changes..., by Sandy Lubert