Account of LOTS of learning, and good reasons to leave school

(Doesn't sound like ADHD to me!)


By Cheryl on Friday, May 28, 2004 - 06:17 am:

Well, my son's finishing out first grade in ps right now. We're not unschoolers officially yet, but we're going to be, again. The reason I say "again" is, after much thinking, I realized that unschooling was what we did before he started kindergarten. It's what we do every day, just living our lives.

When he was born, I started signing to him, because I read that kids who learn sign language can sign way before they can talk, which is true. This was just about the last thing I ever "taught" him without him asking for it. He was signing for "more milk" at 4 mos of age. At 9 mos he was signing in complete sentences. He tied his first "shoe" knot when he was 18 mos old, after six months of vehement signing, "no, I can do it, let me do it!" He finally was able to speak verbal English at age two, but that wasn't a major problem, because he was able to communicate his needs all along. I remember he had "dalmation" spotted cowboy boots and a train engineer's cap that he liked to wear every day.

When he was 3, he asked to be taught to read, and he read early readers, but his favorite bedtime books for me to read were books on the universe, the human body, dinosaurs, all the Harry Potter books, and I must have read "Sarah, Plain and Tall" a dozen times over the summer at his request. He liked counting the number of pushes I gave him on the swing, by ones, by fives, by twos. He asked a ton of questions about adding, subtracting, fractions, money, and I can't even name it all. That year he watched teletubbies, carried a red purse, grew his hair out down past his shoulders, wore a tutu everywhere, and for a period of about 6 months insisted that everyone call him "Lacey", which was his best friend's name.

When he was four asked for a haircut, gave up the teletubbies, and became a "farmer". He had me reading every book on farming we could find. He raised chickens, and bred a litter of rabbits and raised them for our neighbor, and did all the work himself, feeding, hauling water, cleaning the pen, because it interested him. He grew a better vegetable and flower garden than I have ever managed to grow myself...puttering around with his little plastic watering can and miniature wheelbarrow. We spent a week on a squarerigged sailboat helping with repairs and sailing and singing songs for the crew. We went to music festivals to watch our friends perform, we sang along, he danced and danced and ate only corn on the cob, charmed the ladies, and built a sailboat out of wood blocks and tested it out in the water. We just lived our lives, and he learned all he needed to know, which was way, way more than anything school could have given him or would have thought he needed to know at that age.

He colored his way through kindergarten, while the other kids were learning the alphabet and practicing writing "c-a-t" and reading stories where most of the words are replaced with pictures. Meanwhile, at home, he read all the Dr Seuss books, all the Bearenstein bears books, and things of that nature. He wore a shirt and tie to school, because that's what Harry Potter wears. Over last summer he asked for odd jobs he could do to earn money for his Yu-gi-oh collection, he wrote stories, practiced cursive writing after watching his cousin for a while, he asked me to read him the LOTR books, and by the end of book two, he was picking up the reading as I was nodding off to sleep.

This year, his classmates learned the alphabet, yet again, and practiced adding, 0 to 9 in hundreds of regurgitations (now, they're subtracting 0 thru 9 over and over and over), and reading the likes of "Sams sees Pam. Pam sees Sam. See Sam. See Pam."

Meanwhile, his teacher says he's got "ADHD", because he doesn't finish his work, he's always daydreaming, he can't (get this) "stay on task". She threw away his "self portrait" last week and made him start all over, then kept him in at recess, because he was "behind".. all because he drew himself with blue hair. She said he needs to learn to use "realistic" colors. If she'd bothered to ask him, he could have told her that he was testing it out, because he's thinking of dying his hair a different color, and can't decide between red, black, "flame" colors, or electric blue. But even if it were pure fantasy, it's art. Isn't art by it's very nature about freedom of choice? That "realistic" garbage caught me totally by surprise.

These days, at home, he's reading HP book 2 again, a Dragonlance novel, 2 bionicle books, one vampire comic book, my van's repair manual, and the phone book. Yes, all at once, randomly, it's just how he does it. He rode his bike without training wheels. He's become obsessed with video games. He has me researching how he can learn to speak Japanese, he practices skating in the kitchen for two hours a day, because he wants to be a figure skater, he is studying wilderness survival, is obsessed with learning how hovercrafts work, he's writing a book, making comic books, learning to cook, and learning multiplication and division, because he likes "math" and thinks it's fun. He's decided to go "gothic" with the wardrobe, and color his hair, as soon as he can decide what color he likes.

Given a choice, I choose unschooling. My son's "curriculum" is a whole lot more fun than theirs. Imagine what would happen to that free and wonderfully inquisitive spirit if I just left him there to float through the doldrums six hours a day for the next ten years. Compare that to what he could do with that six hours a day, if he were free again.

I suppose a webpage is temporary enshrinement! Sandra Dodd

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