Unschoolers' Coming-Out Parties:

Wishlists for Unschoolers

Sandra Dodd

I usually write non-fiction, but this time I'm deep into fantasy.

What if new homeschoolers were welcomed to their new lives with elaborate parties and mounds of thoughtfully chosen gifts? Take a moment before you read on to think what you would like to have had in your pile of loot.


And then think about the special particulars of ideal gifts for unschoolers!

This idea came to me from a La Leche League meeting at which our wise and experienced leaders ran a similar scenario: "If you could give the perfect gift to a new nursing mother, what might it be?" The favored answer was "a rocking chair."

I've asked this question of some other unschoolers on occasion, and they sigh wistfully. Most bought things they never used, when they were new at unschooling, and would like their hundreds of dollars back. Many find the idea that others would be not only supportive but help them materially in this way a near-inconceivable situation which exists in dream-only mode.

Here's my collected wish list:

Local contacts and introductions. People. Hook them up with other families with experienced unschooled kids. A newsletter or state magazine, either some back issues or a subscription, would give them something to read and to show the relatives. A major homeschooling magazine subscription would be great in addition to local contacts. If they already get Home Education Magazine, they could use Growing Without Schooling (or your back issues, at least).

A catalog and a gift certificate to go with it would combine loot and math! There are probably advertisements right in the magazine you're holding for suppliers of books, games, science and geography treasures, music, stories on tape or art supplies. If you have a favorite catalog, no doubt your new unschooling friend would like it too. Catalogs without gift certificates wouldn't hurt either.

Pattern tiles, magnets, puzzles, kits and other such fiddlin'-around stuff are good for children and adults both. They create opportunities for parents and children to interact in wordless or talkative ways, as suits the moment.

Games can be the finest gifts of all. You might find used games at garage sales or thrift stores (for gift giving or your own family). Mastermind for Kids is cute. Yahtzee is cheap and good. Ravensburger makes some very attractive games. Several kids-book publishers have put out excellent chess books for beginners. If you can find a book on the history of games that would help build an interest and historical and geographical connections.

I'd love to give videos of movies which are easy to mine for places, time, and thoughts: The King and I with Yul Brynner. The Ten Commandments with Yul Brynner. (Okay, with Charlton Heston.) El Cid with Charlton Heston. Ben Hur! (One thing leads to another in idea getting and fantasy gift-giving.)

Some people could give a lists of their greatest ideas, or a list of greatest lists. "Take binoculars with you on trips." "Freeze water in milk cartons to make ice sculptures later." "Rearrange your books sometimes just to stir them up."

Sing-along videos for families with small children serve several purposes. The songs and art are usually high quality, and the words are scrolling by. Don't mention anything to the the children about reading lessons, but there they'll be, words associated with their sound, in an entirely stress-free environment.

Good, real art supplies and maybe some idea-books or friendly personal introduction to their use would be a luxury some kids have never had. Good water colors and real brushes and special paper, instead of grocery-store stuff might make the difference in a child's future.

Lens-stuff: a good magnifying glass, a telescope, microscope, or binoculars and an article or book on how lenses work, and what might be seen or done with optical tool(s).

I could comment on everything below at length, but you can probably construct your own explanations and ideas on such categories as:

* good toys
* computer games
* recorded music
* interesting storage containers
* exotic foodstuffs
* bookshelves
* songbooks
* dress-up clothes and hats
* logic puzzles (verbal or physical)
* crafts books
* science experiments
* real scissors
* a binder full of sheet protectors for kid-art
* magazine subscriptions for kid-hobbies or interests
* disposable camera and film developing
* books for identifying local flora and fauna
* passes to museums
* maps
* highlighters
* sea shells for desert kids
* interesting rocks for city kids
* a musical instrument or two
* a current globe and a really old one

Looking back on the list of suggestions, I realize it's still not fantastic (fantasy-like) enough for me. Those things are available all over the place.

What if you could give magical gifts? How about the ability to change bodies long enough to see the world as your children see it? Perhaps just a few doses of magic to make time stand still, just a little while. More time and space? Unlimited patience! Friendly neighbors. A perepetually well-running van in the mom's favorite color. Intuitive knowledge of child development would be a good gift for homeschoolers and all their friends, neighbors and relatives. If you figure out how to produce such gifts, please remember me after your friends have all they need.

For my wish list, throw in that big, soft rocking chair too.

Article first appeared in the July-August 1999 issue of Home Education Magazine.
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Title made of 3x5 cards by Holly Dodd