The past three mornings, my youngest (5) has slept in, so it's just been the two older kids (7 and 8) at the breakfast table with me. Any time one of the kids is out of the mix for some reason, it really tends to change the dynamics some, if you know what I mean.
Anyway, each morning we've had a really interesting, totally unplanned conversation that demonstrates how natural and easy learning can be in an unschooling family:
Wednesday--8-year-old DS was talking about his new Beyblade top, and how two of the decals on it were called "the eyes of Medusa." I asked if he knew why, or who Medusa was. (He's previously been very interested in the mythological and historical references embedded in the Beyblade game and TV series.) We spent thirty minutes online looking at artists' depictions of Medusa (7-year-old DD is really interested in art), reading the story of Medusa and Perseus, and discussing parallels. We also discovered the existence of BeyWiki, an online encyclopedia of Beyblade culture.
Thursday--8-year-old DS asked me a question (I don't remember what it was), to which I responded, "on average." He then wanted to know what "average" meant--whether it indicated a range of possible answers or a specific answer. We talked about different ways the word is used, and what it means in the strict mathematical sense. We then calculated the average age of a member of our family, and the average age of the children in our neighborhood.
Today--I brought up a discussion we had overheard at the pool, between one kid who had said to the another, "I'll see you at church!" and the other who had responded, "We don't go to church!" My kids thought the original speaker seemed surprised that someone wouldn't go to church, and wanted to know if when I was a child (in a very religious family) I realized that not everyone went. We talked about possible ways my children can respond to others who question our lack of religious participation. This somehow morphed into a conversation about racial discrimination, and the history of slavery in America, and why people in different parts of the world have different skin color, and common ancestors, and our body's Vitamin D requirements, etc. The conversation just went on and on with questions and observations, and I never had to say anything that would make the children say, "Enough already!" or feel that I was trying to teach them.
I just thought I'd share. I know all unschooling families experience hundreds or thousands of moments similar to these.
These are such great examples! Curiosity-driven authentic conversation is such a potent form of learning for unschooled kids. In some ways I think the most pithy description of our family's "curriculum" would be to call it a Curriculum of Conversation. Unschoolers talk a lot about "learning from life" and "experiential learning" and "child-led learning." But I think that the lion's share of my kids' learning over the years has come from conversation. Often inspired by life experiences, but fleshed out and consolidated through conversation.
I love the phrase, too. Thanks, Miranda!
What delightful examples! I can just imagine them. Makes me laugh (appreciatively).
Thanks a lot for sharing.
I think that ours might be called a curriculum of questions. Lately my 7 year old has been asking the most interesting questions from his darkened bedroom about half an hour after bedtime. Two recent ones:
"Do you ever wonder what a dog inventor would choose to invent?"
"Do you ever look at a piece of paper and wonder what kind of tree it came from?"
Or maybe it should be called the Do You Ever Wonder curriculum.
Our best conversations happen in the car. Or they'll ask me to tell them a story, about Ricky Raccoon and His Adventures (my own stories) or the Kitten Story (a story of my childhood following all the cats we owned) or some of the craziest questions from how the earth "got started" to how a police officer pulls people over for speeding. My oldest asked me once "Why do you say it's a good question when you don't know the answer?" I do that all the time "Good question! I don't know....."
People comment all the time on how articulate my girls are. I think that is in part because they are talking and conversing all the time, taking part in conversations. It is organic, it is all day and it can be pretty sophisticated topics. And we do learn a great deal that way. So easy sometimes, I wonder how people can get the idea can kids need teaching? (Don't need an answer to that! Just an impression.)