Sunday, September 12, 2010

why, oh why do we expect the WORST??

First, I have to divulge some TRUTH about my motivation for writing today; I read a crappy article about unschooling in one of our local papers. It seemed clear to me that the writer was ignorant about what unschooling actually looks like in real life. I highly doubt she has met any actual unschooling families, or unschooling children. Something I would encourage her to do, with an open mind.

Something else seemed clear too; she, like so many people in our society is expecting nothing short of the WORST from children!!

Why, oh why, do we expect the WORST?!

The line of thinking was, if kids aren't made to read classic english literature, they won't. If they aren't forced to learn math skills, they won't. Basically, if children aren't forced to learn what we adults think is valuable information, they won't learn it.

In my experience, this is simply untrue. Which leads me to so many questions….
What does learning look like for us adults? There are certainly a number of us who are not in school, and yet we learn? How do we learn? Why do we learn? What have you learned lately? What was your motivation for learning it? How did you go about learning?

I’ll tell you what I do for learning… it usually involves researching in books and online; it usually involves finding a knowledgeable mentor to help me along. In the past couple years, I learned to play guitar, crochet, make jewelry, edit photos, and cook yummy gluten-free food. I was motivated in all of these endeavors by curiosity, need, and enjoyment… the very same things that motivate unschooling children to learn and do amazing things.

I want to share my experience with my daughter. She is especially passionate about dancing, photography, and making jewelry. She is going to continue learning modern and ballet this year with her mentor. She is going to continue taking and editing beautiful photos, with so many mentors. These are some of the pictures she entered in the fair this year, where she won 12 first prizes! 1 second prize! And got a trophy for having the most points in her age group. She will keep on making jewelry, as gifts and selling it online and at farmers markets. All of these passions are things she could do for a living if she chooses to.

I have watched dance transform my rather shy baby girl into a very confident, out going girl. I get to witness her discover the natural gift she has for photography and for making jewelry. Actually, come to think of it, running a small jewelry business has motivated her to learn a lot about money, and budgeting. It has been a math learning motivator!

She does all of these things because they are fun! And the confidence that she has developed has her striving after the goal of playing violin. She has been working her buns off, and budgeting and saving, and brainstorming to find a violin, and a violin mentor. All her hard work is paying off too. She has found a used violin to borrow and found a mentor. She has also made arrangements to have a new violin on lay away at the music shop! She is so excited to write a card to Colm, the violinist for THE FRAMES, to tell him that his music was her inspiration to learn.

Okay, okay, but does she know how to do things she doesn’t want to do? Like "what about when she has to go to work one day and she doesn’t want to go? And what about adversity creating a stronger character in her?
" Yes, she does things she doesn’t want to do; and things she doesn’t enjoy doing. She voluntarily sweeps and mops our floors, and cleans both of our bathrooms. Not exactly fun. She also unloads the clean dishwasher, even though she really doesn’t enjoy it. Why does she do it then? Do I make her? She does it because she knows it helps out the whole family when we all pitch in. I don’t make her. And she has expressed awareness that these skills are going to be important for her to have developed when she is an adult!! Really, stop and read that last sentence again.
And guess what?

That same principle carries over to the rest of her life. She occasionally does math problems from a workbook, or as it applies to money or time because she knows it will be essential to her success as an adult. She is learning to read and write, (something she REALLY didn’t want to do, and has been a huge personal challenge for her) for the same reason. She has a map of Canada on her wall, with various cities starred, because she feels it is important for her to learn about her country. One of the things she wants this year is an atlas, so she can learn about the rest of the world too. One of the projects she wants to work on is researching which province and which cities have the most green space.

And she does encounter adversity; adversity that is within her current abilities to face, and to problem solve through, and to rise above. Adversity that in the bigger picture works towards more confidence and positive self image. No, she does not face adversity everyday, for possibly 6 hours per day, among near strangers. But who does? maybe some adults, who work at a job they hate, and maybe they put up with it because a life full of adversity has taught them to expect nothing less, and that they are not deserving of joy in everyday life??

....and who would sign up the one they love for that? a life full of lessons of adversity, all under the guise that it will build character... so character is more valuable than love, when in the name of education?

I have no doubt that she will read english classics, know how to do math, and have gained an understanding of history and various cultures, because she is and active and passionate participant in her life. And let's face it, life is full of learning and learning is fun!

I have granted my daughter the very basic right of freedom to grow and learn. To be the leader of her learning journey. Which is a scary feeling at times, granted that we are conditioned to expect the worst from our kids. She has proven to me that when given that freedom, with love and support, we can expect the very BEST from our children. We can expect them to AMAZE us. Again and again.

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