Life Learning Magazine

About         Articles         Editor's Blog         Write         Shop         Advertise

Beyond School by Wendy Priesnitz
Life Learning - the book
Life is Good Unschooling Conference
It Hasn't Shut Me Up - a memoir by Wendy Priesnitz
School Free by Wendy Priesnitz
For the Sake of Our Children by Leandre Bergeron
Playing With Math
A Path of Their Own
Free Range Learning by Laura Grace Weldon
What Really Matters by David Albert & Joyce Reed
Challenging Assumptions in Education by Wendy PriesnitzChild's Play Magazine
A Home Business Start-Up Guide by Wendy Priesnitz
Natural Life Magazine
Natural Child Magazine

Whatever We Want

Whatever We Want
By Janet LoSole
 If we believed what we so often pay lip service to, which is declaring to children: “You can do anything you want, you can be anything you want to be,” shouldn’t we allow them to do whatever they want while they are growing up?

The other night as I tucked my youngest into bed, I whispered, “I’m lucky to have a kid like you.”

She smiled and rubbed her eyes. “I’m lucky to have a mom like you.”

“Oh? Why do you say that?”

“Because you let us do whatever we want,” she said sleepily.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, at school, the kids have to do what they’re told. They can’t say no to the teacher. At home, it’s more fun. And we can play as much as we want.”

 

I mulled her comments over in my head for a while. On the surface, her perspective on our style of life learning makes us look like we laze around all day watching soap operas and eating bonbons, but the truth is that my daughters fill every minute with something meaningful.

As unschoolers, we are relaxed about when and how learning takes place. Although we occasionally wear our pajamas well into the afternoon, we can still operate a microscope if we roll up the sleeves of our bathrobes. So, on a drizzly Saturday morning when our youngest went outside with a couple from our building to pick rocks before some spring landscaping, our oldest, still recuperating from a cold, stayed in her pajamas and set up a science station with her microscope beside the window to periodically watch how the rock pickers were progressing. When our youngest came in, the eldest presented her scientific findings to her. Neither was directed to do these things. In fact, it was not even suggested; they came to participate in these events on their own.

Isn’t that what “doing whatever we want” really means? If we believed what we so often pay lip service to, which is declaring to children: “You can do anything you want, you can be anything you want to be,” shouldn’t we allow them to do whatever they want while they are growing up? Implicit in that statement is the notion, “But not right now, right now you must learn this and that so you can decide what to do.” Wouldn’t the opposite be more effective at encouraging children to do whatever they wanted? If children are encouraged throughout their lives to do whatever they want, to explore areas of interest and engage with others who share their passions, won’t they be more likely to carry that on into adulthood?

“Allowing children to do what they want requires that adults be confident that the children are engaged in something valuable, even if we can’t see the merits on the surface.”
The next day, I engaged both of my daughters in a discussion about this issue. They both expressed a sense of frustration imagining what it would be like to have a more restricted style of learning, where their interests were not respected. They imagined how intimidating it would be to present their work to a teacher for evaluation. By contrast, their comfort level with us, their parents, is high and they don’t fear our reaction about choices they make or our view of their achievements. Our older daughter, a right-brained child if ever there was one, talked about how a flexible schedule was the key to enabling her to pursue her passion for theater.

Our daughters spend a large part of their day in imaginary play. Kingdoms, constructed out of Lego and minutiae picked up at the Salvation Army, scatter over the surface of an old dining room table we’ve plopped in the middle of the largest bedroom. Enclaves of fairies, dragons, twigs, and rocks line the edges of the table, whose legs, cut down by half, accommodate the girls’ child-size height. Eventually, I gave them permission to push the table into a corner so they could draw miniature works of art and tape them to the walls to accompany the fantasy world they were co-creating. It has become a daily ritual. When the girls are separated (during summer day camp, for example), they will gravitate to each other like polar ends of a magnet at the end of the day, clear off the table and start fresh, entering a make-believe dimension that seems to be a necessity in their everyday lives. I’ve had to put dinner on hold to allow them to get that “fix.”

What is the importance of imagination? A useful tool to address environmental problems? Do the scientific answers to our problems lie in the imaginations of our children? What better reason than that to allow them to do whatever they want, to discover answers for themselves!

Allowing children to do what they want requires that adults be confident that the children are engaged in something valuable, even if we can’t see the merits on the surface. In our town, the library staff understands the necessity of play in a child’s life. On the big reading carpet, my girls often spread out the Lego or the plastic food and create a faux marketplace using high-pitched voices of exclamation. Every single time we visit the library I think: Should I re-direct them to the books? They do enough of this at home. Eventually, I realized that not a visit has gone by when both haven’t eventually drifted over to the books. I’ve heard them say to each other, “Wanna gather up some books and sit over in the corner and read them?”

I have met many people who feel they couldn’t homeschool because they think it is a lot of work. It is. It’s a lot of work keeping up with their educational demands. Allowing unschooled children to do whatever they want means accessing resources and teachers to capitalize on expressed interests, especially when parents don’t possess the skills needed for that topic. When our youngest declared her desire to learn the flute, we obliged her by finding a teacher in the community.

Out of sheer enjoyment, she practices without ever having to be reminded or coerced, but that enthusiasm also means an intense desire to meet with her teacher, even in inclement weather. On a snowy afternoon, I was attempting to transport her to lessons, but I confessed that I didn’t think I could make it up her instructor’s hill. She was so visibly disappointed that my maternal guilt kicked into overdrive. Then she hit me with this, “But I missed last week.”

Gulp.

I gunned the Toyota and made it up the hill.

Then I realized that my daughter’s statement at bedtime was her way of thanking me. A little slipping and sliding up a snowy hill is worth it when they breathe sweet things like,You let us do whatever we want in your ear at night.

Janet LoSole is a freelance writer living in Ontario, Canada. She holds a Bachelor of Education degree (French) and is a certified TESOL instructor. Before her career as a parent-educator, Janet taught French at the elementary level and has taught ESL internationally since 1994. World travel is the primary curriculum resource for her two homeschooled daughters. A staunch advocate of community-based tourism, Janet has made numerous presentations on the concept to community groups, encouraging people to eschew corporate package tours in favor of supporting local family-owned businesses. She writes about homeschooling and travelling. Her work has appeared in Natural Child Magazine, Vagabondfamily.org, Learning Tangent, The Homeschooler Post, and Hackwriters.com.

 

Natural Life Books

Life Learning Magazine

Copyright © 2002 - 2017 Life Media

Contact   |   Privacy Policy