Regarding school, we do absolutely nothing. By letting the kids do whatever, the hope is that they will live a life of engagement rather than boredom. By letting them learn what they are interested in, the hope is that they will embrace learning rather than eschew it. By letting them memorize what is important to them, the hope is that they will strengthen their memory rather than destroy it by an endless series of memorizing and forgetting (read testing). By not joining the meritocracy, the hope is that they will pursue things because they are interested in them rather than to get praise or acceptance.
Watch people, watch yourself, you will notice when their mind or yours closes to information, almost reflexively. It’s sad, and I think it’s caused by being forced to learn. Am I right? No one knows, but we do the best that we can with the thoughts and views that we have.
What is this “doing nothing about school” called? By some it’s called unschooling, by others it’s called by neglect. By me, it’s called nothing (or just living) because I don’t like to define things by what they are not.
What does that look like on an academic level? It looks like they are behind in the three r’s but ahead in general knowledge, vocab, and rhetorical skills. Does this worry me? No. I know anecdotally and from reading case studies that kids who learn to read later (9 to 10) than the norm (6 to 7) have stronger comprehension skills and read at an adult level faster than those who are forced to read too soon.
Do my kids have problems? Hell yeah. Are they caused by the lack of school? No. They are caused (imho) by my short temper and too many days spent hiding in their bedroom while their adults scream at each other. That said, all adults give their kids some emotional scars, and the important thing is that we speak honestly about those issues and pursue growth in all of those areas.
What about college? I wouldn’t push my kids toward college, but if they become interested in going, it is not difficult to learn whichever skills are necessary to obtain that goal when we get close to it, and places like Harvard eat this shit up.
What about work? There seems to be a popular idea that kids must be bored at school so that they learn to be bored at work. I have no interest in raising cogs. Please, refer to the life of engagement. If that means being a ski bum, so be it. An artist who works retail on the side, so be it. A capitalist, so be it. The important thing is that they pursue something that interests them rather than get trapped in a box because they are so mentally used to being trapped in a box that they just stay in the cycle.
What’s your role? My role is to play games with them, answer their questions, show them how to find info when they want it, create a stimulating environment. It means noticing when a kid is watching tv because they’re bored and helping them to find a better use of their time but it also means noticing when they are watching tv because they need to zone out or because they are truly interested in the show and giving them space to do that. It means listening to them recount the most boring summaries of the book they’re listening to or the movie they’ve just watched because I see those summaries and the construction of the accompanying analysis as valuable rhetorical and pre-writing skills. It also means modeling engagement which is difficult for me.
I was thinking for the 30th year in a row that my New Year’s resolution should be to be more organized, but I’m shifting that. My goal is to stop procrastinating. I procrastinate a lot because I don’t dig on many of the tasks I have to do to keep a house a float (laundry, cleaning, menu planning-eww). I’m trying to embrace those tasks as things I want to do because I want to live in a reasonably clean and organized house where everyone is fed. Procrastination is the least engaged thing that one can do and it creates bad vibes. Instead, I want to do those things as necessary, and just be more. Just be. Be more engaged.
In the category of engagement, I started the New Year watching this great documentary about Tony Kushner's adaptation of Brecht’s Mother Courage and her Children starring Meryl Streep. The documentary was fabulous, super exciting, and when I fill my mind with things like that, it give me something to ruminate on while I fold the laundry, cook the food, and clean the endless deluge of debris.
I’m really excited about the next year. The littlest one is turning five in a couple weeks, and there is so much more we can do and learn now that they are all over five rather than all under five. We changed our diet a few months ago, and I see more clearly than I have ever seen before.
I see particularly the value of being positive, of responding to people positively (I’m going to devote an entire post to this soon). When people express dismay about what we are doing or not doing here, I want to acknowledge what they are saying is coming from a place of concern and try to explain what we are doing, what we’re trying to accomplish. That’s all that I can do. So farewell procrastination and hello positive communication.