I’ve said this in past entries, but the question I get most when I tell people we unschool, after “But what about Math?” is “So what is a typical day? Do you follow a certain schedule?” I hate that question, because if I answer honestly with “No” it just leads to more questions. Like, “But how do you know if your kids are learning anything?” “How do you know that they are keeping up with other kids their age?” (Please note that by ‘keeping up’ they mean with schooled children and the standards set by the Dept. of Ed.) Again, the honest answers would be “I know they are learning because that’s what kids do. I can’t keep them from it.” and “I don’t know that they are and what does it matter?” But if I say that, then the pained smiles and slightly condescending tones of voices kick in and in about two seconds someone is going to ask how I plan to make sure my kids are prepared for college? How will they ever function in the REAL WORLD with such a ditz for a mother? (They don’t say that last sentence, but it’s written in the fake concern on their faces.)
So here we go. This is what we did today, in as much detail as is relevant and that I can remember.
Ben wakes up, he says, just before 8am. I take his word for it, because Maya and I typically sleep until 9. What he does with his time during that hour I don’t know for sure, but according to him today he made some keychains and bookmarks, built with blocks and (quietly) sang some Wii Karaoke.
After Maya and I get up, I make breakfast and then check my email while the kids watch some TV. The whole eating, getting dressed, answering emails or making phone calls routine takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. By that time Maya is usually doing something on the computer and Ben is playing with blocks or Playmobil or any number of other things. Today Ben decided to take several of the keychains and bookmarks he’d made down to our lobby to sell. He had it all laid out on a board, and I made him a sign to hang up. He went downstairs just before 10am. At about 10:15 I went out on my morning Starbucks run. Ben was already doing great business, having sold all but two or three of his items. (Our building has 560 apartments in it, so mornings in the lobby are pretty busy with people heading out to work and such.) When I returned with coffee, he was upstairs in the apartment counting his money.
We watched an episode of “Friends” on DVD, as well as a movie that Maya and Ben made last night and edited this morning. It ran about 7 minutes and was really very funny, featuring Japanese character erasers and even a cameo by our cat, Cosmo. Then I straightened up the living room and looked through the NYCHEA newsletter. Maya read through the class offerings with me, and decided to join an online writers’ group.
After lunch Maya’s Spanish teacher Ana arrived, followed shortly by Maya’s friend Marcella. While they had their Spanish class, Ben and I went to his room and took turns building marble runs. Let me pause here for a minute to tell you how this usually goes. When it’s my turn to build, I ponder how best to connect the pieces to make an interesting run that works well. I try to use different shapes and heights, and sometimes it’s good, sometimes it isn’t. Ben, on the other hand, grabs a bunch of stuff, slaps it together in about 2 minutes and ALWAYS winds up with a better, faster, funner marble run than anything I make. (But he’s always very generous about telling me how great mine are. Flatterer!)
Spanish went well – Maya loves the class – and then we headed up to River Run for our first official “Recess” of the season. This is basically a big gathering of homeschoolers in Riverside Park near one of the playgrounds. The Moms get to sit and talk and the kids play. The girls make up elaborate games involving ships and orphans and witches and daring rescues with so many plot twists and turns it’s hard to keep up. The boys mostly run up and down the rocks ‘fighting’ with sticks or other sword-like objects. It was great, and I got to catch up with some people I hadn’t seen all winter.
At 4pm we left the playground and walked to Barnes & Noble to buy The Hunger Games as a gift for Maya’s Australian pen pal, Anastasia. The girls met on line and have become quite good friends. Then we got drinks and went home.
Another episode of Friends accompanied an early dinner. Fresh air makes everyone hungry.
Then Maya and I started a 365 day project, guided by a book from Noah Scalin, who did his own 365 day project making skulls every day out of everything from food to watches. Some were permanent, some temporary, but you can check them all out at makesomething365.com , which is his blog. Day 1 encourages you to start small, by making something that can fit in the palm of your hand. This is what we did:
While we did that, Ben built a boat out of duct tape, then tested it for leaks in the bathroom sink. It is still floating there as I write this, carrying three Playmobil pirates.
Maya’s friend Greta came to visit at 7. They made another video, edited it, burned it to a DVD and played it for me, all before 8:30pm. Before the kids went off to bed, I started reading Laurie Halse Anderson’s book “Forge” out loud to them. Just had time for the Prelude and Chapter 1. It looks to be every bit as good as “Chains”, to which it is the sequel.
And now Ben is asleep and Maya is in her room working on a short story.
That was our day. Was it typical? Only in its’ variety. Did the kids learn anything? I’m pretty sure they did, although I didn’t make them spell it out – there lies a quick road to eye rolling and deep sighs. Am I preparing them for the REAL WORLD? They live in it every day, so the answer is yes. And college? Well IF they go to college (and they will only go if they have a burning desire to pursue a course of study that requires college – not because I or anyone else thinks they should), then we’ll make sure they are prepared, which I estimate won’t take more than 6-12 months. Motivation makes a quick study of us all.
In the meantime we’ll do what we do and learn as we go. And that’s a typical day.