It just got very quiet in my house.
Both my kids left a few minutes ago, one for the weekend and one overnight.
I can only remember a handful (handful? maybe less) of times this has happened since they made their appearances on this earth.
Part of me thinks, “How is this possible? Weren’t they just crawling around and begging for piggy back rides 5 minutes ago?”
But a larger part recognizes their growing independence and freedom to exert it as one of the enormous benefits of unschooling. (And maybe also of unschooling in NYC?) And I know it is going to become a common occurrence before I can blink.
My daughter is 14 and is, right now, on her way to Penn Station (yes, Penn Station!) where she will buy her train ticket, make her way to the appropriate track, board the train and head out to stay with a NBTSC friend who lives in New Jersey – all without any help from me. I didn’t even look up the train schedule.
Ben, who is just a few weeks away from turning 11, made plans to spend the night at a friends house. The friend lives in Harlem, so Ben walked himself to the subway station and rode up on his own. He texted me when he arrived.
Maybe all kids are confident and independent these days, but it is definitely prevalent among the unschoolers we know. I certainly wasn’t; partly due to living in the country and needing a car to go anywhere, but partly because a lot of my day was planned for me. I went to school and one of the big lessons there was (is) to do as you are told. That’s a lesson that leaks out into every part of your life, even when you aren’t at school. I didn’t go on a journey of my own making that wasn’t at least in part dictated by someone else until I was 25. I have a feeling it won’t take my kids that long.
So why am I writing this?
I’m writing this to remind everyone that education is not just about science and literature. It’s about navigating the world and feeling confident in yourself. What good is quoting Shakespeare if you don’t know how to take read a train schedule or get from one place to the next on your own? You might know all the elements on the Periodic Table, but shouldn’t you also know how to budget your money for train tickets, subway rides and buying your food when you’re away from home? I’m all for Shakespeare and Science, but sometimes we get so bogged down in the discussions of “What our Children Need to Know” – all of which are centered on standards and testing and academics and how to achieve all of that with or without a curriculum or a required class – that we forget all the rest of it.
Which is too bad. Because the rest of it?
The rest of it is a huge part of a successful, happy life.