A few at a time, the still leathery leaves of the sweet gum and the maple and the crepe myrtle are beginning to show their yellows and reds and fall to the ground. The Waldorf and Enki and Montessori methodsoften capitalize on these pervasive signs of changing seasons as anchors for many lessons and activities including the chemistry of chlorophyll and trees' life cycles, composing poetry and learning songs inspired by autumn, cultural studies of harvest festivals modern and ancient, and the ever-popular rubbings, collages, and window hangings made from fallen leaves.
As a teacher, I did the same. It felt very natural to me. The magic in the autumn air is inspiring, and I think most humans at the change of the seasons feel a calling to spend more time actively engaging with or contemplating and reflecting on nature.
So, this afternoon I played with the colorful cast-offs in the backyard:
I invited Woody to press the leaves and flowers with me. I showed him in one of my nature craft books how we could incorporate the pressed materials into homemade paper. But, he wasn't interested.
Equally inspired by the out-of-doors, he preferred something very different:
This kind of things happens for us a lot. And I think it's important. There's no struggle. There's no coercion. There's no privileging of one activity over another. There's no shame. There's no hierarchy to learning in situations like these. When we're committed to putting opportunities before our kids, but not attached to what the learning might look like, they are going to engage with the world in exactly the way that feels most natural and interesting to them. That's a prime condition for learning, and it sets up a child to see and feel his or her parent as an ally rather than a judge.
Who am I to argue that my leaf art is somehow more valuable than his racing around in the last of the season's lush, green grass? How is one any more or less a celebration of the theme that none of us could help but notice, whether we look at a lesson plan or not: we, and everything we see and know, is changing every moment. We do, we learn, we grow, we change, we connect, and we learn more.
It's nearly six o'clock here. With what's left of the day I'm going to watch the golden sunrays move to the tops of the trees. I'm probably going to play ghost tag or hot-and-cold, or by the sound of it through the screen door behind me, I think it's treasure hunting now. And yes, I'll probably come back inside with a few more colorful leaves.
My son Woody turned six in November of 2011. That would have been the kindergarten year for most kids, 180 days that mark the beginning of the school career. But Woody did his learning in the big, wide, beautiful world, without school being a part of it.
I'm Teresa Honey, and I kept this blog to document this time in my son's life, to share pictures and stories with far-away friends and relatives, and to add ours to the many stories of families living rich, engaging, loving lives with learning happening all the time and in many forms, totally inseparable from every other part of being human.
Here you'll find 180 or so learning moments recorded from August, 2011 to April, 2012 in the life of a 5-turned-6-year-old radically unschooled kid.