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.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

32

Outside is gray, cloudy, and wet. Our trip to Pea Ridge National Military Park was put off. The offer to spend the morning at the library was declined. So, today, we're homeschooling mostly at home.

When I go to visit my mom, who often has a copy of Southern Living sitting out on the coffee table, I am moved to unkind comparisons of my own house to those in the magazine. (Why, why, why do I do this? Of all the things I've been able to release in my life, why do I still aspire to the funky, cohesive, chic, predictable, faux-relaxed environments that I likely will never be able to afford, no matter how sensible the writers tell me the $450 price tag on the upcycled side-table lamp is?)

But I am cheered to know that I am in good company with my very full, very actively used, very seldom-in-a-state-of-tidy-completion house. I have learned that most homeschoolers live like this. One homeschooler, quoting another, put it this way:

We homeschool. We're home a lot. You can tell!

Quiet, tidy, Spartan spaces do help some folks with some kinds of learning and doing. Drawing, for me, is one of these. I like to draw on clean, cleared-off, well lit table tops. Cooking, too. Give me clear counter tops, and I can think straight and maybe make a meal.

But I have always been most comfortable at the homes of folks whose rooms--at least their common rooms--are really lived in. Give me a newspaper on the couch and a leggy houseplant that nobody could bear to prune and an afghan crocheted by a great-aunt and a rag rug that's soft underfoot and never entirely free of dog hair and the thrift-store Cubist painting that everybody asks about and a collection of shells from seashore journeys and a button box full to the brim and a photo album.

I want things to look at and talk about and touch and connect through.

That's how we learn. Educators use words such as recursive to describe learning, meaning it often doubles back on itself, and nonlinear, and process-based. But really, it's cluttered. It's jumbled. It can have an order to it, but not usually right away. The order comes after understanding, which is usually smack dab in the middle part of learning.

It makes sense, then, for a learning house to be, how shall we say...busy? Stimulating? Or we can just call a frog a frog and say that at many points during the day, it's probably messy? It's engaging, touchable and climbable, it elicits questions and stories and prompts wild imaginative scenarios and hosts magnificent moments of discovery.

Real Simple would balk at my aesthetic, to be sure (though I bet the editors would secretly be impressed at how many Legos I can fit in a Rubbermaid bin). But, if the goal is a house full of the unexpected, the intriguing, the accessible, interesting, odd, funny, and sometimes magical, well, I might just have the perfect place to play on a rainy day...