I read the sweetest thing today on Scott Noelle's Daily Groove, a daily parenting pep-talk via email. It was called "The Trickle Down Theory of Human Kindness," and said that among people who highly value kindness,
"Adults appreciate and support the delight of adolescents,
who delight in the joy of prepubescents,
who enjoy entertaining younger children,
who love to carry babies and play with toddlers."
This was contrasted to our own mainstream, modern culture of which, he says,
"Adults in our culture often *fear* adolescents,
who call prepubescents "dweebs,"
who disparagingly call younger children "babies,"
who compete with real babies for love and attention."
And I thought about this today because I had planned for us to do an activity aimed at kids younger than Woody. It was a story time and pumpkin hunt at the botanical gardens. Any kids were welcome to attend, but these 10 a.m.-type events are usually most heavily attended by the 2-3 year olds with some younger and a very few older. Last night, when I told him about it, I mentioned the probable age break-down casually.
Honestly, I fully thought he was going to tell me he'd rather not go, that it was baby stuff, or maybe he'd act noncommittal about it because he sensed it wasn't cool. I felt that keenly as a kid; hanging out with the younger kids was a social no-no. It meant you didn't have enough friends your own age, and that came with a huge stigma. He asked if we would be able to search for pumpkins together, and I said yes, so he said great. He wanted to go.
When we got there, it was just as I suspected. Many kids right around Fox's age. One other 4 year old. No other kids older. I was prepared for a bailout. When we were released from the story to go find the pumpkins, I brought up the idea of finding just one pumpkin each for him and Fox to be sure that there were enough for all the kids. He was totally fine with that. He found two right away, and had fun playing I-Spy for the other pumpkins, but not picking them up. He pointed one out to a 2-year old girl who seemed a little overwhelmed by it all but who was aching for a little squash of her own to carry around.
As the crowd thinned, we played a while at the pond. He pressed with ever increasing force on the lily pads, and we talked about surface tension (which just so happens to be my favorite property of liquids), and we did a few little experiments with how much force applied to the lily pad would break the surface tension, how where the force was applied would change things, and what rested on top of the water and what did not.
When we were the last ones at the garden and all the other mothers (no daddies this time) had moved on with their day, I told him he could do the challenge level and see if he could find the pumpkins so sneaky that no one else found them. I expected he'd find another one or two. He found ten. So, he kept five and re-hid five for other kids who were just then coming up the sidewalk, and who didn't know there had been a pumpkin hunt an hour before. He could hardly talk through his own giggling delight, trying to tell the other kids what was waiting for them.
I was worried he would think of the pumpkin hunt as somehow beneath him, but instead, he plugged in in a way that was meaningful and fun for him. He really, truly delighted in other kids finding their pumpkins. He was really happy to be the one to have hidden those five for the next kids to come. I don't know if it's a kindness thing, or an easy-going personality thing, or the result of not being in a class with 20 other 5-year-old kids, and thus, not thinking there is something intrinsically different about being 4 or 6. But I wish I'd had it. I wish the other kids I went to school with had had it. It makes it a lot nicer to be with other people when they're just other people, not more or less.
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.