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.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Today began with the boys and I playing "horse farm." This was a new one. Woody was taking care of the horses and I was taking care of the chickens and sheep. (In other words, he had the toy horses set up in the bedroom as a stable and  I was  "out on the hills shepherding," in the kitchen making omelets for breakfast.)

I know this scenario has a little bit of a creepy Godfather-esque quality to it. Those are hobby horses whose sticks are down behind the bed.

He came to talk to me in the kitchen and saw the money jar (the same on we recently took to the bank to exchange for bills) and decided that he had just made a horse sale and needed to count his money. Back to the stable, he made the top bunk his office and poured out the coins. Only he didn't count them. Instead, he started looking at the years. He read them out to me the way we read years: 1985 (19-85), 1971 (19-71), 2006 (Two thousand six). I told him things I knew or remembered about each year: the year I moved to Orlando as a kid, the year my sister Amy Leigh was born, the year he turned one. He told me that Washington was on the 1985. I told him it was a quarter, worth 25 cents. He told me--a little huffily--that he already knew that. But then, by way of a reconnection, I think, he offered me half the coins so we could read the years out to each other.

Coincidentally, my friend Della wrote to me yesterday after reading post 47. She told me about how much better her 7-year-old homeschooling son understands time and money--probably skills he uses often and in a variety of contexts--than she remembers understanding at his age as a child who spent much of her time in school and who was presented with the time and money lessons in certain grades and mostly using paper.

I thought of this this morning. What grade is money taught in? Counting money, understanding the parts of money, how money works in our economy, how to manage personal money? Or time--clock time, calender time, seasonal time, geologic time and historic periods?

Someone--often, several someones--makes these decisions: when and where and how and to what degree and after what and before what to present different concepts. That's handy if the goal is to present a large body of information to a large body of students over the course of 12 or 13 years of 180-day periods. And there are some studies, done on schooled children, showing that this model can often correlate with mastery of certain skills and acquisition of certain knowledge as demonstrated by using school-based assessment.

But when the goal is to help individuals, whatever their ages, to learn what it is that they find most interesting or useful to learn, to reach understanding, things look a little different. Individual people build understanding with personal experience over time. The shape and variety and degree of this understanding could never be mapped out beforehand, much less put in slots and on schedules to match those of thousands of other people one's same age. That's not the way we learn. Human being aren't that predictable, or standardized, or patient. We are diverse thinkers and learners and knowers. We learn wild and fast and in snatches and then slow and silent over hours and then in nice stair-steps and then exploding up and out and then reaching things new and wonderful that we didn't even set out to learn.

That kind of stuff doesn't come down from the school board. It can't. None of us can know 12 years in advance the exact brand of brilliant and unique our 5 year olds are going to be.