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.

Saturday, December 24, 2011


We are at the half-way mark of the blog! Hooray! And this means we are more or less right on schedule to finish at the end of the typical school year, with a cushion to take a few days off from posting during the week now and again since we won't be taking a holiday break now or a spring break in April.

And befitting of our halfway post, I'd like to share an unschooling product that resulted in something that looks a lot like a schooling product, and that is writing.  So I want to tell you as best as I can how Woody learned to write.

Since he's been little, Woody has seen us writing, he's seen other kids writing, and he's come across texts, both produced by hand and by printer. He knows that writing is a significant way that people communicate. He learned to identify letters by seeing them all around him, then he learned to copy them, then he kind of played around practicing them. Like most kids, he sometimes got the N's backwards, and he sometimes put too many downward strokes in a W, and S's were often backwards. I made mental notes of the problems, but didn't point them out every time, only when he asked about them. And sometimes, I made up little rhymes about how to form the letters so we could play with it together as he figured it out.

He asked for help when he had trouble. He sometimes asked us to write the letter out for him first so he could watch us make it. And then, one day, it was clear that he know how to form all the letters.

I am a writer, and I take great joy in writing. I write a lot, but I never sat down to teach Woody how to write. We wrote together when it came up: to keep score for games, to make thank-you notes, to label or show dialog in drawings, to pass secret messages to each other, and to send letters and postcards. It was always optional, and sometimes he said no when I offered a writing opportunity, but often he said yes.

When he was three and four, and other kids his age in preschool were writing letters and sometimes words easily and frequently and for a variety of purposes, I had little pangs of doubt, though not enough to abandon what I was doing. But at five, he hung out quite a big with his cousin, a year older, who wrote words and sometimes sentences. I think seeing what another kid could do spurned him on some, the same way I wanted to learn how to cross the monkey bars at age six when I'd seen other kids doing it on the playground. I think that's just the nature of being a social creature; we usually want to be doing what the people around us and like us are doing.

Writing was a regular and fun part of his life that was in no way forced and that he saw other people--including other kids--getting great enjoyment from. He had support when he needed and wanted it. He had ample opportunity to practice and fine-tune and take breaks and try again. Woody's learning to write followed the model that fairly guarantees success; it seemed as if it were inevitable, under these circumstances, that he would learn how to do it.. It is exactly how you or I would choose to learn a new skill now, as adults.

Here's the grocery list he made today. It's the longest and most cohesive piece of writing he's done in one sitting. He first began too close to the edge of the picture (see the "Vi" on the right?), so we talked about how to leave yourself enough room. He asked how to spell the words, and I showed him how to use periods for initials (T.P. for toilet paper) and how to use commas to separate items in a list. By the end, he was doing a little happy dance between words, clearly relishing his accomplishment. He offered me a high-five when he was done, and ran off to play.