Something unexpected came up on our trip to Chicago, what felt like a significant social moment, a noticing, commenting, and processing.
Sitting on the couch in the corner of the second floor lobby in the hotel, I typed away on my computer and the boys played a spy game. A tall, thin man in a dark gray suit walked by on his way to the lower-level elevators.
"Did you see that man?" Woody asked as he rounded the corner.
"He had weird eyes."
"I didn't see his eyes, but that's not really something you'd say about somebody. It could be hurtful."
"But he did have weird eyes."
"I hear you, but it doesn't feel kind. It's like if someone said about your mom, 'Your mom is fat.' Even though that may be so, it's not a nice way to talk about someone."
I do not know why I chose this comparison. Looking back, I wouldn't have, but I there it was. Woody took this in.
"Are you fat?"
"Well, yea, but that's not usually how people put it. People say things like overweight or bigger. It's just more polite."
That was the end of our conversation. The next day, on a crowded bus, we were near a man with a large nose. He looked a bit like Ben Kingsley, but with thick, curly hair, and his nostrils arched slightly over the middle so that inside of his nose was more visible than most people's.
Woody leaned over and whispered (a little loudly) to me, "That man's nose is kind of creepy." I raised my eyebrows and said, "You and I will have to talk about that later." He nodded, then a moment later said quietly, "It's something that's not nice to say, right? It's OK. We don't have to talk about it. I know."
We left it at that. No shame. No judgment. I was glad. It felt significant to me personally, having successfully, kindly, and tactfully moved us through a small rough patch in the social waters. I know I've mentioned in the past that I am challenged by social anxiety, and I was cheered to see that Woody seemed, in this moment at least, able to move past a gaff as a learning moment.
I wouldn't have as a kid. I would have been self-conscious and embarrassed. I would have been angry at my mom for pointing out my misstep. It would have taken me hours to recover, and when I remembered it, I would get upset all over again. I don't know why that was so, but it was, and sometimes still is. So I work through my own issues not only for myself but also to be able to represent ways that whole and healthy people can meet challenges. I want my kids to see the world with optimism and the people in it--including themselves--with benevolence.
And then, last night, I was tested in my commitment to that vision.
As we were watching the LSU-Alabama game, there was a commercial that featured a close shot of a full-term pregnant woman's round belly. Fox turned bright-eyed to me and said, "Mama, she has a big belly just like you!" I took a deep breath and sighed and nodded. Yes, yes she does.
We'll get there.
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.