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.

Friday, March 16, 2012

152



Woody has a theory about the dandelions here in Northwest Arkansas. They are most abundant and more likely to be in the wishable stage in sunny areas, he has noticed. In the shade, there may be a few yellow flower heads, but very few that have already gone to seed. Therefore, he concludes, dandelions must prefer full sun.

The other thing I wanted to tell you today is about noticing, too.

While traveling last month, Woody and I started playing "Punch Buggy." Man, old-style VW bugs, the ones made from 1938 to 2003,  are not nearly as common as they were when I was growing up! I wonder where they all are? There were more than 21 million made! We spotted maybe two in the many hundreds of miles we traveled.

So, we modified the game a little bit. (But the official rules are here, in case you were curious.) We allowed Punch Buggies to be new (1998 on) or old-style VW bugs. Old styles, because of their rarity, are worth two punches. Newer ones, one punch. VW vans are to be worth a whopping three punches if we ever see one.

And because we used to own a Jeep, we already had an eye trained for spotting them, so we added them to our game. We yell "Punch Buggy (color), no punch back!" for VW bugs. For Jeeps, we yell, "Beep! Beep! (Color) Jeep!" Jeeps are also worth one point. If we get the color wrong (which only happens to me, never Woody) then the other person has a chance to correct you and gets the point or points.

I love playing these kinds of games with kids. When I was a teacher in an after-school program, I often initiated them--Twenty Questions, I-Spy, and Hot-and-Cold were favorites. It's fun, but also, you get to work on all kinds of social stuff while the stakes are low. Fox, at 3 years, randomly calls out cars he doesn't actually see on the road. Woody, at first, did not want to let this behavior stand. But, coming to understand how age and developmental difference comes into play, he's now mostly happy to just count those as Fox's points in a game that he thinks of as somewhat separate from the one he and I play. He gets a little upset when I get more than a point or two ahead of him. So we talk a little about what makes games fun, what to do when they start to feel less fun, and we share good techniques (such as scanning parking lots quickly, focusing on oncoming cars and cars stopped at the cross streets of intersections we're approaching, etc.).

Working on sportsmanship and competition is pretty gentle this way, even fun. Woody likes being ahead and winning, sure, but he doesn't have much identity built into it. He doesn't see himself as unobservant if he "loses" our Punch Buggy game the way sometimes kids may see themselves as slow if they come in last in P.E. or as dumb if they can't recite the multiplication tables as fast as the other 8 year olds. Not all kids do this, but many do. And it makes me sad.

Meanwhile, Punch Buggy has convinced me of my pressing need for vision correction, so look for a post soon on Mama-goes-to-the-optometrist.

Edited to Add:

Today, Monday, March 19, I came across a picture of our beloved food co-op in Tallahassee, New Leaf Market, back when it was the Leon County Food Co-op on Gaines Street. And check out the cars out front! Five punches, this picture.