Woody, going to bed last night: Mom, I'd like you to tidy my sheets and covers when I get out of bed in the morning. Sometimes my covers get twisted while I sleep.
Me: Would you like me to teach you how to make a bed?
Woody: No, I'll probably just be doing my thing and you can do your thing and make it for me.
Me: I'd be happy to make your bed for you tomorrow. Maybe you'd like to watch just in case, though. You know, in case some day I do my thing and don't have time to make your bed, or I forget. You might want to know how to do it yourself then.
Chores are a big thing for some parents. It wasn't a big thing in my house growing up, but it was a quietly tense thing that blew up now and again. From the time I was 11, mine was a single-mother home, and none of us three girls did much to help. I don't know why that was. When my parents were together, chores were angry obligations performed (or not) alone and with resentment. Load the dishwasher or you can't go out and play. Clean your room or you don't come with us to the movies. When they split when I was 11, I didn't want to do a single chore ever again in my life.
There were a few Sundays after my dad left--before my mother got a second job--that my younger sister, my mom and I would go around cleaning all together listening to Bob Marley and singing and dancing through the rooms carrying garbage bags, feather dusters, laundry baskets, and brooms. It's one of the times that I remember things being whole and OK. I can still smell in my memory the lemon Pledge and remember how the wind sounded through the open windows when it was cool enough to air out the house. But then, when my mom started working on the weekends and it was just me and my little sister, chores went back to going mostly undone with all of us stalking through the house angry for the dysfunction in our environments and in our relationships with each other. My mom did all the cleaning herself in big, hard bursts when it got to be too much to bear.
It took me a long, long time to learn how to clean and tidy and fix-up, and even longer to see it as a pleasant part of being a functioning human being. I'm still working on it with dishes, but I love putting things back in their places, and I love wiping surfaces with nice-smelling cleaners (which I learned how to make on my own, another part I love). I like shaking out rugs in the front yard and the satisfaction of a shiny stovetop. Folding clean towels. Hanging little boys' clothes on the line. Sweeping off the front porch.
So this morning, after hot cocoa (on what feels like it may be one of our last mornings cool enough to enjoy it), and after he was finished watching cartoons, I showed Woody how I made my bed. Then he climbed up on his bed and I helped him do the same.
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.