unschooling, schooner style

one of my first tastes of unschooling might have been when i spent my first 9 weeks aboard the schooner Harvey Gamage. i just dug out my journal from SEAmester, and the entry from our first day of sailing  (3-3-98) included this:

“earlier today we ate breakfast, swabbed the decks, and then the crew let us figure out how to raise the sails. we broke Harvey on the raising of the mainsail, but then our group did a good job on the foresail. i helped with all the sails, and then with coiling the loose lines. ”

having been a crew member on 2 later SEAmesters, i know this “unschoonering” is not the usual protocol. usually there are implicit instructions relayed from the top of the hierarchy on down, and lots of hovering by mates and deckhands, while students learn the lines and maneuvers. there are fewer broken blocks when done that way, it’s true, but i know that students who learn from the top down gain competence far less quickly, and almost never get a handle on the big picture, though they may become adept at isolated tasks.  i find it interesting that the first time i really was “allowed” to just discover something on my own, was really the first time i found myself truly in love and so naturally competent and in tune with something (sailing). i had many passions and hobbies before then, but this made my heart sing like nothing ever had before.

funny thing: i have also been reflecting recently that i do not really feel that pull to be out traversing the high seas like i once did. (i’m not saying i never will!!! just reporting my current status which may have a lot to do with having a 3 year old and feeling content ashore… i will withhold speculation on how things may change once my lad is, say, 7-9-11 years old!) but i now feel the way i felt about sailing back in 1998 about many more things in my life in 2010- the amazing magic and empowerment of being able to unlock any door i want, the realization that i can really do anything, has spilled over into every aspect of life (i guess that’s why they call it whole life unschooling…) i also know that the experience i had on that ship was crucial for me, i’ve felt that way ever since in fact, but i had never put my finger on what exactly was unlocked for me, right there on day one of sailing. i spent the rest of the trip unlocking all sorts of other doors within me, and all those open doors have led me so many wonderful places, but mostly they have led me to myself. i finally figured out that i was someone. and that i got to decide who that someone was, what she believed, and who she would become. and that she had a voice, one that mattered.

{image “the mighty storm” borrowed with permission from michael mcdevitt. here is where you can like his art on facebook}

3 comments to unschooling, schooner style

  • You are SO strong & brave! All of my ancestors were from the north sea – Scotland etc. but alas it is not in my blood. I can relate to one's heart singing however. Magical that you have all those lovely notes in your journal. A powerful story, thank you for sharing, Katie x

  • Amazing! I, too, have had unschooling experiences in my past that made HUGE impacts on how I felt about myself and who I am now. I love that you said mostly they led you to you 🙂

  • I think I've had many "unschooling" moments like that in my life. We aren't official unschoolers, but there is much of the unschooling process that I want to include in raising and helping to educate my son. This is a lovely experience you share. And I love that image!

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