a month of unschool ~ dino driven learning

~this month of unschool was brought to you by the letters e, a, d, x, s, h, c…….. mama has been busy drawing dinosaurs by popular demand, and quinn has been coloring them in as fast as she can draw them up. we’ve been having fun finding dinosaurs whose names begin with each letter of the alphabet. beginning with e is for eoraptor and euoplocephalus. we had to broaden our horizons to other non-dinosaur prehistoric creatures for x-marks-the-spot, and found a prehistoric elasmobranch called xenacanthus in one of quinn’s dino reference books. (phew!) quinn is definitely showing early signs of taking an interest in sounding out words, and randomly identifies which letter sounds he is hearing while we are having a conversation or reading a book. it’s very exciting!~

~quinn also ordered up a drawing of “the cretaceous period” in which he could deposit a few of his dino stickers that had not found homes in particular habitats in the sticker book. he asked me to draw one of his favorites, dimetrodon, who he informs me, “eats both plants and meat! like us!” we also did a little introduction to the color wheel, using markers. once things settle down around our (currently very full) house, i’m planning to do it by mixing paints.~

~speaking of our full house, quinn has gotten pretty used to having a little pancake around. he has been adopting his new family members and going with the flow pretty well, navigating the intricacies of playing with a much younger person. he knows to turn the page in his drawing book when it’s time to include her in the drawing fun, so that he can keep his dinosaurs free from scribbles. it’s worth tolerating a toddler if it means there is someone to occasionally have beside him in the car cart. it is fun to see him adapting to his niche in the household, and volunteering for chores like making beds….

~…washing and setting the table, helping measure granola ingredients, and then scooping the finished granola into storage containers, filling trays of potting soil and watering plants, putting toys away (even if he wasn’t the one who took them out and scattered them abroad), fetching this or that, or returning this or that to the cupboard, washing the bread bowl (very thoroughly, for a half hour) and so on. i have friends who believe strongly that children must be taught to do things they don’t want to do, because eventually we all must do things we don’t want to do. i can see their point, but i don’t agree, in my own experience. i think we can learn to love what we do, and come to choose it naturally because it is part of being a family and belonging, something we all need and want. i think just being around that kind of joyful give and take of family, without requirements, rewards, punishments, or nagging, a person will come into their own. but that is just my opinion.~

~we have suffered loss as well as celebrating growth and new life. quinn planted his very own garden bed, full of peas, pansies, marigolds, carrots, sunflowers, and of course dinosaur kale. he practiced some photography, and ended up with some very unique shots.~


~lots of newness this month. new glasses, new guitar (followed immediately by new original tunes; a great way to spend a toys r us gift card if anyone has that problem), new grandparents, a few changes of bedroom, the current one being in a tent in the living room (did i mention it’s a full house?), and a new school…..~

~gasp! a new school you say?! but this is an unschooling post! whatever do you mean? yes indeed, folks, quinn is going to head to kindergarten this fall, and i couldn’t be more excited for him. because you see, the perfect school has come into being at just exactly the right time and place for us. (i know i might be oversimplifying that, but i like to think it’s at least somewhat true!) a teacher who has such a compatible view of learning to my own has opened a k-3 school (with intentions of extending up to grade 12 in time). a democratic, constructivist, emergent individualized curriculum school, where “scientific thinking and compassionate reasoning” (inspired by none other than the dalai lama) are the keys to nurturing “life-long learners, creative problem-solvers, and empathetic citizens.” it’s even more mind-blowing than that, go read the rest of the mission statement on the link and be prepared to be inspired. ready for the name? our living school. look out world, this school is compatible with unschooling philosophy, which makes it almost too good to be true. ok, i know i’m getting ahead of myself, but from what i have seen so far, i am pretty confident that i can make that claim! it’s unschooling school! i am just so excited! just imagine a place without grades, where a child gets to opt in or out of lessons that logically spring forth from the interests of the group (tell me, would you opt in or out of marshmallow geometry?), where the things we unschoolers value are paramount. things like community, compassion, democracy, empathy, social/economic/environmental justice…~

…and play!

~similar to my views on household responsibilities, my take on learning also lacks that hierarchical top-down feel. it lacks that “children are deficient” feel that much of traditional schooling (and parenting and household integration and…) is infused with. children are born intact (emotionally, socially, with good little brains that inherently thrive at learning) and we adults are not meant to be their superiors, their trainers, or their managers. our job is to protect that intactness, facilitate their learning, provide space, give them a rich environment in which to continue to thrive on learning. they are not empty vessels to be filled, they are already full, and running over, with energy and love of learning. can you hear my excitement? imagine sitting down to a school open house presentation and hearing the very same things i’ve just said reflected back. i am giddy! i’m thrilled for quinn to be one of the first students at our living school, and can’t wait to see it grow and blossom in the years to come in this community!~

~and no, this doesn’t at all mean an end to future “a month of unschool” posts. i don’t plan on suddenly ceasing to call ourselves unschoolers, simply because for part of his week, quinn will be unschooling in a school setting. unschooling is not a part time gig, it’s full on life learning, and life is not part time. ~

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