We are definitely unschoolers and as a career public education person, this is no minor realization for me. In a few months we are supposed to provide a portfolio or list or something to “prove” that Anna did indeed do some work this year, so I’ve been thinking a bit how to go about that. Below are some things I’ve observed that she never would be doing if she were still in school. The time simply would not be as available. And if there were time, we’d be bugging her to hurry up in order to get to her homework.
- She’s writing a novel. She noted that she read an article about a local girl whose mother lets her stay up until midnight writing her novel and is hoping we’ll agree to that.
- She’s in the middle of a 1000 word jigsaw puzzle. While we worked on it this morning, she was humming the second violin part to the first movement of a Beethoven symphony we’re performing in orchestra in few weeks.
- She’s just read a book by Graeme Base (“The 11th Hour”) that involves code-breaking and mystery solving. I just asked her how it was going and she said, “Well, this part’s a little boring, but I just HAVE to solve this,” so she kept at it.
- She told me last night she would like to learn how to drive a car.
- She’s been studying math with Khan Academy and last week very confidently and thoughtfully tutored (without realizing it) two of her peers with their 6th grade math homework.
- We took a small group of girls to “Anne of Green Gables” at the Smoot Theatre in Parkersburg a few weeks ago. On the way there, they discussed the book series and their favorite passages and characters. During the play, they whispered critiques and reactions in each others’ ears. On the way home, they analyzed the differences between the book and play and discussed why the play took the approach it did.
- She has a friend who comes over sometimes just to sit together on the couch and talk about books they love.
I know. This is shameless bragging. I’m just so proud of her, though. The more I read and learn about this approach to learning, the more I agree with it.
People have said to me, “That’s great that you’re doing it, but I never could. I’d be terrible at it.” I get the same response when people learn I was a Peace Corps volunteer, or that Charlotte was born in our bathtub, or that when Anna was two, Aaron and I quit our stable jobs in Maryland and moved without any prospects to my grandparents’ home in Vermont. “That’s great that you did that! I could never do that!”
There are so many things I have no confidence in doing, things that the rest of of the world does quite well. Also, I do not like difficult conversations, driving in the snow, driving in the rain, water skiing, snow skiing, lightning, any form of confrontation, and being put on the spot because I blush quite noticeably. I worry about being left out, I worry about not being taken seriously, and I worry that there are a few big secrets in this world that everyone knows but me. There are plenty of insecurities burning a hole in my pocket.
Still, when it comes to the big ticket items, I feel okay. I do my homework, read massive volumes on the topic, talk to people, write my way through the questions and doubts, and think and think and think. Finally there comes a point when it feels irrevocably like the right thing to do. I know there’s no going back, and that is when I tell Aaron, and then he thinks I’m crazy. I present my findings to him, and he remembers that I come by no huge decision lightly so I must really mean it. And then we move forward. This is how we ended up with our tiny cabin on the lake, how we ended up in Athens, how Charlotte came to be born in a bathtub, and how we decided to homeschool Anna this year.
The huge calls don’t seem that hard. It’s the small, day-to-day decisions that get to me. Should we homeschool? Of course! Easy! Should I make popcorn for today’s snack? I DO NOT HAVE A CLUE.