Thursday, January 27, 2011

Wild (f)Unschool

Or maybe Wilderness (f)Unschool.

A dream is taking shape in my heart. This has been brewing for years, as you can see by reading back over this blog, for example here, here, and especially here, among other places. But it revolves around the theory of self-directed learning, learning through exploration, and, quite simply, being outside and in community. This is the dream Markus and I have always had for our children; this is why we are natural unschoolers.

What does all this mean? Well, let me try to lay it all out, although of course, life and truth being what they are (amorphous) this can't possibly be complete...

Learning Through Exploration: For us, learning means exploration. It means that nothing is more valuable than following inspirations and interests in adventures of discovery. It can be time- and energy-consuming for us, of course, answering every question to the best of our ability (sometimes we do research to get the right answers, sometimes we have long philosophical conversations, sometimes we go on fieldtrips to find answers or feed the interest, and sometimes we're just too tired to answer at all...). But we get as much out of this as the kids do. It has made our lives rich and meaningful. It's not only for our kids that we live this way.

When we walk out into the forest we explore. That is the point. We explore place, time, change, growth, and everything that is a part of life. This is science. In the falling, growing, and climbing of trees is geometry and physics; in considering them we have hypothesis, theory, and endless possibility (Mama, what if a tree was so tall that you could climb up all the way into space, then would the leaves be different at the top, where there's no air? Then we could build an elevator to get rockets out of our atmosphere and they could not have to use so much rocket-fuel!) What if! What if we come to the same spot of forest every week for the whole year, and sometimes it's bone dry and sometimes it's under a foot of water? We see so many changes as the year goes by, and we learn so very much about the world and our place in it. This exploration is the crux of all our learning. And this isn't to say that we don't learn inside, but certainly the outside adventures are the core upon which the inside exploration is developed.

Self-Directed Learning: Markus can talk to me all he wants about the specific caulking materials he's considering for the old wooden boat he's restoring -- he's spent countless days and hours researching this in books, online, and with boatbuilders. But I don't care. No matter how much it may matter to me that the boat I will one day travel on with him is safe and seaworthy, I just cannot force myself to care about how he does it. I'll help him caulk it when that day comes, of course. And then, in the act of it, I might even get interested. But now? No. So I ignore it. He, on the other hand, really couldn't care less what colours or fonts I might use for somebody's poster or logo, while I sometimes lay awake at night envisioning design choices I've made, and whether the specific colours will print right when my client sends it in to an unknown printer. Why should he have to care? He has chosen to design the working end of software, and sends it away to other people who make it look good (like me). (Yes we do work well together for website design, if you've wondered...) So if we learn as much as we do by following our personal interests, shouldn't our kids have the same opportunity? Of course! It has never occurred to me to care whether we can create an oxygen-rich atmosphere on Mars by employing plants to create it for us. It occurred to Taliesin, so we encouraged him and helped him to follow his inspiration and we all learned from it (Markus and I were the official Google-helmsmen, glue- and tape-dispensers, photo-documenters, and naggers as the Science Fair neared). Taliesin and Rhiannon (who studied infant development) both completed the biggest research projects of their lives for this Science Fair, and none of it was directed by us. They are justifiably enjoying some of the proudest days of their lives, this week. That is the benefit of self-directed learning.

When we walk out into the forest we rarely have an agenda. Sometimes there are bountiful wild foods to harvest and we get all inspired about them, then inspired about finding ways to cook, store and eat them; sometimes there are bountiful wild foods but we're distracted building a fort or exploring recent blowdown in a swamp, checking out the beaver lodge or discussing the apparent living habits of the various mythical creatures who might inhabit our forest. Each of these topics, among infinite others, is worthy of exploration. The important thing is that the adventure we've embarked upon offers us these endless opportunities for inspiration on our self-directed learning adventures.

Being Outside in Community: What are we without the world we live in, and the people we share it with?

I rest my case. There's nothing better than growing and learning directly in the world we were born to, and sharing the journey with people who also care. This growing together is how we develop the world we desire to live in.

So, now that we have some adventurous friends willing to join our adventures, how can we make the most of these days? That is the question, and this is where I'm beginning to see the dream develop. I'll keep track of it as it grows and changes on this blog. I think it would be a great thing to return to various local spots at regular intervals (maybe once a month) so that we get to know the individual stumps, trees, plants, water-bodies, etc. quite intimately, and to see them change throughout the year. I also think it's important that we find ways to interact with the places we visit in an ecologically sensitive way, so that we can all learn without compromising the ecosystems we benefit from. So. Some of my specific plans:

Places to Go Regularly:
Crippen Park and Meadow
Quarry Park
These places would give a general cross-sampling of various local habitats, and are few enough that we could return regularly, to notice changes.

Wild Food:
Because we do this anyway, and enjoy it, but also because I think it's really important that we all are aware of not only where our food comes from (much of what is available in the wild is related to the foods we buy), but also how connected we are to where we live. Harvesting, eating, and healing from the wild gives us a much deeper understanding and appreciation of the world we live in.

Yes, I want us to have a garden. I'm not sure where this will be, yet, but I think it's vital that the kids (and adults, too) have the opportunity to feel and touch the physical cycle of life. I hope that we'll be able to tend our garden for a short amount of time every week, before going out on our adventures. (Or perhaps at a different time, if the adventures aren't beginning at the garden.) This would mean that every day begins with taking stock (hands in dirt) of our garden's health and current condition, and considering our responsibilities and gifts. We can learn so much about nutrition, plant and insect life cycles, chemical and nutrient cycles, invasive vs. indigenous or non-invasive plant species', cooking, weather, seasons, etc. etc. etc. And did I mention joy?? I can't neglect to mention, of course, the joy and pride and incredible emotional and intellectual value of growing something with our own hands and feeling our own important place in that cycle of life and death and renewal.

I know my hopes and dreams will grow and change, so I'll update here as they do. Just so happy to feel the coming together of our community in something that has meant so much to us for all these years. Thank you, (f)Unschoolers!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comment will appear after it is approved. This can take a while!