We homeschoolers and unschoolers also have teachers.
Some of us have children in the public school system or at private schools. Some of us whose children don't attend any school are supported by wonderful teachers through Distributed Learning and other programs. Some of us are also teachers, ourselves, either as union members or not. Most of us have in some way benefited from a wonderful teacher, and I am quite certain that support for teachers is nearly universal. Whether our children attend school or not, we are all members of the same community. We support the teachers who, in living with us and in supporting us and our children, are essential to our community's wellbeing. It's critical that they are given the means with which to do the jobs they have chosen with all the passion and skill they do.
But There's No School this Week!Politics aside, what to do with the extra home-time seems to be the question of the moment. People are out there scrambling for curriculum packages to occupy and educate their children during the strike. Of course I've been contacted by some readers (and by my sister) for a post on this. I suspect my answer is predictable:
Most people unschool all summer. By that I mean that when school is out for the summer, kids are given opportunity to follow their passions and inspirations, to join their family on work and play adventures, and to participate in activities like camps, workshops and other adventures that they don't have so much time for during the school year. That's basically the definition of unschooling. If daycare isn't an issue (and I'm aware that for many it is), then why not keep unschooling?
We had an interesting and unexpected reassurance this week when our 12-year-old son did his first ever test, and appeared to be far ahead of grade level in the things he does a lot of, and just barely meeting grade level in the things he never does at all. And best of all: he came out of the assessment test happy and excited to have had the experience! If that's the result of 7 years of full-on radical unschooling, then all my fears have been officially put to rest. We're thrilled for him to have the "school experience" he's beginning this year, but pleased that our daughter is still unschooling, and that they've both had the opportunity to follow their own hearts for so long. I feel like this strike, despite all the reasons it shouldn't have to happen, despite all the truly good things that teachers do for our children even with their very meagre resources, is an opportunity for more kids to follow their hearts for just a little longer, and take advantage of the beautiful blossoming that can encourage.
Go into the Wilderness!!!
I can't stress enough how important I think this is. It will always be number one on my to-do list. It's raining, today. So get out in the rain! And if you parents can go along for the adventure, do it!! My kids' lives have been defined by the time they spend exploring, walking through, and playing in the woods and riparian areas around our island. We go out into the wilderness with an expectation of stopping to look at whatever piques our interest, and the most interesting, meaningful conversations we've had have happened out there. Expect to get dirty. Expect to stay longer than you intended. Expect to sit down in a creek and play with the flow of water. You might know in the back of your mind that this is physics play, but don't push the "teaching moment". Just enjoy the play. When your kids watch you discovering as much as they do, they learn instinctively that exploration and discovery is good, and this will set them up for a lifetime of learning.
If you can do this for every single day of the strike, you don't need the rest of this list. :-)
Of course, you can do this outside as well as inside, but if you're all too wet and tired, have come in for your lunch and hot drinks, and crave some quiet or dry indoor time, then get creative at the table! Or the floor. Wherever it is, clear the biggest area you can, and pull out whatever can be used creatively: Blocks and other construction/sorting toys; paints, glue and whatever scraps and materials can be glued or painted; fabric, yarn and sewing supplies; papers and envelopes for sending letters (don't coerce them to write - if all they want to do is wrap up a lovely little glued piece of yarn and put it in an envelope, then that is a wonderful step ahead on their journey to communication - enjoy it!). Maybe you will find yourselves sprawled out in the creativity space telling stories. That, too, is a wonderful opportunity to learn. "Teachable moments" will abound - let them. And see where they take you and your children, without needing to direct them.
A few weeks ago my daughter and her friends spontaneously became human CD-players. They made themselves paper "CD drives" and a collection of paper "CD's", and sat covered in blankets which also hid a collection of instruments, underneath. The CD's were inserted into the drives, and the blanket-CD-players bopped around with every style of music you can imagine. You never know what materials will be useful for this play, but dress-ups, blankets, craft supplies and basic instruments are good things to have around. It's also a good idea for parents to be available as an audience, when needed. The important thing is give the kids space for their play. This kind of play is essential to their development of social literacy, and we can cause a lot of confusion by being too involved. Even as a teacher, I only step in when difficult situations arise, or when my participation is requested. And then I mostly act as mediator, helping them to find their own resolutions and ideas.
Lose the Schedule
If you just looked at this list of three suggested activities and mentally sorted them into time-blocks for a day at home, know that you're not alone. Our culture is carefully moderated by schedules and rules, and we depend on those things to keep us in line! But unschooling is about letting go of those restrictions and following our hearts into new and exciting territory. If your children have disappeared in the woods and it's lunch-time, and you've set up an awesome craft-space for their expected return... go check in on them. Maybe they would rather have a picnic in the rain and continue their play than come in. Maybe your awesome craft-space will be totally unused, and you'll have to use it yourself! And that has to be OK, sometimes. Having a lack of schedule won't ruin the kids for school - they'll fall back into line when it becomes socially prudent to do so. But meanwhile that morning adventure that carried on for 3 days will be something wonderful to hold onto, and you never know how it may have influenced the rest of their lives. You might even have to bring them dinner and a tent.
Crafts for MLA's
Finally, with enormous thanks to my friend Tom, whose genius idea this was... Crafts for MLA's!
You can find your MLA's address here (search and then click the name for the address), or you can find our esteemed Premier's address, here. Let's let our children sent the government little gifts of their own gorgeous voices. Christy Clark is a mother, too.
This strike doesn't have to be a negative thing. It's an opportunity to give our children a voice. It's an opportunity to let the people we elected know that we believe in giving our teachers the resources and circumstances they need to do the wonderful job they want to do. Let your kids send whatever they want. Not only does this open up wonderful opportunities for discussion about politics, school, and human rights, but it will give our provincial Liberals a beautiful reminder of the kaleidoscope of valuable young persons who benefit from and depend upon the public school system in our province. Our teachers see these expressions of our children's hearts and minds, and are passionate about helping them to grow and learn from a place of joyful discovery and inspiration.