Last week, I went to a housewarming party and got to hang out with a bunch of our neighbors as we welcomed a new neighbor to the area. One of our neighbors, who lives across the street from us, is a wonderfully kind gentleman who has been very supportive of Erin's Death Star Bottle Drive, loves watching my kids play outside, and is often invited to partake in our crazy science experiments that usually involve blowing stuff up. Last night, as we were talking, he asked me what curriculum I used with the kids and wondered how I managed to adjust it to meet the needs of all the different ages I'm trying to teach at home. It is one of those questions that I have come to both dread and thoroughly enjoy. It becomes a dread question when I know the person I'm talking to comes at the idea of homeschooling from a very old-school perspective. They want to hear how my school-at-home is going, what subjects we cover, what prepared, boxed curriculum I use, and how do I test my children's mastery of each subject. These conversations can be challenging, to say the least. However, if the person I'm talking to is clearly open to the idea of unschooling, we might get into a fantastic conversation about how kids learn and the value of play and connection. But, of course, when someone just asks a question like that, I'm not sure how to answer. So, last night, I took a deep breath and explained to him that I really didn't use a curriculum and that I adjusted the subject matter to whichever kid had an interest in that subject. His response? I'm just wondering what you use because your kids are so utterly amazing and bubbly and wonderful! Whatever you are doing, you should do more of it! (Phew! Off the hook!)
Here's the truth. Kids learn about life by living life. They learn about loving by being loved. They learn about respect by being respected. Nothing in the whole world is so utterly simple and so incredibly challenging as trusting a child to do what they need to do. This trust is the root of everything we do with our kids. I wish I could say I'm perfect at it--that I have let go of all desire to control my kids and that we meet each other's needs as a family in harmony everyday...but I would be lying. The truth is that we are a large family and we fight, we get sick, we get tired, we get on each other's nerves. I find, however, that because we base everything we do on this deep rooted trust in our children, we are pretty quick to find forgiveness, patience, love, laughter, play, pretend, joy, adventure, games...you know, the good stuff. Chris and I are letting go a little more each day, digging a little deeper into the partnership paradigm with our children. Yes, we were both raised differently and yes, we turned out pretty well (if I do say so myself!), but there is something to be said for Gandhi's challenge to be the change you wish to see in the world. If I want a world of freedom and joy, I must provide that for my children. Along the way they will learn their multiplication tables (if they want to) and they will learn the difference between your and you're (because they WILL want to learn that!). How do I know this? I trust them. The challenge for us is to be the change we wish to see in our children. We are still working on that.