Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Come look at this!



First, a list of us, the short version of what we've been up to: Reading, book review writing, rollerskating, FlipNote drawing, pretend with friends, video game playing, GoogleSketchUp creating, candlemaking, food baking, comic book writing, movie watching, snow fort building, family visiting, new job settling, christmas music listening... and so forth.


It has always been difficult, for myself and for Cutter, to respond to the question of what we've been learning. Cutter, because he tends to go with what he's doing at the moment and blanks on the rest; everyone in the state of Michigan and my family is likely quite certain that the only activity Cutter engages in is video game playing from morning 'til night. For myself, the question is difficult because this life, this choice, is so much broader than the question of what information he's learned in any given day or week or year.

Some clarity has come in the form of a young writer, Idzie, who has lived an unschooled life, as well as in the form of a friend and mother, Pam, who unschools with her kids and is planning a book around the subject of her radical unschooling experiences. Their blogs are worth checking out.

It seems to me that what is most important in our daily living is how we have connected with each other and the world and most days, it is with intense interest and open communication. It is with a constant refrain of, "Come look at this!" Unschooling, for us, has meant inclusion of one another in the living. When Joe is working on a deal, we talk about it at the dinner table and we all ask questions. When I am dipping candles, I say to Cutter, "Hey, I'm going to dip candles. Want to help?" or when I find a new They Might Be Giants video on YouTube, I say, "Hey, this looks cool. Wanna watch with me?" When Cutter is playing a video game, he invites us to come see something that has excited him and before he goes to bed each night, he has a plethora of drawings, stories, action figures that he's sure we'll want to see. Oh, I've no doubt the learning is there, but it is there in the play and in the passion, and it is there for all of us. We are a family growing in the world, not two adults who know better than the youngest member and set out to prove it by filling him with our knowledge. Oftentimes, he knows better, and one gigantic bonus to this way of living is that he has the freedom to say so. Just this past week, Cutter and I were going for a walk in the winter wind. I tried to insist that he wear a coat, giving my many reasons why it was better than the sweatshirt he had chosen (though I've known for years that he rarely wears coats). I said something along the lines of fine, you can wear the sweatshirt and Cutter said quietly, "You sound disappointed in my choice." But what he really said was, "Come look at this, come look at what you are saying and help me understand it, understand you." I can not tell you how thankful for that boy, and this life, I was at that moment. I was able to step back, to say, "Huh, you're right. I did sound that way and I did slip into wanting control over your choice and I am so thankful that you help me to be a better person." But what I really said was, "Come look at this, look at me. I am imperfect and make mistakes, but this is how you say you're sorry, this is how you reveal need and gratitude. This is how you grow."

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