I had all sorts of grand plans for Dancing Rabbit Daycare. With Poppy being the oldest of the four children, I quickly realized they were unrealistic. Instead of spending hours doing structured crafts and exploration they spend most of the day half naked in free play and exploration. When we do do crafts, it usually lasts about 20 minutes and then I spend the next hour cleaning the house, the children, and the bathtub.
In their freedom, they have begun making up games of their own; the newest being a dragonfly hunt in which they run around the yard searching for imaginary dragonflies (don’t worry, no real dragonflies were harmed). They discuss strategy and work well together. Another favourite is when they all hold onto a stick or rope and pretend they are a train travelling around the yard. Silas’ personal favourite are Peter Pan sword fights on the rocks and logs with great agility. Their favourite toys generally aren’t toys; things like rocks, sticks, and dirt are most often played with. They enjoy the dump trucks and diggers and love making mud and soup with rocks, dirt, grass and water. They enjoy taking water from one place to another and will do it with great purpose. We play a game in which we guess if an item will sink or float and then throw it in the wee pool to find out who was right. I have been doing some reading on unschooling and am fascinated by it. I realize their play is their work.
In the last few weeks I have noticed a shift in Poppy as she becomes more measured in her crafts. Not so very long ago, she was the girl covered from head to toe in whatever medium we were working with that day (namely glitter, glue and/or paint) and usually smearing and sprinkling it on every surface available to her (human or otherwise). I always tried to let her experience it as she needed and wanted, but it was exasperating at times.
This week we went into the field in search of items to use to make collages and Poppy surprised me with her enthusiasm. She was the first to think of using the many feathers scattered through the yard. She found leaves and flowers and stayed with me for the duration of the task, placing each item with excitement into the basket. We said hello to an especially lovely beetle and a fluffy caterpillar before heading back in to begin our craft. Inside she put just enough glue on her paper and carefully picked her leaf or feather to place. She was so proud of her completed work and when I taped it up high on the kitchen door she demanded I give it to her and I later found it hanging at her level so she could admire it.
Yesterday, while the little ones slept, I took the two older ones out to paint some big rocks they had found. Poppy usually prefers to paint her entire body (and I mean her ENTIRE body), but with this craft she took her time and chose the colours carefully. She used a small brush and layered the colours in one concentrated place in a way that they were all visible. It was like a beautiful gem. They declared they were painting happy and scary monsters.
I was only there to ask questions and provide the paint and wash cloth. I didn’t interfere or make any suggestions. I just let them sit in silence and put the paint where they wanted. They decided when their creations were complete and then we placed them in the sun to dry.
I am learning to trust. My gut is drawing me into unschooling, but it is still something that makes us both a little uneasy though I have a hard time articulating why. I think it is mainly due to the misunderstanding attached to the term and process. What if our children are behind? Will people think we are neglectful and dumb. Poppy has been testing our trust since the early months. She was very slow to talk and has refused to show any interest or motivation to potty train while she has excelled in other areas such as coordination, and knowing all her colours, numbers, letters, animals, etc with great confidence from a very early age. Any effort to teach her things such as using scissors or how to complete puzzles and games on the Ipad usually just makes her freeze up and resist. Then I will spy her doing it nearly to perfection all by herself a few weeks later. I see myself in her ways; I preferred to learn things alone where I could make mistakes without being corrected. Even when I really wanted to try something or learn something I would often bow out if it made me uneasy. This can be disabling in many ways, but I would have appreciated it greatly if I hadn’t been pushed (with the best of intentions) to be something I wasn’t. It is a fine balance for sure; honouring who they are while learning that challenges can be good. Silas, on the other hand, is a proficient talker with an insane vocabulary and incredible coordination and imagination, but doesn’t have the same interest in letters and numbers that Poppy has.
My biggest question is how would we ever deal with any “delays” with confidence? How do we tap into the trust? Of course, these are more our issues than our children’s so I will continue reading and watching. For anyone interested I am currently reading The Unschooling Handbook and The Unschooling Unmanual and wanting to watch this documentary. Some other videos I have come across here.
So, who out there is unschooling? Any tips, thoughts, references?
go gently + be wonderful