Unschool Win

On Monday E had a really “unschooling win” kind of day. And by that I mean, as much as we unschool parents may appear to be all chill and confident and laid back about our life choices, like any parent worth their salt we, too, spend the occasional moment panicking that we are ruining our children’s lives forever. Like, not too many moments. But it happens. So sometimes evidence is nice–just a little. Like when E grasped reading without my coercion, and fell in love. That was a great experience early on to bolster my confidence in the philosophy. And Monday was another. Like if I could take a video of a single day to make one of those promotional videos to convince you that unschooling is the best ever–you know the ones, where they take all the most fake-perfect moments from the past year of filming and splice them into five minutes of what looks like eternal perfection–I’d choose yesterday to trick you into buying my book, web series, movie, and speaking tour. For sure.

It started off by her surprising me with a piano song she’d learned all on her own. I am a piano player myself–it is one of my great joys–so I had long feared that none of my children would pick it up. My father has a musical doctorate and six children, and I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who came out of childhood with functionally useful skill, which just seems crazy, and yes I do partially blame it on the school system (no time for family passions when you’re working on a history report you’ll forget by next year). I’ve been trying, since emerging from the tyranny of my final pregnancy, to be more intentional about practicing music myself (because that’s what kept me interested in progressing as a child, was hearing my father play beautiful songs. Very motivating), but I had no idea whether that would reap any benefits, or whether I was ever doing enough. Frankly I still don’t know. One thing E pointed to as a motivator for her was her cousin, Amy’s daughter A, with whom E Skypes daily, often for hours. A has been taking lessons for a while now and E has been impressed with her accomplishments (that’s how much they talk: they listen to each other practice). So she decided to learn a song herself! She picked up a piano book we’d bought for her years ago with the hope of piquing interest (worked for about five seconds. E has long been a child who shied from anything that took more than five seconds of effort to master. Maturity seems to be the cure though, so I’m taking heart), selected a song, and learned it. I believe A helped her, over Skype, which is a little mind boggling to be honest.

So that was cool. And just like the reading, because I laid off she plays out of love, not out of duty. And really, what is the point of music if you don’t love it?

I’ll just add too, because of how proud I am, that this music book offers a “secondo” part for the teacher/older sibling/more experience player to accompany with. After listening to her play once through I showed it to her saying, “maybe one day after you get really confident with it”, but for fun we tried it out. She was not phased AT ALL. I even got a little recording to boast to the family with! First song she ever learned. No lessons.

So then a couple hours later she decided to do science experiments. She grabbed her dad’s old lab coat and a few vials and spent an hour measuring different combinations of liquids into them, to see how they react. We learned that water is heavier than window cleaner. Later I noticed her brothers had copied her idea–from the mess of random kitchen substances on the counter!

After she tired of that activity, she decided to bake. She has only ever really made peanut butter cookies (1 c sugar; 1 c peanut butter; 1 egg) and puffed wheat squares on her own. But this time she looked up a cupcake recipe, whipped the ingredients together, stuck them in the oven, and the only thing she asked me for help with was taking the hot pan out when the timer beeped. Because she’s chicken. She had a little fiasco with the icing, when she poured ONE AND A HALF CUPS of vanilla (extract, thankfully) into her bowl instead of tablespoons. So that was a good learning opportunity! Also, what kind of crazy icing recipe calls for 1.5 TBSP of vanilla?? That’s still a lot. Anyway. She made some tasty icing without any vanilla, and served cupcakes to the family for lunch (not on purpose. But the timing accidentally ran that way. I did still get them to have some protein/dairy and fruit/veg, so that’s basically a win, right?). They were good! A little heavy on the baking soda. Still. I’m marking that down as a win.

Actually, Alberta side note here: I made sure to take a picture, as I said to E, “for homeschool”. For the end of year visit they like dated samples of work, and photographs are dated samples! I have a little notebook I keep in the kitchen, and at some point this week I will remember to jot down under “November”: “E learned piano song (vid Jac)” and “E baked cupcakes (pic Jac)”, meaning “Hey don’t forget E did that thing and the evidence was documented on Jacqui’s phone”. In May or June or whenever she plans to make the visit, I’ll take 20 minutes going back through the notes and gathering all the evidence into a computer folder/pile on my table and we’ll have a jolly old time.

Any unschoolers out there, I’d love to hear about your “wins”!

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