November Learning Club
I know I said September was my favorite, and I won't take it back, but I do just adore the November vibe. Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday, which is really the only way I can handle how cold and dark and dreary it is all month, and there is just this feeling in the air of love and unity. Also it holds Mark and my anniversary. This November has held all sorts of goodness this year that I could not have anticipated and I am so grateful for it.
I think, until recently, I've mostly unschooled with this idea in my mind that if it didn't go well, at least they are young. I won't have messed them up too much if it's total nonsense, because they are only 4 and 6. There are parts of me that still hold back instead of embracing what I believe to be true. I am worried about feeling shame, I am worried about failing, I am worried about messing up. But I don't need to be.
Neither of my children never "been behind" - whatever that means - but because I was a super bright little kid, I sometimes have expectations for my children that are a little ridiculous and I worry about them not hitting development markers I have created in my own mind.
Rory sound spells/reads, he has for about a year. He is also a perfectionist, so he gets incredibly discouraged when things don't come easily for him. So unless it's Legos, he avoids things that are difficult. This makes me crazy. We made a boundary for him earlier this year that he needed to read a certain amount before he could play video games. There were a list of reasons for this, but primarily it is because most video games have a bit of reading required in them and I am not always available to sit and hangout while he plays. So he practices reading and gets better at it so he can 1. read better and 2. read in his video games. Also, I don't want to sit, I don't like video games.
This lead to a video game hiatus. Because Rory was convinced he couldn't read. We didn't push it. I really wanted him to fall in love with reading, not to have it forced on him so he had negative associations with it. Slowly, he has done more and more reading, started to pick books up at the library that are Level 1 or Level 2 Readers with interesting subject matter (Avengers, Start Wars, and Lego) or books he wants to read to his sister (Dora the Explorer, Frozen, and Dinosaur books). And then several weeks ago, he brought Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham to the kitchen counter.
Green Eggs and Ham changed everything in our house.
He sat at the counter and read every single page, determined to figure it out. Repeating sentences as he finished them, to make sure he got it all right, speeding up and slowing down according to the difficulty, asking for help every once in awhile. The repetitive nature of the book, without having any actual pattern, allowed him to engage with all of the words, but feel confident in many of them by sight by the time he reached the end of the book. The above picture is him reading the book to Mark later that night.
Since then Rory has started reading regularly, really engaged in the content but also just passionate about reading for the sake of reading. And it has meant Jinora "reads" too. She is loving getting to tell her big brother stories and having him read to her. Every trip to the library he shows up to show her some book he has picked out for the two of them to read together and she adores it.
This Fall has given me so much faith in my kids abilities. I always knew they were intelligent problem solvers with kind hearts and strong personalities, but I think I still thought they would need someone to tell them what to learn and how to learn it. The truth is, they have been learning since the moment they were born - why would they stop now? They wouldn't - unless someone tried to make them do it in a way that didn't make sense to them. Unless someone shamed them for not doing it the "right" way. As if there was one right way to do anything...
So our adventure into interest-lead-learning continues. Unschooling me more than anyone else. Reversing my reliance on systems of education and trusting the curious nature of human beings to lead the way. For example, my kids like to make calendars. Both of them, but especially Rory, like to know what is coming. Calendars help immensely with this.
Rory writes his own numbers, Jinora traces hers. Rory marks the days that big things are happening and x's out the days as they pass. Jinora "writes" what is happening in the margins and tells me every morning that she loves Sundays the best and that today will be the best Sunday yet - even though it's Thursday and she knows it. They are establishing good scheduling habits and what works for them in terms of planning. They are working on their numbers and there are usually pictures pasted to the tops of their calendars so they are also working on their creative skills.
One of my favorite things that the kids are doing lately is using toys in ways they are "meant" to be used. We have foam blocks, but not wooden ones. This was recently solved when both children realized that post Jenga game they couldn't figure out how to properly re-set up the game. This was solved quickly by deciding to build towers. Why didn't I help them, you ask? When they can come up with cool ideas like this on their own - do they actually need help?
In case you're wondering, yes I did pick all the Jenga blocks up and put them back into their box appropriately. But that's my neurosis showing - I'm super glad my kids were able to think outside the box and create something new. We have done this a lot this month. With gratitude journals and building birds out of paper, with building in the garage and screws and nails, with old play dough and new kinetic sand, with soggy apples coated in paint and garlands of baked clementines and old wooden beads.
Did I mention that we didn't make it camping this Summer? Because we didn't. And my kids are still heartbroken about it. Enter in living room camp. It's where we are at these days. I know I've mentioned that I am loving November, but for real - the darkness and dampness slay me. I should probably have tougher skin after having lived in the Pacific Northwest for so long, but I don't. So the tent goes up inside. We snuggle and sleep and read and watch The Legend of Korra.
We are all still learning. All the time. There will be so much more for my kids to learn than in this "primary school" season. How to embrace failure, how to stand up for what they believe in, how to deal with heartbreak, how to forgive, how to fight against indifference as well as evil, how to deal with loss, how to embrace change, how to... how to do everything.
It's a bit overwhelming to think of all the things we have learned, have to learn, will never even have time to learn. My kids have so much in front of them. And I believe that they can learn everything they need to learn through their interests and passions. I believe they will become the most wonderful versions of themselves again and again and never stop growing and learning.
But for now, it's probably good to just celebrate reading fluently. And encourage that small seed to grow and blossom and never stop.