Way back when we were still pregnant with our first child, we heard about unschooling. And we figured, yeah, that sounds about right for us. But then with moving to the U.S. of A. and whatnot, long story short, Graciela ended up attending kindergarten at our local public school right across the street. It was a great experience and we were able to connect with other kids and parents in the neighborhood, which was really the whole point.
But now, we are in Peru and it is the perfect time for us to go back to what we wanted for our kids in the first place. We debated schools in Cusco (we really wanted our kids to have the immersive Spanish experience), we debated (very briefly) homeschooling, but in the end, I checked out some John Holt from the library and ordered some fun materials on a variety of subjects, and we dove into unschooling.
It’s a strange way of putting it, to say we “dove in.” Because really, it’s not something you “start” or “stop” doing. There’s not a beginning date or an exam week at the end. It’s just… life. It’s funny to “start” something like this during the traditional summer vacation. At first I felt like we needed to wait until September to start exploring all the fun things I had been thinking of doing with the kids. But, of course, that’s missing the whole point. We aren’t meant to assign interests to our kids. We are simply meant to support and encourage and cheer and explore with them whenever they get excited about something. And I certainly hope my kids don’t limit their excitement for life to only Sept-May.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Unschooling. It’s what it sounds like. Well, mostly, although I’ll just clarify that it’s not the absence of schooling, it’s the absence of school. You see, schooling is something you participate in, school is a place you go. I do not go to school, but I learn all the time. I love life and I get excited about things and I explore and I read voraciously. And my kids do too. We like to do it together. So we decided to.
I’m still not really explaining anything. Sigh. Okay, so, they don’t go to school. And I don’t have curriculum that I teach them. I kind of feel like I’m George Costanza explaining that “It’s a show about nothing. Nothing happens!” 🙂 It’s not school. School doesn’t happen. Really. I don’t organize lessons. I don’t even give them information about things, unless they want me to. Which they do, by the way, and often. I trust my kids. And that trust extends to their knowledge of themselves and what they are interested in. They have passionate interests that I am thrilled to experience with them.
Mateo loves all things sweet. He loves to bake, always has. I try to bring him alongside me whenever I can in the kitchen. The amount of math he has learned through this (fractions anyone?) and science (dry vs. wet ingredients) is really hard to determine. He made this video a few months ago:
He also loves painting, creating things out of paper, making jewelry, and anything crafty.
Graciela is our traditional student. In fact, a few months ago she begged me to find her a real school. So we did. We have no money for private school, so we had to put her in a Peruvian public school. Any issues we have with school are magnified in the Peruvian public school system. These kids stand in straight lines every day, exercise and recite pledges, and are adamantly taught that perfect handwriting is the ultimate symbol of success. I’m not kidding. My 6-year-old was given pre-writing exercises every day, which consisted of tracing dotted lines and coloring in pictures as perfectly inside the lines as possible, because they deemed her handwriting not ready for first grade. My kid, who does multiplication and knows more about the solar system than I ever did! She lasted 2 weeks.
Now she does things like this:
She’s also made a model solar system, explored star charts, drawn habitats for specific animals, created a timeline of Martin Luther King Jr., and read many, many books.
Oh, and both my kids have explored countless ruins in the Andes Mountains, including Machu Picchu, but that’s probably not fair to brag about.