We Foray into Unschooling

exploring a pre-Incan village

exploring a pre-Incan village

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.

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Science experiments with friends

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.IMG_0201

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.

My point is, we are living life and loving it. I’m hoping to post a lot more about this “unschool” life so stay tuned!P1010293

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Days in Cusco

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Every day is a party in Cusco. The combination of ancient Quechua traditions and Roman Catholic holidays pretty much guarantees that you will run into some kind of festival several times a week. Dancing in the streets is a real, daily part of life here. And we love it. The richness of this place is all around us.

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The central market is a bit of a walk from our home, but it is such a fun place to grocery shop. It floods me with memories of growing up in Ica and accompanying my mom on her shopping rounds. My siblings and I had the run of that place. Ica was still fairly isolated and our blond hair made us instant favorites with all the shop keepers. I see the reactions here to my kids and it is so familiar. And brings such complex emotions and thoughts… But that’s another post. The rows of juice stands at the market provide lovely fresh smoothies at minimal prices.  I had a carrot orange juice and the kids had watermelon.

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It’s a rocky climb every time we head out the door. The kids are slowly becoming used to the physical effort it takes us to get anywhere. And I have to say, I truly do not miss jumping into the car for every errand. Our leg muscles are going to be rock solid by the end of our time here. And the expectations of our kids will be so drastically changed. They used to complain when we would walk three blocks to our library in Columbus. If they had only known what they were in for! But they are troupers and even made it all the way up the mountain on our family hike!

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Speaking of changed expectations, I don’t really think of myself as spoiled. I’ve carted loads of dirty clothes to the laundromat blocks away, with a toddler in tow and a baby on the way. I’ve operated without a dryer in a tiny house during the “2 kids in cloth diapers” stage. But doing laundry by hand, with only cold water and a clothesline takes it’s toll.  At least I have an amazing view!

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This is where we live. Our fabulous, Andean mountain home. We are loving it.