By Christina Roloson
Watching the Lifeschooling Demo Day Zoom Call from the side as everyone is chatting, and I had a couple thoughts I wanted to share and not forget because this is such a great conversation with the McPhails & Smiths!
Re Being Intentional- Yes! Being invested in our adventures, family learning, etc is intentional. As parents, we are intentional about observing our kids, seeing their interests blossom, making mental notes and finding ways to facilitate those interests. The kids will usually take off with their own intentionality as long as we get out of their way. (This "we" is referring to my husband & I. I used to be very heavy handed with learning earlier on in our journey.)
Random Thought #1- One of the things we've learned along the way is that learning in the real world isn't broken up into subjects the way it is in the mainstream system. For example, there's a great deal of math, including higher maths in art, crafting, music, and many hobbies such as gaming. My teen has taught me about all the math in his fishing passion. He follows the market on certain types of fish, he has costs to balance for his gear, licenses, and passes. I remember one day where he taught me about how important following the weather is because the barometer affects the swim bladder of fish!😮🐟 Breaking the habit of needing to see learning tick boxes in academic subject areas is a good one to cultivate, although it can also be a helpful habit at the highschool level for making transcripts and awarding credits in various subject areas. Some of us definitely can work to not hinder our kids because an interest doesn't seem academic on the face of it.
Random Thought #2- We have to learn to trust our kids. Watching the McPhails & Smiths, it is clear Joe, Lihong, Austin & Amy trust their kids' learning process. If we make the effort to step back and watch our kids, we can see the amazing, bold observers and researchers they are. I have learned from observing my 4 year old grandson that he is quite the scientist. He has mad observation skills and is constantly experimenting. He's not afraid to try and fail. He has really taught me a lot about the strong instincts kids have to be self- directed learners. Unfortunately, many little ones don't have that freedom as our society becomes more and more structured for youngers at earlier ages. My teens are constantly teaching me new things I wouldn't invest the time to learn for myself. They have earned my respect. I have had so many parents suggest that their kids don't have the ability to learn independently, and that really makes me sad, because I feel like these are natural skills that we've lost as parents in our society. It's never too late to start cultivating it. We started with our olders in highschool, as that's when we found unschooling/ self-directed learning and it was the most beautiful, joy-filled time of our lives to that point!
LifeSchooling and Self-Directed Learning is the most efficient approach to supporting our kids' learning we've experienced. It takes time though! (Amy Smith I was typing this as you were talking about how it takes time and you have to make time to be intentional. I love finally finding a like- minded community to talk about these ideas and support our kids collaborative and mutual learning journeys. As you were talking, I was over on the side listening and crazy fan cheering silently. 😆) If we are coming to this type of model from a very mainstream background, we might need to work on being intentional about minimizing things that will distract from our new mission, and to carve out time for our kids until this new model becomes part of our natural life rhythms and family culture of learning.
Perhaps one of the benefits of having older kids who have come full circle in their learning journeys and are starting their lives and their own families is that I have developed the perspective that
⏳Time ⏳ is our most valuable asset. Our kids will never get these years back. This is a time for them to learn about themselves, learn their strengths and talents. This is a time to try and fail and learn to persevere and when to move on and try something different. The consequences of failing and switching gears is so much less as a kid when they don't have the responsibilities of adults. As a parent, I have regrets and do overs, but giving my kids time will never be one of those regrets. I have chatted with some adult peers about this. Some of my friends and fellow parents have shared they truly wish they'd been given more time as kids & teens, and that their parents had honored their learning journeys, their passions, interests and talents.
On a funny note, re our teen being ready with a skateboarding video... I do tell my kids "If there isn't a photo or video of it, it didn't happen." I started saying it jokingly, but they really picked up the challenge and I love the photos and videos they share. It makes up for the occasional broken phone or lost in the creek phone. 😂 An unintended benefit is that my kids are doing their own recording and virtual documentation of learning for our homeschool.
The skateboarding video Nick shared was 100% a project he did on his own, which gives it deeper meaning for me. It speaks to me about the value of mixed age friendship, kids having undirected free time, and facilitated collaboration.