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  • Writer's picturerobyn

knife throwing and other unschooling adventures

Every year, about this time, I sit down with my three children and help them come up with a list of new activities they would like to learn for the 'unschool' year. It is really a formality, more to help them get a bit organized and focused on what they might want to seek out and learn. I haven't always put the learning into the laps of my children, but this is where, over the years, our schooling journey has taken us.

Besides one year of fourth grade at the local Waldorf school for my now 14 year old, not one of my three children have ever attended school full time. When my oldest was younger, I purchased some Waldorf curriculum and did my best to make learning gentle and fun. I read the instructional books and practiced how to do the Waldorf presentations. I got out the wool felting and pretended they were squirrels scurrying around stealing nuts to teach subtraction. I drew fancy chalk figurines on the chalkboard to illustrate the stories that I was telling. I sang the presribed songs that were in the book to make learning more fun. It took hours of daily preparations and I all I knew for sure was that I was doing more 'schooling' than my children. Paired with the fact that I was following a curriculum of what someone else thought would be important for my children to learn. Sometimes they enjoyed it, sometimes it was a struggle. Sometimes they retained the information. Sometimes not. But one thing was for sure. it was all someone else's plan.

Then came child number two and three. And somewhere in there was a divorce, a move and parenting on my own. I was left to make decisions about what I believed in and how I wanted that to manifest in my children. I was left to homeschool my children the majority of the time, on my own. This was huge and I didn't want to screw it up. I thought about my own learning adventures, which were quite conventional...memorize things I may or may not have been interested in, regurgitate said information for an exam, forget most of what I just memorized. Repeat. Learning was not enjoyable for me and it wasn't until 40 years later that I started to realize what it was that I really wanted to learn...homesteading. I scoured books and articles. I talked to whoever would answer my questions. I visited other homesteads...but in the end, I just did it.

I finally had my own plan. One that I could carve out anyway that I would like. I taught myself canning, identifying wild foods and plants, how to make medicines, how to live without electricity and running water and how to raise and slaughter animals. I taught myself how to turn what I have learned into a business to support myself and my children. So, how does this relate to knife throwing, you ask?

In the process of my own learning (and unlearning), I realized that there are some really important things for my children to know. Reading, writing and math. And you know what? I didn't have to pull out the felted squirrel for these lessons. Instead, my children learned these skills everyday while we are just living our life. We are still learning these skills. I am still learning these skills. The rest of our 'curriculum'...well, that is left up to my kids. When they get to chose what they want to learn, it becomes more meaningful. It makes a lasting impression. They find ways to use their new founded skills and they are genuinely excited to practice. Sometimes they find they like it and stick with it... sometimes they move on to the next learning idea. But it is always their choice.

It takes an enormous amount of trust to school this way. Trust that children really do have an innate ability and desire to learn and that, whatever they chose, will compliment them. Trust that my children have a better understanding of what they need cpmpared to what some arbitrary school board thinks they should learn. Trust that they truly know what is best for them. Trust that they can chose what they want to learn. Trust.

And what do they chose? In the past, they have wanted to learn things like how to build a structure, how to add and subtract fractions, dissecting animals and identifying their parts, and conjoined twins.

And this year? Well, this year, my twelve year old girl wants to learn how to throw knives. Now this should be fun.

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