Wednesday, September 08, 2010

natural learning

It is 2:30 on a wet, rainy Wednesday afternoon.

As I write, Cody is playing his bass guitar. Levi is pretending to sleep on my bed. Austen is watching a zombie movie...and the Rethinking Everything Conference in Dallas is coming to a close!

What was formally the Rethinking Education Conference has expanded to EVERYTHING. It is a conference that I hope/hoped to attend every year...for the past 12 years. But realistically? The cost exceeds our clearly defined economic boundaries. Besides..now? We are coming towards the end our learning at home journey.

Knowing about the conference, however..has had me wondering how we became so darned structured looking this year. (today not counting) I am a firm believer in natural learning. Hanging with Levi these past few months has reaffirmed that belief.

Someone asked me recently just who is training who here?..after I picked Levi up and carried him as soon as he began crying. ..and I responded by shrugging my shoulders and grinning. (I've learned this trick from my family).

Truth is no one. No one is training anyone. We are building a relationship. We are learning.

Levi is learning non-stop. Not just the motor-skills stuff..how to roll, how to hold, how to pull, etc. But how to smile, how to cry..how to use his voice. In other words..how to communicate..and after having one son that had difficulty with communication..I am pleased to encourage Levi's vocal opinions.

Levi is a free-spirit. I hope he always is.

..and so it is with our own children.

These past few years Cody and Austen have learned tons of cool stuff.(I am leaving Brian-Scott out of this because he has way out-grown our learning at home) Cody and Austen have learned or figured out how to build a sit -n-spin car, an escalator, water-wheel propulsion systems. How to fix cars..build garages, set tile, build homes.They have designed and built rockets. Flown airplanes (you know..real ones). All of this learning occurred as a natural extension of something previously learned. Cody and Austen have learned how to cook...a lot. They paint (watercolor), draw, sketch. They garden. They have learned how to teach small children to read and write. They have learned to coach, to mentor..to listen...and they have done all this in the safety and freedom of a childhood with very limited constraints.

..and through this Cody and Austen have learned to trust...

Trust..is priceless..and encompasses many roads.

One of which is this, Cody, Austen (and Brian-Scott) trust that they can learn what they need to move on to the next phase in their lives..and they are developing pretty clear pictures of what that is.

But this is learning that does not transfer well to traditional looking transcripts. How do you document..learning to problem solve, learning to draw your own conclusions, empathy, compassion, risk-taking, creativity. You know, all those traits necessary in developing leadership?

The answer is you don't..not really. So now they are doing what is necessary to reach their individual goals. They are jumping through the hoops, so to speak.

Cody wants to study information systems.. He does not want to take out a student-loan. Meaning..he is working, working, and working on cars right now to help offset his costs down the line. He wants to continue playing soccer for his senior year...and he wants to take time to enjoy this last  year at home with family and friends.

To make this happen he needs some traditional looking course-work. Hence..the request for our more structured looking day.

Austen wants dreadlocks ..(happening Friday, by the way). He wants to go kayaking in Canada..(we are working on that)..and he wants to start the culinary arts program at St. Phillips next year. Meaning..he has to pass the accuplacer.  Now Austen is a kid with a slew of learning differences..so this is not as easy as it may sound. It was at his request..that I ordered the British Lit. It was at Austen's request, that he does nothing but study, rebuild i-pods and volunteer at the Club this year..and so..back to our structured looking day.

But sometimes? Our plans take a momentum we don't expect.

For example..when Levi starts watching the shadows from the ceiling fan reflect on our bedroom wall, he gets VERY EXCITED. His arms start flying...his legs start flying..and for about 10 minutes..he is happy. Then?!! He can't stop by himself. He gets scared..he starts crying. We swaddle him. We hold him. We kiss him on the forehead..and we will continue to do so, until he can learn to calm himself.

So it has happened with our structure. We have done well for the past 3 weeks. We want to continue..but we are getting stressed.

Cody is taking the ACT  this weekend. He is planning to leave today for a camping trip with girl-friend Ellie (one of sardine mama's coolio doolio kiddos) and family. At first I thought..you have got to be kidding. We are finally getting a rhythm going here..and then he started saying things like. you know..this test on Saturday..it like determines MY WHOLE LIFE.. and I knew he was pulling a Levi. He needed help to stop the looping he was starting in his brain. So I whole-heartedly agreed that he should go camping this week.

Who cares about writing an essay for Beowulf..I mean really..

Then? Austen starts having difficulty with his math. He is starting to get stressed. Reading, writing, more writing and then math? It would be like me trying to work a really hard math problem ALL THE TIME. So I suggest that while Cody is out -of-town..he just does whatever he wants and we focus just on geometry. He is quite relieved..and so we do.

We have discussed this (the kids and I) and have agreed that we will touch base every three weeks..and decide which two of the upcoming three will look more structured..because we all still have goals that we are striving for.. Leaving us with one week to just trust our natural learning..giving us time to breathe and learn other things.

So for this week?

Cody is learning how to grow strawberries and new riffs for his guitar, reviewing math for the ACT(it has been a couple of years since he studied the algebras and geometry), hopefully he will learn to relax a little..as well as have some fun camping in the rain.

Austen is digging deeper into geometry..and taking apart i-pods, listening to the Ender's Game series on audio..and treating himself to a zombie movie marathon.

Me? I'm learning to crochet!

..and Levi..well he is working hard on blanket eating!

2 comments:

Sardine Mama said...

Sorry we effed up your structure with our camping trip!! Ha ha - we are bad influences...just, you know...generally speaking. And did your kid tell you he got lost on a mountain??? Well, he wasn't lost - he knew where he was :)

grillledcheesechic said...

Are you kidding? He needed a break..he was getting a bit worked up..and no..he didn't mention getting lost. He's told me a whole lotta nothin'.