Today, my first day post-21DSD, I did as I promised and added honey. And I’ll admit it — it tasted really good. I don’t know yet how it is (or isn’t) affecting me. I can say there weren’t any immediately noticeable impacts. I didn’t become instantly irate. My stomach didn’t run screaming for the hills. I’m not all angry or weepy or whatever. I did get the very beginnings of a headache this afternoon, but can’t yet say if that is the honey or the PMS or some stress or the weather or the fact that I wore a teal shirt today or…
So, I’ll keep observing and noticing and listening and see what I learn. I am nothing if not a person perpetually trying to learn more (thus I finish a PhD this semester and start a new Master’s degree in the fall…I am a professional student, except that I don’t actually get paid to do it).
Coincidentally, a friend of mine at Granola Funk Mama posted today about learning in a way that is really connecting with me. She recently attended a radical unschooling conference and has come back having learned some interesting things about herself, her kids, and learning in general. Many of these ideas are not that removed from the pedagogy of the college program where I taught for 7 years. It is in a formal educational institution, so certainly differs in some important ways, but a lot of what I and my fellow teachers there did was to sort of get out of the way of the students’ learning and provide them with the support to explore and discover. But at the end of it, there were assessments (though not usually tests) and there were grades and I still determined if they had actually learned and grown. I’m not sure I am entirely opposed to that though. I always told them I wasn’t the expert. I wasn’t the be-all and end-all of knowledge on any subject. I just happened to be a little more experienced at learning than they were and was there to help guide them in their discoveries.
That is how I’ve seen myself as a parent as well. I’ll admit that DH and I are fairly radical and definitely not mainstream. Many people would probably think we are pretty lousy parents. I mean, we teach Sofia that there are no such things as “bad” words, just words that are more or less societally appropriate in given contexts. And then we help her understand those contexts. We also teach her that “good” and “evil” are not useful descriptions. They don’t help us learn anything and usually serve only to boil down highly complex concepts into more easily digestable chunks to those who aren’t willing or able to handle more (thus we get strange looks from a busload of people when our then 8-year old child pops up over the back of the seat in front of us and asks, rather loudly, why Afghanistan has a troubled past. Or maybe the looks were because we then began to actually answer the question and not in simple terms…)
Given all this, I think it’s safe to say that if we were homeschooling, we would be unschooling. But we aren’t doing the former (at least not on a full-time basis. We definitely supplement, which is why our daughter knows that Rosa Parks wasn’t just a tired seamstress who got fed up one day) and Pkin is highly opposed to the idea. In part I suspect that is because it is different and, as she herself will say, she’s “not a fan of change.” In part, though, it’s because she has developed some really great relationships with some people at her school — especially a couple key teachers from last year and this. She looks forward to seeing them. She asks about them. She asks for them when she needs help. She trusts them. And for a child on the spectrum, that is huge! And we feel we need to honor that.
But that doesn’t mean I’m not interested in learning more about how we can incorporate unschooling ideas into the supplementing and just plain living of our lives. Considering I’ll soon be returning to school to become a licensed special education teacher, I’m also interested in pondering how I might bring that to my teaching and my students in that formal school setting. I know there are pressures and requirements and expectations and I firmly believe that a lot of that keeps good teachers from doing their best teaching. Perhaps it’s the perpetual optimist in me (at least, in the last couple years) that thinks maybe that isn’t how it has to be.