If there was ever a moment when I had a clear view of what unschooling really is, it was tonight. Tonight the clouds parted, the angels sang, and the light shone into my bedroom, of all places. Tonight my seven year old daughter brought me a book. It wasn't a storybook, but a picture book about animals...only a couple of sentences per page with a handful of animal names. I was puzzled why she wanted me to read this one. But then she told me, "I'm going to read this one." I sat back and simply said, "Okay, shoot!" And that's when it happened. She read. Everything from spider to kestrel to corncrake. Then she read the question at the bottom. And then, the sentences at the top of the page. My jaw dropped and my eyes began to well up.
I suppose I should have seen this coming. I have enough friends who've been down the unschool road to have heard the stories of children who self taught. And, say what you will about video games, but yesterday she rattled off a good amount of words that she appeared to be "reading" from Minecraft. But when I asked her how she knew them she just replied that her brother told her what they said. What I hadn't thought about at the time, though, was that she remembered all those words. Words like inventory. Big words. Still, I didn't take much notice.
But tonight, she read a book she'd never read before. And after that one, she ran and got another, a level 1 reader, and read that whole book to me for good measure. She went to bed with our camping lantern, two level 2 readers, one level 3 reader and the promise that we can read to the point of exhaustion tomorrow. She is inspired, and I didn't do a thing to inspire her. I have not taught this child anything besides basic letter sounds, and even that was months and months ago. Tonight the most I helped her with was proper pronunciation of words like wear (she was saying weer), because let's face it, the English language makes no sense. But still, she managed to sound out 90% of the words completely unassisted. Amazing!
This child wants to learn. All children want to learn. They don't need an adult to tell them that they want to learn. They don't need an adult to teach them. They don't need a grade level, or worksheets, or homework. They just need to be given the freedom to learn when they are ready. When I think of all the lessons I did with my nine year old son...to be honest, I feel like a lot of it was wasted time. Had I just waited until the right moment, the moment for him to be ready, it would have been so much easier and less time consuming. And it would have been his, not mine. But we live and we learn.
I'm so proud of this girl! And I'm excited for her as she begins this new adventure full of new discoveries. What a happy time this is for her!