It happens to all moms. The moment they realize they sound exactly like their own mother. This isn’t just me, right? Recently on a road trip I found my self exclaiming over the passing landscape. Look kids, a horse! Oh, wow, look at all those cows! They didn’t acknowledge me, their heads buried in the iPad. I laughed to my husband about sounding just like my mom. Always enthusiastic about the seemingly mundane. I mean, horses and cows are not new to us, so what did I expect? Then we passed a really cool dinosaur museum of sorts, complete with huge dino statues and I just kept my mouth shut. My husband pointed out that the kids would have loved to see that. Oh well, they were too busy playing Minion Rush and I was too caught up with wondering how I became the annoying mom in the front seat.
To effectively inspire my kids I can’t be overly enthusiastic about things unless it is truly warranted. Livestock out the car window- unwarranted. I could have quietly wondered out loud about a bunch of dinosaurs and they would have become interested. Well, as long as they weren’t too busy collecting virtual bananas to get to the next level on their game. Either way, inspiring my kids to learn is kind of my mission right now, so I’ve been thinking about it a lot.
Unschoolers use the term strewing a lot. I strew all the time. Like when I recently put out the globe and geography puzzles to see if anything would happen. Or when I clear off the project table and put blank paper and crayons out. When I put all the Spanish books in one pile for everyone to see. Strewing is like a provocation, a jumping off point. When one of the kids is interested in something I may find things to further that interest. It can be physical objects like books or art supplies, but it can also be a trip to the farm or zoo or beach or wherever. Strewing is one way I try to inspire the kids to either dig deeper into a current interest or to perhaps ignite a new interest.
The Reggio Emilia educational approach talks about the environment being a child’s third teacher. I am convinced of this more and more each day. While it is vital that I be a supportive mentor, it is also vital that the kids have a space that is inviting, comfortable, child-centered and inspiring for great learning to take place. I am (always) in the process of improving our environment, but recently we made some changes that I hope to document soon in an upcoming post.
The most effective, and perhaps the most difficult way to inspire kids is by example. Going outside myself is much more effective than sitting on the couch and telling my kids to go outside. Wondering out loud, reading (a book, not my phone!), exercising in front of my kids, etc. etc. I’ve recently taken two awesome courses by Lori Pickert that have taught me so much and gotten me in the habit of journaling and drawing more. Which, in turn, has gotten my kids in the habit of journaling and drawing more. Yep, effective. Yep, difficult at times. More on this in another post, too.
A while back we discovered a robin’s nest outside Stephen’s window. No one in our family has shown an interest in birds, including myself, but I thought this was too good an opportunity for an unschooling family to pass up. I mentioned the nest and looked at it daily, so the kids started doing the same. This led to discussions about male versus female robins, blue eggs, what baby birds eat and how fast they grow. We left town soon after they hatched, for less than a week, and when we returned they were almost full grown. I was constantly asking questions out loud for the kids benefits, but I became genuinely interested in the whole process too.
A few days later I had some one on one time with Stephen where he chose to ride his bike on a park trail. He really is an animal lover and would stop to notice the geese, birds, butterflies and what not. With no sisters around we could stop as often as he liked, and we were able to notice some bright blue birds we had never seen before.
Soon after the sighting we ran into a group of older women, decked out in sun hats, Columbian wear, binoculars and even a telescope. We learned they were looking at the Western Bluebird, it’s nest and babies. They showed us their bird guide, let us look through their telescope and told us that the robins in our yard were in the same family as these birds. Stephen got to go home and tell Eliana everything he had learned.
The encounter with the birders in the park made me so happy. I couldn’t have planned a unit or bought curriculum that would have taught my kids more about birds. They learned from experiences, observations, and questions. They learned from looking out their bedroom window, taking a bike ride in the park, approaching people with more knowledge and experience, and talking with them. They are learning how to learn on their own. I’d like to think all the strewing, efforts to improve our learning environment and my example of learning beside them is helping this process along! It continues to amaze me, but we really are doing this unschooling thing.
“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” – William Butler Yeats