to Noah's Day
by Miranda Hughes
He awakens in the morning and immediately begins playing with his older sister. She is available to him because she is not attending school either. With her he learns to co-operate and compromise and take turns. He learns conflict resolution, loyalty and interdependence. He and she build elaborate imaginary worlds, tell each other stories and engage in role-playing and fantasy play. At breakfast time he chooses a cereal by recognizing the colour of the box. I show him the letter "C" for the word "Corn" on the box. He notices "his" letter, N, with delight. After breakfast he rushes outside to the sandbox and playhouse. He climbs and plays and swings while I work nearby in the garden. He practises some new vocabulary on me, talking about swinging "back and forth". He tells me he is swinging left and right, up and down, in and out. He loves opposites. His sister offers him a few more: east and west, north and south. When I go inside, he is intoning "north and south, north and south" as he swings.
At lunch he eats through the middle of his sandwich, ignoring the crusts on each side. I remind him to eat the edges too, and he remarks on the shape of his sandwich... it's arc-shaped, and he proudly calls it a rainbow. I draw him an arc and a crescent on a napkin, and he instantly recognizes them as a rainbow and a moon. I name the shapes for him and we talk about them a bit. We look at other bits of sandwich on the plate and find other shapes. After lunch he dries the plastic dishes as I wash them. He takes on this grown-up job with a sombre sense of responsibility. He is meticulously slow, carefully drying both sides of every plate, the inside and outside of every cup, the back and front of every spoon. He is learning valuable things about three-dimensional shapes, about planes and symmetry. I see him hold a bowl up and watch the sun glint off it at different angles.
All afternoon he learns too. He watches the cat, he chases our chickens. He drives Matchbox cars around the floor, does imaginary road work. He makes patterns with toys and sorts through them, matching their attributes in different ways. He does puzzles. He experiments with sounds on the piano after watching his sister practice. He listens to music on the stereo and dances to some of the livelier numbers. He plays dress-up with his sister. He draws with markers. Late in the afternoon he begins to tire and gets irritable when his baby sister crawls over and ruins the "balance" he's building with blocks. We leave her with the blocks and go to the couch together to read a story. He loves stories about monkeys and has brought two new ones home from the library, but wants to hear "Goodnight Gorilla" instead, an all-time favourite.
After supper he and his older sister help sort the clean laundry. He is the Master of Socks, charged with piling up all the socks and looking for matching pairs. He chats on and on about big socks and little socks, blue socks and grey socks and dark green socks and light brown ones. We count the socks, we match them up, we count the pairs and sort them. He tells me who has the most, who has the least. We put them away in the right drawers. After the laundry is done, he wants to phone his grandma, so we talk about how he will identify himself, what he wants to say, how he will say it. I dial, showing him the numbers on the touch-pad. He says a few brief things to his grandmother and we hang up. It is time for a snack and bed. We read "Goodnight Gorilla" again and I kiss him goodnight.
Noah's day has been a full one. He has spent it learning about numbers, letters, colours, music, geometry, art, imagination, personal relationships and social skills. He has explored mathematical and linguistic concepts without a single clever "educational game" or brightly coloured plastic "educational toy".
When Noah's sister was almost three, this is what she was doing too. Now she's five and her spontaneous interests include all sorts of things which school-oriented adults would assume required "lessons" and worksheets and assignments. It isn't so. This evening she sat across the table from me and played with crayons, lining them up, counting them, re-arranging them. She chatted with her brother and her dad, drew a few pictures, and re-arranged the crayons some more. She then announced, "hey Mom, five plus five is one plus one more than four plus four. I figured it out myself." This is unschooling and it's awesome.
Miranda Hughes is a homeschooling mother of three young children in New Denver, BC, Canada. For more insight visit http://www.netidea.com/~mirhughe
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