29 March 2010
unschool monday :: fun
I had an interesting chat with a local mum the other morning. Our children met at ballet classes, just around the corner from our home and the girls hit it off immediately. Big owlet loves making new friends. Its just about her favourite thing to do. So we went along to about three or four of these classes and they were ok. I really wanted it to work out because it was so convenient being so close to home. But I sat and watched the whole thing one day. I saw my little girl who is passionate about ballet and dances around with her eyes closed, struggling to keep up with the steps. her body was rigid and hurried. After class I asked her what her favourite part was. "The bit where we got to do our own thing". The two second portion of the class where they were permitted to dance with joy. Big owlet is a visual creature, much like her mama, and struggled so much with the teacher's verbal instructions. The teacher was lovely, but from a generation before my parents, and she's not as mobile as a visual learner needs to really learn. She had no problem telling the students they "weren't very good" at certain exercises and needed to practice more, comparing students to each other to get them to lift their game. Old school. Ballet was no longer fun. Big owlet had lost her passion.
Then one day we were at gymnastics and we walked past the dance studio. A light filled room, full of mirrors and polished floors. Before we knew it we were signed up for a trial class. It was brilliant. Fun and light and the teacher danced easily in front of a room full of students who could see themselves learn. She told them they "may not feel like they are very good at somethings, but that's ballet. Keep practicing and you'll get there". Ahhh. Perfect. The passion has returned and the Nutcracker Suite is on high rotation at owlet HQ again.
So back to my neighbour and her daughter, big owlet's friend. I broke the news to her that we wouldn't be back to the local ballet school and to her credit, she had a go at changing my mind. Worth a try.... "Not everything in life is about having fun"...
Its hard to answer that in a quick phone call without sounding a bit flaky, but around here, fun is THE most important learning tool we have. Another description of unschooling is delight driven learning. We need fun. I have watched big owlet shut down when something is boring, or no longer fun. The moment is gone, the interest is lost. Learning stops entirely and redirects to something stimulating and new and... fun. However, at the same time, we are not raising a spoiled child who only does what she likes. She is learning within a family dynamic. There are things we need to do that are not always fun, but we make them as fun as we can. She knows there is work and commitment and she has that in spades, but not for things that are of no interest to her. Or presented in a way that makes it difficult for her to enjoy. We place our trust in her that she will learn what she needs. If we override that by forcing her to go to a ballet class she dislikes, everyone loses. I wouldn't attend a class myself if I didn't enjoy it. I'd look for something more suitable, that taught me what and how I needed. My own parents always taught my sister and I to follow our hearts and the happiness will follow... Its so important to listen to our children and trust them and be available to help them access what they need. As a parent, its all we can do. So It looks as if I'll be adopting that "Mum's Taxi" sticker on the car after all, and heading out to the gym more times a week than I'd like. But I have a happy owlet who again dreams of being a famous ballerina and dances with her eyes closed. Life is fun.