19 September 2011

unschool monday :: social + learning


There's been lots of change and transition happening for Big Owlet. Mostly it's been about finding her place in the world. Figuring out where she fits. She's been interested in conforming, identifying a crowd to cosy in with. She's tried on some more mainstream hats that didn't really suit and found out a little more about social groups and how they work. She's felt what it's like when a best friend turns on you, within a group. She's felt unsafe. Excluded. And she's figured out that she can survive it and be accepted and rather than just fitting in, be happy within her own skin. Her skin is thickening.  And she's learning to seek new friendships that fulfill her. Make her feel safe and loved and like she fits. I'm sure the process will ebb and flow, but for now, she's happy being herself.

For a little while, when people asked her why she wasn't at school, she'd get really uncomfortable. "I hate that question, Mum. I don't want to be different." I told her how I hated when grown ups used to ask me what I was learning at school... like it was all that I was. It made me think about how we categorise children and their experience of life. How we value their learning above all else. Big Owlet's  starting to realise now that her learning process doesn't define her, but rather gives her a chance to be herself. To define herself. And that's pretty cool. The other day when she was asked if she was still on school holidays, here's how the conversation went:

Insurance desk woman: "Are you still on school holidays?"
Big Owlet: "No. I don't go to school"
Insurance desk woman: "Oh. When are you allowed to do that?"
Me: "We home educate"
Big Owlet: "Actually, I'm unschooled"
Insurance desk woman: *crickets* *blink*
Me (trying to bite my tongue, failing): "She learns at home"
Big Owlet : "No. I'm unschooled"
Insurance desk woman: "Well, how does that work?"
Big Owlet: "I do what ever I want to do and learn as I go and Mum & Dad help me out if I need it."
Insurance desk woman: "Wow. You're lucky. I wish my parents had done that for me."

She carried her head a little higher after that conversation. She's starting to understand why we do what we do and is feeling good about it. Next, we wandered down the road (in rainbow faerie dresses... them, not me), to a family fun day at Forestry Tasmania. We didn't have lots of time, but were interested in a quick look. A friend of ours helped organise the day and greeted us at the door. We were handed a map and were told we had to get a stamp at each learning activity if we wanted to get a showbag. Well of course we wanted a showbag. But as Big Owlet said "I just want to do the activities in my own way, Mama. I don't want to do them all." And also, we didn't have time... we ended up running to each activity, not really sure what we were doing, being told we had to do the educational activity and learn something before we could earn a stamp. Ah, rewards. A concept somewhat foreign to the owlets. Big Owlet is starting to see how the way we view learning can be counter-intuitive and confusing... In the end we ran out of time to get all the stamps and she pleaded to our friend to just give her the showbag anyway... She did, thank goodness...

Later we drove through some forest, home from a friends house and Big Owlet said "You know, Mama, If you want to learn about the forest, you just go to one". Exactly.

See our other explorations in socialisation + unschooling here, herehere, and here


  1. Yay for Big Owlet! And a big BOO to Forestry Tasmania for their stamp = showbag shennanigans! Glad she got the showbag anyway!

  2. LOVE her comment about forest learning!

  3. How fabulous was the insurance desk lady saying she wished her parents had let her unschool! And you should absolutely go to a forest if you want to learn about about a forest.

  4. Love that! I still twinge inwardly (but smile and nod outwardly) when someone starts asking questions and want to hug people when they are open minded and say wonderful things (and not closed minded auto-responses) to my boys. :)

  5. I'm loving that insurance desk lady's response too!!
    I really like when you post about the social aspects of your unschooling experiences, I suppose because that's one of the areas that I worry about...
    Love Big Owlet's summing up!

  6. I think it's a tad bit sad that she couldn't get anything positive out of it.

  7. "Wow. You're lucky. I wish my parents had done that for me."

    That basically sums it up- hey! What a blessing you can be to your children, giving them this unschooling opportunity!

  8. I love it when the person you least expect to support or understand you/your decisions comes out with a gem like "I wish my parents had done that for me"!! Life is full of surprises!


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