Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Bigger World

One of my favourite John Holt quotes is:
Birds fly, fish swim, man thinks and learns.
Therefore, we do not need to “motivate” children into learning, by wheedling, bribing, or bullying. We do not need to keep picking away at their minds to make sure they are learning.
What we need to do, and all we need to do is bring as much of the world as we can into [their lives]; give children as much help and guidance as they need and ask for; listen respectfully when they feel like talking; and then get out of the way.
We can trust them to do the rest.

As parents, bringing "as much of the world as we can" into our children's lives can feel a bit overwhelming.

Pam Sorooshian, homeschooling mom and economics professor, shows us how simple it can be to make our children's worlds bigger.
BIG:
Just live life!

BIGGER:
You might have to make a conscious attempt to be more curious and more interesting, though.

BIG:
Take them grocery shopping -

BIGGER:
Right — but while you're there, look at the weirdest thing in the produce department. Bright orange cactus? BUY one. Go home and get online and try to figure out what to do with it. Or just slice it open to see what is inside.

Or buy a coconut—shake it to see if it has liquid inside. Let the kid pound on it with a hammer until it cracks open. While they're doing that, do a quick google on coconuts so you have some background knowledge. Don't "teach" them—but if something seems cool, just say it as an interesting, cool thing to know, "Wow, coconuts are SEEDS! And, oh my gosh, they sometimes float in the ocean for years before washing up on some island and sprouting into a coconut tree."

How about a pineapple — bought one fresh, lately? Talked about Hawaii? Just say, "Aloha," while handing the kids a slice. Or, maybe you'll get really into the whole idea of Hawaii and you'll see connections everywhere — Hawaiian shirts at the thrift store, flowers to me leis, someone playing a ukelele, a video of a volcano exploding (maybe that will inspire you to want to make your own volcano with baking soda and vinegar).

I'm not saying to prepare a lesson on cactus or coconuts or pineapples. I'm saying that, if you're not already an interesting person with interesting information to share with your children, then you'll have to make an effort to be more interesting. The way to do that is to develop your own sense of curiosity, wonder, fascination, and enthusiasm.

It might have to seem a little artificial, for a while, if it isn't natural to a parent to just "be" this way.

BIG:
take them for a walk

BIGGER:
Same thing—when you go for a walk, don't be boring, be alert to interesting things. Yesterday, my daughter and I were walking down the street and there was a cat on the top of a car—all spread out, sound asleep. It was a little chilly and one of us said, "That car must be nice and warm, holding the heat from the day."

BIG:
take them to the car wash,

BIGGER:
"Where does all that soapy water go, I wonder?"

BIG:
cook with them

BIGGER:
Make it super easy fun stuff, not a "cooking lesson." Put peanut butter on celery and then stick raisins on that and call it, "Ants on a log."

BIG:
play with them, encourage questions, ask questions yourself, enjoy their company, Get school out of your head. That was the biggest hurdle for me. Don't picture yourself in a teacher role. Just be their mom.

BIGGER:
Just be their really interesting mom—not their boring mom, though.

© Pam Sorooshian, reprinted by kind permission

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Pam Sorooshian lives in Southern California with her three grown, unschooled daughters and her husband. She also teaches economics at a local college.



More from Pam:

Pam's Blog

Collected writings on Sandra Dodd's site