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Unschooling Flowers in the Spring

Well, a lot of people predicted it and now it’s happened. My daughter’s unschooling has led her to a dead-end job at low pay. Yup, she’s a hired hand on a farm. She didn’t tell me that she was taking the job. I found out about it when I came across a list of her chores that she’d written out. In addition to feeding the pigs, chickens, horses and cows, she has to haul water, milk the cows and even chop wood! And for all this, she only gets room and board!

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Okay, so she’s just pretending that she’s a hired hand like Nellie, a character in one of the American Girls books that she’s reading her way through. We seem to be unschooling history at the moment. Last month, Daughter was mostly interested in scientific subjects, so her library books were heavy (literally) on evolution, animal habitats, and food chains. Most of them seemed to have apes on the front and that may be why Daughter went through so many banana sandwiches for snacks, I dunno.

Then she went on a fairy kick and every book she took out or bought had a pink or purple cover that glittered. (Whose idea is this glitter business anyhow and can’t they use better glue? I got really tired of getting a “fairy dust mustache” because my first cup of coffee had glitter in the bottom.) We built a fairy house and, for days, she drew nothing but fairies, although a lot of them were animals. I didn’t even know there were elephant fairies. (They hold their wand in their trunk and have really, really big wings. Two sets.)

We read a couple of the Disney Fairy books, which reaffirmed my childhood belief that Tinkerbelle was a tiresome, self-centered little snot with anger management issues. (I admit it. I didn’t clap when the book told me to when I was a kid. ) Even at that age, I sensed that fairies weren’t something that should be encouraged. Much later, I read Terry Pratchett’s Lords and Ladies and found out that elves were no better than they should be either. (So that’s why they’re always hiding under those leaves. ) I’m kind of glad that fairies and elves have faded into the background somewhat this week.

Penguins are still top of her list, especially the ones at Club Penguin, where she hangs out for an hour or so most days. From what I’ve seen in passing, the big deal at CP right now is talking baby talk so that a big penguin will “adwopt you” and put you in a “cwib”, which they make by buying two couches and putting them together in their igloos. (I admit that this “too twee tween twerpery talk” gets old fast, but I imagine it’s payback for the Pig Latin I used to drive my mother crazy with when I was 9. ) It seems to be basically playing house online. With penguins.

We used to play house under the lilac bushes with stones for dishes, sticks for silverware and our jackets for furniture. I found it boring, but most of the little girls in the neighborhood loved it so I went along with the wheeze for awhile and then took off to climb a tree so I could read in peace. (There’s nothing better than having a tall leafy tree to hide in, so that you can read as parents call you and think that you’re out of earshot. I was practically arboreal when I was young.)

Do kids climb trees anymore? I never see any up in trees, now that my son has outgrown it. Daughter has a fear of heights, so she’s not a tree climber. I have a fear of widths, which is why I’m usually trying to lose weight.

Daughter gets a dose of geography everyday when she checks the analytics on my blog with me to see where the traffic has come from. She’s able to find most of the major nations on the world map and is zeroing in on some of the smaller ones. If you know anyone in Burkina Faso, Sao Tome or one of the obscure island chains, send them my link so she can improve her map skills. She helps plot out our routes, too, when we drive to places we’re unfamiliar with, which sometimes adds a little to our drive time, but it’s all a learning experience. (We’re learning more than I want to know about gas prices too.)

I was thinking today of how so many people ask me how I can be sure she’s learning without testing her. For me, it’s just something I know from being with her, but actually there are concrete ways to tell. She reads the instructions on packages, in books and online now. She used to ask me to read them or she’d read them too quickly and miss things, or say that they were too complicated for her to follow.

She reads signs and often catches something that I miss like, “Please use other door”. Oof! (No wonder I almost broke my arm trying to open the darned thing.) Or we’ll be looking for something in a book and she’ll find it before I do, because she’s gotten very good at scanning with purpose.

She sometimes does a page in each subject in a workbook once or twice a week now, just because she wants to know what the kids in school know, she says. She whizzes through it in a half hour and then goes back to what she really likes to do. Riding up and down the driveway on an imaginary horse, whinnying. Throwing tennis balls for the dog and shooting baskets with her brother at the same time.

Drawing page after page of Neopets and Pokemon and animals with high-fashion outfits and purses and high heels. Drawings that have so much personality and attitude that they almost jump off the page. And connecting with nature by observing, exploring and bugging me to pick violets before they’re all gone, which is where we’re off to now. Soon, we’ll have more sweet smelling bouquets in the little clay vases that she makes. Each one is unique, just like the little flower child who made it. What makes your child unique? Do you pick flowers together or gather shells or draw together? How do you think your child would be different if they went to school?

Lill Hawkins lives in Maine and writes about family life, home education and being a WAHM at http://hawkhillacres.blogspot.com Get the News From Hawkhill Acres: A mostly humorous look at home schooling, writing and being a WAHM, whose mantra is “I’m a willow; I can bend.”

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