When Milly was little, even before she could speak we always spoke to her as we would an adult.
We saw no reason to dumb down the language and believed that if she didn't understand or wanted clarification about a word she would ask. This proved to be true - but it was also evident that - over time -many of the words were simply understood because they were used in context.
I learnt early on in my unschooling journey that I didn't need to ask so many questions about what Milly knew or understood about a conversation we were having or about what she understood about the story in a book or a display in a museum. I saw too many times how easily her interest in something could be killed by my explanation of something she hadn't asked for and wasn't interested in knowing - even though I felt it was essential to give her a fuller understanding. I remember being in a museum and she became interested in a display and as we looked at the differences in two windows and began to make up a story about who lived there. We were having great fun and as I told her about the display I remember thinking she wouldn't understand what some of the things were and asked her if she knew what a particular word meant. almost immediately things changed and the enjoyment she had been having died and she wanted to move on.
Gradually I stopped feeling the need to teach and fill in the gaps - or rather the gaps I perceived. I allowed things to flow....
If we were in a Museum and she became interested in a display we would spend some time looking at it and discussing it, sometimes the history of it or what it was used for - most times her interest in it was not about the history at all but she would create a story around the display. A prime example was an air raid shelter in one of our local museums. After a very basic explanation by me her imagination would take over and a role play game or story would ensue. Sometimes - if it fitted with the game and story that Milly created - my own knowledge of how things worked / what they were used for might be used to enhance the story / game.
Many other books / films / conversations have included information about air raid shelters in varying degrees and her knowledge has grown piece by piece like a jigsaw. This has not made her a world expert on air raid shelters but she has a knowledge of them and if and when she requires more information she will have no trouble finding out about them.
Milly enjoyed going to this particular Museum and I could easily have killed her enjoyment in that moment when we played games and made up stories by trying to fill her in on the facts and history of air raid shelters.
For me it had become so much more about our connection, getting enjoyment out of the visit, whatever shape that took...
I found this link today from Joyce Fetteroll . It is a fabulous article and this bit leapt out at me...
I wanted to try out an example of holey definitions and drawing on other areas and tools to fill in the holes and to double check to solve the puzzle. I don't know if this is a great example, but it got stuck in my head and it wouldn't let go so you may have to pretend you don't know what the meaning of the word is.
The cattle are lowing, the poor babe awakes. As far as I know, I've never heard lowing in any other context so in my case the puzzle area for lowing is totally empty. What areas do you draw on to figure out what lowing means?
For me it connects to the Christmas carol area. And that's a subset of the song area. I'm not very musical so I have some big holes in both areas. I don't know much beyond the most common carols. I do know that lyrics are poetry which connects to the English language area. My poetry area has a lot of holes in it too. Maybe that doesn't add much information but it does tell us why the sentence doesn't sound like normal conversation.
It connects to the Christmas area. My knowledge of Christmas basically comes from popular culture so compared to someone who has studied the Bible or the history of Biblical times it has holes. But it has worked well enough in the past for this type of thing. I know where the baby and cattle are and why they're there. I know the baby is just born and that its mom and dad are near by.
It connects to the English language area. Again, there are holes like lowing obviously but experience has led me to feel pretty confident in the non-holey areas. It's English sentence structure so there's probably a cause and effect thing going on. The cows have done something to cause the baby to awake. If the sentence were "The poor babe awakes, the cattle are lowing," we'd assume the baby affected the cows. We've probably all had encounters with poetry and song lyrics that break rules so we don't know that for sure.
It connects to the cow area. My cow area has served me for what I've needed it for but compared to a farmer, I've got holes. But I do know cows make noise. They eat. They're big. They poop. They pee. They produce a lot of gas. They stamp their feet. They give milk. Some people like to eat them. They seem kind of dull and sleepy.
We can gather some possibilities that fit in all the areas. Like maybe it's gas. Really smelly gas could wake a baby. But that doesn't fit in the Christmas carol area. My experience with carols leads me to be pretty confident they're about nice, gentle things. It could be milk. That's gentle. But the English area suggests the cows are doing it themselves. English tells us poetry breaks rules but the baby area doesn't give us a strong impression of milking waking babies. But my cow area has some holes in it so that's a maybe. It could be stamping. That's not too bad. It doesn't set off any alarm bells but doesn't send up any fireworks either. It could be mooing. That's gentle. As I recall it's noisy. English has some onomatopoeic words like moo to describe the sound cattle make and low sounds similar.
That doesn't give us a definitive answer but if I had to pick one, it would be mooing.
Putting the puzzle pieces together is kind of like solving a mystery. If someone had told us what lowing meant and we weren't curious, it'd be like reading the last chapter in a mystery book that we had no intention of reading. The fun is having the questions and getting to the answer, not necessarily the answer itself.
One other part that I would like to share from the article is this..
The worst learning crime we can commit is to drag kids through something boring to build some portion of a foundation or framework. They might retain what we've dragged them through but the price we pay is to tag it with a big BORING label so it's likely they'll avoid building in that area. If they're bored we should stop. There is just too much other stuff in the world to worry about one thing. If they need it, they can't ignore it.
So think in terms of joy rather than need to or important. One cool connection or one good feeling about Egypt with the doorway open and available anytime they want to explore further will serve them far better than a bushel of so called important facts that will fade from disuse and lack of interest.
Think in terms of creating a lifetime learner rather than creating a standard foundation or framework. If we give them the gift of confidence that they can learn anything they decide to, that there's no time limit to learning, no point when they're done, then we've opened every door possible for them..
There is a great deal more in the article and it is well worth reading if you are interested in unschooling / autonomous education....