‘So, you educate them yourself?’ she asks brightly.
How do I say, no, no, not me.
They are educated when the wind bends the trees and blows their hair. They are driven by their interests – archeology, game design, writing words, telling stories. They ask an awful lot of questions, we have discussions hundreds of times a day.
They are educated by their friends, especially the ones who have something extra to help us all learn – like our friends who help us learn about difference and emotions and navigating friendships in an intensive crash course in human relations. They learn from the adults in the community and in our friendship group – we’ve learned about mud rescues, water pipes, roman times.
We learn from strangers we bump into in the woods – what it means to be lonely, how it feels to be friendly, about the way it makes everyone feel warmer when you smile.
She studied the poster counting up to twenty for ages and taught herself. The day she spied the poster up to 100 that I stuck to a door, she counted to a hundred no problem! She can do verbal maths problems in no time flat. I didn’t teach her that.
He creates fantastic characters and storylines for games he’d like to design. He knows all their specifics, how he’d build them, what their purpose would be in the game. I didn’t teach him that.
She draws beautifully. She copies letters from other pieces on paper onto her own paper. She’s making letters out of puffs and potato waffles bitten to size, arranging them, asking what they spell. I didn’t teach her that.
He’s suddenly ready to trace, and when he asks to make a card for his grandparents, he writes ‘nice’ across the front as if it is no big deal, as if it isn’t the first time he’s traced letters so perfectly. I didn’t teach him that.
I answer a lot of questions, but they decide what to ask. I might help them look up youtube videos on how fog is created, how to modify computer programmes…but they are the ones soaking it in, clicking related videos, and days later astounding me by some of the leaps they’ve made.
They are educated when they are ready, when they are interested. They are learning all the time.
Sometimes they need me, sometimes they don’t. I may think of ideas or materials and have them ready and available, but everything we do is fueled by their questions, their imaginings, their ideas of what is possible. They haven’t learned that learning itself is a duty, a bore, a struggle. They are just living, just playing, just doing what interests them and….well, they become more immersed in their ideas, more robust in their critical thinking, more excited about the wonders of life every day.
I don’t say any of this to the stranger at soft play who is so curious about a family that doesn’t have their children in school. I smile warmly and say, ‘Well, yes, a bit. But they also learn from other people we know, from places we go, from things we do.’ She smiles back. I think to myself, they learn from themselves and from each other, too.
As we turn to tend to our individual children, I marvel at the things my children know and all they have yet to experience. But mostly I am inspired by how not knowing something doesn’t make them feel discouraged or confused – it makes them enthusiastic to learn. And their education has one prime, basic truth about it: they may not know everything, but they are learning how to find out.