Saturday, February 24, 2007

His Passion Unveiled

When N. was younger he did a lot of rocking.
He rocked in his little rocker, he rocked on the couch--even when the chair wasn't supposed to rock he rocked.

When we lived in Noth Albuquerque Acres, we had one of those free standing dog runs that stood in the side of our yard. During his disasterous third grade year, when school was really hard and when accomodations were not being made for N.'s disabilities, N. used to come home, climb onto the side of this dog run and rock on it. One day I heard this really strange noise. I asked MLC what it was. She said: "Ask the boy why he rocks on the dog pen. It's kind of weird, don't you think?" So I stepped out onto the deck and looked down and sure enough, there was N. rocking on the dog run. And it happened again and again. And we looked at each other and said: "You think we ought to get him a swingset?" This is sort of like that.

We began homeschooling in August. One of the many reasons for our decision was that N. made it clear that one thing he very much enjoyed about our new home in the mountains was the peace and quiet. And that "Nature is all around, Mom!" I started by using The Well Trained Mind, which I had found at the local bookstore. This had a very well laid out curriculum that seemed accessible to me. One thing that it said about unit study, something that I had used much of when teaching gifted children in the public school, was that in the areas of study, kids would eventually find something of interest and take off with it in a kind of unit study.
So I have been waiting for this to happen since August. At first I thought it might happen with science. We did a lot of cool experiments using How the Universe Works. He played with the idea of the lunar colony model for awhile. No dice. Then I thought it might happen around something we were studying in Ancient History. Maybe something with Egyptian Mummies or Greek warships. Again, gornisht.

While I was waiting for that special interest to take over, our homeschooling was evolving anyway, as I saw what was working and what was not. We modified away from a strict following of curriculum as outlined in WTM, which emphasized outlining and a great deal of writing in all areas. For more details, see my post Creeping Eclecticism.

Lately, we have been working almost exclusively on Brain Engineering with a little math and a little history thrown in. And I have been wondering if N. was going to come across an interest that could become a full-blown unit study. But in the meantime, something else has happened. As we have done the Brain Engineering, we have also begun to move away from the trappings of "school at home"--you know, "it's 10:30, so this must be math" type of scheduling. We have become more and more fluid, as N. has demanded more of a voice in what we are doing. As I have read more, what I realize is that N. has been "deschooling" us even as we have done the Brain Engineering exercises.

I also began reading more about the different forms of homeschooling. A digression. When I was in college, my dad, who was a recovering schoolteacher (he quit and formed his own business) sent me a book by a guy named John Holt called Teach Your Own. I have no idea why he sent it. I wasn't even remotely interested in education, I was a Geology major. I had not children--in fact, I wasn't even married yet. But I did read the book. Then I went to the university library and checked out his other books: How Children Fail, How Children Learn, and The Underachieving School. I was quite fascinated by this man and by his vision of education that was different--and vastly more appealing--than the education I had recieved in the public schools. End of digression. Naturally, as I widened my scope in reading about home education, some of the first books I picked up were those by John Holt. And I expanded from there.

While N. was away on his boy scout camping trip last weekend, I was reading And a Skylark Sings with Me, as I mentioned last week. On Sunday, I read a section that included a reference to the books of Tom Brown, Jr. I was immediately interested because Papa (my dad) had sent N. one of these books called The Tracker. N. read it in a day and then we had several trips to the library and bookstore so that he could read the others. Well, in Skylark, David Albert mentions a program from The Wilderness Awareness School in Washingtion State, that has been put together by one of Tom Brown's students and that is intensive wilderness awareness and that is a correspondence program. Last Sunday afternoon, N. and I were on line checking this out. We took the "Tourist Test," perused the information about the program, called Kamana, and then N. said to me: "Mom, I want to do that. I want to do that for certification. Can we use some of my Bar Mitzvah gift money to do it?"

On Monday morning, N. said to me: "Mom, I could hardly sleep last night thinking about Kamana." And he called his Papa to tell him about it. He started by saying, "Papa, there's this really cool program that I am going to do and it's going to take me about four years..."

And Bruce and I turned to each other and enumerated the clues. "He's always outside."
"Remember when he taught himself to track snakes and lizards?"
"What about the summer he taught himself the bow and arrow?"
"And remember the summer when he did the bird rescue? We were down at the Nature Center with orphaned birds at least four times."
Boy scouts. The hikes. The time he camped out in the backyard. His nature museum when he was eight. The year he declared the wolf as his totem. Fly fishing.

"Well, duh! You think we ought to make this his curriculum?"

So--it's not classical education. It does have much journaling, awareness training, botany, ethno-botany, ecology, and mapping involved. He will be developing and using many skills that are more conventionally taught in school. But he will be developing them and using them for his own purposes. It is his passion.

Where this might take N. we don't know.

But this is his passion. It has been his passion for a very long time.

Once we were able to unschool ourselves, we were able to see our son.
This is what he needs in order to become the person he was born to become.

What an exciting moment it is when a person finds what it is he has to do next.


Megan Bayliss said...

Ohhhhh, I know about Kamana. I am VERY excited for you and N. I have heard from others that it is excellent.
I wonder what it is with our kids. Boy has the deepest empathy for wildlife. He loves to track, watch, creep and capture so he has the thrill of letting go.
Honestly, we live in a natural environment that is just so full of bugs and creatures that N would love. Come, come.
Save, save, save your pennies you two. Boy and I would love to learn with you in the rainforests and on the Great Barrier Reef (Boy and I LOVE snorkelling). But then we have to come to you to (in summer).
I am so pleased that N has found his place and that his parents can hear his call.

Mama Squirrel said...

This is lovely! I've linked.

Frankie said...

Sometimes we are so close we just can't see what is in front of us. I'm glad you guys discovered the program. Best wishes!!!

Jenny in Ca said...

wow, what an "aha" moment. I enjoyed your post, your home sounds wonderful, we love nature but live in a city. I read "an a skylark sings to me" but I don't remember the nature program, I will have to look it up.

Anonymous said...

This is very encouraging to me since I have recently decided that earning Cub Scout badges will be the core of my son's "school" for a while. I will continue with some formal math and language arts, but for the most part we will work on badges adding books, movies and field trips where appropriate. It will be as natural as breathing for my little guy. I look forward to hearing how your son's new adventure works out.

Anonymous said...

Too wonderful for words! (Glad I could help....)

David Albert