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Verdi (12) is at MIT Spark today, a day-long series of classes for kids over age twelve. We left Terran (7) with his best friend (he was chanting “best friend day, best friend day” ALL DAY the day before) and Bear (10) is with Robin (boyfriend), I think doing a favor for relatives of Robin’s boss (bosses who also have an unschooled kid who is at MIT Spark today).

I have so long and thoroughly accepted my role in the universe as bringer-of-my-sciencey-kid-to-sciencey-things that I didn’t stop to realize that today in doing so I was also, accidentally, bringing my history geek self to Boston… until I was on Boston Common in a car with my 12 year old son and my own inner 12-year-old wanted to leap out of the car, plant herself there, and absorb the oldness of it through our pores.

I was Verdi’s age when I became fascinated with the American Revolution and began to read, letter by letter, everything every founder wrote. I don’t know why my parents never thought, “Hey, Rose loves Revolutionary-era history, and we’re not far from Boston; let’s take a day trip”. I mostly just don’t think about what choices my parents made and how they differ from mine. They were very young and they had distractions and a different set of values. My father was sick, and poor, and he tried, but he couldn’t do it. My mother worked hard to create the life she wanted, but her goals were things like a nice kitchen so she could bake fancy cupcakes for her kids. I can totally see how that seemed to her like the thing that would make us feel most loved, most supported. I wonder now if my sons feel supported when I research what they’re interested in, find conventions and classes and books about it, and fill their lives up with these resources. Maybe in twenty years they will wonder why I didn’t just get a good job so I could buy cakepop molds and make them feel loved and supported with regular doses of fancy dessert.

 I admit that, though I strive not to judge, and think I mostly succeed in that, I don’t understand people who don’t jump into the world to explore all that’s out there, and in that ignorance of their motivations it would be too easy for me to ascribe something negative to it. That has been a challenge for me this past month as I have vowed to simplify, try to do less, try to do only what is most important.

I just saw a boy go by carrying a slide rule that was larger than him.

When I think about unschooling, as I have been, I imagine that as a very, intensely active parent, always facilitating, always recommending, researching, cheering, finagling, tunneling paths for my kids deeper into the things they want to get deeper into. I can’t imagine sitting back and just letting them go on their own. That was how my parents unschooled me and while it was great in many ways — I became quite self-sufficient and resourceful, and I really knew who I was — I also wish they had brought me to Boston. 

I have done parent-directed homeschooling rather than unschooling, up to this point, because I view unschooling as more work with more risk. You have to come up with resources for learning on the fly and those resources may be rejected by your kids for not very good reasons. You have to leave a variety of tools at hand all the time — internet access, a car or good public transportation system, a diverse social network, and a good chunk of cash, too. Projects gather on shelves and there is so much buying of books. Homeschooling, in contrast, allows you to gather your materials in one swoop and then quietly stay home and use those the rest of the year. Until recently I was certain I was not healthy, smart, social or well-off enough to manage unschooling. This year, I can almost see us doing it.