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Unschooling The Windmill and The Railroad

 Here’s another look at what happens with unschooling.  You set out to spend some time in nature. The eight year-old is starting an animal tracking class, so maybe you’ll commune with nature a bit while you’re out there. Then, on the way, you see windmill blades, but not on a windmill. They’re. On. A. Train! In the middle of nowhere. Lots of them! They stretch off into the distance. Soooo many windmill blades! And they’re on a siding! And there’s a little pull off to get over there!!! Woohoo! So, now, you and the gang—9, 8, and 6 years-old—are going to explore windmill blades! That’ll be fun! You’ve never seen a blade up close before. This’ll be so much fun! You and the kids head for the blades. They’re walking along the tracks, perusing them. You stop to admire the first blade. It’s gorgeous, framed up just so on the flatcar. There’s a couple of blocks of concrete on the other end of the car acting as a counterweight. Visible between the blade and flatcar, a snow capped mountain peaks
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Tracking Towser

 Towser, the eight year-old here started a new class yesterday. Unlike other things he’s tried where the thing was a thing a sib had expressed an interest in, or a thing that is supposed to be generally interesting to ‘kids’ doing ‘school’ sort of things—you know, math, grammar, reading—this thing is all Towser. Towser is taking an animal tracking class delivered in several audio lessons. Each lesson takes between fifteen and thirty minutes of listening. Then, Towser and I and whoever else is around talk about his lesson, and here’s where things are kinda different. Towser talks—in depth—about what he heard. He looks at me with his ‘important eyes’ and tells me what he thinks the lesson was about. Every kid is different, and every learning experience is different, but Towser talks about these lessons so soulfully It makes me happy and warm inside to see that he’s doing a thing he’s truly, truly interested in. While Towser explains his lessons to us, my partner asks big open ‘meaning’ q

Toddlers and Unschooling

I have now seen posts about ‘home education’ for three to seven year-olds. And, I’m guessing that people are now calling ‘kids are home during a pandemic and the school system has mandated that learning will happen remotely via the internet’ home education instead of homeschooling and maybe that’s going to help with the confusion, but in case it’s not, indulge me in describing what homeschooling looked like for the kids here between 0 and 3. First, it felt really weird, calling what we were doing homeschooling and even stranger still calling it unschooling, because, well, the kids were just living life. It wasn’t really ‘schooling’ at all. I constantly felt like a poser saying we were doing any kind of schooling. I mean, were we really schooling? The kids were just doing their thing while I was around. But looking back from here, it seems to me that what we were doing was the epitome of unschooling The kids were just doing their thing. As infants, they were hanging out in the baby wrap


 The gang—Daize, Towser, and Tawnse, all aliases, aged 9, 8, and just for  a little bit longer 5—have picked up a new skill in the pandemic. Disappearing into their surroundings.  Before you go there, no this isn’t a pandemic socialization piece. It’s not a learning loss and socialization piece either. This is a post about an honest to goodness new skill the gang has picked up. In  retrospect, I suppose it started with Towser years ago. Walking though a park near our home in San Francisco,  we realized that five year-old Towser was  just gone. We looked around for him a bit, but I had a feeling in my somewhat panicked gut that I knew where he was. We headed for the house. Sure enough he was sitting on the steps by the front door.  “Hey! I’ve been waiting for you!” Towser groused. “I just picked a different path through the forest when you weren’t looking. I wanted to see if I could sneak all the way home.” We talked a bit about  the  importance of knowing where he was and all that good

Fronted Adverbials, Unschooling, and The Importance of the Freedom to Learn

 Fronted adverbials have been a thing this week. A thing I didn’t even know existed until I saw  Anyone struggling with homeschooling should know that, despite having a PhD in Literature and having published 12 books, I only learned what a fronted adverbial was when my 8 year old's teacher said he doesn't use enough of them in his written work. — Dr. Carolyn Jess-Cooke/C.J. Cooke (@CJessCooke) January 13, 2021 The tweet caused a great deal of churn in both the self-led, traditional education, and parenting spaces. Much of it deserved, and yet… It’s also a really good way to illustrate that unschooling allows space for everyone. I hadn’t heard of fronted adverbials before, but as someone who writes—I’ve had one book published, not dozens, but still—and someone who enjoys plunking around with learning languages, I was secretly jazzed about the whole thing. Fifteen years ago, I found it was easier for me to learn languages if I knew what the different parts of English’s gramm

Idaho Works to Free Up Independent Kids and Their Parents

 This morning, while practicing my fronted adverbials, I came across this from Idaho Bill allowing free-range parenting, the "Reasonable Childhood Independence Act", introduced to Idaho House - would mean kids allowed to engage in independent activities, like walk to the park, won't be considered "neglected" — Dr. Jacqueline Kory-Westlund (@jacquelinekory) January 15, 2021 Which—as often as the kids here are out and about—sounds great to me. But, having read the bill’s text, I’m both excited, and concerned.  First, the details. The bill was proposed by Rep. Ron Nate. It is H0003, and it’s full text can be found on the Idaho Legislature web site at The purpose of the bill is to redefine the definition of negligence so that it does not include activities that kids typically perform independently of parents, (or at least activities that kids typical

Camping, Bedtimes, and Babies

Here’s a nice thing about camping against a mountain range; the sun goes down really, really early.  So it was that we found ourselves wandering back into the campsite from different directions, (the kids from the desert, my partner and I from a rock jutting out over a shallow ravine coming out of the mountains) at 3:30.  By 4:00, we’d started dinner, and our fire.  By 5:30, things were pretty dark, and pretty cold.  Half an hour later, my partner and I had climbed into our sleeping bags in our tent—the kids have a separate tent, remind me to tell you about how awesome that is for everyone another time—to read ebooks.  A half hour later at 6:30 PM, the gang, 9 year-old DAize, 8 year-old Towser, and 5 year-old Tawnse—climbed into their tent to call it a night. As much as camping physically exerts all of us in a really good way, the gang didn't instantly fall asleep. I know this, because the geography of our campsite created what’s a rather rare occurrence these days: our tent was on