Day 4: Zoo day

When unschoolers talk about things kids normally learn in school arising organically, they aren’t kidding.

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An example: This morning Boy said he knew how to spell ‘witch’ and pointed out that it had the ‘tch’ cluster in it. We started talking about ‘tch’ words last week, when for whatever reason Boy decided to label a bunch of different things in the house, using white paper and craft tape. I told him at one point that if he kept labeling, eventually he’d have to start labeling the labels, and our house would end up looking like an enormous bird, covered in white paper feathers. But in the course of making labels and asking me how to spell things, we noticed that both ‘kitchen’ and ‘switch’ were ‘tch’ words. So this morning when it came up again, we listed as many ‘tch’ words as we could think of: watch, botch, snitch, snatch, latch, clutch, stitch, glitch, Mitch, hitch, scratch. So, you know, there’s spelling for the week.

And that’s one of the challenges of unschooling, as I’m coming to see it: to let the school happen. In nooks and crannies of the day, woven all in and out of whatever happens to be going on. Today our primary goal was to take a walk around the zoo and get Boy to soccer practice. The zoo trip in and of itself was just wonderful. It was a perfect October day. There was almost no one there, because most kids are in school. We sat and watched whatever we wanted to for a good long while. The birds (Boy’s favorites, from cranes to hornbills to Crowned Pigeons), the young siamang who we saw skipping (skipping, people!), and Girl’s favorite: the duikers (tiny deer with horns, fangs and pointy hooves). But here are other things that happened:

We made pancakes. I’m teaching the kids the recipe from memory, both a one-cup and a two-cup version, so they have to learn the half/double relationships of the measurements. Also, they learn to crack eggs, the difference between stirring and folding, how to make a light tapping motion, how to cut up fruit, and how to whisk. None of that is easy!


Girl made a picture list of her morning duties. I wrote the words next to the pictures, which she may copy later. She likes to do that. She made a picture book of the movie Brave yesterday. Today she narrated me a story from the pictures, different from the one she told yesterday, but wonderful. Adorably so. And even a little scary.


Boy disappeared for a long while, emerging from my room to say triumphantly that he had ‘balanced the scale.’  I don’t know how to explain what he did, but it was impressive. Both sides of the balance scale piled high with things, from flashlights to markers and paperclips. But PERFECTLY balanced. Arrow right on the line.

I couldn’t have planned any of that.

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