Today we took the dog to the breeder for grooming (an hour round trip), and then spent three hours in the afternoon at the local children’s hospital at an appointment for Girl. (And Papa brought Dog home after work, so she got to spend an entire day playing with her mom and sister, in addition to her bath and haircut.)
But even on a day like today, unschooling happens. Boy read his books in the car, and at the hospital. Both spent some time drawing in the waiting room. (Boy’s really working on perspective and shapes; he did his best to draw the waiting room and everything in it.)
And they did some things in the time that they had at home: Boy worked on his garbage truck kit, we practiced violin (which went great, and Girl watched and listened intently), Girl played with her toys.
And since Boy has discovered both Battlebots and Internet searching in the last week, he looked up a couple of Battlebots episodes on YouTube. He also looked up ‘chipmunk predators,’ ‘rabbit predators,’ ‘lynx,’ ‘bobcat,’ and ‘ocelot.’ After being reassured that rabbits are not in any way endangered in spite of the fact that just about everybody eats them, there was some fun lynx/rabbit make-believe, and we all together looked up videos to discover what sounds lynxes make, which is…not what you would expect. So, you know, they learned some stuff.
But one of the things that I’m realizing that I like about unschooling, is that it isn’t just about what the kids do. It’s about the time that we have to talk, and the time they have to just…think.
Before we drove down to the hospital, I gave the kids some lunch and got in the shower. Boy burst into the bathroom seeking refuge from Girl, who was tormenting him somehow, I never got the full story on that. (And I would like to note that I rarely get to take a shower entirely in peace, even now.) I told Boy to just close the door and stay with me away from Girl and her wrath, and we’d just talk while I finished. Somehow we got on the topic of how things fall ‘at an angle.’ And then we started talking about the notions of inertia, trajectories, forces, friction, gravity. How things traveling in space, away from the effects of gravity and friction, just keep going in the same direction at the same speed. Boy asked how spaceships could come back to earth, then, and I said they would have to have some way to produce enough energy to counteract inertia.
And he pointed out that when you throw something, the way to get it to go the farthest is to throw it not up (because it just goes a little ways and comes back down), and not straight ahead (because then it just goes down to the ground), but to throw it kind of up at an angle, so that it comes down “in an arc.” (Throwing the yellow squeaky a gazillion times for Dog in the back yard every morning has proved highly educational. Who knew?) And I said, yes, exactly, and that arc is made by the force of inertia going one direction, friction pushing back against the object, and gravity pulling it down. And let me tell you, I don’t take very long showers, so all of this transpired in less than ten minutes.
(One very important note: When the kids ask me something, I try not to worry too much about getting everything exactly right, especially given their tendency to ask me things in the shower, or, say, merging into traffic. It’s not like I have time to prepare notes. I say, “I think it’s like this,” a lot. The most important thing, I think, is that we’re thinking and talking. We revise later as needed.)
In the car, Boy was thinking about an episode of Cosmos, and it came up that glass doesn’t conduct electricity. Then he asked me what ‘conducts electricity’ means. So he and I and Girl talked about that for a bit.
And tonight Boy walked up to me and started talking, and it took me a minute to understand what he was saying. It was this:
Outside of our cosmos, there is nothing. Nothing isn’t blackness. Outside of our cosmos, blackness doesn’t exist. Outside of our cosmos, existence doesn’t exist…. Is that right, Mumma?
Yeah, kiddo, I said. I think that’s the idea.
He understood something important. And who knows how he got there, but I know he needed time and space to do it.