Sophie and I are strolling up to the village together, arm in arm. Sophie is chattering but my mind is a million miles away… until I hear her say, “Miranda does much more school work than we do.”
“What do you mean?”
“She knows every language.”
“She can’t know every language. Which ones is she learning?” I ask.
“French… Greek… and Latin.”
“Well, you were learning Latin. You could learn it again, if you want to.”
“Miranda learns lots of other things we don’t learn, like English.”
“You do learn English. You just don’t have a workbook. You can write and spell. You write wonderful letters. How about the novels you’ve written? Not many 8 and 11 year old girls have written novels. You read. We’ve almost read all the Anne books together. You know the difference between nouns and adjectives. Remember that discussion we had the other day about the contact lenses? Then there’s poetry and Shakespeare. I bet not many girls have read and seen as many Shakespeare plays as you have.”
Sophie thinks about this and agrees she learns lots of English. But she has thought of something else: “We don’t do geography or history.”
“We don’t sit down and do lessons called geography and history but you know an awful lot about those subjects. Marie Antoinette is history. So is Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I. The Protestant Reformation is history. The World Wars are history. And we’ve been reading about the Texan Panhandle… that’s geography. That Australian series we’ve been watching… that’s history and geography. Then there’s all that reading you were doing on the Greek gods…”
The Greek gods reminds Sophie about something else. “Miranda does a lot of religion.”
“So do we… morning prayers, Bible readings and mediations, Mass, saints, the catechism, that book about the creed… You just don’t go to religion classes like Miranda. You learn it all at home with me. We talk about religion all the time and practise it. You don’t have to fill in a book to learn about the Faith.”
We go through the traditional school subjects one by one, and soon I have convinced Sophie she is indeed learning a lot, just like Miranda. Maybe she is learning far more about some things than her structured homeschooling friend.
I am curious. I ask Sophie, “Would you like to learn the same way as Miranda? Would you like some workbooks?”
She shakes her head emphatically. “Oh no! I like how we learn. We never know what interesting things we’re going to discover. If we had to do lessons we wouldn’t have time to read so many books. I wouldn’t have time to learn about all those things I want to know about. I’d have to do whatever’s in the workbook. That would be boring. We wouldn’t be able to write novels or go for long runs when we feel like it… or go on adventures… There just wouldn’t be enough time.”
Sophie smiles. She is happy. She doesn’t really want to be like Miranda.
I can imagine mothers comparing homeschooling styles and methods. But children? Do they also talk about these things when they get together?
“How come you and Miranda were talking about homeschooling?” I ask.
“Miranda just wanted to tell me all the things she’s learning.”
“She wanted to impress you?”
“I suppose so. I told her I don’t do all the subjects she does.”
“Did you tell her what you do learn?”
“No. Miranda didn’t ask. I don’t know if she was interested.”
“She probably thinks you do nothing.” We think about this.
Unschoolers doing and learning nothing? Is that what people think? Nothing could be further from the truth.
I laugh. Sophie laughs too. Somehow this seems so funny.
Does it really matter what people think? No. We haven’t got time to worry about that. We’re too busy living life, learning lots and having a wonderful time together.
Other people can do impressive school work. It works for them. And I wouldn’t want to question other people’s choices. But us? We’re quite happy being unschoolers.