If a child is given the freedom to choose what she wants to do every day, isn’t there a risk she will choose to be lazy and not do anything at all? Or maybe she will decide to do what is easy, rather than what is challenging…
While we were driving to town this morning, I asked the girls if they’d brought along some books they could read, while waiting their turn to have their piano lessons.
“I’ve got Les Miserables,” said fifteen year old Charlotte.
“Are you still reading that?” I asked.
“I know I’m going slowly but I’m making progress. I’m definitely going to finish it.” Then Charlotte added, “But I can’t say it’s one of my favourite books. The action keeps getting interrupted by long passages of history. I have read so much about the French Revolution.”
“It sounds like Les Mis is the ultimate info-dump novel,” observed Imogen.
“Info-dump?” I asked.
“In novel writing, information can be given as part of the story, or it can be dumped in large chunks between passages of action.”
“All that French Revolution stuff sure slows down the pace of the novel. I guess it’s a good way to learn history but I decided to read
the book for the story,” said Charlotte. “It really is hard work persisting sometimes.”
“Are you tempted to give up?” I asked.
“No. I chose to read the book and I’m going to finish what I started. I want to say, ‘I read Les Miserables,’” said Charlotte. “I’ve also promised myself that when I get to the end of the novel, I will watch the film version. I’m looking forward to that.”
“And the stage version,” said Imogen. “That should be good as well.”
I told the girls that Victor Hugo also wrote The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but I couldn’t tempt Charlotte with this novel, at least not in the near future. “I think I will read something different next. How about another Charles Dickens, Immy?”
“That sounds good. Which one? Nicholas Nickleby?”
The girls have set themselves the goal to read every single Charles Dickens novel. I guess they will.
I have never read any of Victor Hugo’s novels. I did start The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but after a chapter or two, I lost interest. I have never even considered reading Les Miserables, unlike Charlotte. The girls are doing much better than me with Charles Dickens too. I’ve been reading Bleak House for what seems like years (but I’m going to finish it!) Imogen and Charlotte finished that novel a long time ago. Just imagine if we adults had to do everything we’d like our children to do… Would I be able to keep up? I doubt it very much.
It seems to me that if unschoolers were lazy they wouldn’t voluntarily attempt to read such challenging literature as Les Miserables. And sometimes they even choose to persevere when the going gets tough.
Now I know not all unschoolers enjoy literature. This is only an example. Callum, a former unschooler, isn’t doing any reading at the moment except car manuals. But you should see him under the bonnet of a car, working out how to fix various problems. In his spare time, he isn’t sitting back doing nothing. He is busy learning new things. His energy, and determination and ability to work things out, impress me. He definitely enjoys a challenge, which is just as well because as he solves one problem, he discovers another, and another…
I have just remembered: Callum did choose to read a number of classic novels. Amongst other books, he decided to read a number of Alexandre Dumas novels a few years ago, and he enjoyed them…
Do unschoolers choose to be lazy? Are they inclined to take the easy option rather than the challenging? Not in my experience.
I don’t think my children are unique. I’m sure you all have similar stories to tell.
Has anyone seen either the film or stage version of Les Miserables? Did you read the book version first? Or maybe you’re inspired to read it now. It’s available as a free ebook if anyone feels like taking up the challenge!