Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Unschooling Lessons

So today my kids have learned (or at least encountered, no one really knows what a person has "learned," though you can be sure we are all learning all the time):

  • How to clean mud off the floor.
  • That while you may not care about the broken sword, you care about the person. Take a moment to  imagine what that other person feels like before saying you're sorry so that your being sorry is genuine and expresses some compassion.
  • Egg whites don't whip when you get a little yolk in them.
  • That some email accounts block certain kinds of emails and you have to contact Help to get your account going.
  • That cookbooks can be wrong, recipes can be adapted, and then you learn from the finished product. But it still tastes good.
  • It generally makes more work for yourself when you do things quickly and hyperactively.
  • That imbalanced washing machines make great percussion instruments.
  • It's harder to roller skate while holding dolls.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Family Learning: Exploring and Riding and Discovering Our Own Selves

My daughter's riding lesson wasn't until 2, and it was a gorgeous spring day. 62 and sunny. We decided to pack a picnic and go to the lake just north of where our riding instructor lives. This took some doing, as I am not eating any sugar, starch (like white rice), gluten, or dairy. I made brown rice balls rolled in sesame and a little salt, and a kale salad with apples, raisins, and grated carrots. I threw in the gluten free banana pancakes left over from breakfast (they have potato starch and white rice flour in them so I didn't eat any) and some fruit. We were ready to go.

When we arrived at the lake, it was WINDY. The kind that takes your breath away. We hadn't dressed for the wind, which can make a warm day really chilly in dry Colorado. So we hiked down the hill, over horse prints pressed into the dry mud, and discovered a little hollow with a pond just off the main beach area. To the kids it was a secret haven to play in, but the first things I noticed after we got out of the wind was the garbage scattered everywhere and the general brownness of things. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, where it is green year round. Here winter is brown. Brown sand, brown water, brown trees. Overhead spread a brilliant blue sky smudged with fast-moving clouds, so I tried to take it all in, brown and blue and white together. And I began to pick up garbage.

We played at the edge of the water and made sand castles, then ate our lunch. Apples and pancakes got dropped in the dusty sand, and the rice balls proved to be too salty. So really the kids didn't have lunch. They did have fun, and we carted out a large bag of garbage.

We drove the half mile to our lesson, taught by a college freshman I found through my mama network. It was still quite windy, but not as jarring as when we first arrived at the lake. Our instructor wore a sweatshirt and jeans, and cowgirl boots with spurs. My daughter chose to ride the dark horse this time, Blitz, a rather large Paint who is a deep brow color with a white patch on his nose. I pet him as they brushed him and picked his hooves, and I considered how while horses don't really scare me, I don't really know them, either. Like before I had kids, and a person would ask me if I wanted to hold a baby, and I felt awkward and ignorant; now, though, I can hold any infant and feel comfortable. Not so with horses. I've been on them, but not really cared for them much.

I wandered around as my daughter had her lesson steering and stopping the horse. He seemed cranky, or stubborn. She had to nudge him hard to get him to go faster. I remarked to my husband that this will help her learn to lead and be in charge without being bossy or whiny. A crow flew overhead and landed on the fence, cawing at some unseen companion.

The other horse, Woody, a thirty-year-old white horse who is a bit smaller and gentler than Blitz, nickered at us from the paddock. And then he farted. A lot. Long, loud horse farts. My three-year-old found it funny - but I think was more fascinated than amused. Horses fart too!

When my daughter was done, my son got a chance to ride, but he was feeling crabby and shy. So I said I'd like a turn.

Man, that horse's back was high up there. I really had to thrust myself up to get on his back. As I said, I've been on horses, but never fully in charge. As a child I rode docile, bored horses walking down a trail, nose to butt with other horses. This time, I was in charge. And I decided to try a trot.

It's hard to explain, trotting for the first time. I wasn't afraid, but fully in the moment. Aware only of my body and the horse's. Trying to push down my heels and lean back, trying not to grab onto the horn, trying not to fall off, trying not to yank on the reigns. I went around the ring twice. Then I slid down and thanked Blitz. He turned his head to me and shoved at my chest hard as if to say, "That sucked. You obviously don't have any idea what you're doing."

But I felt exhilarated. I couldn't wipe the smile off my face. You know when you've wanted to do something so long you've forgotten you ever wanted to? And then you get to? Yeah.

I asked if we could brush him more, for I was feeling less shy and awkward now that I'd ridden him. I brushed all around, getting the mud off his hair. Just before I finished, he turned to me and repeated the head butt, but this time it was gentle and nuzzly, as if to say thank you and forgive me a little for sucking as a rider when he didn't really feel like being ridden anyway.

That second head nudge was truly one of the neatest moments of my life.

My husband and daughter told me I looked very natural trotting on that big horse. Didn't feel natural! But it did feel... right. Like finding a part of myself I'd only ever dreamed of.

Homeschooling for me is this day: being outside as a family, caring for the earth, making discoveries, and learning more about who we are as a life-long journey. 

What adventures have you been on recently as a family? How has it changed you?