Many people over the years have asked me about unschooling. How does it work? What does it look like in every day life? How will your kids experience a breadth of learning? etc. It is sometimes difficult to answer these questions, due to preconceived notions of education (mine and others!) and because each of us bring our own lenses to every experience. Sometimes, though, there are amazingly easy examples to point to.
Today, we were driving to Boston and both the girls pointed to this logo on the back of a shipping container. “Hippocamps!” they yelled! Having never heard that word, I asked them what they were referring to and they enlightened me on all things Hippocampoi. Where did this knowledge of Greek Mythology come from?
To answer that, we must back up to earlier this summer. We had visited the Little Free Library near my parents house looking for kids books. The only one in the collection at the time was “Lightning Thief” by Rick Riordan. I showed it to Catherine who promptly told me, “I will NEVER read that book. Don’t even try.” Dejected, I almost put it back, but I have heard great things about the Percy Jackson books and thought she’d like it. No more was said on the topic, but later that day I tossed it on her bed while I was cleaning out our beach bag.
The next morning, she came to me with bleary eyes. “Mama,” she said hesitantly. “I have finished this book [Lightning Thief]…and here at the back it says that it is part of a series. Do you think the library has book two?” I have no idea how late she stayed up reading that night, but I was definitely game for a trip to the library. We picked up books two and three and she devoured them. I also grabbed a couple of books on the Greek Gods and mythology to have on hand when questions arose.
And questions did arise. From Catherine, but now also from Esme, who was latching onto every word from her sister and poring through the nonfiction books. While Catherine kept requesting the next (and the next) Percy Jackson books, Esme found the series of “Goddess Girls” books and dove into them.
Since then, we’ve been noticing references to Greek (and Roman) mythology all over the place. They point it out in non-related books, movies and art have new meaning to them and E and I have done some indepth research on ancient Greek clothing. Peter has introduced them to “The Planets” By Gustav Holst and they’ve discussed how the music relates to the planets and to their corresponding deity. We’ve talked genealogy and family relationships and myth as a genre. They’ve picked out references in some of the minecraft youtube videos they watch and have used the gods and goddesses as characters in their pretend play.
And today we saw a Hippocamps on the back of a truck in traffic and I learned something new. In August, Esme suggested the idea that “this is the summer of Greek Mythology” and I had to agree. More traditional educators might call this a unit study, but for us is is all part of the rhythm of our lives together. One person’s interests inspiring and driving another’s. Our conversations weaving in and out of different topics and building on interests and themes that we’ve loved before. The love of Greek mythology will likely wane, but I know this summer of the gods will be referenced many many times going forward.