Mafe Maria: Personal stories by autism parent mentor, Maria Stultz

An Unschooled Life: Learning Does Creep In

Sometimes you wonder about this . Particularly when you get busy with your own projects (doing your adult thing as Holt would say), and the kid seems to wander bored. Just today I was thinking of what I’ve done today so far: Made breakfast, watered the food garden, took a shower, went to bowl with Joaquin, planted zucchini seeds, made lunch. After doing dishes I noticed the clock: 5pm and I felt like the worse homeschool mother of all time.

But now I’m logging some of the conversations that have gone on with Joaquin since I got out of bed… Perennials (he surprised me understanding what the concept means), centrifugal force, plants going to seed, how they do it, how bees help pollinating flowers, what we would lose if bees disappeared, pollen and how it may be related to his current seasonal allergies, birds eating my seedlings, and can our strawberry plants survive if the birds eat the fruit?…

Kids! I remember learning half of this stuff at a desk, in a boring way, in separate lessons, out of context, then I remember hating having to study the stuff for an exam. All these conversations started with questions Joaquin has asked me today while having breakfast and lunch, and in between. He already understood some of what we discussed, and his own spontaneous example of centrifugal force once he heard my explanation was brilliant.

He’s not that interested in plants and biology. That’s my thing. But he watches what I do; he hears me talk and respond about events and the funny things that happen, like birds eating my seedlings, and my silly “Hello Joaquin! I’m an onion flower” performance while tapping his nose with a bolted onion I was about ready to cook. He asks questions; I answer them with examples, drawings, mentioning past events he remembers, and showing him the stuff outiside; we look at the photos and videos I’ve made throughout our life together and before he was born, and knowledge happens, and learning creeps in as a full story that HAS MEANING and IS MEMORABLE because it’s tied in so many ways to everything we’re living right now.

This feels so much nicer and makes much more sense than those old Biology classes I had to endure with mediocre grades that didn’t teach me how to identify the leaves of all the plants we’re growing that Joaquin now knows so well.

This works. I keep trusting (and collecting evidence to feel good while I’m still just beginning the journey. Kind of like five years ago).

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