Wednesday, June 8, 2011


I know I've been spotty about posting on this blog the past few weeks. Oh, there have been the travels. And there have been the work deadlines and pressures. And there have been a number of inquiries from book groups about Grand River, and related conversations and exchanges with book group leaders (these are quite wonderful, by the way; no complaints or ho-humness about this at all). And there has been the perhaps deeper-than-usual immersion in the new novel--the mothers and daughters (as reported in my previous post) and many other things: acrobatics and geography and crime investigation and victimology. This immersion in the new novel, too, is a very good thing. All of it, really--the preoccupation and the spottiness--flow from pretty damn good reasons.

But still, I feel a little bad about being spotty. Though have you noticed, how really attractive--and water-related--spottiness can be?

Speaking of spotty, I heard a piece on NPR the other night from a young fellow who has been unschooled--not home schooled. His mother explained it by saying that when he was a few months old, she noticed that he was by nature learning everything he needed to know at precisely the rate he was prepared to learn it, and so she thought, why couldn't he just keep doing that. And so she hadn't sent him to school at all, and all his learning is self-directed. The son, for example, didn't learn to read until he was 10, but he learned then because he wanted to play a particular kind of game that required reading. This is an intriguing idea, especially that thing the mother said about how babies learn what they need to learn.
     My favorite part of the story came, however, when the boy said that his grandfather worried about his education. How others may judge us is often a concern when one takes an unconventional path. And we heard the grandfather's voice, saying that he particularly worried that his grandson would lack the social world that school provides and that his education would be--you guessed it--spotty.

The boy admitted that his education has been spotty--for example, he never learned spelling. His mother wouldn't force it, because she believes there is a cost to forcing something. Though now, it sounded like, he might be ready to apply himself to the discipline (or whatever it is) of spelling. Spelling is an interesting thing. Some people seem naturally better at it than others. I don't like to see bad spelling, but with computer spell-checkers, this occurs far less frequently than it once did.
     As I've said before, one thing I like about blogging is that I don't need to come to any particular conclusion.



Jim Poznak said...

I wonder what his home environment is like. Is the tv on a lot, is music playing a lot, do they have bookshelves filled with books...?

Susan Messer said...

Pretty enriched environment, from the sound of it. I'd guess not too much TV and lots of music and books.

thanks for reading . . . and commenting.

Nicole Hendrix said...

I am currently immersed in an observation study of two children navigating their way through an elementary school in southwest Virginia. My daughters are 7 and 9 (entering 3rd and 5th grades this fall). Their education seems to have more in common with the "Little Boxes" theme song to Weeds than anything else. My husband and I try very hard to supplement their formal education with exposure to broader issues, bigger ideas, challenges that will help them. The very idea of unschooliing seems so appealing. However, I'm not sure my own type A personality would let it be so relaxed. I feel like our lives are so very short --- and there is so much to learn and see and do. I want my daughters to have as much of it as they can fit into a lifetime.

Susan Messer said...

Thanks for this, Nicole. It's very difficult for some of us to decide how far outside the box to let our children go (assuming we really have any control anyway). The mother in the NPR story did sound very mellow, but if we got to know her beyond a brief radio piece, we'd probably discover a more complex picture. Your children will certainly have a very enriched childhood. And letting a child go to age 10 without being able to read . . . wow, that's scary to me.