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An Unschooling Life Style

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By Patricia J. Donahue-Krueger

What have your children learned lately? Math? Spelling? Foreign Languages? My children have studied none of those things. No times tables, no spelling lists, not a single Spanish phrase. Yet, the things that they have learned are great in number and vast in importance.

We have experienced in this past month more mishaps, bad luck and awful timing that I can ever remember. It has felt as though no sooner had we weathered one storm when another surfaced. Yet those storms, those moments of great challenge that were met by each family member, big or small, provided invaluable lessons in living life with imagination, creativity and perseverance. It is also for our family the most important way in which we all learn to cope with life's ups and downs. It is also a way in which to find balance in a world which at times seems slightly out of kilter.

Our family has experienced an interesting variety of health issues lately, some minor inconveniences and some which required a bit of rethinking of nutrition and lifestyle issues. Our attitude has always been to meet obstacles with knowledge, so it was off to the library for information. We accessed the Internet for current facts, read everything available and worked out a plan for changes that would effect our eating patterns and exercise choices. We better allotted necessary household and home business tasks in order to relieve some of the workload of family members. This task involved scheduling, nutritional analysis, and life skills in terms of new and increased responsibilities. Not a bad day's learning I'd say.

Next came what we had long dreaded. Two of our computers contracted a severe computer virus. Though its origin was unknown, the damage it caused to both computers was far-reaching. Luckily we were able to reformat our hard drives, reload missing programs, visited various internet sites and bulletin boards in order to locate missing drivers that enabled everything to work together once again. Unfortunately, we lost months of work on various computer programs that we have all done together. From this—we learned patience.

Taxes. Need I say more? Anyone who operates a home-based business knows all too well what this means! Though the children are involved with the day to day workings of our business, sitting at a table surrounded by pile upon pile of tax related paperwork is somehow a much more sobering experience. Not only are they working with numbers, filing canceled checks, grouping similar receipts (all math functions by the way) they are talking and we are answering. Why do you have to pay taxes? Who gets the money you send in? Does everyone pay taxes? Does the President pay taxes? How did taxes get started? So much to talk about...history, finances, social studies...taxes are a subject unto themselves. Another marvelous lesson for the month.

Our next project? A basement that had flooded one time too many. We contacted our city engineer who assessed the situation and advised us of a course of action to take. The children listened while he spoke and explained what to do. Next, we got a landscape consultation involving plan design and costs. The children asked questions, learning what would be done and why. They were fascinated.

So, the plan was implemented. The children spent the entire day watching the installation of barriers, and the leveling of our yard to prevent future flooding. It was fascinating to watch the children communicate with the non-English speaking workers through simple phrases, a bit of ready-made sign language, and lots of visuals. The men seemed to enjoy having the children show such a genuine interest in their work that they perform so beautifully and professionally.

Did I say that my children did no math, spelling or foreign language work this week? Perhaps I was wrong. They seemed to have covered math in our nutritional analysis, tax work, and calculating how much sod was required to repair our lawn. Spelling? Hmmm. We covered this with the library and Internet research, filing checks, matching up similar expense receipts and reading over the bill from the landscapers to see that everything that they had bid was indeed covered.

Need I say anything about the foreign languages? I believe that this would be covered nicely by their interactions with the workers who spoke Spanish. I suppose that they did cover all of this, didn't they? But you know that too, didn't you?

Our basement project taught them problem solving. They learned how people work, spend, and pay taxes. They learned to work together, to work apart, and to tolerate each other’s individual style of getting things done. They learned patience in allowing a smaller child to work at a snail's pace when they themselves are ready and willing to work at lightening speed.

So many things to learn in this life and they seem to be learning what they need to know when they need to know it. Fascinating isn't it? Not too shabby for a family of unschoolers. We are off to the library to research museums in Phoenix where we are going next week. Perhaps we will have more to report from there. I suspect that we just might.

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