Terra Incognita

Explorer’s Log – Day 1

December 10th, 2012,

Today marks the first day of of our journey into Terra Incognita, the Unknown Land. Our young navigator is guiding us out beyond the boundaries of the known, on a journey as yet uncharted.  There is no spare thought for when we might return amidst the excitement of discovering new lands, phantastical beasts, and treasures untold.

This is the first expedition to be led by our intrepid explorer Zephyr Bly. I am gladly passing the proverbial torch of Lead Guide into the hands of this young, adventurous vanguard. She has shown herself to be capable, curious, and a true challenger of the unknown.

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Today I handed over the reigns of my daughter’s education to my daughter. She is eleven, which to some people may seem too soon to be put in charge of her own learning, to others it may seem too late. To me it just feels really right. Like really.

I only started contemplating this idea last Wednesday and since then I have felt really at peace with it. My husband, who only kinda-sorta knows about unschooling, also jumped onto the bandwagon with surprising ease. My daughter was the one that needed a bit of convincing.

On Wednesday morning I asked her “What do you think about unschooling?”
To which she replied, “I don’t think I want to do it. I like learning.”

I was able to convince her, during a conversation that continued sporadically throughout the day, that unschooling didn’t have to mean “playing video games and not doing math” but more like, “You decide what is important for you to learn and do.”

I told her that I am just really curious to see what she would do with her time if it was her own. She said, with sincerity, “I am too.”

And really, I am SO curious. Is she going to write a musical? Learn to cook? Plant a Garden? Organize a Social Action initiative? Read 100 books? Study Linguistics via Tolkien’s Elvish Languages? Design and Sell her own line of geek culture t-shirts? All those things sound plausible. But she will probably do something I haven’t thought of, something that is really about her, something that she might not have had the time to pursue in-between doing everything else that the world tells her is more important. Exciting, isn’t it?

I guess what we are doing could be called “unschooling.” Though that word means different things to different people, so I am not sure I can really claim that as an accurate description. Also, personally, I don’t like the idea of describing what I am doing by what it is not.

Another term I could use is “Child Led Learning” but DD seems too old to start calling her a child now. “Learner Led Education” is what they use at the homeschooling school she goes to twice a week, but that is a  mouthful.

As a writer I have a belief that words are imbued with great meaning and power. The right words can make it and the wrong ones can break it. In my mind, what we are doing is recognizing that it is time for our daughter to be the lead decision maker regarding her own education. The metaphor that I came up with, that fits her and us, is that she is the Lead Guide in this Exploration. And, right now, we are very much in an exploration phase. The uncharted territory is a practically unlimited land of learning opportunities and life experiences. Her father and I are Argonauts in her Exploration Team. We have skills and knowledge she can call on but we also understand to use what authority we have sparingly to encourage her to gain the independence that is right and natural for her at this stage in her life. Like most explorers we are excited to be leaving what’s familiar behind and setting off on our own adventure, not really knowing where it is going to lead.

As the team scribe I will be chronicling our adventure, transitioning from homeschooling to unschooling, here in my Explorer’s Log. Special Thanks to the late, great Jack Kirby for the inspiration for my blog name The Challengers of the Unknown. And to the New Pornographers for  making this awesome song, that reminded me of the name.


Categories: child-led learning, homeschooling, learner-led education, Uncategorized, unschooling | 1 Comment

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