We have a neighborhood library. You know those utterly sweet ones that look like an oversized birdhouse? We bring used books we no longer want and browse for gems to cycle through our shelves. Ours is next to our neighborhood playground and pool and is painted like a little red barn.
Even Tennyson knows what it’s for. Each time we play at the park he reaches up on his tippy toes to open the “library” door and blindly feels for books to reach and grab. His treasures.
Recently Waverley and Wilder came home with a book each. We’d just finished reading Wind In The Willows and were in the market for fresh bedtime reading material. Waverley’s choice? Mr. Popper’s Penguins. Which now makes me think of Benedict Cumberbatch and his butchery of the pronunciation of penguins in a recent documentary. (If you haven’t watch this clip, it’s pretty dang hilarious -so you should. I cried laughing.)
Wilder brought home something a little less…um…likely? A book on the origins of the universe. Yeah. Me, too. That’s exactly how I felt. I took Mr. Popper’s Penguins up to their room and for the first week when Wilder occassionally asked, “What about my book?” I punted on the question. Kid, trust me. You’re not gonna like it. I didn’t say it, I just avoided it.
After the baby arrived, bedtime reading was put on hold for a week. Finally last night I grabbed Wilder’s book and headed up to the kids’ room to let him experience this (surely disappointing) read.
Waverley was out in three minutes. Photons, positrons, subatomic particles, the universe heating up to 100 thousand million degrees…
From the get-go I had to watch my tone. Sure, this may not be my personal choice of reading material, but suck it up and be at least neutral about it, Kelly. I read in a measured, somewhat interested tone -for Wilder’s sake.
But you know what? It was kind of interesting. Sitting there with my 9 year old and learning about all these sciencey particle matter thingies and space was, I admit, mind expanding. Out of my comfort zone and usual interests, but that typically leads to a little something called growth.
Not too shabby.
He made it through about 7 finely printed pages before he said he was done for the night (and I thought he’d call it quits after the first paragraph.)
I gave him a goodnight hug and kiss and he snuggled up for bed, Waverley passed out long ago.
As I sat in the rocking chair feeding the baby, I thought more about the experience. I was humbled. Here I thought “oh, boring sciencey stuff, written in the 70’s, what a waste of time.” But it wasn’t. I’m not saying either of us really understood what the guy was talking about, but it was exposure to something new and different and that’s a good thing.
With unschooling our kids, it often feels like walking through the woods without a map. But the whole point of the walk is to enjoy it, to be in wonderment and to explore. With a map, you sort of bypass all that and just focus on getting from A to B. You miss a lot.
The other morning while watching the PBS Kids programming Wilder turned to us and asked, “What’s education?”
Brian and I looked at each other and laughed. Man, we must have messed up -he doesn’t know what education is… But on second thought, we’re about learning. We educate ourselves through exploration, asking questions, curiosity, researching and trying new things. Learning is the goal and education follows.
I don’t know if we’re doing it right -but who’s to say what’s the correct way? Who’s to say which way is up in the universe?
I do know that it’s a journey. And as they learn, we continue to learn, too. And that should never stop.