Snow Days

It seems fitting that it should snow in January. There is nothing loud about so much white and these days are more or less the same.

Although its easy to stay within the warm fires of your house, its worth while – going out – just for that feeling of coming back in.

We’ve been out twice today, once in the car and once for a snowy walk.

And I’ve been thinking about some things I’ve read lately – Unschooling things, birthing things. Why we try hard to create an environment where Ava is free. Lately I’ve seen the difference – I’ve been reminded of how frustrating, how oppressive it is to be around those – in school or otherwise – who would treat learning and education as the same thing – who demand constant performances from children and who see every sentence, every possible interaction as a ‘learning opportunity’, or worse, an evaluation of what a child already knows.

Because I can tell you that Ava hates this. She doesn’t understand it when someone asks her questions that they obviously know the answer to. She becomes quiet and withdrawn and more often than not retreats to her own corner. But let Ava be Ava? Let her play, freely? Talk to her naturally? And you see the full force of Ava – the wonderful, unique and effervescent personality of a child under no pressure to be anything, say anything, or do anything.

Yes, school did a number on me, I tell you. All those years I thought I loved it. I wonder where I’d be, how much sooner I’d be here, at least, if I had had the kind of freedom in my childhood I dream about for Ava. Those that go to school are lucky, at least, if they have a different environment at home.

I half expected to change my mind about schooling somewhere along the lines – to see something in Ava, perhaps, that led me to think school would be good for her. But the more I understand about what school actually is, what it does, the more I see that could never happen. The more I follow Ava’s learning, her natural development, the more beauty and possibility I see in the kind of freedom that unschooling brings.

We lay in bed today after our walk. Ava told me to lie down next to her. She was quiet, staring at the ceiling, and I reminded myself not to fill that space with conversation simply because I could. After a minute, or two, she asked if she could watch videos of big fish. ‘A whale?’, I asked, ‘A big whale’ she replied. So we watched some videos of whales, then dolphins, and she asked some questions, told me some interesting things, like, ‘big whales are funny’ and ‘whales friends with seals’ (until they eat them of course). Then she asked for porridge, ‘like Goldilocks and three bears’, so we had ourselves some porridge and maple syrup.

In moments where Ava is acting of her own accord, I feel confident that she is learning in the most natural way possible. Most of the time if I interfere too much I simply annoy her, or she loses interest – as if, like John Holt suggests, she can sense that I have grabbed a perfectly lovely moment and tried to make it into a ‘learning opportunity’. Can you imagine how dull life would be if it was actually possible not to learn something in any given moment? If you could really quantify a life experience through any kind of test or evaluation?

So that’s what I’ve been considering, what we’ve talked about in the evenings. But not today, not in moments where the best and only thing to do is watch the snow fall, watch it lie and talk about the snowmen you might build if it lies.

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About Kendal

I'm Kendal Mosley-Chalk. I live in York with my husband and two children.
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5 Responses to Snow Days

  1. Emmy Charlotte Watts says:

    I think when little ones are really bright school can be very restrictive. I remember loving pre-school because you got to be as creative as you liked, then I went to a crappy primary school where most of my class didn’t even know their ABCs and I’d been reading for ages, and I just found it really tedious. I think home schooling’s great as long as they have lots of social interaction with other kids too – which Ava obviously does.

    • Kendal says:

      I think unschooling is different from homeschooling in how much there is an emphasis on interaction and learning by being around people, and in the community which is what I like. The kind of ‘socialisation’ that happens at school – being in a classroom with 30 people, or a year of 100+ – seems very unnatural to me, and you end up, if you’re lucky, with a handful of actual, proper friends when you leave school. I’d rather she wasn’t surrounded by a herd of unknowns and just had those friends around her. I’m always surprised (I probably shouldn’t be by now) by how much the social aspect of school seems to have damaged so many people I know.

      And also, amazed by how many people only really seemed to ‘find’ themselves, or feel free to be who they always were, at least, upon leaving school! xx

      • Emmy Charlotte Watts says:

        Definitely. School gave me loads of insecurities and for the most part was pretty horrible. That said, I think being surrounded by dickheads at school prepared me quite well for the dickheads I encounter in the real world xx

  2. What a lovely post, and lovely photos. How happy Ava must be. She certainly looks it.

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