Unschooling is a very personal experience that each family approaches differently. Following the flow of the child’s learning can take you in very different directions depending on their current state of mind. My oldest son’s pursuits have been narrowed down slightly and overlap over time; however, the only true constant is what I do to help satiate his intellectual and creative needs.
No two days are alike when radically unschooling a divergent thinking prodigy who questions everything, voraciously creates and consumes knowledge the way most people breathe. Liam spends time working with professors and mentors all over the greater Los Angeles area who are always a welcomed part of our life. They choose to spend their time working with a young child who has a creative intellect and a relentless drive to think beyond what is. These influential people provide him with the intellectual stimulation he requires and the social development that he prefers.
There are days when we don’t leave the house where everyone focuses on their own passions. Liam sets his own goals, devises his own projects, self-imposes a time frame and then dutifully works until completion with little interruption. His focus is unparalleled. He eats while he works and he paces and fidgets while he thinks. There is no time to take a meal break and yet his brain needs sustenance every 1.5 – 2 hours. A big part of our day centers around feeding Liam’s physical and intellectual appetite. It is exhausting.
Gifted kids are high maintenance.
Sutton, my youngest child, is an actor who likes to remain in character throughout much of his day. Our free lifestyle allows for total self-expression at home and out in the world which seems to delight passersby. He is a charismatic whirlwind of energy and creativity which captivates others and magnetically draws in new friends. We travel great lengths so that my little extrovert can spend time with his girlfriends who live in another county. The drive is long but the friendships are deeply loving and meaningful to all participants. How often does a 6 year old brony loving, weapon toting, violence enthusiast find a perfect match in not one, but two girls close in age? His girlfriends squeal with delight when he brings in some of his favorite weapons that have found permanent residence in my car. This type of friendship is unique and, like us, they are radical unschoolers raising profoundly gifted children. When we find our tribe, we do whatever is necessary to cultivate lasting friendships.
My children choose how they spend their time and determine what and how they want to learn. Currently, that includes a few classes in the arts which breaks up our at-home learning and provides for a mixed age social outlet. Each trip out in the world usually includes a layover at the book store and the library where everybody knows our name. Social opportunities and life lessons unfold organically throughout our day and spark wonderfully insightful anthropological conversations.
There was a time, no too long ago where Liam’s interests required constant excursions to the Apple store and various mobile stores so he could visit his friends, jailbreak some devices and deconstruct all the differences in hardware, software, pixel density and screen resolution. Those visits were our field trips. Our current pilgrimmage takes us to comic book stores so that Liam can keep up with several serials and story arcs within the Marvel and DC universes. We are regulars at many comic book stores and, again, everyone knows our name. It is just how we roll. Now that Liam is focusing more on video editing, our excursions spotlight the dramatic arts, often tying the Marvel cinematic universe into our audio-visual consumption. We start many mornings with movie watching which then spawns acting out scenes and creating and editing movies. The passions evolve; my dedication to providing my children with the opportunities that they need to satisfy those passions is unwavering.
The most enjoyable part of our unschooling adventure are the conversations. The brainstorming. The excitement. The projects. The creative flow of ideas. The passions. Throughout the day my children share their interests with me, allowing me into their creative process and showing me who they truly are. The overflowing of ideas and the constant need to teach me can be mentally exhausting at times; however, they have an affinity for demonstrating their learning to me and I am a captive audience. What most other people are privy to is a watered down version of how truly unique they are. With me, they are completely vulnerable, trusting and open. I am an expert in understanding my children, their sensitive intellects, quirky attributes and complex personalities.
We don’t compartmentalize our learning and social development. Each day commences with something new or picking up where we left off the night before. It isn’t complete chaos but it is entirely unfettered by forced obligations. There are classes my children choose to take and tutors and mentors that they work with as desired. In some areas of interest my firstborn is a successful autodidact, whereas other areas he prefers the one-on-one dynamic to stretch his mind. Our greatest challenge has been finding suitable tutors and professors in combinatorial mathematics which is an area of interest that my child excels in naturally but does not enjoy learning independently. He is not a fan of algorithms, tricks and rules that make math easier as he prefers to discuss how and why concepts are employed not just be told which one to plug in to solve the problem. Once a week he meets with a local professor and once a week we drive cross town to the University of Southern California for another, longer, intense dose of combinatorics. He craves the conversation that goes along with the mathematical reasoning and he thoroughly enjoys problem solving and developing algorithms. With very heightened disciplines which I am unable to help him with, I am compelled to seek out outside mentors if they don’t find us first.
Time spent with tutors and mentors reinforces how necessary our radical unschooling lifestyle is. Liam needs high level intellectual stimulation, particularly with computer science and mathematics and he always leaves his mentoring sessions happier than he was upon arrival. He is elated. His mind got a work out. He is refreshed and inspired. New ideas are churning and everything is possible.
What works for us now may not in a few months. We go with the flow and adapt. The kids create their own routines and we avoid rigid scheduling as sometimes our passions keep us at home where everyone enjoys together alone time.
My children have the freedom to figure out who they are truly meant to be with unconditional love, support and guidance.