On joy and freedom and making links

The unschooling diaries: week three

This past week has been super busy, with precious little time for stopping to reflect. Before I miss the window completely, though, here are three little moments that have stuck in my mind.

First up, there was Arthur’s unbridled joy and wonder at discovering the book ‘Mog and the Baby’.


He’s been listening to the story for the past few weeks: for his birthday we bought him an MP3 music player to feed his growing enjoyment of listening to stories. Almost every time he settled down to listen he would request ‘Mog and the Baby’. The way it works it would then scroll through the other Mog stories we’d saved for him, but he kept coming back to that one.

We’d intended these audiobooks to supplement our enjoyment of reading together rather than replace it, but I’d become increasingly aware that Leigh and I were reading to him less and less. So this week we’ve both made an effort to make physical books available whenever we can – not to force Arthur into engaging with them, but just to remind him that they exist. And he’s loved it.

More than anything, though, he loved discovering the book of the story he’s been listening to so often – seeing the pictures bring the characters to life, and sharing his favourite moments with me and his dad.

The second thing that sticks in my mind from this past week was a moment of learning for me more than Arthur.

I’d had a pang of doubt, fuelled as usual by comparing us to others, when I realised that Arthur had shown no interest at all in figurative drawing. He’d gone through the motions of copying lines and circles for his two year developmental check, but since then has not shown much interest in drawing beyond scribbles and swirls of paint – and we haven’t pushed it.

I’d found myself wondering whether we shouldn’t in fact be encouraging him to draw in a more structured way, accelerating his progress towards that fine motor control that will of course be so important for when he comes to write!

But then I checked myself. I read some more about unschooling, and the Montessori methods I find myself gravitating towards. And I remembered that of course there is no rush to begin to constrain his explorations into more easily recognisable forms. So instead I waited, and watched.

And then one day whilst I was preparing lunch I noticed Arthur rooting around by his easel, looking for something to paint with. Together we chose some colours, and I left him to it whilst I got on with making lunch. I glanced over from time to time, and freed from any concerns about whether he was drawing people or things that we could label, marvelled instead at the care he was taking about each seemingly abstract line and curve. I watched as he picked out his colours, stepped back from time to time to make decisions about where to go next, and waited until he had decided he was done before we sat down together for lunch.


He was so proud of his painting, and so was I. And I’m definitely not in any rush to put any constraints on his creative freedom any time soon – I have a feeling he’ll be able to come up with way more interesting ideas all by himself.

And on the topic of interesting ideas comes moment number three. We were having a chat in the car on Friday, and Arthur started telling me about how astronauts carry their air on their backs so they can breathe (something we’ve talked about before). Then he told me that divers were just like astronauts. I asked him why, trying to work out the connection, and he explained that they have to carry their air on their backs too. He’s been becoming increasingly interested in both space travel and underwater exploration, fuelled by inspiration from all sorts of stories, but it was fascinating to see him drawing links between them and getting to the core of understanding some of the processes behind them.

I’m curious to see where these interests will lead us in the next few weeks – it’s definitely uncharted territory for me, on all sorts of levels.


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