The unschooling diaries: week thirty-nine
Arthur is seriously into lego at the moment, and it is so awesome to watch him play.
He had been going through a bit of an in between phase with it all – his duplo was starting to feel a bit big and clumsy, but he didn’t quite have the fine motor skills to get to grips with the smaller lego bricks. He’d been bought a couple of kits as gifts, and loved the idea of the superhero worlds and vehicles he saw on the boxes. He couldn’t make them himself, but he watched enthusiastically whilst we did, and loved playing with the finished product.
I couldn’t help wonder what the point was though: lego was for creating, surely? Not just playing with things someone else had built…
And then suddenly things began to change.
It was sparked off as these things often are by a bit of a reorganisation of his toys. The drawers in his bedroom were full of things he’d grown bored of, so we decided to move the duplo up there. We grouped the bricks by colour, and suddenly they were much more inviting to play with.
The idea was that this might be a way to keep Arthur entertained in the mornings: he has a gro clock, which is set to the rather ambitious time of 7.30am to give me a chance to ease myself into the day. He’s generally pretty good at waiting till then to come and find me, but he’s often up a long time before, pottering and playing in his room. And his environment there really needed some enriching: we didn’t want to risk unsupervised play with the tiny grown-up lego pieces, particularly as Arthur often separates stubbornly tight ones with his teeth, but we thought this might just be a way to give the duplo a new lease of life.
And it’s really worked!
As soon as he’s awake in the mornings Arthur turns on the light and goes to explore the drawers, sitting happily on his rug for an hour or more creating worlds to entertain himself. When the sun comes up on the gro clock he’s quick to come and find me, but when I peer into his room later in the morning the evidence of his play is clear to see.
Last Sunday Leigh and I both went in to see what he’d been up to after breakfast, and Arthur delighted in talking us through his creations, from double-ended fire engines to a ‘sort of Snapping Banshank’, a curious creature that frequently reappears in his stories and drawings.
The early-morning exploration has given him confidence to experiment more with the smaller lego, too. That is stored in a very handy playmat that doubles up as a bag, so can move easily around the house depending on where he wants to play.
He’ll sit in the lounge whilst I’m preparing meals, or in my study whilst I write, and create robots and machines and lasers with the tiny pieces held carefully between determined fingertips.
He is loving the freedom to create exactly what he wants with his bricks, big and small. He often comes back to weapons – guns and blasters, mainly. Leigh and I were nervous when this world of violence first entered his play. We’d done nothing to encourage it, and had actively avoided stories and films with that kind of imagery. Well, until Star Wars at least…
By that time to be fair he had already begun to fashion guns from sticks or even just his fingers, and in the spirit of respect and freedom we are trying to nurture through unschooling we held back our judgement and held our tongues. My research reassured me that not only was this desire to explore the world of violence through play entirely natural, it is arguably essential for his developing brain.
And anyway, it might be that I was loading the guns he created with too much socially constructed significance anyway.
We’ve talked about why they make me feel uncomfortable, about the hurt and damage that they can cause, but that seems a bit irrelevant in the face of Arthur’s pride and delight at the creation of his colourful machines.
Especially because they might not be what they seem at all.
He built a gun the other day, a complicated construction which to me looked a bit like a dragon.
When I asked him about it he said:
“This is my idea gun. I actually made it out of ideas. It’s a gun that shoots ideas out, so you can make something.”
And I’m not going to argue with that.