The unschooling diaries: week fifteen
Sometimes you plan for learning: gather resources, anticipate interests, provide inspiration. And sometimes, when you’re least expecting it, it just happens. I guess, fundamentally, that’s the beauty of unschooling – especially because going on adventures (small or large) is a particularly good way of throwing up those unexpected learning opportunities.
I like adventures.
We went on one last weekend, to the countryside near London where some friends are about to embark on the ginormous adventure of building a house. I love living by the sea, but there is something quite wonderful about being somewhere properly rural too: seeing bunnies hop across the fields and horses trotting along the lanes.
There were horses living in the field next door to our friends and one of them, Tommy, was particularly friendly himself. Arthur was transfixed.
He’s not really met horses before, not close up. Tommy is a very small horse – a pony really – but to Arthur I imagine he seemed huge. We went to see him first in his stable, just to say hello, and he was incredibly tolerant of all of these people invading his space – especially the curious little ones.
Arthur just loved being next to him, and giggled when he nibbled at his hair. It does, admittedly, look an awful lot like straw.
The next day Tommy came out of his stable, and again Arthur delighted in having him close. He rested his hand against his flank and then, getting braver, rested the other hand on him too and went in for a kiss.
He took the opportunity to get involved in grooming very seriously, gently brushing Tommy’s coat. Arthur has a tendency to get a bit overexcited around animals, but he visibly calmed in the presence of the horse. I was so lovely to watch – a glimpse of a more centred place for my little man.
It didn’t entirely last: the offer of a ride on Tommy’s back seemed to freak him out completely. He swung between wanting to and not wanting to at all, and in the end we just followed down the road on foot as his friend enjoyed a ride herself.
I’m not really surprised he was overwhelmed. The proximity to this animal was already an awful lot for him to digest, and the experience was clearly an important one for him. It’s hard to put a finger on exactly what he learnt – there were practical things, like the way his behaviour shifted and an awareness of the dangers of standing behind a horse – but the deeper learning is less tangible. He was absorbing so much from just being there, making whole his perception of an animal he had only previously seen from a distance or in books.
It was a reminder of the magic animals hold for children, and how important it is to include them in their experience of the world. I don’t think we’ll be getting a pet just yet (the tadpoles are plenty for the moment), but I am looking forward to seeking out opportunities over the months to come for Arthur to feel that magic again.