Friday, February 06, 2009

Connecting the Dots

When you unschool your kids, there's no timeline on the wall (unless of course they want one), no chronologically organized curriculum to walk them sequentially through the events of our world. It's really up to us as unschooling parents to help them connect the dots of all of the various experiences that they're exposed to and things that they learn or know. As Kathy commented on a previous post (which I completely agree with), unschooling is not unparenting, and in many ways it is harder than homeschooling. There's no roadmap, and it takes a person who is themselves interested and engaged in the world around them and inquisitive about everything to be an unschooling parent.

Some dot-connecting happened this last week around here. Seemingly disparate things come together, sometimes organized and sometimes by happenstance. One thing that we're doing as a family is watching all of the episodes of M*A*S*H consecutively. We're currently at the beginning of the 4th season. Of course, no TV show in history probably commented more on current events - either directly or obliquely through an analagous relationship between the Korean war of M*A*S*H timeframe and the Vietnam conflict, ongoing at the outset of the series. So a lot of questions come up, mostly about the Cold War, communism, how the U.S. became engaged in those conflicts and how that relates to our current world situation.

Last Friday, we happened to travel up to McMinnville to the new Space museum opened up at the Evergreen Aviation Museum. I have to say, I'm very impressed with both museums, probably the most outstanding that I've seen in this country outside of the Smithsonian's collection. Of course, the history of the space race is simply steeped in Cold War politics, and the space museum itself even houses a large piece of the Berlin Wall. So those topics of conversation that we've been discussing regarding M*A*S*H were re-examined in the light of the Space program. Also Kennedy's "We choose to go to the moon" speech was broadcast on continuous loop there, which led to discussions about Kennedy, his presidency, and his assissination. Coincidentally, we had also recently watched an episode of Red Dwarf (Tikka to Ride)that had the intrepid space bunglers landing in Dallas, Texas on that fateful day and inadvertantly causing Lee Harvey Oswald to fall out of the window of the Texas book depository. We had also just read several library books about Martin Luther King Jr.'s life and death, right around the time of his holiday and Obama's historical inauguration, and that all tied in as well.

If the kids watched, read, and experienced these things in an intellectual vacuum with no one helping them tie them together, the effect in their own head might be less than cohesive. But with all of our disparate interests, from the kids' loving to watch The Simpsons (which alluded to the grassy knoll and the Zapruder film in the episode Marge in Chains) to our field trip to our M*A*S*H episodes to our library books, they have a pretty comprehensive look at historical events. Of course, this is just one isolated area of history but discussions and connections like these come up constantly in the course of our unschooling lives, and that's how the dots all get connected, not via a curriculum but one at a time while living our lives. And as Kennedy himself says so eloquently, we may choose to do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept.

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