Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What My Young Man's Been Up To

I guess I have to stop calling Mackenzie my boy or my kid, once they start growing a mustache and they're taller than you, you have to stop right? In any case, Asa informs me that he is a TEEN not a kid, and that she will soon be a TWEEN not a kid, so there you go.

This time of year, I post a lot about Asa, since we are well into the endless rounds of dance recitals, play productions, singing gigs, etc. At last night's Homesource recital, she danced, sang with a rock band, did mime, and karate. She's my goer and doer and it's always easy to see what she's up to because it's usually on a stage!

Mackenzie's got a lot of stuff going on, but it's not usually the kind of thing one presents in front of an audience. Nevertheless, he's been really focusing in some exciting directions and I wanted to share here what he's been up to. This year started out with him taking his first computer programming class, in Visual Basic, through Homesource. The teacher there is beyond excellent and he's come back enthused and excited by the programming principles he's been learning. Then about halfway through the year, he began talking with one of our friends and workout buddies who has his own web design business. Mackenzie started doing a little bit of interning with him, learning both the front end stuff (HTML) and the back end (server) side of things. He was most excited about really doing actual work on live websites and real running servers. Heady stuff for a 13 year old. Then he got to talking with another one of our friends who is an IT guy and hardware specialist. Now for the last few weeks he's been going over to his house to learn about the hardware end of things.

Just this last week, he had a "test": basically he had to build a computer from a pile of components and a casing. He did it, too! And then got all of the operating system, drivers, and software installed to boot. He was enormously (and deservedly) proud of this accomplishment, and has been tinkering with even more machines (mostly old ones from around here that we've never gotten rid of). I can honestly say, he now knows far more about hardware than I do, and is rapidly eclipsing my software knowledge. At thirteen!

One thing that impresses me about all of this is the sheer numbers of people that are willing to share their knowledge, their time, and their skills with a kid. Often when people visualize homeschooling, they see it as something that will limit their children: limit their exposure to different topics, different people, to expertise in different areas. But I think this is just one example of how that really isn't the case. Whenever my kids have wanted to learn a skill, from Celtic violin to propogating plants to building a computer, they have found teachers and mentors willing to work with them, people who often give freely of their own time and energy to share their knowledge. It's not just about me homeschooling them, it's about them going out in the world and seeking out new knowledge and experiences, often far beyond what I would be able to show them.

The other thing that impresses me is really just how mature and capable Mackenzie is as a person. He's able to engage with adults in meaningful conversation about topics that he's interested in. He's able to work with them or for them or learn from them in respectful and attentive ways. He's able to see adults as people who have skills and knowledge to offer him, and to seek out the mentors in his life who will be able to help him to grow. And really, he's done all of this without my assistance, insistence, or prodding.

To me, it's just one more gift that unschooling has given to these kids, one more way that they grow and learn in a completely different manner than I did at their age. I am profoundly grateful for the fact that they have this opportunity, that we have the time and ability to give them this gift, and that so many wonderful people in their lives are involved in their learning.

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