Unschoolers are not immune from bad days. Today started off as a bit of a non-event. I got out the wrong side of the bed (or more specifically, sofa……..hard bed=bad back). It doesn’t help that I’m not getting my full quota of sleep, since being downstairs means the dog wants to play with me at 2am and the light streams in the bay window at 5am and there’s a really big spider on the loose somewhere.
The day began with everyone reading and then I encouraged a get-together about 11am to discuss any plans for the day, but nobody seemed to want to do anything. I went into ‘suggestion overload’ and babbled on about our home ed science show, the upcoming voting, maybe a dog walk in the rain? ‘Remember those days’, I enthused, ‘when we’d dance in the puddles!’ All this over-enthusiasm with a constant background whirr of fidget spinners.
I wanted adventures in the rain, and they wanted to spin bits of plastic around on their fingertips.
I went to the kitchen to make lunch and sulked. They went back to reading their books, checking their emails and googling playstation joy sticks.
We ate lunch around the table together. I still hadn’t got the hint to just be quiet.
‘So the dog walk….I was thinking the woods, it might be fun?’ I said hopefully.
‘Well that sounds great Mum, but it’s going to be muddy.’
‘I know but we can put our wellies on’.
‘Hmmmm, well actually I can’t really because I’ve just put my trainers on and tied the laces up 3 times really, really tight and it would take ages to take them off now’.
I got the hint. Looks like it was going to be a simple dog walk round the block, in the rain, on my own.
After lunch they resumed reading their books and I made the decision to just get on with my own thing, so I made banana cake and washed the dog and cleaned the floor.
At about 4pm the sun came out and they decided to go out and play with their friends around the corner, but by 4:10pm they had returned soaking wet and shrieking. There were huge thunder claps and lightening, the sky was dark and dramatic as the rain pelted down. They were upset they couldn’t play out, so I tentively suggested getting the paints out.
‘We haven’t done painting for ages, yes I really want to paint together Mum!’ We got the paints and paper ready and sat and stared at the empty page. I had no idea what to paint, but T knew immediately he wanted to paint the storm.
We started to paint, but T wasn’t sure how to paint lightning, so we looked through our science encyclopedia’s and found some great photos of lightning. We took turns reading out passages about thunder and lightening. T was very thoughtful, he knew a lot about storms already. He knew it was unsafe to shelter under a tree but didn’t know that it was because lightning will find the fastest route to the ground. He was excited to tell me all about the man he’d read about who’d been struck by lightning 8 times and survived.
His painting was beautiful, the way he uses paint so thoughtfully and in an abstract way but with such precision. He needed an exact shade of purple and remembered a few months back that he had spent half a day with L mixing paints and creating their own colours. The pot of purple had been waiting all these months for this moment. It was the exact shade he needed for his painting. Two magical unschooled moments coliding, when a lost afternoon of paint mixing gave precision to the electrical pulse of lightning being painted months later. How perfect. I couldn’t have planned it better.
And so, they will remember the storm today. T will remember the lightning and the way you can find safety inside a car not under a tree. He will likely remember the electrical impulses which create lightning and the thunderous sounds they make from the sudden expansion of air, a sonic shockwave.
And I will try hard to remember that sometimes the best moments come from keeping quiet and letting life evolve, and that even on grumpy days, good things happen.