Children's firsts are so magical. When they are really little babies we try to record all of them in baby books, journals, blogs, or even on Facebook to share the excitement and also so we'll remember the moment for many years to come.
One of my favorite firsts was the night that Gerry started walking independently. He was so excited that he was waving his arms and laughing the entire time. He was just absolutely thrilled to be walking!
I also remember Marisol balancing (standing without holding anything) on our back patio in our first house up in NY before she started taking steps. I remember first smiles - gazing for long minutes into each others' eyes - first laughs, babbles, rolls, and many others. There really is nothing like a first time.
What I've realized that I love about unschooling is that the magic doesn't have to stop and I get to keep witnessing it! I very clearly remember the first time Marisol asked for a pencil. She followed that request up with one for paper. I had no idea what she was doing (Marisol didn't even like to color or draw when she was very little because she was too much of a perfectionist.) While I watched, she gripped the pencil, her face intent with concentration and hand poised above the paper. I realized with astonishment that she was going to write something. And sure enough after a short pause to gather her thoughts she placed the pencil to the paper and wrote her first letter (I think it was an "H", maybe??). I had never tried to get her to write before that day. (I can't remember now if this was when she was 3 or 4 years old. But her age doesn't even matter - it was magical regardless.)
Last summer Marisol had a fever and a friend brought a little
get-well gift for her - an early reader book based on the movie Brave. I read it
through to her once as we lay in bed together, and then she said, "Let me
try." Then she proceeded to read most of the book to me. Magical.
But learning is so much more than just reading and writing. Learning is everywhere and in everything. It is the first time Marisol swam all the way across the pool last summer without any "floaties" so that she could take her first jump off the diving board that same day. It is all physical activities - like doing the monkey bars on your own for the first time (last summer) or riding a bike without training wheels (a skill still in our future). Learning is trying a new food for the first time. Some of the most important and deep learning is about relationships and spirituality, like working through the first time you hurt a friend's feelings (yes, I remember Marisol's experience of this). It is grappling with the idea of death and heaven and what happens to your spirit (a recent theme for my 6 year old girl).
I have totally embraced Unschooling and truly believe that all children are "wired" to learn. It's easy to see when they are babies, but many of us lose our trust in the process as they get older. Also most people are separated from their children for large stretches of time so they don't get to witness many of the "light bulb" moments. So, even though my mind believes in my childrens' abilities, my heart sometimes need some validation. And every time one of my children does something for the first time, completely of their own volition, my heart leaps and then pumps joy to every cell in my body. Each time this happens the truth: that children will learn all they need to, in their own time - becomes etched a little deeper in my bones. And this is where the magic lies - not so much in the "firstness" of each new skill or idea, but in the fact that they completely own these moments. Yes, I encourage, show, demonstrate, support, offer help, give tips or feedback (if they are desired), but I can honestly say I have not "taught" my children one thing. And this fact amazes me every time.
This magic takes all the competition out of learning. Just like it doesn't really matter whether our babies walked at 9 months or 18 months (once they walk... well, they walk!), it matters little at what age my daughter finally rides her bike or becomes a fluent reader. I know that she will do these things when she's ready, and she will do them joyfully. Also, things that she did early (like waking with math problems on her lips) don't make her better or brighter than other children her age who are more interested in other things than numbers. Embracing your children for exactly who they are at this moment is truly magic all by itself. It will transform your life and your relationships.
I know that not everyone is able to homeschool or desires to unschool. I share because I want people to know what magic is possible. Because other people shared their lives, my mind was opened to a whole new world. This is my desire - to offer parents that same opportunity. Words really can't do justice to what I'm trying to describe here (maybe words can never capture magic), but they will have to do. I hope that mine inspire someone, someday, somewhere, to allow this magic into their lives.
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.