There’s More Than One Way To Draw A Person

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A recent piece of artwork from Pterodactyl (4)

On my first day of art class in elementary school, I died a little inside.  It doesn’t seem like a big deal in retrospect, but at the time it was soul-crushing.

I was sitting at the long wooden table with my classmates, filled with excitement.  I already enjoyed drawing, coloring, and creating, so I figured this would be my favorite class.  Our first assignment was to fold a sheet of paper in half and draw a person on it.  No other directives or instructions, just draw a person.  Great.  I got this.  I took my time, paying attention to every detail.  Face.  Clothing.  Appendages.  Hair.  Yes!  What a work of art.  I sat in awe of my creation.

For the next half of the assignment, we were told to flip our papers over, and the teacher would now show us the correct way to draw a person.  Circles.  Rectangles.  Ovals.  Measuring.  Erasing.  Re-drawing.  Erasing.  Erasing.  (for some reason I could never get those blasted erasers to work, they just left gray smudges all over my paper).  We then opened up the paper, so we could see both drawings at the same time, and the teacher explained to us why and how our first drawing was rubbish, and the second drawing was phenomenal.

What would possess a person to make a career out of crushing children’s creativity?  And how boring would this planet be if we took these people seriously?  All four of my children love drawing, and each have their own unique style (and yes their own way of drawing a person!).  They also enjoy exploring new techniques, and learning different methods.  But I couldn’t imagine telling them that there is a right and wrong way of creatively expressing themselves.

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What Unschooling Means For Our Family (Part 1)

I spend a lot of my “Social Media Time” in unschooling groups, and on unschooling pages, sharing unschooling memes, and reading unschooling articles.  Because of this, I forget that there are people out there who might not think unschooling is the best idea, and some who don’t even know what it is.  For a long time I have been putting off writing an article about what unschooling means to us and why we uncshool.  But I think it is time.  It is kind of overwhelming, so I am going to tackle it in smaller chunks, starting with a basic idea of what unschooling is, and how unschoolers learn without a curriculum.

What is Unschooling:

I used to tell people who asked that unschooling was “Homeschooling without the curriculum,” but calling Unschooling a lack of curriculum is like calling the ocean a lack of air.  Unschooling is journey, it is an intimate relationship with your children where all parties are treated with equal respect.  Unschooling fosters creativity, encourages curiosity, follows passions, and chases dreams.

So, what is unschooling?  It is learning from real life, in the real world.  There is no distinction made between life and learning.  Life is learning, and learning is life.

“When pressed, I define unschooling as allowing children as much freedom to learn in the world, as their parents can comfortably bear.”  ~John Holt

The World is Your Textbook

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Humans are always learning.  It’s what we do.  If you’re not learning, you’re dead.  So I chuckle a little inside when people ask how our children learn.  To give you an idea, here are a few of the “pages” from our “Unschooling Textbook”

  • Microscopes
  • Nature Centers
  • Bird Feeders
  • Cooking
  • Neighbors
  • Legos
  • Youtube (MinuteEarth and CrashCourse are two of my favorite channels)
  • Minecraft
  • Parks
  • Rocks
  • Ponds
  • Libraries
  • Books, Books, and more Books! (Fiction, Non-Fiction, Pictures, No Pictures)
  • Wandering
  • The woods
  • Caterpillars, ants, worms, slugs, snails
  • Grandparents
  • People at the grocery store
  • Archery
  • The University of Utah
  • Dancing
  • Museums
  • Google
  • Trees
  • Magnifying Glasses
  • Binoculars
  • Telescopes
  • Cleaning
  • Paper
  • Gardens
  • Taking things apart
  • Forts
  • Wikipedia
  • Reading Eggs

There is no shortage of knowledge out there, and it doesn’t have to be funneled through a teacher, a professor, a priest, or anyone else.  It is available to anyone who looks for it.  Any activity is an opportunity for discussion.  Something as simple as bird watching can lead to learning about animal behavior, biology, anatomy, the diversity of life, the history of aviation, light and color, the properties of air, or phases of matter.

But the most important part of unschool learning is the motivation.  Instead of being motivated by fear, coercion, or imaginary rewards (such as grades) they are driven by their passions, desires, dreams and goals.

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Inside an Elementary School

Occasionally for work, I make visits to local elementary schools.  I have the opportunity to see the way many (if not most) children are spending the bulk of their waking hours.  Having four young children myself, I know what they are capable of.  Children are creativity machines, always singing, dancing, building, digging, experimenting and exploring.  They have a tremendous drive to take in as much of the world around them as possible.  They are bursting with excitement at the newness of everything.  Imagine having 200-300 of these little imaginative beasts crammed into one area!  What would that look like?  What would they learn, create, and discover?

Well, I have seen what it looks like, and it is quite disturbing.  Today was my first visit of the school year to a few local elementary schools.   Each of the schools I visited was the pretty much the same.  None of the children spoke (At least not loud enough for me to hear).  They moved silently in single file lines, and the only sound was the commands and reprimands of the adults.

You couldn’t have asked for more docile and obedient children, but the school staff still found reasons to chastise.  One student put out his arm, and ran his hand along the wall as he walked (still in line) toward the cafeteria.  “Aiden, the wall does not need dusting!”

As I made my way through the school, I heard a teacher inform the students that they ought to walk “Single file through the hall please, quiet as a butterfly,” on hearing this, one of the more spirited children gently flapped her arms (like a butterfly), “SASHA!  We are not birds!”  Whoa.

It was pathetic.  The teachers were really grasping at straws.  On my way out I heard “Why would you put water in your hair!? Why? Just, WHY!?”  I turned to see a boy, not drenched as I was expecting, but patting his slightly damp head with his hand.

These are young kids we are talking about, anywhere from 4 to 10 years old.  I can’t believe that I am the only one who doesn’t think this is a natural or healthy way for them to behave.  And it is not enough for them to be silent for six hours, and walk in single file lines, but they need to keep their arms at their side, not touch anything, and whatever you do, don’t let any of them put water in their hair.

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