Sage Homeschooling: Wild and Free

FREE CHAPTER: Sage Homeschooling: Wild and Free

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Chapter 3: Trust

Remember when your child was a baby and you trusted in the validity of their needs and developmental timetable, focused on building trust in your relationship, and understood that trust is the bedrock on which independence blossoms? Great news: nothing has changed.

Trusting each other

Forging a secure attachment is synonymous with trust. A lifelong relationship is like a living, breathing thing between two people that grows and evolves. What this relationship grows to be depends on what you feed it through every interaction, each and every day.

Trusting your child’s natural learning journey

To successfully navigate a natural learning journey, you have to trust that the what and when of learning will unfold exactly as they need to for each individual.

Trusting themselves

If your child has an underpinning of trust in their primary attachment figures and those special people trusted in their unique and valid path to wholeness, they enjoy trust in themselves for the long haul, and what a tremendous gift this is.

This faith is that by nature people are learning animals. Birds fly; fish swim; humans think and learn. Therefore, we do not need to motivate children into learning by wheedling, bribing, or bullying. We do not need to keep picking away at their minds to make sure they are learning. What we need to do—and all we need to do—is to give children as much help and guidance as they need and ask for, listen respectfully when they feel like talking, and then get out of the way. We can trust them to do the rest.

John Holt

Multiple Intelligences

Research shows that the higher your GPA and test scores, the less achieved you are in life outside school and the less oriented toward innovation and creative work.24 I never excelled at standardized test taking. Something about the format just didn’t speak the language of my brain. I have a great memory, so I always did fine, but I never felt like a standardized test tapped into my pool of intelligence. Maybe multiple choice was your jam and essay questions made you sweat. Perhaps you only really felt you were peaking on a sports field or with a violin in your hands. In what format does your child shine?

The mainstream concept of intelligence is myopic. I don’t believe an IQ test reflects my potential, and I know it wouldn’t accurately represent any of my children’s potential. The type of intelligence it measures is a valid intelligence, but it’s only one color of the intelligence rainbow. I invite you to shed that image of intelligence you likely inherited and encourage you to adapt one that values your child’s strengths.

Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.

Albert Einstein

While I’m not referring specifically to Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, an introduction to his specific theory can help to illustrate the concept. “Students possess different kinds of minds and therefore learn, remember, perform, and understand in different ways . . . where individuals differ is in the strength of these intelligences.” The seven intelligences he defined are visual-spatial (architect, sailor), bodily-kinesthetic (dancer, surgeon), musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic, and logical-mathematical.25

Sitting quiet and still in a chair, listening and writing independently for extremely long periods of time indoors, obeying commands and regurgitating information (control, direct instruction, confinement, sedentariness, analytic linear thinking)—this is the school format. What kind of personality and intelligence excels in that environment? Tragically, not the qualities that make for a successful adult in today’s world. And it’s hard not to see a gendered slant. If most boys were fish, school would be a tree. “By the time they reach high school, nearly 20% of boys are diagnosed with ADHD. Millions of those boys will be prescribed a powerful stimulant to “normalize” them. A great many of those boys will suffer serious side effects from those drugs. The shocking truth is that many of those diagnoses are wrong, and that most of those boys are being drugged for no good reason—simply for being boys. It’s time we recognize this as a crisis.”26 So many children who are labeled and drugged are victims of impatience and isolation from real life, not a brain defect.

Now that we’re shifting our mindset outside of the school framework, let’s look at those qualities that qualify for an ADHD diagnosis through strength-based glasses: bold (confident and willing to take risks), persistent (even in the face of adversity), a multitasker (able to focus on multiple things at a time and shift between things quickly), passionate (has great energy diving into interests), a leader (outgoing and magnetic). Flipping these qualities on their heads, it’s much easier to trust in their value, both on an individual and societal level. ADHD is not an inability to focus, it is a wider lens of focus. From an evolutionary perspective, this is the hero archetype! The risk-taking of this temperament in the context of societal temperamental variability (instead of promoting sameness and valuing one temperament like in school, holding a valued place in society for a variety of temperaments) led to greater evolutionary success, particularly in times of instability (if the food source died out, someone had to be bold enough to try something new).17 Have you ever seen one of these children leading a little tribe through a forest? Like the fish in Einstein’s quote, that is their ocean, and we are all better off with these qualities pumping through the veins of our evolution.

The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders.

John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down6

Neurodiversity

Neurodiversity is a strength-based approach to learning and disability that argues diverse neurological conditions are within the normal spectrum of human experience and might even be considered advantageous evolutionary adaptations as opposed to pathologized disabilities. The movement challenges which cognitive styles are “normal” and which are “disorder.” It takes the empowering view that individuals are not defective, and diagnoses and/or treatment are often a reflection of simply fitting outside the box of our cultural convenience. In other words, your child is not broken and your child does not need to be fixed.

When a flower doesn't bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows. Not the flower.

Alexander Den Heijer

Autism spectrum and dyslexia are prime examples of the power of this conceptual shift. (The Spark27 and The Dyslexia Advantage28 are great reading on these labels specifically.) Where people with these conditions were once considered unintelligent, we now have a much better understanding of these conditions’ strengths and nuances. A person with dyslexia can struggle to read and write a sentence and be a world-renowned physician or lead designer for one of the biggest and most profitable companies in the world. Many leaders in the scientific community fall on the Autism spectrum as their minds take diving deep to a whole new depth.

Looking at my own family, I could easily diagnose a laundry list of disorders including dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), sensory processing disorder (SPD) (that would be me), anxiety (GAD), and motor dyspraxia (a learning disorder in which a person struggles to manage their body in time and space with symptoms such as clumsiness, difficulty tying shoes, catching balls, and writing quickly and neatly, and trouble with sequencing, with some sensory overload). The point being that diagnoses can be liberally applied. If a parent finds a label helpful in conceptualizing their child’s strengths, challenges, or learning styles and connecting with resources, the child is welcome to try it on and feel out if it resonates. If not, they are welcome to let it float on by. It may come back to serve them in the future or it may not be a good fit for them at all. When it comes to adopting a label, which is powerful for someone’s identity and narrative, it is always up to the individual (even a young child). It’s also helpful to know that you don’t have to take on a label (and all the baggage that may entail) to address your child’s unique needs. That is just parenting. If your child struggles to tie shoes, you can keep shoes with laces in the environment for playful, self-directed practice, but buy them shoes without laces. This is not avoidance; this is adaptation. In other words, what are your child’s needs (to be at peace and their best self) and how can we meet them? No label required. 

When I was seeing clients in the context of therapy, I would not diagnose any child without their full informed consent (much to the chagrin of some parents and colleagues). For adults, informed consent is met simply by signing an intake form and less simply by creating a power balance in the therapeutic relationship that honors, trusts, and respects the client. For children, it looks much different. When trying to explain this to one parent I was met with, “Tell this lady you have ODD (oppositional defiant disorder),” followed by a meek, “Yes.” Informed consent in a child looks like them fully understanding the label, finding it helpful, and having the authority to decline the fit of the label now and at any time in the future.

Yet it’s important to know that depathologizing doesn’t mean you have to go it alone! When I hear some radical unschoolers talk about embracing their child for exactly who they are, I want to throw down the hands up emoji. But when I see some struggling to find a way to meet everyone in their family’s needs, I’m all sad-disappointed emoji. It reminds me of that hilarious scene when The Grinch sets the intention to “Solve world hunger—tell no one,” because there are people out there who can help! For those of us off the mainstream path, it does require being tremendously discerning. But I empower families through a strength-based lens, and while I know that is rare, I’m not the only one. In other words, you can have the radical acceptance piece and the help piece, with the right helper. This is what Sage Parenting Coaching is all about.23

Kerry McDonald (who has an M.Ed. from Harvard University and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Alliance for Self-Directed Education) pointed out that

Thomas Edison, who was home-schooled by his mother after his teacher called him ‘addled,’ or unable to think clearly, when he was 8-years-old, once said: ‘The trouble with our way of educating is that it does not give elasticity to the mind. It casts the brain into a mold . . . It does not encourage original thought or reasoning, and it lays more stress on memory than observation.’ Edison was largely unschooled, with his mother providing the freedom, opportunity, and access to books and other resources that enabled him to learn on his own and pursue his creative passions.29

I was dyslexic, I had no understanding of schoolwork whatsoever. I certainly would have failed IQ tests. And it was one of the reasons I left school when I was 15 years old. And if I—if I'm not interested in something, I don't grasp it.

Sir Richard Branson

Milestones

If I had a dollar for every time I was asked for a developmental chart (or for every toddler in speech therapy or child in physical therapy), I would be writing this from a castle in Europe. But I won’t do it. I don’t dispense developmental charts because every child has their own unique learning journey. Trust them—that wherever they are is exactly where they are supposed to be.

Equally important when it comes to standardized milestones is the question, “Based on whom?” These milestones are merely averages for our culture. For example, in a chart for 6 months old you might find weaning from breastfeeding, because that is the U.S. average. But that is not an accurate reflection of a natural breastfeeding journey or even a healthy target. My kids breastfed happily and healthfully for years until they didn’t. I trusted them, and that trust always pays off.

You can also trust yourself. If mainstream milestone pressure is creating anxiety, then actively face and dismiss it before it poisons your child. But if your intuition is telling you your child might need some help (or if your child is wanting help) then provide it (therapists (speech and physical included) can be a wonderful source of support). If they are happy and functioning well, then let your child be and grow on their own timeline.

The more slowly trees grow at first, the sounder they are at the core, and I think the same is true of human beings.

Henry David Thoreau

Competition/Comparison

Alfie Kohn (writer and speaker on human behavior, education, and parenting and renowned critic of competition and rewards) said,

When we set children against one another in contests—from spelling bees to awards assemblies to science “fairs” (that are really contests), from dodge ball to honor rolls to prizes for the best painting or the most books read—we teach them to confuse excellence with winning, as if the only way to do something well is to outdo others. We encourage them to measure their own value in terms of how many people they’ve beaten, which is not exactly a path to mental health. We invite them to see their peers not as potential friends or collaborators but as obstacles to their own success . . . Finally, we lead children to regard whatever they’re doing as a means to an end: The point isn’t to paint or read or design a science experiment, but to win. The act of painting, reading, or designing is thereby devalued in the child’s mind.30

This competitive mindset seems to begin at birth. “How much does he weigh?” “Does she sleep through the night yet?” “Wow, he’s talking already!” “Is she still not walking?” An entire industry of products and programs promise to give your child a “head start.” The winners are “ahead,” the losers are “behind.” The more you do and the sooner you do it, the more prized you are. As homeschoolers, this can be a challenge because we are eager to prove the validity of our unconventional choices. If we can point to a golden child whose escape from the system freed them to get ahead, then we are winning. Children are born into a race they didn’t ask to join with “success” as the finish line.

I have some truly amazing news though: you can just stop running and walk right off the track with your family. What are you running toward? Why? Childhood isn’t naturally a race; it’s a season of life. The people around you are not natural enemies; they are friends and collaborators. You don’t have to be “better than” to be worthy and neither do your children. We can all just be ourselves and that’s enough. Redefine what winning and success look like for your family. Redefine it without comparisonitis, which is a serious disease that kills trust in our children and in ourselves. For us, winning is living a life of connection, joy, and freedom. When I watch my kids run down the beach exploring all their found nature treasures with wonder, I know we’re winning. The journey here begins with stepping fully into trust. I trust their natural learning journey. I trust them. I trust myself. We trust each other. Success for us looks like being happy and our best selves but it doesn’t lie waiting at the end of a track—you can live “success” today, tomorrow, and 50 years from now.

“Are your children ahead . . . “on par” . . . Are they (gulp) . . . behind?”

“My children are right where they need to be.”

Reading

Direct phonics instruction is touted by educational researchers and textbook manufacturers as being necessary for literacy. Poppycock. Reading is contagious in a literate society. If you can read and you have books in your house, your child can learn to read.34 There is a massive and often debilitating emphasis placed on early literacy in school. The age at which you begin reading really defines perceived intelligence for the long haul in the classroom setting. From the perspective of classroom instruction, the desperation for early reading exists because all other instruction and independent worksheet work is facilitated through written instructions. So, the earlier you read, the better success you have in school (teacher perceives you as smarter and you can complete assignments with written instructions independently and competently), right? “First you learn to read, then you read to learn.” Except it turns out that even in school, reading sooner doesn’t give you any net gains, and research shows that children forced to read sooner through instruction have any advantages reversed by the age of 13, with later readers enjoying a lifelong elevated level of literacy and enjoyment of reading.31

If you remove the classroom component altogether, does early literacy improve outcomes? The answer is no. In other words, you are not more likely to cure cancer if you read at 4 than if you read at 11. Outside of school there is no critical window in which learning to read determines future success. They don’t get left behind because they learn through other modalities, and as soon as they start reading, they tend to catch right up, going from “behind” to “advanced” in just a couple months.

When you push a child to do something she simply developmentally cannot do, you create a profound belief that (a) I hate this; (b) I can’t do this; (c) I will never be able to do this, and (d) There’s something wrong with me.

Carol Black, A Thousand Rivers5

The critical piece is not the when; it’s the quality of experience. The only thing gained from cramming the mechanics of reading down a child’s throat before their brains are ready is crushed self-esteem and a hatred for reading—they shut down. The impact of forced reading has been described by one organizational learning theorist and technologist32 as mind shame, which leads to avoidance of learning and an anti-intellectual society. So, what is your goal? Are you stuck in the race or do you want to foster a lifelong love of learning in a respectful and patient collaboration? It is nearly impossible to be raised in a literate society surrounded by literate people and not learn to read. Invite, include, share—these are the verbs by which you can set your intention with literacy. We ran to the bedroom each evening to read the next chapter in Harry Potter and hugged and cried together at the end. If you hope your child will be proficient and have a love for reading, then be proficient and love reading while in connection with them. It’s contagious. 

Childhood is not a race to see how quickly a child can read, write and count. It is a small window of time to learn and develop at the pace that is right for each individual child. Earlier is not better.

Magda Gerber

So, when do children naturally learn to read? The range is broad with an average between 4 and 11, with most families describing the leap into readership as quite sudden. With my children, it did seem like it happened overnight. They had been collecting those puzzle pieces of literacy over a long period of time, of course, and then one day—bam—the last piece clicked into place and they were readers. It all comes back to trust.

Prior to compulsory education the state literacy rate was ninety-eight percent and then after it the figure never exceeded ninety-one percent, where it [stood] in 1990.

John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down6

Children are self-driven to learn something when they have context for it. In other words, children don’t learn to read for its own sake. They learn to read as a means to another end. This is how natural learning works in children just as it does for us big people. My husband and I never learned how to hang drywall until we were standing in our new house staring at some studs and wires where a wall should be. I didn’t want to learn how to hang drywall. I wanted my house to have walls. Children make their way into literacy through wanting to hear the end of the story before Mom is ready to read it or needing to text someone an important message or needing to decipher the instructions to progress through a video game. This context is often social.33

I have one son whose journey into reading looked like this: He chose books for me to read to him every night. We read chapters in a larger book as a family. He saw me reading for both learning and pleasure and writing personally and professionally. He wanted to order his own food with the rest of us at restaurants, so menus were his first independent reading platform. He had a “read” clothespin on his bucket, but he could do any form of reading he desired—just exercise that muscle (more on this later with the Bucket System54). I had placed the Magic Treehouse book series in his room, which sat untouched for months until one day he just discovered and began devouring them. I learned right away that the more pressure I applied around reading, the more overwhelmed, less confident, and more resistant he became to it. We just focused on enjoying it together, planting lots of reading opportunities in his environment, and supported him however he desired when those gaps in knowledge did pop up for him, which always led to more growth. Today he is fully literate and a few times a day asks me how to spell a sophisticated word while writing anything from a story to a text message.

I am far more interested in whether your child is a reader at 35 than at 5. That's when we will know how you did at homeschooling.

Steve Lambert

Math

The primary export of math education is math anxiety/phobia. Most students get to college so damaged that one university math professor described it as being a -5 on the number line of mathematical understanding, whereas they would be at 0, and farther ahead, if they were actively taught nothing (ahem, raises hand). What math students are doing in school is just memorization—plug ’n chug—not understanding. They can perform computations yet they can’t interpret or apply the numbers and concepts.35

So how do you foster mathematical understanding? By living life—math is everywhere! It’s in counting, symmetry, measurement, probabilities. Your children will play around with numerical thinking as they gather toys, do art, cook, make life choices. As always, living a family integrated life invites your children into shared experiences that extend their reach even farther. Today alone my children used measurement (area, length, angles) while helping their daddy cut sheetrock, they used volume and fractions while cooking lunch, and they used positive and negative numbers, percentages, and tables while doing some of my business accounting with me. If they grow up understanding math, then they can easily learn to label it later whenever they have a need or desire to.36

West: “Mommy, 6 divided in half is 3. I know that math because there were 6 people in our car and 3 left and there are 1, 2, 3 people still in the car.”

A group of a dozen kids aged 9 to 12 in the Free Democratic school, Sudbury Valley, an unschooling program in which the children receive no compulsory education, asked to be taught math. “After 20 contact hours, they had covered it all. Six years’ worth. Every one of them knew the material cold.” Did you process that fully? All six years of elementary school math was easily learned in 20 hours.37 This speaks powerfully to trust and the concern that your child won’t have all they’ll need for an unknown future. If and when they have a need, they can always learn it.

As my grown unschooled friend Sara Cohen describes it

I’m still very early in this parenting adventure with my own kids but perhaps I can offer a bit of reassurance as an adult who was unschooled until college. I was that little girl who only read and read and read. I see now the trust it must have taken for my parents to just go with it, but they did, and I devoured books for years. Often it would be fiction book after fiction book. I ended up with a graduate degree in medicine from Yale, requiring much math and scientific exploration and testing and jumping through hoops. It all just works out.

Oftentimes parents or companies trying to sell you a curriculum will attempt to present the materials as “fun.” But when something is presented in a “fun” way from an adult’s perspective, that often means an adult is trying to trick a child into learning something irrelevant to them. In other words, if you have to throw glitter on it for them to look at it, they’re not ready to see it. Really seeing something, understanding it, is deep and natural and lasting. Complying and parroting feels so much better to us because we are in control and we receive the surface-level, immediate result we seek to validate our choices and efforts. It reflects the schooling/testing model of success more than a child who can actually use the skills connected to the bit of information in real life successfully (and our own educational baggage is hard to get out from under).

I definitely fell under the category of math anxiety. Math was agony for me in compulsory school. I took the absolute least amount of math I could get away with and completed it through rote memorization and replication, not understanding. I remember being told in high school that if I didn’t take all the available math classes, like statistics, I would be doomed with abysmal and limited options for the rest of my life. Then in graduate school I was passionate about what I was learning (because I chose to be there learning it) and that included research statistics. I had never received so much as a minute of statistics education and passed my graduate level statistics class with flying colors because I had a need, a desire, and a context for it. The research statistics were a piece to the puzzle of understanding children, attachment, and families. My brain was ready for it and I was successful at it.

Gaps

One common concern with unschooling is that a child will have gaps in their education. If I’m being honest, this was my concern as well. Then I peeled back layers, got my learn on (because I learn more now than I ever did in compulsory school) (combing through research, reading books and articles, connecting with other wise, experienced, and knowledgeable people, and observing my own children), and now understand this issue in a whole new way.

Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.

William Butler Yeats

School has gaps.

What is decided that children should learn and when is a combination of random and male Eurocentric privilege. Who decided that in first grade children must learn about Christopher Columbus the hero (but not about the children he dismembered in parade or forced into sexual slavery). He discovered America (except he didn’t)! What to include, what to omit, and when to teach it is not based on some divine or scientifically researched formula. Think about all of the people that have lived throughout history and all of the scientific concepts in the universe. They pluck a handful and call it a day. There are gaps—loads of them. I was never taught how to pay taxes but the quadratic equation was covered thoroughly.38

No matter what tests show, very little of what is taught in school is learned, very little of what is learned is remembered, and very little of what is remembered is used. The things we learn, remember, and use are the things we seek out or meet in the daily, serious, non-school parts of our lives.

John Holt, How Children Fail39

Teaching is not the same as learning.

Schools as we know them have existed for a very short time historically: they are in themselves a vast social experiment. A lot of data are in at this point. One in four Americans does not know the Earth revolves around the sun. Half of Americans don’t know that antibiotics can’t cure a virus. 45% of American high school graduates don’t know that the First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees freedom of the press. These aren’t things that are difficult to know. If the hypothesis is that universal compulsory schooling is the best way to create an informed and critically literate citizenry, then anyone looking at the data with a clear eye would have to concede that the results are, at best, mixed. At worst, they are catastrophic: a few strains of super bacteria may be about to prove that point for us.

Carol Black, A Thousand Rivers5

How do you define learning? Teaching is something done to someone but learning is quite different, and they are not necessarily connected. Teaching is not required for learning and learning is not a guaranteed outcome of teaching. I define learning as experience that expands your understanding.

I was taught things I never actually learned. And if you define successful learning as anything beyond short-term regurgitation, most of what is taught in school is not learned. A lecture or worksheet given does not equate to a lesson learned. Did you attend school? How much did you retain? What do you remember? It’s a sure bet that today you don’t have mental access to 100% of the things you were taught. But I’d also bet that the minute you walked out of the classroom after the exam most of it was released. It’s not a shortcoming of yours or even a result of a bad teacher. That’s just not how humans are designed to learn. And the result is gaps.

In Washington, there is a state educational requirement that we meet by completing an academic checklist that is reviewed by a teacher. The sole purpose of this checklist seems to be to prevent or fill in gaps. My husband and I both have graduate degrees, lead successful lives, and didn’t know probably half of the items on my middle schooler’s checklist. It’s like that game show Are you smarter than a 5th Grader? The joke is not that adults are dumb, but that the information children are forced to memorize lacks all context and meaning and is in turn usually quickly forgotten. In other words, we’re all walking around with gaps.

Seven percent of all American adults believe that chocolate milk comes from brown cows . . . Americans are basically agriculturally illiterate. They don’t know where food is grown, how it gets to stores—or even, in the case of chocolate milk, what’s in it . . . [Researchers interviewing children at one school] found that more than half of them didn’t know pickles were cucumbers, or that onions and lettuce were plants. Four in 10 didn’t know that hamburgers came from cows. And 3 in 10 didn’t know that cheese is made from milk.40

We all have gaps based on our strengths and interests.

Each of us individually doesn’t know everything there is to know in the universe. That’s just not how social creatures in a society work. My sister is a biochemist. Does that mean that I have a “gap,” in the sense that I don’t know everything there is to know about biochemistry? Sure. My sister knows more science than I do. But the reality is that we dive deep based on our passions or needs. If I don’t gravitate to biochemistry, I’m not likely going to be a biochemist, and that is okay! I don’t need to be prepared for every life, because I’m only going to be living my life, and I can learn everything I need to be successful in my life (because I have learned how to learn, not because I was taught what to learn).

Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.

Margaret Mead

Instead of shining a light on what your child doesn’t know, shine a light on what they love learning. Through this approach, your child’s understanding will continue to expand. On a walk through our street my kids ran to the little library box and West pulled out a book about bats. He asked me to read it to him, but since there wasn’t a story, only pages and pages of facts and diagrams, I asked him to point to something he wanted me to read and I would. Over the course of a few weeks his newly sprung passion for bats encompassed so much learning. Do you know what the skin stretched over a bats finger bones that makes up its wings is called (gap!)? West does: patagium.

We fill in gaps as we have a need or desire.

This is important and the reason we are covering gaps in a chapter about trust. As long as you teach your child how to learn, they will be happily and bravely willing and able to learn anything they have a need or desire to learn. In other words, anything your child has a need or desire to learn, they can and they will. Curiosity and/or necessity are usually the fuel here.

We recently moved to a new state with no family and no connections and bought our first house on a tight budget. Turned out we had to basically rebuild the whole house . . . while living in it . . . with three homeschooled kids . . . on our own . . . with our bare hands . . . with zero knowledge or experience in this area. Thanks to my Ph.D. from HGTV, my husband’s attendance at YouTube University, and generous strangers with knowledge and experience beyond us in the aisles of Home Depot, we built ourselves a solid, beautiful home. We had a need and a desire, we knew how to learn, and we rose to the freaking occasion, filling in our gaps together as a family.

It’s worth discussing Carol Dweck’s (Stanford University professor and leading researcher on motivation) growth mindset here. She discovered, through some fascinating research, that if you believe your intelligence is fixed, your focus is on avoidance and appearance (doing just enough work to avoid looking unintelligent), but if you believe your intelligence is malleable, your focus is effort. Those of you who have read Sage Parenting50 are familiar with this research in the context of praise, which sets a fixed mindset. So, when you have a need or desire, you know how to learn, and you believe you can, you do.41

The breadth of knowledge is surprisingly robust.

While sitting with Bay in his room the other day he randomly asked, “Where is Atlantis?” Do you know the origin of the legend of Atlantis (gap!)? Bay does: Thera, a Greek island that appeared to be swallowed by the sea when its volcano erupted and was storied by Plato.

While getting into the bath with West the other evening he randomly asked, “What metal doesn’t melt in lava?” Cue deep dive into the periodic table of elements.

When your young child asks you 1000 questions a day, do you support and encourage that curiosity or do you shut it down? If you feed curiosity, it grows and leads to endless learning. Actually, research shows that preschool-aged children (cringe, defining children by school categories) ask 75 questions an hour. When those questions are answered fully, the follow-up questions are deeper, elaborating on the concept (whereas “because I said so” is met with the same question on repeat).17

Altogether

While on a nature hike with a group of friends this afternoon, one mom mentioned a meteor shower happening this weekend. Her young son queried, “What’s a meteor?” Without missing a beat Bay turned around and explained, “A meteor is a space rock that’s pulled toward us by the sun’s gravity and burns in our atmosphere. They’re sometimes referred to as ‘shooting stars,’ even though they are not suns.” When did he learn that? I don’t know. I never taught him a lesson from a comprehensive curriculum on astronomy. Was it from that trip to the science museum . . . that night we watched a meteor shower from the trampoline in the backyard . . . that space app . . . a book . . . a show? None of the above . . . all of the above? Who knows. But he did. We trust each other, I trust his natural learning journey, and he trusts himself.

Don't stop now - keep reading!

Sage Homeschooling: Wild and Free offers a natural learning path, for gentle parents who dream of living fully in joy and connection with their children while giving them all they need to be successful, with eight secrets to living a fulfilling unschooling life. 

In this inspirational and secular guide, you will learn how to:

  1. deschool, shaking off all the educational programming that weighs you down
  2. maintain your relationship focus on connection beyond the early years
  3. trust in your children and their natural learning journey
  4. embrace the freedom that fosters meaningful productivity and independence
  5. utilize collaboration in respectful partnership to achieve self-directed growth
  6. fully realize the environment as a valuable tool for playful learning
  7. live a fun lifestyle of learning through rich, adventurous experiences
  8. set your compass for growth and success in all the ways that matter most

If you are ready to take the leap into a lifestyle of passionate learning with clarity and confidence, then read this book!

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