Thursday, April 03, 2008

The real world

The other day there was a call from a friend about John. John is one of our community elders, universally respected, the author of several books, amateur historian, gardener and steward of the natural world, retired schoolteacher, amateur pianist and lover of classical music. A gentleman in the truest and best sense of the world. He's also dying of cancer. Our mutual friend suggested that John would enjoy hearing some music in his home if any of us would be able to come and play.

So we went, with some musical unschooling friends of ours. We went and spent a lovely hour with John and his partner in their fantastic living room. The kids took turns playing and tried out some duets. Erin sight-read the accompaniment part to Noah's new concerto movement. Erin and I sight-read our way through the second movement of the Bach Double concerto. Erin pulled out Mozart's fabulous 12-variation treatment of "Twinkle," and played that, knowing that Mozart is John's favourite composer of all. And there were a number of other pieces.

The house has such good energy about it. My normally reticent kids felt very very comfortable, even though they hadn't been there in a couple of years. Even before we were done playing, Noah was hatching plans for things he'd like us to play next time. And yes, I feel sure there will be plenty of "next times." We told John's partner that he should call us any time he thinks some music would be helpful -- even several times a week. There is something powerful about the giving of this sort of musical gift. I guess we're a sort of musical palliative care team. Involving the kids in giving to members of our community in this way so valuable -- and the kids are truly aware of the value of what they're doing.

And of course it got me to thinking ... there's no way we could do this sort of thing if we weren't homeschooling. Unschooling has given my kids the time to pursue their musical passions whole-heartedly, and to achieve a high level of ability on their multiple instruments. They have lots to offer a listener. And our educational approach gives us the freedom to offer to be in John's living room for as many hours as are helpful over the next few days or weeks. My older three kids remember when they "helped grandpa die" four years ago ... by just being there with him, playing music, chatting, filling his environment with life and interest and music. If I ever again hear a parent of a schoolchild comment that "kids have to learn to deal with the real world," I will think of yesterday, when local schoolchildren sat in age-segregated classrooms doing their best to perform in accordance with curriculum expectations, whilst mine were in the living room of a community elder helping him die surrounded by life and the music he loves. Which is the realer world?


  1. Having watched my step father die of pancreatic cancer not too long ago this post brought tears to my eyes! What a wonderful thing you are doing... for John, his partner and each of you. It will stick with you for a life time, it will change you in ways you may not realize or understand at first. It is a beautiful gift for all!

  2. What a lovely, heartwarming post. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I just wrote a post about this whole "real world" nonsense recently on my homeschooling blog. Of course mine was a rant and not the lovely story you recounted. What a beautiful gift you gave!

  4. WoW! That is so amazingly great.For your kids, for John, his Partner. Just how it should be...-K

  5. What a beautiful gift. Your family really blessed John and his partner.

    I'm sorry that non-homeschoolers give you such a hard time. It is sad to see the rift and see criticism come where it is obviously undeserved. I think you're doing a terrific job educating your kids, just so you know!

    I admit that I don't think I can homeschool my daughter for the simple reason that I don't have the patience. I'll bet a lot of non-homeschoolers question it just because they know they couldn't do it. As a former public schoolteacher, I probably could do it but I don't think I want to! My daughter and I are too much alike, we'd end up at each other's throats! Still it looks like a really good option and I think a lot of parents make it work really well. Great job and thumbs-up!

    I hope in the future that some of this rift can be healed and that school-children's parents will stop telling homeschoolers the things they tell them (Hubby was homeschooled. I know the things they say). Hopefully in the future schoolchildren and homeschoolers will work side-by-side in community gardens. Hopefully they will play music together and be friends with each other. I know I will try hard to help that happen with my kids, no matter which type of school we end up using.

  6. Reading back over this, I guess I should have said your kids are doing a terrific job learning what they need/want to learn. It's not a very unschoolerish thing to say you are educating them is it? ;)

  7. Oh Miranda, this is beautiful.
    What a wonderful gift your children gave, and received.



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