Friday, November 25, 2005

Radio Free KitchenTable

For the past couple of weeks we've been getting together with another unschooling family to plan a radio show. It will be part of a 16-week half-hour series on Kootenay Co-op Radio devoted to "Homeschooling Families: Pursuing our Passions." We're slated to do two shows, one, collaborating with this other family, about GRUBS and one about, well, I initially thought we'd do it about our music. More on that later.

We've had three sessions. The first was just a regular GRUBS meeting where we were putting the garden to bed and planting garlic. I took my minidisc recorder and caught a half hour or so of "ambient sound" of hoes and chatter and giggling and humming. When I reviewed the recording later it was kind of funny to realize that while there was lots of noise of kids playing and giggling, and my kids were generally one half of any group or dyad, they spoke about half as much as their playmates and at about half the volume. I could hardly ever hear them!

The next time we got together it was a planning session where we talked about the kinds of things we'd fill the show with and how it might be organized. That went pretty well. Everyone contributed ideas. Some prodding was required here and there, but it was relatively easy to keep the kids focused and the ideas flowing.

Then today we got together to do some recording. The kids were supposed to have thought about one activity the GRUBS had done that they'd found particularly enjoyable, and to be ready to talk about it. I was pretty sure it would be a stretch for my kids. And it was. Their verbal reticence had them smiling and looking away and mumbling "someone else can say." But all the kids found it hard to speak "as if to someone who didn't already know what they were talking about." I could probably have jumped in and done the 'teachable moment' thing, but I knew that was only going to make my kids more self-conscious about speaking. We just meandered around various topics for a long time, and Erin, Noah and Sophie did speak up a few times when things seemed to be turning into a real conversation rather than some seemingly artificial communication. Some of that stuff will no doubt be useful for splicing in here and there.

The outcome of that mostly-unsuccessful attempt at laying down some useable audio for the show was that the kids unanimously asked to be more formally interviewed by myself and the other mom. They wanted questions to set the scene or topic, to prompt them and lead the conversation where necessary. I'd sort of been hoping to do the whole show with children's voices only, but we definitely need to concede to the kids here. They need the guidance. And that's what we'll do at our next session, after next week when we go for our studio tour and orientation.

The funny thing is that afterwards my three were talking amongst themselves about a hypothetical Euwy Radio Show. Euwy World (a.k.a. Planet Egypt) is their vast imaginary world. I asked "would you like to do an Euwy World radio show?" They gave me a resounding, unanimous, enthusiastic "Yes!!" Erin said "That would be fun, because we could be silly. It wouldn't be serious and stilted like the GRUBS show." The ideas started flowing.

So now I'm beginning to envision a radio show called "Homeschooling Families -- Pursuing our Passions: Imaginary Play." About a third of the show would be a monologue by me, talking about the role of imaginary play in our family, and the remainder would be illustrative chatter about that imaginary play by my kids. I could explain how enchanted I was to read about The Doll Game in Nancy Wallace's "Child's Work: Taking Children's Choices Seriously" back when I was just researching homeschooling. And now I see something similar, if not more passionate, played out in my own family. I could talk about how homeschooling has given the kids the time to have this rich tapestry of imaginary play. I could explain how easily this play is shared among these three children of disparate ages, ages that would be separated all day in a school situation. I could talk about how there Euwy-based learning has ignored subject-area boundaries, how it has grown up with the kids, how it now encompasses technological tools like websites and digital video cameras and computer graphics programs. I could talk about the psychological / developmental purposes this play seems to serve in their lives. And the kids... well, they could just talk delightedly and in their typical rather silly fashion about Euwy World itself. Erin has written little radio-plays filled with ridiculous and often fairly random occurences. They can endlessly recount the geneology and history of the important inhabitants of Euwy world.

We might try this.

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