How unschooling happens, the Christmas edition

From December 2, 2011. Cinder couldn’t fall asleep last night, so he crawled into bed beside me as I was doing what every 21st century mother does after bedtime: catching up with what everyone else was doing all day via Facebook. He tucked himself into my armpit, and watched the screen and my fingers. And then fixed on a window open in the background. “What’s KB mean?” he asked. The answer is kilobytes—leads us to Megabytes and Gigabytes. And the etymology of all. And “bite” versus “byte.” And, because to illustrate that, I opened up an OpenOffice window and blew up the text to 60, a lesson in typography and silliness. And then some sneak reading practice for the Cinder. “Why can’t Cinder sleep?” I type. “Hey!” he yells, seeing his name. Then reads the sentence. “Why do I love my Cinder so much?” I type. He reads and snuggles closely. Things degenerate somewhat as we go on. The last sentence I write is “His poop stinks.” He’s giggling as he falls asleep.

Morning. Rough night with a coughing Ender. Sean gets up with the kids, and I sleep late, wake up slowly, lazy, light-headed—reminding myself why, generally speaking, after the crappy nights, it’s better to take the beast by the horns and just drink a lot of coffee in the morning. Sleeping in doesn’t seem to equal well-rested, and it makes the morning totally disorganized. But. On days like this, with Mom moving slowly, the kids take over and chart their own course.


It starts with the Christmas Countdown Calendar. In our house, this is often 55 days along—this year, I think I got away with 40. 40 origami papers stuck to the hallway wall. On each—the day’s date, and more importantly, the number of days left until Christmas. Creating the calendar was handwriting practice—nobody thought of it as such. Putting it up was a lesson in patterns. Each day offers triple math challenges (we’ve got more than one Christmas even Cinder and Flora are counting down to). Underneath each square is a message or a clue—reading practice for the Cinder.

Today’s message is a clue. “Clue… len… lent… lentils!” Cinder reads it. Flora runs to the cupboard. Wrong lentils. “Is it our science lentils?” They run to the box we keep the TOPS Get A Grip Math/Science project kit in. It’s a huge score: a Lego Christmas tree to assemble for Cinder, a new pet for Flora, and a Duplo animal for Ender.

And the lentils are out, so while Cinder puts together the Christmas tree, Ender and Flora dive into the lentils. Ender does what a two-year-old should do with a box of lentils: puts them into the various containers and then pours them all over the floor. Flora works through Puzzle Book C, occasionally needing to negotiate a change of measuring container with Ender. Cinder offers occasional commentary about the progress of the Christmas tree.

The Lego tree done, Cinder finds a place for it—then goes off to build more Lego. Flora helps me put the lentils away, and goes off to play Spore. Ender follows to torment them. I sweep the lentils off the floor—mental note to buy more non-organic, really cheap lentils for the kit, as reusing the floor ones would introduce waay to much other bioorganic matter (aka floor crap) into the mix—and make another pot of coffee.


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