My partner’s family has a lake cottage in Whiteshell Provincial Park. We head out there every year, and have been doing so since our eldest was 1, and one of the things that we do every year is all manner of boating — paddle-boating, pontoon boating, kayaking, canoeing… everything.
Sean really likes kayaking, and a kayak ride has been part of the day most days, most years. The first year or two, Sean would paddle, and I’d sit in the front and nurse Cinder and pretend to paddle. The third year, Sean would paddle, Cinder would pretend to paddle, and I’d sit in the front and nurse Flora (the grandparents have a big two-person plus baggage kayak). The fourth year… you get the idea. At some point, Cinder’s pretend paddling became increasingly helpful paddling, and all of this year, he and his dad would go out and paddle, sometimes with Flora as pretend paddler or passenger.
Until one day, Cinder looked at the one man kayak and asked if he could go out alone.
He didn’t go very far, around the dock and back, and then between our dock and the neighbours. Then he gave his little sister a ride. He was extremely pleased with himself.
He held the paddle up too high, he splashed too much, his turns were wide and awkward, and he was altogether inelegant. His technique was all wrong.
In other words, his spelling sucked.
But the second time he went out, he was a little better. Next year, he will be an awful lot better. The year after that, even more so.
All on his own schedule.
Moments like this, insights like this are what makes me really chill about academics. Spelling, reading, writing. Math. All of it as natural or unnatural as learning to kayak. Yeah, you can push it earlier and maybe get some results.
This way’s better.
Based on draft first published August 1, 2010. Kayaking as Spelling, Unschooling Canada