If I sent him to school, his world would contract.
This statement stuck with me. I see what she means in the daily, often serendipitous, interactions that my children have with the people, places, and things in our city. Yesterday morning, for example, a friend of my husband's was passing through town and stopped by to show our kids the latest software he is working on creating, designed to beautifully and powerfully link music and art in a visual representation of sound. It is magical, and the kids (and grown-ups) were awed.
Earlier in the day, my eight-year-old joined me on a conference call with a professor at a local university (who was homeschooled himself) who is very interested in reaching out to the homeschool community to offer free, grant-funded classes and lab experience to local homeschooled children. (More details to come!)
Among other things, the day also included a walk to the library in the midday quiet when the librarians are fully available and accessible, and a stop at a local coffee shop where we chatted with a neighbor.
These are the kinds of experiences that occur in our typical day of living and learning together as a family. In each family, these experiences--the people, places, and things one encounters daily as part of ordinary living--would be different depending on one's community and lifestyle, needs and interests; but they are all encounters that occur naturally as we go about our days together.
I continue to be struck by author and unschooler, Ben Hewitt's, words about the increasing "separation and segregation" of American society. In his new book, The Nourishing Homestead, he writes: "The separation and segregation of all the varying aspects of human life and survival is a disempowering and enormously unhealthy phenomenon" (p. 102). We separate children from their family for increasingly longer portions of their day and at startlingly younger ages. We segregate children in artificial classrooms with static groups of same-age peers, disconnecting them from their larger community and the vibrancy of daily living. As adults, we increasingly separate and segregate ourselves--away from our children, our homes, our communities.
What if, instead, we aimed for "connection and integration"? What if we connected children to their families more deliberately, halting the separation and disconnect? What if we integrated children into the fabric of their community, into the dailyness of living together with all kinds of people of different ages and backgrounds and experiences? What if we sought ways to build a life based on this connection and integration?
What if we expanded the world for our children rather than contracting it?