Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Su nombre es Janey

My daughter Janey leaves for Ecuador in 8 days. She's 11 and a half. She's already used her passport once this year. Chances are good she'll use it once more after this trip. I keep reminding her, she's a very fortunate kid.

My sister lives in Mindo, Ecuador (commonly referred to by the rest of our family as
paradise) and my parents are taking Janey with them for 10 days. She is so excited, she can hardly stand it. She doesn't remember much from the last time we were there, almost 7 years ago. For weeks, leading up until now, Janey had been pretty low key about the whole thing. I brought home Spanish language tapes and books from the library. We'll learn together! I declared. It will be fun! Janey rolled her eyes. Last night at dinner, she got a little nervous.

The questions started coming at dinner: Will anyone besides our family speak English? Are the bus drivers from Ecuador? What kind of cars do they drive there? Will I need my down vest? By the time the table was cleared and the dishes were done, Macy had pulled out her Spanish folder from a class she took a year ago. The girls were busy reciting colors and numbers. "Do you think I'll need farm animals, Mom?" Janey hollered from the table.

A few weeks ago, I was sure my Spanish language tapes were the answer to all her fears. Not so much. Janey has her own ideas. She'll go to South America and have a fantastic time. She won't be fluent, but she will soak up some language and culture. We're planning to spend two months there this fall, so I'm going to keep up with those tapes. Years ago, I would have insisted she listen (and learn for goodness sakes!) so she could be prepared. I've learned in this life without school that unschooled kids do it differently. Janey chooses how and when she learns. I just get to watch.


Kelly said...

wow- that is evry exciting! I love your words "She chooses when and how she learns and I get to watch". That is so great ;)

Becky said...

Thanks Kelly. great to hear from you again.

piscesgrrl said...

What an amazing opportunity! And you're right, this is evolving exactly as it needs to. I tried to do some Spanish with our boys before our trip to Panama last year. You'd have thought I was asking them to saw off their arms. So we stopped. When we got to the airport in Miami and had time during the lay-over, Brady suddenly decided he wanted to learn conversational Spanish. He bought a book in the airport gift shop, studied it all the way down, and carried it with him everywhere, constantly looking up words to speak and to understand. When he entered freshman Spanish this year, his teacher kept commenting how nice it was that he knew "so much" Spanish! Amazing.

It all happens the way it is supposed to.

I hope she has a grand trip!! I'm a little jealous.

jbie said...

i'm new to this concept, and only have a toddler so far, so am digesting this. would appreciate your view on it:
can you really trust your child to choose when to learn? how do you let go of the possibility that it would have been better according to the agenda you'd have set?

eg in this case.. what if she leaves it too late to pack her stuff/buy a down vest/ learn spanish etc?
do you have to make a mad dash to the shops/stay up late packing with her/ buy her a conversational travel guide book and hope she picks up enough on the fly?
isn't it too late, at the airport? isn't it better if she'd started learning when you thought she should?

thanks, i'd find any feedback quite helpful

Becky said...

Trusting our children when and what to learn may seem like a huge leap of faith when compared to traditional "schooling", but it's actually what most of us do as parents of young children. We trust our children to learn to crawl, walk, talk, eat solid food, run, skip, laugh, when they are ready and then suddenly, when they turn 5 and are ready for school, we shut that idea down and insist they learn according to the schedule of the adults directing their education. My children are 11, 10 and 7,have never been to school, and so far, I have yet to encounter a situation where they missed out on an opportunity because they hadn't yet learned something. They learned to read when they were ready. They learn to write because they have something they want to write. They learn every single day, all day long because they have been given the freedom to avoid compartmentalizing their lives. Learning isn't limited to the hours of 8:30am and 3pm, Monday through Friday. They don't associate learning with a building or a particular adult teacher. They know that life is for living, not for rehearsing in a simulated environment.

As far as preparation goes, it just depends. I think it would have been fabulous for my 11 year old to show up at her aunt's house in Ecuador fluent in Spanish. It certainly would have afforded her a very different cultural experience. was it necessary? No, certainly not. I asked her if she wanted to learn Spanish before she left(she didn't). Forcing her to take a Spanish class or to listen to Spanish tapes against her will would have compromised our relationship and probably wouldn't have been very effective. Unwilling learners don't tend to hold on to information for long. Willing and motivated learners tend to pick things up quickly and easily.

If safety or security is an issue, I take a very different stance. If she had been traveling to Alaska in the winter and hadn't remembered to pack her down jacket, I would most definitely step in. She's only 11, after all, and traveling to a cold place without a jacket could cause her harm. If I don't want to be running around to stores the night before a trip, I would make sure that we packed her bags together, a few days ahead of time, so that I am not inconvenienced by a last minute errand.