When I began unschooling Nisarga, he was two months old. I was often told by veteran unschoolers that it was too early to think about schooling or unschooling and to simply enjoy my child. Yet, experiential learning is a way of life with me, and I wasn’t adopting unschooling so much as I had found a name for what I was doing, and a community to help me find ways to do it better. I couldn’t have stopped.
At the same time, I had bought in completely to the opinion expressed that at this stage what I was doing would be attachment parenting, plain and simple. And it was. Yet, I experienced the living proof of what I say countless times – “We begin learning from experience from birth and stop at death. Its like breathing. We may consciously influence its quality, but we can’t stop.” And so it was.
Nisarga was learning a whole load of things, and my awareness of unschooling helped me apply the principles to support his learning at his level.
He is rather young, so it isn’t really about projects and things, but simply discovering the world, creating meaning out of experiences, learning to use our bodies (and I mean the ‘our’ – my own body has discovered many new ways it can be used in this process). I pretty much let him do what he wants. He wakes up, sleeps, plays, interacts or not at will. I let him guide me as to what to do. My chief role at this stage is loving him to bits (he’s one cuddly love-sponge).
He is slightly late developmentally in reaching milestones, so a lot of my responsibilities involve protecting him from unintentional and well intended training that makes him uncomfortable (‘making’ him bear weight on his feet, pressuring him to roll by constantly jangling stuff at him, etc). On the other hand, I am trying to balance ‘getting him to do’ things with providing him with opportunities he enjoys and it has resulted in some very new ‘games’. Currently, his chief toy is me. Followed closely by DH, MIL, an exercise ball, a swing, four foot ‘hit me’ dolphin and absolutely anything he can lay his hands on.
Unschooling provided me the concept of trusting him that helped me discover that I don’t need to make him do exercises to develop his motor skills. If I offer them in a way that’s fun, he prefers them over other things. If he doesn’t want to do them, its not the end of the world. He has taught me (by being excited) to create our own exercises by simply breaking down the movements he is trying unsuccessfully into smaller doable bits or supporting him through the bits he is not able and he enjoys these more, since they are what he wants to do in the first place. I found this AMAZING. He doesn’t need a pediatrician to tell him what to do and this way we always have variety and increasing movements than those ‘recommended activities’.
We intend to go out everyday, but he’s not too much into it. So we don’t, unless he’s in the mood.
He loves spending time on the floor and is currently obsessed with eating his feet and the feet somehow keep escaping. So he rolls to catch them and finds himself rolled over, which is new and interesting. But he doesn’t have the strength to do much from this position, so he yells for me after a while. Depending on his mood, I may pick him up for comforting (fed up) or I may hover him over his toys so that he can pick them up and throw them around the room. He loves this. He taught me this by simply being delighted when I took him over the first time. Another version is when he sits in my lap and plays with toys and I take him over to pick them up himself. He likes being bounced, so I bounce him whenever he asks (which is immediately every time he is in any bounce-capable position). He loves me, so he gets a lot of me. Absolutely unlimited attention, any time he wants it.
We are discovering that he is fine going out in the evenings for a short time if he has had a good nap and enjoys the busy market bustling with people, bright and curious things and moving vehicles. I have started seeing the miserable place as interesting through his eyes. I am learning to be tuned in to him and it is an intimacy I have never experienced before. Its just beautiful. he is a cheerful, expressive baby with a distinct preference for communication, and very little need to cry. Its not like he never cries, but its mostly physical issues like gas or burp, or someone not setting him down when he wants to pee – doesn’t like to pee on people.
I discovered (to my surprise) that there is indeed a way of unschooling a baby, which is unschooling and distinctly different from attachment parenting, or simply loving and indulging. He has interests and preferences. It is not only about being there for him and loving him, but actually paying attention to what he is doing, what he enjoys more, and offering more of the same. Respecting his wishes for what he doesn’t want. Pretty much what I imagine happens with an older child, but this is a baby and it works very well for his learning as well. He likes grabbing at toys. We got him more ‘grabby’ kind of toys. He likes movement, so we have a ball to bounce on, swing, plus a whole repertoire of throwing, swinging, rocking, etc that he enjoys. He doesn’t like rice cereal, so I don’t feed him that. He likes watermelon, so he gets that often. Its a whole load of things we do that we wouldn’t have before beginning unschooling, and I’m glad, because he is so happy, contented, energetic all the time. He takes most opportunities offered, which only makes me see how much more I can offer him. New ideas keep popping up, and life keeps getting enriched.
There is a long way to go, of course, but the journey is enthralling. I totally forget that this guy isn’t actually speaking, which is the thing I was most scared of before I became a mom – how would I understand the ‘tiny creature’?
It is difficult to say what exactly we do, since its pretty much based on what he wants to do in the moment, and in the last couple of weeks, no day has been like another. I guess he’s discovering more and more. My role is to simply make as many wishes of his possible as I can understand and offer anything that I think he may enjoy.
It is an unfurling, an opening. New possibilities emerge with each moment lived.
Would love to hear how other families spend their days.