My blogging has been kind of all over the place lately and this post has been pushed down a few times by other things happening around/within that I felt compelled to write about, if for no other reason than to process them. I thought about just moving on but when my friend S brought up this series I realized that I really wanted to finish it because writing about how we unschool helps me more than it probably helps anyone reading. So, one final post in this series.
Why we chose it:
A dream without a plan is just a wish. We can spend our days wishing for things to happen or we can find ways to make them happen. I want my kids to dream big for themselves but I don’t want them to walk around waiting for those dreams to manifest just because they wished for them really hard. That’s a recipe for a pretty disappointing existence. It’s important to believe that dreams come true but it’s equally important to know you have to pursue them.
Jace may or may not continue to dream about being a Lego designer. If he does continue that dream he may or may not get to actually achieve it (it’s a pretty competitive job market- only about one new designer hired every couple of years). But one thing is certain- it will not happen if he only spends his time creating Lego designs in his room and never does anything else to prepare.
The same is true of Kya and her dreams of being a geologist. She may outgrow her fascination with rocks, she may not. But collecting hundreds of rocks is not enough. To be a geologist there are steps she must take beyond simply liking pretty rocks.
How we facilitate learning it:
Quite simply by doing it. When they kids express a desire to own something, do something, go somewhere, etc. we talk about how we can make that happen. Various things may be needed; money, time, practicing a skill, etc. Whatever is needed we brainstorm ways to get it and I offer my assistance in any way I can. We also discuss other things that may have to be sacrificed to reach a goal and think about whether or not it’s worth it. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t.
One important part of these discussions is my effort to keep my questions short and matter of fact. It doesn’t work if the kids feel like I’m lecturing or trying to coerce them to see things my way. Simple questions such as, “How can we make that happen,” or “What’s something simple we can do right now,” work best.
Are they learning it:
A few of Kya’s big goals in the past centered around buying American Girl dolls. She has five but we’ve only purchased two of them (one a birthday gift, the other a Christmas gift). She saved for the other three herself along with quite a few accessories, some of which cost nearly as much as the dolls. She plotted out how she could get the money, how long it would take, what else she’d be giving up, etc. She worked toward her goals and reached them every time. But that’s not the reason I know it’s working- she could be doing this to try to please us or make us proud (though I’ve never encouraged this to be a motivation).
The reason I see that her goal planning is intrinsic is that a few months ago she told me that she still loved American Girls, would still like to have more dolls, but had decided that it wasn’t worth it anymore to never be able to buy other things. Her priorities have shifted and therefore she automatically shifted her goals as well.
Jace has had many similar experiences with saving for something but as he gets older his goals become more long-term. He has decided (for now at least) that he wants to be a Lego designer. He’s been reading online about people who accomplish this goal so he can see what he needs to do. He’s decided art classes are a must as is studying Danish (the office where designers work is in Denmark). He also knows that at some point he’ll need to learn more about programming (and is interested in the graphic design program at a local technical institute as a starting point), network with people at Lego conventions (there’s one in Chicago he wants to attend next year) and eventually work toward a degree in design engineering. He’s also hoping to plan a trip or summer abroad to Denmark when he’s a little older. He knows it’s a highly competitive market and wants to do everything he can to give himself an advantage.
In short, he knows there are things to do right now, such as the art class and some introductory Danish classes, and things to do in the future. He doesn’t just dream of designing for Lego- he has a plan to help make it happen. I have facilitated some of this by helping him find information, locating an art class, etc. But he’s the one who laid out much of it and understands the importance of the baby steps- that dreaming about it isn’t enough to make it happen.