As we've been unschooling Mikko, I've come to appreciate ever more the way books and other resources allow us to follow his interests. As soon as he sparks a conversation — germs, sharks, teeth, mummies — he knows what he wants next from us: something concrete like a book or video to look at, listen to, or read with us. It's fun to try to trace the steps back as to why I checked out so many children's books about the digestive system and see how his own learning journey brought us all to study more about these various topics.
I love how he already knows that unschooling doesn't mean eschewing outside expertise or a parent's guidance. On the contrary, Mikko knows immediately that a book, online article, or YouTube video we can source for him will further his understanding and lead him into new topics of interest.
Here are some of the subjects we've been studying recently:
So he was quite interested — both fascinated and repelled — when a children's TV show featured a mummy character. You know, the lunging horror-movie standard. He wanted to know how mummies could move like that if they were dead … and whether they'd be visiting him anytime soon. (Stupid so-called children's shows.)
First we went to an online world map. "Here we are." I pointed to the Pacific Northwestern USA. "Here's Egypt." I pointed to northern Africa. "Here's aaaaaaall this land and aaaaaaall this water to cross over to get to Egypt." I explained that mummies can't swim or cross over land — because they're dead. And dead things don't move. That's one of their enduring traits.
Next we checked a couple books out of the library — one I recommend for older kids but not as much for littles. Mummy, by James Putnam, was enough to give me nightmares, and it unfortunately did that in fact for Mikko. It was all very factual and thorough, with full-color photographs throughout, but here's the thing: Unwrapped mummies are ugly. And we usually don't have much information about how these people (and animals — there was a whole page of cats) met their ends. Mikko and I were both especially troubled by the several instances of child mummies the authors included. Mikko does not like to contemplate his own death. (Neither do I.) I had tried to vet this book beforehand and hide it, but I hadn't hidden it well enough. Such is one of the dangers of allowing your children access to books!
The other book we explored was a better fit for a preschooler: Mummies, Pyramids, and Pharaohs: A Book About Ancient Egypt, by Gail Gibbons. It featured drawings instead of photographs, and the drawings were all of old-timey Egyptians, making it all a little more distant. Mikko could pretend that only people who lived a long time ago ever died. (Yes, I've explained that this isn't true, but I'm allowing him the time he needs to come to terms with the cruel realities of existence.) This book talked a lot about why the Egyptians practiced ritual mummification, and how they went about it.
King Tut is coming this summer to the Pacific Science Center (yes, belying my insistence that mummies never migrate from Egypt, but I think Mikko will forgive my deception), so we'll definitely have to get tickets and go see. What a perfect field-trippy tie-in!
Unschooling scorecard: History, geography, comparative religions, biology. (Not to mention the usual suspects when using books, such as language, spelling, and reading comprehension.)